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Xilaa's Insects

Discussion in 'Congregation of the Masses' started by Rawbi, Oct 12, 2009.

  1. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    Hello, congregated masses! I'm Xilaa. I mostly lurk here, and this is my first topic in Congregation. If I posted this in the wrong place, feel free to move it to its appropriate position...except for Trou, I'd like to avoid that place :P

    Anyway, through a series of circumstances, I've become the caretaker of the live insect collection at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California. I never thought my job at college would be nurturing bugs! These little critters have really grown on me, though, and I thought you, patrons of Smogon, might be interested in what I do and who I take care of.

    Without further ado, these are my charges! Excuse the poor quality of the pictures, I used the camera on my iPhone.

    [​IMG]

    These little fellows are Blaberus giganteus, or wood roaches. They're not the most exciting of bugs, and I was a little wary of them when they first arrived in the lab, but they've grown on me. This picture was taken before they were moved into their new tank, so it's a little sparse. I fed them some leftover half-rotten salad one day and watching them all wake up and merrily feast on stinky squishy lettuce made them win my heart.

    Did you know roachs are related to mantids? It's hard to tell by looking at them, but if you look at their heads and compare them to, say, the heads of praying mantises, they're very similar.

    We have two other species in the lab: Blaberus craniifer, the death's head cockroach, and some Madagascar hissing cockroachs. I didn't take pictures of them, but I might in the future.

    [​IMG]

    This is Extatosoma tiaratum, the Australian walking stick, also known as Macleay's spectre. This picture is actually upside down. The blue thing is the top of the tank this little girl and her buddies arrived in. I kept it like this so the stick bug is right side up.

    Although these are called walking sticks, they look more like dead leaves than sticks. They rock back and forth when they move, trying to mimic being blown in the wind. Other than that, they hardly move. They've got sort of bugged-out white eyes, like they've all been scared out of their collective wits. They don't mind being handled, although they will take a hold of your skin and not let go. They got a good grip on them! You almost have to fling them off...gently, of course. Speaking of flinging, when these girls are giving birth, they flick their tails and fling their eggs all over the place. We have to be careful when moving them, or else they'll shoot eggs everywhere and we'd never find them.

    As I mentioned before, the bug in the picture is a female. You can tell because she's holding her tail over her head. Females are bigger than males and also darker in color.

    [​IMG]

    This is a male of the same species. As you can tell, he's lighter in color and also more slender.

    Both genders have wings, but only the males can fly because they're smaller. This little fellow passed away recently :(

    [​IMG]

    This is the Chiltagong walking stick. Native to Bangladesh, these are the most stick-like of the walking sticks. Other than that, there's not much to them. They're all females, but they lay eggs anyway without the assistance of males. The babies are identical to their mother. This process is known as parthenogenesis. The Aussie sticks can do it too, but the eggs hatch quicker if they breed. What Chiltagongs do is cement their eggs to the undersides of leaves, the sides of the tank, even to themselves (or each other). Because of this, I have to freeze any eaten branches to prevent glued eggs to hatch outside of the tank.

    This little girl is drinking water off the side of the tank. I spray the leaves and the tank with a squirtbottle, and they'll drink off it readily.

    [​IMG]

    This is a vinegarroon. It's one of our most recent additions to the insect zoo. I don't know too much about it yet, but I do know it's commonly called a whip scorpion because of its whip-like tail (which is in the picture, although somewhat hard to see). Despite their fearsome appearence and resemblence to scorpions, they're pretty much harmless to humans. In this picture, it's nabbed itself a nice cricket for lunch. Om nom nom.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, this is Eurycantha calcarata, the New Guinea giant walking stick. And I mean giant. This insect is bigger than my hand. I was very surprised to see these critters for the first time. If anything, it's more of a walking branch!

    This is a female. The thing at the end of her abdomen that looks like a stinger is actually called an ovipositor. That's where her eggs come from. I saw her poke that under the soil in the tank once, so I'm hoping to see itty bitty babies in a month or so. The male sticks are slightly smaller than the girls, are darker in color, lack ovipositors, and also have two sharp spurs under their legs. If you look underneath and behind the bug in the foreground, there's a male bug in the back, lying down. They use those spikes as defense against predators, jabbing them into the attacker. I have to wear gloves when handling these guys, because they can get aggressive.

    A friend of mine wanted me to name a bug after her, so the insect pictured is now known as "Sablestick".

    That's about it. If you have any questions, I'll answer them to the best of my ability. I'm a novice when it comes to insect care, I'm learning as I go.

    Expect more pictures in the future!

    ~Xilaa
  2. ChristovaOnIce

    ChristovaOnIce

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    I love this thread! I'm usually kind of skittish around bugs, but these are all really interesting.

