A Scorpion In My Bathroom?!

The strangest creatures are regularly found in my potty. Huge spiders, fast running centipedes, that enormous cave cricket. But this last Sunday evening, there was something in my bathroom that was quite strange indeed….

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First, let’s set up the scenario. I’ve just gotten home from day two of a very hot and muggy weekend at my tented shop, The Quill and Brush. It’s around 9pm. I’m exhausted. My costume is damp from rain and perspiration, and far past uncomfortable. I’m feeling claustrophobic in it. I’m a wee sunburned, my ankles are swollen, and I’m in need of a bite (though the heat is making me second guess whether I want to eat at all). I’ve been eaten all up by an army of mosquitoes. I want to get into that shower, now

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I tear off my costume and fling it to the bathroom floor before the toilet and take my shower. I then pick up the costume and put it in the hamper, and then go back into the potty…

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But I must digress in this story to first tell you this. I have a superhuman power. One, single, superhuman ability. Yup. And anyone who knows me will tell you that it is true. What is it? I see the tiniest bugs, the littlest movements. Whether in the leaves, or on an outdoor path (or crawling on my bathroom floor). It’s the funniest thing, especially as my eyes now require reading glasses!

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How many times has someone said, “How did you see that?!”

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I dunno. I think it’s because I spent a lot of time outdoors as a youth and I noticed bugs, and because I take great interest in insects in general. I also took a field science course in college, which amped up my excitement for them. Nope, I can’t fly or see through walls…but I see bugs…Ha-Ha-HA!

Ok. So I’m sitting on the potty. I spot this tiny black dot on the floor. We’re talking the size of a pen dot of black ink. Really, really, itty-bitty…

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And I think that it is moving. This little dot is moving around on the floor, but it is so small, that I believe my tired eyes are playing tricks on me. This must just be a speck of dirt! But as I watch, it does indeed take a walk. A short little walk no further than a quarter of an inch. Hmmm, what bug is so small and black? It is not taking up flight, not a gnat. What is that? Oh no! Is it a tick?

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Of course a tick is very possible. I’ve been up in a wooded place in Wisconsin all weekend, walking around in the grasses, sitting in my tented shop under the trees. I suddenly am sure that I’ve carried it home and that it dropped off my discarded costume. I now believe I should do a quick look-over of my legs. You see, I abhor ticks. I would rather a very scary, hairy spider with fangs run across my face, than to discover a tick in one of my crannies. UCK! ECHK! They give me the heebie-jeebies because their bite can deliver disease…

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But first I must determine if this little black spot is indeed a tick. I scurry for a mini post-it note, and my mini flashlight, and I’m on the bathroom floor with a spotlight on the little fella. I put the post-it before it and it walks up onto it. I’m like, squinting. What is that? It must be a tick, but I’m not so certain. I’ve seen ticks aplenty, and this little dude isn’t quite fitting the bill. I hurry downstairs and push the mini blue post-it into my honey’s eyes. I blurt…

I think this is a tick?! Do you think this is a tick?! I hope this isn’t a tick?!

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Handsome’s eyes are squinting and I’m trying not to drop the bug. I’d never find it again, it’s so small, and I don’t want a tick in my house. He concurs that it looks like it might indeed be a tick. But neither of us are certain. I toe into the kitchen, as careful with my cargo as possible, where the light is much better. I’m flashing that little flashlight and the bug is reacting.

He’s got pincers!? He’s clawing his little pincers out, imperceptibly screaming, “Turn off that light lady! Geez! Put me down!” I holler for my (very patient) man to come into the kitchen and see this…

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He says, “It looks like a scorpion.” And I agree, “Yea, like a lobster?!” Meanwhile, the little dude is scuttling around, indeed like a little crab of sorts, snapping the tiniest little claws in the world. As it is not a tick, I cannot dispatch of his precious little life. As with every insect I find indoors, I gingerly carry him outside and let it free. I immediately snatch up my bug identification book. I’m so curious, it’s crazy. What did I find? What if I’ve just discovered some new species, and now I’ve let it go, and no one will ever believe me (except for handsome)…

So what did I find?

