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, you go dance.
Me and you and you and me, no matter how they toss the dice, it has to be, the only one for me is you, and you for me...
So dear is the māmane tree to the palila, one of the larger Hawaiian honeycreepers. They prefer to nest in it and a good 90% of their diet consists of the immature seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, and caterpillars found on it (naio berries sneak in as a food source too, but not by a long shot!). Among the largest of the Hawaiian honeycreepers, palila can get up to around seven inches, and sport a stout, rounded bill perfectly adapted for eating unripe māmane seeds, which contain bitter alkaloids that are toxic to other wildlife. Sadly, it is the only finch-billed honeycreeper remaining of sixteen. Critically endangered, and confined to the māmane and māmane-naio subalpine forests of Mauna Kea, palila move up or down the slopes depending on the availability of their favorite seeds. The steepness of the southwestern flank means that trees at various elevations will be flowering and seeding at different times, thereby providing a year-round food source. As a result, most palila are found on this part of the dormant volcano.
When food is in good supply, nesting usually begins in the spring, often in the higher branches of good-sized māmane. Eggs generally hatch in about two and a half weeks. The juvies are characterized by a yellowish beak and white wing bars. Male and female adults have a dark bill and yellow head; in males the yellow extends to the nape, in females the nape has more of the greyish feathers of the upper back. Males also have darker lores - the area between the bill and the eyes.
So what happened?
The story of the decline of the palila is a complicated one, with many factors perhaps playing a role. Anything that affects their special māmane affects them, including drought, development of the land for agriculture, and grazing ungulates. In 1978, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals mandated the removal of feral sheep and goats from the critical habitat of the palila. With the numbers of grazers much reduced, the māmane forest has a chance to rebound. Yet overgrazing by these creatures has allowed the spread of alien grasses and shrubs, such as fountain grass and gorse, which increase the risk of fire in this dry habitat. Avian malaria, rats and feral cats, as well as predation by the pueo, have also contributed to the decline of palila. And if that isn't enough, parasitoid wasps affect the caterpillars they eat. But all is not lost! The Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project is working hard to educate the public and to restore and protect the critical habitat of the palila. Also fighting the good fight is the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, raising and releasing palila. Imagine how the world could be, so very fine...So happy together.
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.
Just a mere one to three centimeters, this native of the Caribbean has found its way to many new locations, including Hawaii. The nursery trade is the most likely culprit, spreading this species through infested plants and landscaping materials, thus its name, the Greenhouse frog. It shares the same genus as the coqui frog, though smaller and most certainly, quieter, with a soft call that some describe as melodious. Like the coqui, it is a direct developing frog - there is no tadpole stage. No standing water needed, the eggs are laid in damp areas, such as in leaf litter, or under logs, with the little froglets emerging from the eggs in a few short weeks. Greenhouse frogs are nocturnal, and not normally seen, though they may venture out a bit in the day after a rain. Iʻve never seen one in my yard, though students often find them in the landscaping at the school where I teach. Dinner consists of insects, spiders, worms, and snails, some of which are native and threatened. This, plus the fact that native birds compete for similar resources, has earned this guy a page in the Global Invasive Species Database. Little though they may be, they have big potential to become "A Little Hop of Horrors."
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.