Winter Collection Update

Now that I am in the habit of following the official dates of the seasons, this post shall span from the Winter Solstice on December 21st to the Spring Equinox on March 21st.

The best to come of this Spring has to be the shipment of Thyropygus pachyurus I received on March 21st itself. I have been working with a colony of captive-bred juveniles since February 18th, 2020, but this shipment constituted three subadults and three adults. Coincidentally, I seem to have two females and one male in both age groups. My juveniles were large by comparison to native US species, but the adults are about nine inches long! Somewhat unfortunately, I shall soon be seeing the three adults and a subadult off to their final home as I was but a relay point in their journey. They will be going to Arthroverts once weather is ideal for shipping and Easter has passed. I will be keeping a sexed pair of subadults for myself, however, and I hope that these will begin breeding within a year or so. I have been keeping my juveniles in the same general conditions as I described a while ago in my millipede substrate post. I have noticed that they really seem to appreciate a whole, rotten log to burrow into. Following the most recent substrate change, I gave the juveniles a log that already had the bark detached and laid on top. They immediately congregated underneath that bark. My eventual goal for this species would be to see it replace the now-nonexistent Archispirostreptus gigas in the US hobby. The USDA is the main roadblock at the moment, but this species seems to be quite benign and may be allowed to a wider group of hobbyists eventually.

This would be about half of my original population.
This is their current setup after the most recent substrate change.
US penny with the original juveniles for size reference
And finally, the adult male.

The F2 generation of my lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera) began hatching on January 14th. I started the nymphs off in a tank with dozens of cuttings of a prolific Pellionia pulchra plant that is intent on taking over my scorpion tank. I was hoping that the plant would be a suitable food source for them that I could just grow inside the tank with the grasshoppers, but the picky plant murderers disdained that idea. I now have a tank full of a plant that the inhabitants have no use for other than a perch. It could be worse, but it would have been such a convenient food source considering I prune the scorpion tank every couple months. Trandescantia sp. are still the favorite food, and the one cutting of wandering Jew that I planted in the tank was demolished within days. I am currently taking advantage of spring bulbs, and feeding them well-washed daffodils. They seem to approve, and I have noticed a couple pre-sub-adult nymphs.

Interestingly, although I did not find any more oothecae than the original two despite a more thorough search, I noticed what appeared to be egg shells in the main tank itself. I am thinking I may have missed some oothecae in my searches because the original two oothecae were placed in 32-oz hatching cups. I estimate that the two oothecae hatched at least 60 nymphs together, so I may have over a hundred nymphs hiding in the plantings. I do not plan to conduct a census of these hooligans, however, so this shall be left to speculation.

First portrait
January 27th, the day that 41 nymphs hatched simultaneously.
Pre-sub on an dark background. Almost invisible.
Less invisible

Arwen died on February 7th, which makes her the longest mantis to have ever lived in my care (about eleven months). She laid fifteen oothecae prior to her passing, so I should have plenty of Arwen Jrs. presently. Right now, I have the oothecae prepared for a staggered emergence with most of them in the fridge.

The giant stag beetle larvae (Lucanus elaphus) are doing well. The largest of the male grubs is approaching 10 grams and is as large as the largest grubs I have found in the wild. The photo below shows the tanks of the captive bred grubs. The numbering scheme is that the number of the female (27, 28, or 30) is followed by the number of the larvae and separated by a dash. First, yes, there was a female number 29 (these four were the ones from July), but for some reason, there were no larvae to be found in her tank. Second, GSB 30-1, 2, and 3 were used in an experiment with a different type of flake soil fermentation method. Unfortunately, that flake soil exploded in mold, and I could not save those three grubs. The basic idea of that flake soil was to use a rice cooker to maintain a temperature of 150˚F, which was ideal for certain microbial processes to decompose the lignin and other inedible components of raw sawdust. The supposed benefit was that it would take less than a week to complete the fermentation period, whereas normal flake soil takes at least a few weeks. I have gone back to normal flake soil and rotten wood substrates, but it might be worth more experimentation for someone with more larvae to feed. Finally, it is indeed odd that there was only one grub from Giant Stag Beetle 27. I did not see any sign of cannibalism or such, just one lonely grub.

That is most of the happenings of the past couple months. Winter is cold and mostly boring for those who enjoy finding the larger arthropod species, and therefore, the ongoing colonies are my primary focus. It has warmed up in my area, and I am chasing tiger beetles right now. My green findings posts (2019 and 2020) may soon become a trilogy.