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[Photo Credit: Kaldari]

I found a pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions are of the arachnid family, as are spiders and ticks. I wasn’t too far off my initial identification! They live worldwide, and are not considered pests, but helpful rather. They eat the larvae of the moths that nibble fabric. They gobble up mites, and hunt for ants and little pesky flies. They live in leafy debris, amongst the dirt, and on trees. There are a great many species of them, and they vary in their tiny size-range. So itty are they, that they usually go unnoticed. And in those pincers, which they use to hunt, they do indeed carry poisonous glands!

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[Photo Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0]

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to discover that I’d found such a unique little creature, of which I’d never known existed before. He’d clearly caught a ride on the hem of my gown as I trudged through the grasses on the way back to my car Sunday evening, and had taken a ride all the way back with me. Then when I threw off my dress, he tumbled to the bathroom floor. Where am I? 

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[Photo Credit: Sarefo]

Pseudoscorpions can live up to three years! I’m glad I didn’t step on him. I’m glad I actually saw him, and let him free on the porch. I hope he’s feasting on the peskier bugs around my front door even now. What a magical little moment to watch him snapping his pincers at me! Aww, my little pet scorpion from the bathroom! Go eat those mosquitoes!

Here’s to the delight of discovery, and to keeping your eyes open to the wonders (both great and small) that are all around you!

Peek-a-boo, I see you!

I am currently watching an amazing program called Weird Wonders of the WorldIt is filled with remarkable natural occurrences and bizarre creatures from around the globe. The show is so strange and amazing. I highly recommend it! I guarantee, you’ll be entertained. Of course, I’m learning some incredible things…

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This little guy is a jumping spider. They are very common, are gifted with excellent eyesight, and tend to have pretty impressive jumping skills! Their great leaps assist them with hunting for food and making quick escapes. You might recall the handsome jumping spider I caught on photo last summer in Wisconsin…

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Having seen these little jumpers all my life, I was quite amused when Weird Wonders of the World (Season 2: Episode 6) introduced a unique species of jumping spider. Jotus Remus, the peek-a-boo spider from Australia, discovered by Jurgen Otto…

What makes this spider so special are two hairy, paddle-like feet. Of this species of spider, only the males have these hairy feet. But why? Does it help them with their jumping prowess? Nope. It helps them get a girlfriend in the most hilarious way!

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[Photo Credit: Jurgen Otto]

The peek-a-boo male spider is smaller than its female counterpart. These ladies can behave quite aggressively when they’re not interested in going on a date. In order to avoid getting hurt by an agitated female, the male peek-a-boo spider first waves his fuzzy paddle around from a safe distance. If the female attacks, no coupling. If she’s calmly wooed by the behavior, it’s date night!

While watching the show, I got the giggles seeing the peek-a-boo spider in action. I think it will make your day to watch this video. Poor little guy has to work hard to find the right lady!

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Jurgen Otto has a whole lot of other amazing spider photos and videos! I entreat you to also watch this incredible footage of another jumping spider, Maratus Volans, the peacock spider! This colorful fella is also trying to win over a lady. Absolutely amazing!

Here’s wishing you’ll never forget your curiosity for the world, for it is filled with great and inspiring wonders!

Jumping Spiders & Rooftop Riders

This little dude took a run around our tented shop (The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire) this last Sunday. I noticed him as I was closing up and I’m pretty sure I looked like a total oddball taking photos of something (while in costume) undetectable to be seen for passersby (as this table was bare at the time). But what can I say, I dig bugs…

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According to my favorite go-to for insect identification, Insects, Spiders and Other Terrestrial Arthropods by George McGavin…this furry fellow is a common jumping spider. This threw me off, for I’m accustomed to jumping spiders being much smaller (and hopping about constantly to show off their athletic prowess). This guy wasn’t jumping at all (though he ran pretty fast) and was a pretty big spider.

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I thought he was a pretty handsome dude (just as long as he didn’t jump on me).

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Best shot ever! I put my finger real, real close and he lifted up his fuzzy eyebrows and stared right at me with two black eyes. We shared a moment, eye to eye. Awwww! Do you think I’m an oddball too?

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Riding up to the faire each weekend (rather early for shop set-up), there are always folks already waiting in line just outside of the parking gate. I love that! These folks are the truest fans of the B.R.F. and I think they are awesome! Renaissance themed tailgating? I approve!

