These butterflies may be little, but wow, they can dance. Trying to photograph this guy with his nonstop and erratic flight had me reaching for some dramamine. It's the cabbage white, Pieris rapae, and when it's not looking for nectar, it's looking for the cruciferous veggies in your garden. The female seeks out cabbage, collards, kale, radish and other such plants for egg laying. A neat looking bullet-like egg (just a mere millimeter) is laid singly, usually on the underside of the leaf. Within a week it hatches, and then, let the feasting begin. The fuzzy green caterpillars have a voracious appetite, and gnaw irregularly-shaped holes in your once-beautiful greens. After several molts, they form a chrysalis about 3/4 of an inch long. In a week or two, out pops the adult. Males differ from females in having only one black dot in the center of their forewings; females have two. They're just about and inch and a half, and have a life span of just around three weeks, but they remind me - when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, dance.
Look out millipedes, Haematoloecha rubescens is in town, and from what I can gather, heʻs looking for you. There is little information to find on this colorful fellow, but it would seem it made its arrival here in Hawaiʻi in 1970 from tropical regions of Asia, with a particular appetite for the garden centipede, Oxidus gracilis. Like its kin in the family Reduviidae, this red assassin bug is a predatory insect known for its slim neck, long legs, and segmented rostrum, a projection off the head that is used to pierce its victim. The bite delivers a saliva that liquifies the insides of its prey, which is then neatly hoovered out. The bright red and black coloration, known to biologists as aposematism, is a warning that the organism is not to be messed with.
Bug or Beetle? True bugs, such as this one, undergo incomplete metamorphosis: eggs are laid, but there is no larval (grub) stage. The immature bugs hatch out and look somewhat like their adult forms; several molts will get them to that point. Beetles undergo complete metamorphosis like butterflies. As adults, true bugs they have two pairs of wings, like beetles, but the covering wings form an x-shape; beetles covering wings form a straight line down the back when at rest. Another difference is in the mouth parts. True bugs have a straw-like appendage for piercing and hoovering; beetles have mandibles for chewing.
Snug as a bug in a rug, the Hawaiian spiny lobster, Panulirus marginatus, spends its days hunkering down under rocks, or in the nooks and crannies of the reef. These coveted spots are shared with two other species of spiny lobster, but this colorful, nearly sixteen-inch banded spiny lobster is the only endemic one. Lacking the big, honking claws that the Maine lobster is so famous for, they rely on sharp, forward-facing spiny projections on the upper-sides of their body for protection from predators, including monk seals, octopi, and most certainly, humans (see below). At night they emerge from the rocks and hard places to do some hunting of their own. Scavenging is a part of their resume as well; their willingness to snarf up the occasional dead fish keeps the reef tidy and contributes to the health of the reef ecosystem.
Spiny lobsters are capable of communicating and sounding warning calls by means of stridulation - the rubbing together of two body parts to make a rasping noise. Unlike crickets that stridulate by rubbing their wings together, these sea bugs (as crustaceans are sometimes called) produce sounds by moving their antennae. This results in a soft tissue called the plectrum to stick, then glide, stick, then glide - cello players know what I mean - over a file near the eyes, creating a sound something like running your finger down a comb. An advantage of this is that they can make these noises even when they are in the vulnerable time after moulting.
Once threatened from overharvesting, pressure on ula poni was relaxed a bit in 2000 when a commercial lobster fishery in the NWHI was closed, and the area was designated a protected marine sanctuary under the Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Here in the MHI, ula cannot be taken May through August, females are off limits year round, and males must have a carapace length of three and one quarter inches. Spearing is prohibited. Check http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/fishing/fishing-regulations/marine-invertebrates/ for updates. Consider that it takes a good eight years for the lobsters to reach maturity. And further consider that overharvesting by humans means less for young monk seals.
For three nights in a row, I have found one of these cone-headed katydids on the lanai, so I figured it was time to write a post on them. It is possibly Euconocephalus nasutus, an omnivorous and non-native conehead, though there are a number of endemic coneheads in the genus Banza. The brilliant green is part of their cryptic coloration, often resembling leaves, right down to the venation. They eat the leaves they blend in with, as well as other plant parts, and can do some damage - Elimaea punctifera is another non-native that can wreak havoc on hibiscus blossoms. Many katydids will dine on insects as well, such as aphids. In turn, they are a favorite meal of Jackson's chameleon, as well as bats, birds, spiders, and more. They are masters of stridulation, filling our warm nights with their vocalization, "katy did, katy didnʻt," though some sound more like buzzing or rasping bursts. Species vocalizations may be distinct and can be used to identify the musician.
Grasshopper or Katydid?
Katydids, grasshoppers, and crickets are all in the same order, called Orthoptera, meaning straight-winged, and they share many characteristics: chewing mouthparts, strong hind legs for jumping, and a life cycle of incomplete metamorphosis: from egg, to nymph (which looks like a smaller and wingless version of the adult), and after several molts, an adult. There are some key differences, however (though there are always exceptions). Katydids have long, wispy antennae that are at least as long as their bodies, whereas grasshoppers' are shorter and stubbier. Both crickets and katydids produce their sounds by rubbing their wings; grasshoppers rub pegs on their legs to stridulate. Grasshoppers also tend to be diurnal, whereas katydids and crickets work the nightshift.