    One question: what do those giant walking sticks eat?
  3. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    The giants eat brambles, including rose and hawthorne. I feed them blackberry leaves. You can tell when they're hungry because they wake up and start walking around their tank, and when several eight-inch spike-covered tree trunks of bugs walks around, you know it. The Chiltagongs eat brambles too. The spectres, being Australian, mostly eat eucalyptus, although they'll eat brambles too.

    They're not very picky, although they won't eat dried out food. I have to replace the leaves once or twice a week.
  4. Glen

    Glen
    is a Forum Moderator Alumnus

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    wow, very cool thread! how exactly did you come across this job?
  5. Wombat Sky Forme

    Wombat Sky Forme

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    This is really cool, but I wouldn't want this job myself (semi-phobia of bugs) but still, I never knew an insect that big existed.
  6. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    When I was but a wee freshman, I was taking the basic biology class for bio majors (I'm majoring in zoology). A woman came into the lab with a big terrarium full of Vietnamese stick bugs (I'll have pictures of those soon too). I was interested, so I went up to her and we started to talk about them. Eventually she mentioned that they reproduce without the use of males.

    "Oh," I said, "That's parthenogenesis!"

    She gave me a look. "Whoa, what are you doing in basic bio?"

    Her name is Frederique, and she is the entomology teacher here at SSU. I guess I impressed her.

    That summer, she let me take the Vietnamese stick bugs home, and I "babysat" them for a while. (My cat got a kick out of 'em too.) Something happened that summer that I won't spoil just yet. You'll see for yourself when I post pictures.

    Frederique expected more bugs to join the zoo, and she wanted someone around to take care of them while she dealt with her classes. That someone ended up being me.

    The moral of the story: build a store of useless trivia. It can get you places.
  7. Ghost

    Ghost

    Joined:
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    Cool thread, I love looking at unique animals/bugs!
    Ha, I'm guessing when you gave them back from babysitting there was alot more in there then there was originally. ;)
  8. Dr. Eyepatch

    Dr. Eyepatch

    Joined:
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    I find insects (and arthropods in general) to be quite fascinating. Swaying me to spend my 100th post here (for what it is worth) should be an indication of that.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I look forward to more updates in the future, and, of course, I am always up for a conversation about the little critters. ^_^
  9. Shelcario

    Shelcario

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    Thanks for sharing your "pets" with us Xilaa as a compliment from one bug lover to another. Hope to expect more from you soon.
  10. Kier

    Kier

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    Amazing thread, Xilaa! Please do share more.
  11. Dan Dan

    Dan Dan

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    there used to be a member here called stonerchris, I'm sure he would have loved this thread! IIRC he was into all sorts of creepy-crawlies, and had quite a few reptillian pets..

    Are you looking after any more insects other than the one pictured? I really enjoy this thread, I hope you update soon with more pictures and stuff!
  12. Iluvtogekiss

    Iluvtogekiss

    Joined:
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    That last one almost reminds me of a sort of lizard, but then I see the eyes and realise its just a massive insect. Liking all the species here and especially the way you gave some interesting backstory on each. very nice thread.
    Looking forward to some updates!
  13. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    [​IMG]

    When I first met the Vietnamese stick bugs, Medauroidea extradentata, there were six adults.

    About a year later, there are about 50 babies, also called nymphs.

    These insects do the parthenogenesis thing too, depending on how humid their environment is. California in the summer is pretty humid. What started with only one little baby ended up becoming 30 by the end of the summer, and now the safe estimate is at least 40. I'm pretty sure there are more though.

    [​IMG]

    Close up shot of a baby. During the periods between molts, the babies are called instars. This species will molt about six times before reaching reproductive maturity at three months of age.

    Fun fact: sometimes the babies will lose a leg or two during the molt when the limb gets caught in the shed skin. Nymphs can regenerate these limbs, although adults can no longer do it.

    [​IMG]

    An adult Vietnamese stick. I'm willing to bet this one's about six or seven months old. There are only three adults left. The other ones died from old age, but they left behind a ton of babies to continue their legacy.

    All of the sticks are females, but I refer to them as "he", "his", etc. Not sure why. They do look sort of phallic.

    [​IMG]

    Don't let its small size fool you. It knows kung fu.

    This is a jumping spider, literally, a spider that jumps. I need to be very, very careful when feeding this little one, because they're known to actually be inquisitive. It will try to escape if it can, and it's very capable of doing so. It can jump very well, and I don't want to find out how far it can go.

    Due to the unprofessional nature of my iPhone's camera and the spider's small size, you can't see it, but this little one has bright green metallic fangs. They're very striking, and I assume they are like that to attract mates. Therefore, I also assume this one is a male. I'm thinking of naming him Houdini.

    [​IMG]

    From little spiders to big spiders! This is, as I'm sure you can tell, a tarantula. Pardon its sparse house. We sometimes take the bugs out to other schools to show people and this little fellow just got home.