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And here was the scrumptious fare we enjoyed this past Saturday. We make our little picnics to reflect less of the 21st century and nod towards the Renaissance. Ever tried crackers, pepper jelly and cream cheese? I could swoon! Delicious!

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In other news, I have an addiction to egg-in-the-holes and there is no cure…

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I also started pulling out of a parking space today with my lunch box on the roof of my car. Some construction workers in their utility truck yelled out with gestures to warn me. “COOLER!” I think I might be a little tired. Thank goodness I didn’t take it for a ride around town…

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I also spent more moments (minutes?) trying to figure out how to twist the cap off of this tube of caulk today, before eventually realizing that I needed to snip off the tip with scissors. I felt silly. I still feel silly.

Here is wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with rest, happiness and much laughter!

Letting Live, in Love and Peace

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I just caught another lovely creature who was clinging to the ceiling near the front door. She was there this morning when I rushed out and was still there this evening, in the same place. I did my careful balancing act on the chair and gingerly caught her…

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This one is not a Cave Cricket like the one I caught in the house earlier this week, but rather a Speckled Bush Cricket. It is of the Katydid family, known for their singing (not from their mouths but from the scraping of their wings along their bodies)…

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Look how gorgeous her beautiful green! Know how I know she’s a gal? Her very obvious ovipositor at her rear, an appendage that pushes into the dirt and then lays eggs!

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Fun Fact: Do you know what the differences between a cricket and a grasshopper are?

  1. Crickets have long antennae while grasshoppers have short antennae.
  2. A cricket’s song comes from rubbing its wings while a grasshopper makes music by rubbing its legs together.

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In the house, she’d been unmoving on the ceiling and went mostly motionless when caught. The moment I brought her outside, her antennae twitched and she started walking around. It was like she immediately sensed she was outdoors once more. Freedom!

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Love this photo, her two red eyes looking at me upside down. I probably appeared as a giant monster. Think it’s too late to return to college and become an entomologist? I sure love bugs!

Here is to the sanctity of life, however great or small, and letting live in love and peace…

Cave Cricket In The Potty

Please cue the music from Jaws

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Duuuhh…..

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Duhhhduuhhh….

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Duuhh..duhhh….duuuhhh….

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I don’t startle when I see insects. However, I’d just woken up this morning and stumbled half-asleep into the bathroom and flicked on the light. This dude made me jump! It’s a cricket, but not just any cricket. It’s a variety of cave cricket and they are rather large…

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We’ve actually had a few hopping around the basement now and then, which I catch one by one when brought to my attention and deposit outside. I’ve seen Tiddo the cat pounce on one and munch it…eeewww! But, I’ve never seen them outside of the basement until this fella surprised me today…

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Not only did I startle, I squealed too because it jumped right toward me. They have very powerful legs and can jump quite the distance with force. I think bugs are neat, as long as they don’t jump in my hair before I’ve had my coffee…

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Let’s go outside, shall we? He’s now in the yard, eating some breakfast while I eat mine. I think it’s good karma to catch and release these little lives. Though he’s naturally a ‘cave’ dweller, hope he’s enjoying some sunshine! Hope you’re enjoying some sunshine in your life today too!

Beware The Ant’s Kiss

I am very fond of insects. I just think the world of bugs is fascinating. Because I feel this way, and also have an ongoing desire to be peaceful with all creatures, I’m not one to smush a spider or stomp on an ant. Nope, I collect every single one that makes its way into the house, and deposit it outside. I have been doing this for years…

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But for the last few weeks, we started to see some Carpenter Ants around the house. Though not in great mass, there have been enough soldiering around that we’re keeping an eye on it. My preference is to not bring in an exterminator with their noxious chemicals if it can be helped. However, I knew that my saving each and every ant (though I tried with the first few), was not the solution.

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So, I bought some of those poison ant traps and placed them about, and have [insert a sniffle here] had to smush a number of them. However, the traps are working well and they are diminishing (though I’m putting down a few more for good measure). No one wants Carpenter Ants overtaking their house.

