This update will cover happenings from June 21st, 2021 to September 21st, 2021, following the official definition of summer.
On June 26th, I found the first larva in my six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) tank. I have been adding Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies for the babies since then. The larvae are being kept communally, but there have not been any instances of cannibalism that I have noticed. Interestingly, despite the adult female dying on July 18th, the eggs seem to be highly variable in incubation time because new L1 larvae have been still showing up months after her death.
On July 1st, I found one of my Chinese mantis nymphs had fallen mid-molt, but I had found it just after it happened. Therefore, I was able to rehang it, and it had no lasting deformities as it was still soft enough to undo any damage.
In early July, I was forced to go on a family trip to the frozen, Arctic wasteland commonly known as Michigan. There were not many unusual bugs, but there were several interesting plants in the Frederik Meijer Botanic Gardens. Of the bugs on the trip, most were common species, but there were more monarchs (Danaus plexippus) than near my house, probably because we were closer to the migration’s northernmost reaches.
In late July, I finished configuring the lighting for my self-contained styrofoam mantis tanks. I used a shape of aluminum rod called a C-channel to make a simple heat sink for my low power LED strips. The lights could not be attached to the styrofoam directly, but the aluminum dissipated the heat to warm up the tank.
On August 14th, I went to a Repticon show and saw a beautiful mantis that someone had brought. It was an adult female panther mantis (Tarachodula pantherina). This is one of my favorite species, but it is unfortunately kept without permits most of the time. Being an exotic species, it requires too strict of a permit for me to attain currently. Besides the illegal mantis, there were also some adorable green keel-bellied lizards (Gastropholis prasina).
On August 26th, I hiked in Greensboro, NC at a spot a friend uses to find a lot of beetles. I did not find too many unique things outside of a few caterpillars, but I did find the elytra of an eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus), which at least means I found a good area for catching them. According to iNaturalist, the best time to find them is July, so if I make it back next Summer, I will need to head there earlier.
On September 4th, I finally received an insect that I have been trying to obtain for almost 4 years: the greater arid-land katydid (Neobarrettia spinosa). The single adult female was already gravid and has been laying eggs continuously. She enthusiastically eats cockroaches, as long as the cockroach does not scare her, wiggle the wrong way, poke her, or do several other things. To get her to eat, I have been decapitating the cockroaches to avoid accidentally spooking her and causing her to panic over food.
On September 18th, I added a dozen adult eastern lubber grasshoppers to my colony. The F2 generation was having more issues with mismolts, so I had arranged to acquire new, wild adults to breed with them. Since the original generation had only produced one ootheca, the F1 generation was entirely inbred, and the issues should hopefully be resolved with crossing in a new bloodline.
Most of the other ongoing colonies and breeding projects are doing fine, but this update covers the new acquisitions and is already verbose enough.
Since I am doing more quarterly scheduling, this update will start off at the beginning of September where the Summer Collection Updates (Part 1 and Part 2) left off but will end around the Winter Solstice, as that is the actual end of Fall.
On September 28th, I received 42 bumblebee millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) from Arthroverts. All of them arrived successfully, and I set them up in an enclosure with a mixture of compost, fermented aspen shavings, oak flake soil, hardwood sawdust, hardwood leaves, and calcium powder. I have experienced some die-off, but there seem to be many that prefer to hide just under the surface of the substrate. I hope to have this colony begin reproducing prolifically despite the minor issues.
Back on June 19th, I had acquired about a dozen nymphs of giant peppered roaches (Archimandrita tesselata). It was not until September 29th that the first one matured into an adult. Of all the roaches I have, this species is the only one that eats dead hardwood leaves at a significant pace. According to Roach Crossing, this species is known to depend on the hardwood leaves, so I had fortunately read this prior to my acquisition and was well-prepared to incorporate more hardwood leaves into their enclosure than with most of my other roaches. After that first adult, I have since had 5 mature to adulthood, including three of those molting on Christmas Day 2020.
Early fall in the American Southeast is definitely peak time for finding large insects. While there are some species, such as bird grasshoppers in the Schistocerca genus, that overwinter as adults and can therefore be found in spring, most species overwinter as eggs and therefore, the adults of the largest species are active in September and October. I typically find most of my mantids in the late Summer and early Fall and often keep several for breeding, however, the orthopterans are far more numerous in the right habitat. I do not work with as many orthopterans because I have had issues in past years with some more specialized habitat requirements for breeding. Nevertheless, this covers some of the interesting species I often encounter in early Fall.