Summer Collection Update (Part 2)

For the sake of maintaining continuity on the blog, while you read this article, you agree to think that it is still September of 2020. *

To continue from where the previous installment ended, on July 1st, I found a female giant stag beetle (Lucanus elaphus) at a light trapping sheet I set up along a power lines clearing. This marked the first time I have found active adults of this species. Over the next few days, I continued to set up the sheet and UV lights (395-nm) and captured a total of four females. Each time, they arrived within an hour after sunset, and although the lights were left up much later, this was the only window in which they appeared. I gave each female I captured a plastic shoe box filled with flake soil and rotten wood chunks. A few months later, and I have dozens of larvae. Ostensibly, the females I captured are unrelated, so the resulting offspring and hopefully future breeding successes will lead to a genetically robust captive colony.

Orin McMonigle states in the Ultimate Guide to Breeding Beetles that immobile insect pupae can be a good source of protein for female stag beetles.
The first giant stag beetle egg I ever saw.
Newly hatched L1 giant stag beetle larva from the egg above
Months later, this is from one breeding tank.

Later in these early July nights, after the stag beetle or two had come and been collected, the other interesting visitors were grapevine beetles (Pelidnota punctata). I captured a pair, and they subsequently mated and the female oviposited in a cup filled with pure flake soil. I had dozens of larvae, but they cannibalized each other by L2 and none remained after just a few weeks. I normally would have been able to separate them into individual cups or small group containers, but the flake soil batch mentioned in the previous post never fermented. I was left with a minimal amount of rotten wood, and in the following months I prioritized the giant stag beetles as there were far more of them to feed. By the time I had enough rotten wood to spare, the grapevine beetles were gone.

Information on sexing this species was hard to find and seems to vary by locality, but in NC, the females (bottom) are larger and paler in color than the darker males (top).

On July 17th, I recieved Goliath beetle (Goliathus goliatus) larvae from Bugs in Cyberspace. I was the first person to ever purchase this species from him, and I have endeavored to make the most of it. I have placed a Goliathus Breeding Log page on the site that is dedicated just to the four grubs I received. (Note: as grubs began pupating, the datasheet was not utilized as diligently and there are gaps where care was not recorded for some grubs. Given the issues outlined below, it may be best to not try and replicate my care regimen regardless.) To maintain consistency, the grubs are referenced below by the names on that page. Unfortunately, somewhere towards pupation, I seem to have made mistakes with care. My grubs all began wandering early (30-40 grams), and while three utilized the clay layer for pupation, my only male, Grub 2, decided to return to the surface after spending a week supposedly constructing a pupal cell. He refused to borrow again and just slowly wasted away on the surface. After entering the pre-pupal stage, Grub 1 seems to have decayed, and by the time I checked on her (two months after last appearance based on Goliathus Then and Now: Last Pieces of the Puzzle Found by Jonathan Lai), her cell was filled with a putrid sludge. Grub 4 did not make it to pre-pupa and was covered with a fungus at two months. Considering she could have been killed by entomophagous fungi, I immediately removed her entire tank. Grub 3 still seems alive, and she is my last hope for raising an adult of this magnificent species.

Yes, that is flake soil in the shipping cup, and yes, I used every last bit of it!
These grubs received occasional baths and were beloved pets.
The Harold’s organ, which is only visible on male cetoniine grubs, is in the very center of this photo of Grub 2.

Starting July 11th, I began a breeding colony of yellow-striped armyworms (Spodoptera ornithogalli) from a wild moth that laid eggs in my care. The eggs hatched after four days and gave me hundreds of larvae. I offered both romaine lettuce and spinach, but the spinach was regularly ignored in favor of the lettuce. The larvae were very messy, and I ended up cleaning the tank every other day because mold would start growing on the piles of frass almost immediately. Enough made it to pupation and the adults eclosed August 17th. The next generation was much more successful to the point that I had to cull the colony in order to keep the numbers manageable. Annoyingly, right before pupation, this generation attracted the attention of the omnipresent, yet usually benign, phorid fly infestation that occupies the bug room. The phorid flies attacked the pre-pupal larvae, and consequently, I was left with a single pupa. Being around early October, the wild moths were not as forthcoming to my light traps, and I was unable to restart the colony before winter. This common species should be easy to track down again next year, but this time they are probably going in gasket bins to keep the flies out.

The humble progenitor of the colony.
Early larvae seem to be paler than the later instars.
Darker colored later instars
Pre-pupal larvae of a slightly off-sync group of larvae. Came from another female moth found several days after the first.
9/26: just prior to The Armyworm Disaster

On July 23rd, a welcome surprise emerged and crawled across my room to spray meconium on the giant Asian millipede (Thyropygus pachyurus) tank ventilation holes. A cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) from last July (2019) had eclosed while it had yet to be transferred to the hatching cage. Fortunately, it made do (and a mess).

Here is the little fiend looking very pleased with the mess he made.
The width of the antennae in most larger saturniids make sexing easier. This one, for instance, is a male, and this is determined through antennae that are approximately twice as wide as the females of the species.
So fluffy
Fairly vibrant coloration compared to many other American moth species.
Macro showing the “claspers” of male moths. Sexually dimorphic feature that is useful when the antennae are not as varied.