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So here I am a few nights ago, relaxed as ever. My honey was out of town, the house was quiet and I was in a state of complete peace. I’m lounging in bed with my computer, watching something funny and pleasant. I reach out to my bedside table for my mason jar of water and bring it to my lips…

Oh heavens! An immediate searing pain on my lips! I pull the glass away and the culprit falls and skitters. A Carpenter Ant. He’d been trying to get a sip of my water. We were both caught off guard when I picked up that glass. He got caught between the rim and my mouth, and he bit me REAL HARD, more than once. Though I don’t blame the poor fellow, I have to say that I still don’t believe that an ant bite could be that powerful!

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But the bite wasn’t the only thing…it began to sting something awful. Like lemon juice in a wound. The next morning, the ant bites were visible and tender on my lips. This was nuts, I had to look this up. Granted, I’m a gal who gets strong allergic reactions from just about everything, but geez!

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Turns out, this reaction is normal for Carpenter Ant bites, which are quite painful. The bite is made worse, because they inject Formic Acid (bee stings contain this acid as well) into it (why I felt like there was pepper spray on my mouth). Even the next morning, the bites tingled (ouch!) and the marks were visible. Some folks get bite marks that swell to the size of a pea and remain there for a week!

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In spite of it all, I won’t hold a grudge. The little dude was probably horrified that they were about to be gulped down by a giant! My lips are fine now, nothing a little lipstick wasn’t able to cover. But I’ll never forget that feisty ant kiss! Yikes!

Fur For Fleas

It’s fun to be wrong, at least when it comes to research. It allows you to be surprised, delighted and to learn new things!

Having always loved history, costuming and even participating in Renaissance re-enactment, there were ‘facts’ that I’ve never questioned. Learned people told me so, and I’d read so, so it must be true! Well that isn’t always the case. Take the flea fur…

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Oh heavens, look at those pearls! I digress. (If you love pearls as much as I do, don’t forget about Inspired by Venice‘s pearl earrings giveaway!)

Above is Isabella de’Medici (Italian), from 1558. At her side, you can see a special accessory. It is a zibellino or flea fur, adorned with gems.

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And here is Bianca Ponzoni Anguissola (Italian), 1557. She too has a flea fur, gilded, a head of gold, gems for eyes.

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And here, a flea fur at the collar of this woman (England, mid-1500’s).

You can find many, many portraits of nobles and their flea furs. Of course, people have been wearing furs for forever. But this particular way of wearing them (perhaps for looks, and displaying their riches) is noticed starting in the mid-late 1400’s.

I had always read, and been told, that the flea fur also had a practical purpose. It was to attract biting fleas from off of bodies. Even nobles crawled with fleas, money meant nothing when these creatures infested bedding, infrequently washed clothing, pets, etc. Nobles were said to place these furs on their person, so that the fleas would gather on the fur and then they could shake them, or beat them out.

Makes sense, only, it isn’t true. It was first surmised that this was the purpose for the pelts in the 1890’s, though no evidence has shown that the flea fur was anything but an accessory.

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Another noble lady holding her fur, Italy 1515. It’s fascinating how easily fiction becomes fact, this particular one developing in the late 19th century, and still a misdirected belief today. It reminds me to be careful to not take what people write or say, to be truth (even though in this case, I want to believe it!). Flea furs, held in the hand, hanging from the waist, laying over the shoulder, pinned to the breast, were just a vain display.

Oh well. I can still imagine this noble lady, frustrated with fleas, running outside to fling her flea fur about. Fiction perhaps, but amusing!

Look It Up!

I love looking things up! I got that from my grandma who I always noted taking an interest in a variety of unique facts, stories and articles when I was little. She was inquisitive and I caught that bug. Each time I didn’t know how to spell a word and I asked her how, she’d tell me to go look it up.

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Nowadays, we are so spoiled with so much information at the tips of our fingers. So anytime I get curious, I look it up. Here are some interesting things that I recently learned. You shouldn’t go another day without knowing…

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Snakes don’t blink because they don’t have eyelids. Instead, they have a protective film over their eyes. That’s why they are so mesmerizing when they look at you, because they aren’t blinking. For all you know, this guy might be sleeping. Snakes sneeze and its really cute. Bless you!