On November 29th, 2019, I had acquired two larvae of the western Hercules beetles (Dynastes grantii). For most of the time, they were pet holes, but on July 15th, I found the first one had pupated. The had come from a museum that wanted me to raise them. I thought they were a male/female pair initially, but once they pupated, I found they were both females. I kept them until they emerged as adults. The first one eclosed in the middle of August, and I pulled her out to the surface on August 27th. The second had just pupated a few days before on August 22nd, so there was about a month gap between them. The second one then eclosed on September 24th. The first imago began came up to begin feeding on September 8th. I tried to acquire a male of this species once I confirmed both of mine were females, but I was strangely unable to find any available this year, although as I recall, there were ads for adults of this species on Beetle Forum in previous years around these times. This species is not native to my state, so I had acquired them under a USDA permit and was not allowed to send them to other breeders to work with them unless the recipient breeders had their own permits. Therefore, they both lived a few months in my care, the first died on November 6th, and then the second died on December 4th.
Sep 24th second eclosed Aug 22, second pupa, July 15 first pupa
On November 28th, I attended a reptile expo, and I acquired a small Phrynus whitei from Classic Jurassic Exotics. I set it up in a small vial with a vertical piece of Styrofoam, basically making a smaller version of my Damon medius tank. The little guy was doing quite well, however, I noticed it had not molted and then died rather suddenly on January 8th. Afterwards, I learned from a fellow hobbyist that the staple diet of fruit flies that can work well for mantids actually lacks essential nutrients amblypygi need to molt.
In the Fall of each year, I tend to find several green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans). This year, I collected an adult female and her egg sac. I am rearing the babies on fruit flies, and they seem to be doing fairly well. I have changed their habitat several times, and they are currently living communally in a 12” mesh cube.
This covers most of the new developments in the Fall. The Summer Updates 1 and 2 have already covered a number of the longer term projects, and due to concurrent composition, those projects were not covered here to limit redundancy. Those projects would include the lubber grasshopper colony, the Brunner’s stick mantises, and other such projects already addressed in the Summer Updates.
It appears that the past few months hath past without much notice from the perspective of this site, so this shall be a review beginning in December and extending to April 23nd.
In December, I completed a trade with another hobbyist. In exchange for four, captive-bred Heterometrus petersii scorplings and six baby green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans), I received two adult male eastern Hercules beetles (Dynastes tityus) and about two dozen Turkestan roaches (Blatta lateralis). Both shipments were sent December 2nd to avoid Thanksgiving shipping delays, and all organisms arrived healthy. I provided the beetles a display tank, and although I had two males, I chose to house them together in that display tank the first night they arrived. I based this decision on the assertion in The Ultimate Guide to Breeding Beetles by Orin McMonigle that fighting is almost always harmless. Given that there was no female for them to fight over and that they were equal in size, it seemed safe to put them together. I have not heard of this being a problem for others, but one of the beetles, later named Jeremiah, mistook the other beetle for a female and attempted to mate with him overnight. This resulted in Jeremiah somehow pulling out part of the other beetle’s abdomen. I immediately separated them, and the injured beetle subsequently reabsorbed the disjunct part of the abdomen. Nevertheless, he died prematurely on January 5th. Jeremiah lived twice as long and died on Valentine’s Day.
Later in December, I began another conversation with the same hobbyist about a new trade. This time, I would be receiving a young Paragaleodessp. solifugid, a Mastigoproctus giganteus vinegaroon, and a group of five Tylobolus uncigerus millipedes in exchange for starter colonies of giant cave roaches (Blaberus giganteus) and orange-headed roaches (Eublaberus posticus) and a Brunner’s stick mantis ootheca (Brunneria borealis). Everything arrived healthy on both ends, except the solifugid, which appeared mostly dead. Following the recommendation of the other hobbyists to just give him some time as it might be molting behavior, I proceeded to thoroughly ignore the arachnid for the next couple months. On February 20th, I decided to finally give up and reuse the tank (I had given this guy a large tank), but I found that he was moving around finally. Considering this individual looked dead for multiple months, I have to wonder how many of these fuzzy little arachnids are mistaken for dead.
Another major development at the end of 2019 was the acquisition of my first dedicated macro camera. I had been looking for a camera that was more durable than the iPhone I had been using and was capable of switching between macro and standard photo capabilities relatively quickly. I found the Olympus TG-6, which is durable to the extreme, even giving me the option of underwater macro. I have yet to fully utilize all its features, but given that it is waterproof, I should be able to use it far beyond my pet insects. The photos on this post have all been shot with the new macro (except the mantis tank as it did not require high-resolution), and I think it is far superior to my clip-on lens, particularly when dealing with uncooperative (aka. fleeing) bugs. As the weather gets warmer, I hope it will allow me to take better in situ photos.
While not related directly to my captive arthropods, on the 24th of January, I saw a species of butterfly that I was not expecting to see in the wild: the atala (Eumaeus atala). This species was nearly extinct several decades ago. Nevertheless, its population has recovered due to the popularity of its host plant as an ornamental, and I saw this particular individual in Orlando, Florida.
Mid- February, I acquired some captive-bred Thyropygus pachyurus millipedes under one of my USDA PPQ 526 permits. Given that I think these millipedes could become a replacement for the now-scarce Archispirostreptus gigas in the hobby, I look forward to raising these millipedes to adulthood. Hopefully, the F1 generation of this species breeds as I recall reading that captive-bred A. gigas do not usually produce offspring, hence why they disappeared so rapidly from the US hobby.