    I don't know too much about these guys. The president of the biology club, who also owns some of the spiders as pets, mainly takes care of them. What I do know is that we have two tarantulas. Since the more they eat, the more they grow, we plan on feeding one quite a lot in order to make it really big. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of decreasing its lifespan. At least it will pass away happy.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, here's a better pictures of one of the Aussie sticks. You can clearly see her big, cartoonish eyes.

    ...irl Scizor?

    Anyway, happy to answer questions. Thanks everyone for your awesome comments! :D
  14. BARILLIAN

    BARILLIAN

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    I'd say that'd be the Howe Island stick insect! It sure looks like it could take a hit and dish one out.

    Excellent thread! I especially like the whip scorpion. Do you have any solifugids?

    Oh, that's quite interesting, since this happens to mice (and most likely humans too! ) due to the same product having roles in carbonhydrate metabolism and telomere lengthening - if you eat minimally, you have less of a carbonhydrate metabolism, so the compound can work on anti-aging. Guess it's conserved all along.
  15. VKCA

    VKCA (Virtual Circus Kareoky Act)

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    When I first came to this thread, I was like "shit tl;dr lets look at pictures!" with which I was disappointed with even more, because I thought half of the pics were just random empty cages. Then I realized what a dumb ass I was for not realizing they were stick bugs and re-read the whole thread. Very fascinating.
  16. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    Alper: Nope, no solifugids, but we do have an Arizona bark scorpion. No pictures of that yet because it's tucked itself away under a rock and I don't want to get stung, but maybe I can ask someone to hold it up while I snap a pic.

    Mr. Dreavus: Thank you :)
  17. TerraVida

    TerraVida

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    Awesome thread! Thanks for sharing you knowledge and the pictures. You have an amazing job :)
  18. sora13

    sora13

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    Wow, I live near Rohnert Park, up in Windsor. I really want to see these for myself. so where exactly is the college(adress and where is the insect collection?
  19. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    Glad you asked! This is something of importance, so let me make an announcement. I'll add this to the OP too.

    Live near Rohnert Park?

    We're going to have an open house!

    The event, called Insect-a-Palooza, is going to occur on Saturday, October 24, in Darwin Hall at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California.

    There's going to be a silent auction, labs to do, and viewings of our many insect-related objects, including live animals!

    If you visit between 1-4, besides meeting our buggy friends, you can meet me! I'm the insect zookeeper :D

    It costs admission to come in ($10 adult), but it's for a good cause. Think of the buggies!
  20. Faint

    Faint Valar morghulis
    is a Tiering Contributor

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    Thank you for sharing photos of your abnormally large bugs and causing my body to itch from head to toe.

    But yea cool thread, kinda, sorta, maybe. o_o

    *spine tingles*
  21. Xaqwais

    Xaqwais

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    Wow, really cool thread, really cool job, and really cool bugs!

    This kinda stuff fascinates me, I guess. They're so different from us and that makes them cool.

    I'm not trying to be nosy here, but do you get paid for your awesome job?
  22. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    I don't get paid, but it counts as an extra unit and appears as a special studies course on my transcript.
  23. Xaqwais

    Xaqwais

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    That's still awesome.

    Can't wait for more pics.
  24. Shelcario

    Shelcario

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    Awesome pics, keep em' coming! Also wondering if you had any type of ants there as ants are my favorite type of insect.
  25. Rawbi

    Rawbi

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    If the masses want more pictures, then more pictures it is!

    I've been working really hard on getting Insect-a-Palooza up and running. Lots of moving bugs, getting tons of food for them, getting stabbed by thorns on said food... I logged in five hours today alone. I'm really tired, but I'll be glad when this event is over.

    [​IMG]

    This is Blaberus craniifer, the death's head cockroach. Why is it called that? They say the black blob on the roach's head looks like a vampire's face. Oooh, spooky. Just in time for Halloween!

    Even so, they're really more scared of you than you are of them. I think the fear factor is in their numbers. Seeing three hundred swarm out from your pantry can be someone's worst nightmare. These little ones, however...they'd rather burrow under the soil and hide.

    Oh, I got one of the hissing cockroachs to hiss. I was trying to hold one, and I guess I pissed it off enough to warrant a response. Left it alone after that.

    [​IMG]

    A female black widow spider. You can see the red hourglass mark on the underside of her abdomen. Gotta be careful when handling this little lady! We have two other black widows, but they're juvenile. The hourglass mark hasn't shown up on their abdomens yet, so they have some growing to do.

    [​IMG]

    A little mantis. From head to thorax, it's probably about 2.5 inches long. This was found on campus by a member of the biology club. Fun fact: mantids have the insect equivalent of pupils. They can and they do watch what you're doing. I hope this little one grows nice and big!

    As always, thanks for your awesome comments. I'll answer any questions to the best of my ability.

    Shelcario: The only ants we have are the ones that come in by accident with other bugs. We keep food in the lab, so we'd rather they stay out.

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