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If folklore is true, the reason your hair is tangled when you wake up in the morning is because elves and/or fairies have been dancing on your head while you slept. Elflocks or fairy-locks depending on the culprit. And I thought it was because I don’t like brushing my hair!

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These are cocoa pods that are filled with the cocoa beans that make chocolate. When you open the pod, the beans are nesting in a pulp and the beans are purple. They only turn brown after exposure to air and roasting! There are about 40 beans in a pod. It takes 400-500 beans to make a single pound of chocolate…that’s crazy. I have a new respect for that chocolate bar in the fridge.

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I always thought that any bee that stung me wouldn’t live very long as I believed that bees die after using up their one stinger. Actually, it is only honey bees. Their stinger is barbed and when they try to pull it out, it damages their bodies and the stinger is left behind with you. Hornets and wasps however, do not have barbs on their stingers. Their stingers do not fall out after they get you…they can sting you as many times as they want with no peril to their health. Ouch!

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Bubonic (and pneumonic) plague is passed around from a bacteria in fleas. In medieval Europe, fleas carried on rats, who infested areas where people lived, caused millions of deaths over the centuries. It is a horrific disease. In the United States, prairie dogs carry the bubonic plague. Whether you pick up one that has the plague or a flea from one gets onto you or your dog (even cat), you are at risk. The plague of the Middle Ages is still alive and well in our desert regions. Aye!

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Hippo ‘sweat’ is blood red. It’s true. Technically it isn’t sweat, its a natural skin secretion that comes out clear and then turns red and looks like actual blood. Eventually it turns brown. It doesn’t wash off their bodies in the water, but sticks to their skin. The liquid is a natural sunblock! And, it is antibacterial, keeping hippos healthy in their swampy, muddy, buggy environments. Historically, people thought hippos were sweating real blood. Nope, it’s just hippo sunblock!

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Penguins and polar bears have never met. Polar bears only live in the north (Arctic) while penguins only live in the south (Antarctic). I had no idea! I feel silly. Penguins don’t tend to be afraid of people in their natural environment because they don’t have any land predators (like polar bears). They’ll walk right up to you and say hello!

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Heart attacks overwhelmingly happen on Mondays. You can probably guess why; it’s the day most people return to work after relaxing over the weekend and they are stressed out. According to this article, it still goes for folks that are retired! Guess you can’t kick the memories of getting back to the grind on Monday mornings! Perhaps we should all be doing something on this list on Mondays to keep our heart happy!

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Ugh, cockroaches give me the chills. Eck! This is a gross fact. Cockroaches can live without their heads, sometimes up to several weeks! Apparently, they don’t breath through their mouths. They eventually succumb because they can’t drink water without their heads. Gross.

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According to this article, when you sneeze, it can blow out of your system at up to 500 miles per hour. That, is, nuts. Because of the intense force, holding in a sneeze can be extremely dangerous (pulled muscles, burst blood vessels in your head and neck, burst eardrums, broken ribs). So, do not hold in your sneeze because it can have serious health risks. However, do cover your sneeze. The particles can mist up to 10 feet, even further, making it easy to get others sick.

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I could look it up all day, learning is never ending!

Autumn Adventures in the Bog!

I spent the weekend with my mom and step-dad in Crystal Lake, about an hour and a half from Evanston. With every visit, we like to have an ‘adventure’. This usually means a restaurant in another town and some kind of destination (Volo Antique Mall, resale shops, Bristol Renaissance Faire, forest preserve, Kane County Flea Market, etc). On Sunday, we ate at Happy Jacks in McHenry, a deli and ice cream shop decorated with old-timey Coca-Cola paraphernalia. Inexpensive yet great food, casual and cheery; we love it!

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What I love about our adventures is that they often aren’t planned. “Hey guys, wanna go get cheese in Wisconsin?” “Yea, sure!!” And then we’re on our way. This time, we took an unexpected turn into Boger Bog in Bull Valley for an impromptu nature walk!

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Boger Bog has 38 acres to roam: there’s prairie, wooded land and wetland. What is funny, is that Boger Bog is not a bog but a fen. What’s the difference? Let’s just say that a fen is a more hospitable wetland for wildlife than an acidic bog.

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We really enjoyed our unplanned walk through nature, there is nothing more refreshing! If I knew what was good for me, I’d do it everyday!