March was the best month for my collection to date. On Pi Day (the 14th), the first of my Brunner’s stick mantids (Brunneria borealis) hatched from an ootheca laid by the adults I kept last year. (These nymphs are not from one of Jenny’s ooths, for those who were wondering. These are from Kim’s ooth.) As I mentioned in the linked post, these mantids hatch gradually from their ootheca, and as of 4/22, 38 nymphs have hatched from this ooth.
Feeding the nymphs was another problem I mentioned in the linked post above. I had read that nymphs of this species were quite delicate. As it turns out, this is apparently not true. My nymphs have been happily eating both Drosophila melanogaster and even the larger Drosophila hydei right after hatching. I also learned from mantodeology on Instagram that these nymphs should be fine in a large communal setup. In addition to that, he informed me that they benefit from a bioactive setup to allow for high humidity. I had originally been housing these mantids in individual, 32-ounce deli cups, but I was having significant die-off rates among the nymphs. I transferred them to a medium-sized Sterilite storage bin, and they did better but were still dying in disconcerting numbers. The next piece of inspiration came from ennisanna-fei, again on Instagram, through a post showing a mantis sitting in a Styrofoam container. This prompted me to take one of my Styrofoam coolers that was missing a lid and modify it by adding a glass door and a hole for an LED.
I am currently planning to make a number of mantis enclosures out of the higher-quality, construction-grade form of polystyrene foam. I just need to work out some of the minor details, such as how the doors will work, but I have a decent amount of insulation foam to experiment with. Regardless, this first Styrofoam tank has been perfect for these nymphs, and they are doing much better.
Another project that has been ongoing in my collection is a small blatticomposting bucket. I had wanted to work with blatticomposting for a while as it is simply composting by giving cockroaches random food waste. I did not want to accidentally poison a whole colony, however. The perfect opportunity presented when my orange head roach (Eublaberus posticus) colony had become a bit too large, but rather than cull the colony, I took a part of the colony and put them in a Home Depot bucket. I now had a distinct population of roaches for the blatticompost bin, and in case they found something toxic in the organic matter I gave them and died, I have a backup colony that continues to receive the same food as the other roaches. Despite the necessary precautions, the roaches in the bucket have thrived. They will eat nearly anything. In the picture below, the white clump partially buried in roaches is paper towels that they have been eating. While I try to avoid anything that is likely to have pesticides or toxic constituents (e.g. pizza), this bucket has become the trash can for my entire bug room, including dead or mismolted insects, even if it is other cockroaches.
Back in November, I posted a picture of my new, and first, tarantula: a curly hair (Tliltocatl albopilosum). While I am beginning to think that I am not feeding it as much as it would like and therefore inhibiting his growth rate, he has grown a bit. It does not particularly enjoy my presence, but hopefully, it will sit on the surface more when it is larger.
On March 21, the first four eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera) from the ootheca laid by last year’s adults hatched. Two years ago, I also managed to persuade the adults to ovaposit, but I was unable to rear any of the offspring past a few molts. Suspecting my problems were related to enclosure design, I immediately cleaned out the old, massive tank and began constructing a bioactive enclosure with live plants (aka. all-you-can-eat-buffet) for the lubbers. The first ones received romaine lettuce and wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina) cuttings, but I planted cups of sorghum grain with the eventual plan of replaceable food generators. In addition to the sorghum cups, I planted one cup with ‘Gold Rush” bush bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) as I have been told lubbers have a inordinate fondness for legumes. As of April 23, I have over thirty baby grasshoppers eating everything in sight, particularly the poor wandering Jew cutting. A few of these nymphs are approaching an inch in length. I have had almost no deaths, that is unless these grasshoppers are adept at eating dead siblings immediately, but then why did I see the few dead that I did multiple days in a row (holding out hope they might be alive)? Regardless, they seem to be thriving in their oversized tank.
Those are some of the best developments in my collection, and hopefully, I will be back on schedule for May.
I recently decided to start photographing my pet insects using my macro lens to see if I could get some higher quality photos. I had originally been using my macro lens to get better photos of tiny insects for iNaturalist. Once I started using it on my pets, I realized how useful it was. Even photos of larger insects, such as giant cave roaches (Blaberus giganteus), were much improved with the macro lens. I also started taking photographs of all the different instars of my monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “instar,” an instar number is the number of times a larva has molted, counting hatching as the first molt. Therefore, the first instar is a newly hatched larva. The fourth instar is one that has hatched and then molted three times since.
Some of the best photos I have captured with my macro lens are of my spiders. For example, I managed to catch my pet brilliant jumping spider (Phidippus clarus) in impressive detail. The most impressive part of this lens, though, is the fact that it is just a simple clip-on phone lens. My iPhone pictures are so much improved by this lens that I must recommend the brand: LIEQI. I have their 15x macro, and it is incredibly useful, even for photos that would not seem to require a macro lens.