No mistaking the barber pole stripes of the Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus, who offer their own version of a close shave. These colorful decapods belong to one the families of cleaner shrimp known for plucking ectoparasites and injured tissue off of fish such as tangs and morays. Setting up shop in tide pools and shallow waters (though they have been observed at greater depths), the banded coral shrimp often advertise their services by hanging upside-down in a crevice or reef ledges and waving their three pairs of very long, white antennae. These can be two to three times longer than the body of the shrimp, which is around two inches or so, and are used to palpate those in need of cleaning, as well as serving as sensors to help the shrimp move about at dusk, when it becomes active. They run the mom and pop shops of the reef- they are often found in pairs patrolling, defending, and servicing a square meter or so of the fish-rich waters. They'll also munch on other sea fare if cleaning clientele are low. In the reef ecosystem, these candy cane shrimp certainly have earned their stripes.
Noticed any circular brown patches in your lawn? If so, you may also have seen this guy, the fiery skipper, Hylephila phyleus, first seen on Oʻahu in 1970; they have since been found throughout the islands. The larva of this small but feisty member of the Hesperiidae family love to munch down on grass, including Bermuda, St. Augustine, heck, even crabgrass will do. The caterpillars are rarely seen, and are thought to be nocturnal feeders; when not actively eating the lawn, they roll themselves up in leaves tucked neatly into the thatch to escape detection. As adults, these inch or so skippers are known for their fast flight, in search of nectar from lantana and tropical milkweed, among others. When not racing around, males will perch for females. Fiery skippers at rest hold their wings in a triangular shape, often with the forewings folded up and the hindwings splayed out like plane wings. Males can be distinguished from females by color, the males a more fiery orange, the females browner. And they love your green, green grass of home.
Hailing from China, Korea, and Japan, the oriental flower beetle, Proteatia orientalis, is a hefty beetle, about the size of my upper thumb. Its attractive bronzy metallic sheen is splotched with white markings, and gives a hint that it is in the family of Scarab beetles, many of which sport metallic colors. It also claims membership in the subfamily Cetoniinae, also known as the flower chafers, a group of diurnal beetles that feed on nectar, pollen, sap, and some, like are guy here, on damaged fruit. On Guam, where it is widespread, it has been known to feed on the flowers of papaya, coconut, betel nut, mango and corn, and may damage the flowers of these trees, resulting in fewer fruit.
Proteatia orientalis has been known on Oahu since 2002, and has since been identified on Maui, and just recently on the Big Island. Eggs are laid in the soil, where the grub, or larvae hatch and then pupate; as with all beetles, metamorphosis is complete, whereas true bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. The oriental flower beetle can be confused with the coconut rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros, a major pest of coconut palms that was first seen in Honolulu in December of 2013.
Permit me a bit of latitude for today's post. As I am on holiday visiting family in Rhode Island, I am getting reacquainted with the creatures of the Northeast woodlands, and of course, the Atlantic. And when I ran across this "living fossil" down at the beach the other day, I knew I had to write a post about the critter whose story is as old as the hills, yet plays a crucial, but under-appreciated role in modern medicine. This is Limulus polyphemus, the Atlantic horseshoe crab, with three related species residing in East and Southeast Asia. As with other Arthropods, it is characterized by jointed appendages, a segmented body and an exoskeleton. The three main classes of Arthropods are the Insects, Crustaceans, and Arachnids, but the horseshoe crab merits its own class, called Merostomata, a term which refers to the positioning of the mouth at the center of it's ten legs. They also have a long, whip-like tail which gives it a menacing appearance, but serves as a means of flipping the crab upright in the event it is overturned.
Docile creatures, horseshoe crabs are primarily concerned with snuffling up worms and molluscs from the sandy or muddy ocean shallows. They are loaded with eyes - a pair of lateral eyes as well as five other eyes are located on the top of the shell, photoreceptors line the tail, and ventral eyes are found near the mouth. This gives them light and UV sensitivity, keeping them in rhythm with the cycles of the days and nights, helping them find a mate, and serving to orient them, which helps when they swim upside down, angled a bit from horizontal.
Few people realize, though, that the horseshoe crab may have saved their life, or that of a loved one. And it's done in cold blood. That's right: it's the horseshoe crab blood that is so important. First, it's blue, due to the presence of hemocyanin, but that's not the special thing. You see, horseshoe crab blood has certain components that are bacterial killers: clotting when they come in contact with bacteria endotoxins, binding with, and then deactivating them. Meanwhile, in labs around the world, the manufacturers of intravenous drugs, vaccines, and any medical device that needs to be implanted need to be sure their products are free of endotoxins, so that we can receive treatment without fear of potentially fatal sepsis. And so, the two worlds meet: an extract made from the horseshoe crab's blood, called LAL, is used to ensure the sterility of their products. If, for example, a vaccine batch tested with LAL gets slurry and clotty, it's not sterile, and is therefore discarded. To obtain this life-saving extract, the crabs are collected, transported, and bled (about 1/3 of their blood is removed). Happily, they can be returned to the ocean, though a certain percentage do not survive the ordeal. The importance of this marine invertebrate to the medical field may mean that more research is done to better understand and protect their populations.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.