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But, what was the best part of this bug loving gal’s walk? A walking stick!! Oh, I was SO excited to find this insect. I have this weird knack for seeing tiny bug movement…even in dense leafy brush. It’s super weird. People always say, “How did you see that?” I don’t know, the bugs and I are one. At first I was hesitant to pick it up because I once had an aggressive showdown with a praying mantis in Costa Rica (we ended our differences amicably with me running away in fear) and the two insects look a little alike. But this walking stick was as gentle as can be. Its body, though it looks hard like a stick, was soft. I had to be super careful not to hurt it and took my time picking it up. Once I did, I was surprised to see how speedily it could walk up my arm. And the cutest thing, when I touched it, it made his front antenna go straight like his body so that he’d look like a stick rather than prey. That little dude made my day!

Spiders In My Mailbox

I live just a few blocks from beautiful Lake Michigan. I can spend an entire summer afternoon in the sand with my lawn chair and a book; the sound of the waves is soothing. Our beach has some grassy dunes and is surrounded by beautiful trees. Some days, the waves are so large you think you’re at the ocean. Just at the end of August, thousands of enormous dragonflies fly over the sand and just over the water. I need to capture that somehow, it’s so beautiful.

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Now, I grew up around green and I know bugs. More than that, I love bugs. I really, really do. I don’t know where I got it, but I notice the tiniest movements and will go to inspect. I have seen the coolest bugs over the years! One of my favorite college classes was Natural Field Science at McHenry County College. We spent a summer traipsing about fields and woods. It was a small class, maybe 8 students. Once, we all got lost in a state park, in tall grassy fields that went on and on, under the scorching sun, in what seemed to be 100 degree weather. We really suffered that day, we were lucky no one got sun sickness. It was kind of scary. This was before cell phones with maps. Ah, memories!

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During that class, we each had to make a collection of bugs (here is my box below). I enjoyed catching and studying them, but I am still sad that I killed some of those little guys (except that one that stung me). See, I think bugs are pretty cool and I don’t like to smush them. I always catch them and let them outside. It can be time consuming, but I think it’s good karma.

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And though I’m not usually bugged (tee-hee), I’ve got spiders in my mailbox and they’re being pests (tee-hee-hee). I have spiders all over the front of my house from early spring to late fall and these aren’t the same ones I grew up with, like Banana Spiders (actually called black and yellow garden spiders), Wolf Spiders, Daddy Long Legs, Jumping Spiders, etc. I’ve got Funnel Weavers, tons of them, big ones! They are also known as Grass Spiders and though I’m sure they are common all over, this is the first time I’ve ever noticed them. My hunch has been that they are grassy lakeside dwellers, but who knows. They build some pretty cool cone-like webs where they sit in wait for prey. The webs are also strong! And they like to make them in my mailbox.

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The mailbox just had a wash yesterday, and yet, as I put my hand into the box just now, I was a little surprised at the strength of a thick web that attached and tugged at my hand (this is all that was left after). A small mouse would have had a hard time getting out of that thing.

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And here is the culprit…he moved in last night and quickly went to work on his web. He’s really big and really fast. The front of the house is regularly crawling with these guys. My boyfriend came home one evening and pulled a large bottle of peppermint oil out of the grocery bag. I puzzled at what we needed it for. Minty cupcake frosting? Minty brownies? Minty lattes? Christmas in July? The spiders…he said. I thought that was a pretty clever idea and I’ve sprayed it liberally. The front of the house sometimes smells like candy canes. Only, it isn’t working. They are super spiders! But the minty scent is nice.

Ah well. I don’t have the heart to squish them. As long as they don’t bite me. This is why my neighbors see me once a week standing on a stool and fishing around in my mailbox like a weirdo for twenty minutes…I help the little dudes out without squishing them. You should have seen the mama spider three weeks ago who had baby spiders covering her back. I tried to delicately remove her and the baby spiders ran everywhere. That was different. Good karma, remember? I also don’t want the mail lady to stop delivering our mail.

I like this spider site (just for Illinois spiders). And my favorite reference bug book is Insects Spiders and other Terrestrial Arthropods by George McGavin. The photos are excellent, you can really identify what you’ve got.