Released the cecropia moth at 11 pm on July 24th, and immediately afterwards, I was dive-bombed by a massive beetle. This was my first time encountering a wild, living, adult triceratops beetle (Phileurus truncatus). I have raised wild-caught larvae before and kept adults, and I have also found dead adults in my yard, giving clear evidence they were present locally prior to this encounter. Unlike most of their dynastine, typically frugivorous or mucivorous relatives, in their adult stage, these beetles are carnivorous, eating other insects occuring naturally in the tree cavity habitat. The beetle, which turned out to be a male, lived for several months eating caterpillars (the armyworms were a favorite of his).

The three horns on the head give their name.
A rare occasion when a nocturnal bug cooperates with a bright light in its eyes.

To take a pause from captive insects, on July 30th, I found that a large planting of spider flowers (Cleome hassleriana) was attracting the largest gathering of sphingids I had ever seen. There were easily dozens appearing right at dusk to nectar on the flower heads. Just mentioning this because I am planning to plant copious amounts of spider flowers to try and attract sphingids to the host plants I have waiting for them.

To again digress from my personal collection, I photographed a Luna moth (Actias luna) caterpillar raised by a local insectary. They are one of the most beautiful moths in the United States, but they are more rarely encountered than I would prefer.

Also, to account for the digressions from developments in The Mantis Menagerie collection, it is worth noting that the first week of August was a bioblitz. I treat those seriously and am out to win by whatever metric I can when I participate in one. I schedule non-daily insect care routines around the bioblitz to maximize observation time. I personally recommend joining the City Nature Challenge which is hosted on iNaturalist (my top recommendation for a citizen science site in general).

This was the only photo I could capture where the caterpillar was sitting relatively still.

Back to my arthropods with one that has yet to be featured on this blog. Back on June 17th, I acquired a wild-caught Dicaelus purpuratus ground beetle from a local friend. I kept it until it died January 8th. It seems to have died of old age because it had food and consistent care the entire time up until death. Care was as follows. The tank setup was basically an isopod tank with a ground beetle. This choice in substrate composition and tankmates was derived from a passing remark in Orin McMonigle’s Ultimate Guide to Breeding Beetles in reference to Calosoma scrutator breeding. It is mentioned that C. scrutator had reproduced when placed in a large tank with Porcellio sp. isopods, and given that these species are fairly close relatives, it seemed to present a possible avenue to stimulate oviposition if this was a female. I replicated this with my own isopods and in a few months that beetle tank had a larger isopod population than my dedicated isopod tanks!

The beetle did not seem to eat the isopods, but Hikari® Cichlid Gold medium pellets disappeared nigh instantaneously. I provided these pellets every five to seven days.

Temperature was maintained at a constant 72˚F, and humidity was that of air in a plastic shoe box with perpetually moist substrate in it.

I am hoping someone can figure out how to stimulate oviposition, or at least how to sex this species. I was unable to find any conclusive information for sexing beetles of this genus, so after trying to stimulate oviposition, I may have in fact been keeping a male.

The color does not cooperate with camera flashes. I am guessing it may be one of those structural pigments like the blue morpho famously possesses.
LED on a phone works better, but it still does not quite portray the color accurately.
It looks like oviposition behavior, but it was just taunting me.

I am fairly certain that this colony did not make it beyond a few days after aquisition, but on August 15th, I aquired a starter colony of clown isopods (Armadillidium klugii). They gave me some great photos, and prices for this species fortunately came down before I began accidentally killing colonies of them. They may have even survived my the initial collapse of the colony. Although it is unlikely, my giant canyon isopods rebounded from an initial dieoff similar to this starter colony (humidity issues both times) and are now doing well. As an interim solution, here are photos.

On August 28th, I attempted to breed long-tailed skippers (Urbanus proteus), but although I captured a pair, no eggs were laid. This is a beautiful species, though, and they should feed on beans and some other legumes as larvae and make cute little leaf tents.

This may have been the female, but they never sat still and did not seem to have many sexually dimorphic features.
Found this little caterpillar in its tent last year (2019).

Also the same day, I saw, but did not capture, a Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius). Not knowing whether it was a male or a female (experts in the subject of lepidopteran sexing are welcome to leave comments here as it is my main issue when working with the less dimorphic species), there was no reason to try and catch it for breeding.

Probably the clearest in-situ butterfly photo I have captured.

It is February again for the readers of this blog (fortunately you read to the end or you would have been stuck back in time). Fall and Winter Collection Updates should be coming relatively soon in preparation for nature to finally get its act together and give me warmer temperatures to resume outdoor, entomological pursuits.

*Note: this statement is of purely humorous intent and is not intended to convey any legitimate legal agreement.