Wild Lizards In The Yard

What's a lizard to do on a sunny day but sun itself?

What’s a lizard to do on a sunny day but sun itself?

When walking out our front door in spring and summer, many times there’s a rustle along the ground or something that darts across the sidewalk. We are lucky enough to have several lizards living around the house. I’ve been trying to capture one in a photo, and I think I finally got a halfway decent shot. I’m sure the lizards have wondered why the “giant” appears, freezes and then bends to shove a rectangle as close as possible to them! Anyway, after watching them for a few weeks and seeing some with bright blue metallic bellies and necks, I think the little scooters darting about our yard must be western fence lizards. And, lizards being lizards, in addition to catching them racing around or sunning themselves, we also get to see them do those crazy lizard push-ups, which apparently communicate their fitness to rivals, or even to us!


Vacuums And Bugs: The Debate Rages On

Sucked up by a vacuum? No problem for this bug!

Sucked up by a vacuum? No problem for this bug!

No! Today I had one of my worst fears mostly confirmed. It seems that vacuuming up a bug does not necessarily kill it. I previously mentioned my dislike of spiders (OK, rampant fear is more accurate). For the past few years my preferred method of disposal after finding one in the house is to grab a vacuum as quickly as possible. I even bought a handheld vacuum to improve the speed of action. But I always wondered whether or not the spiders might secretly be living on inside the vacuum. With the upright vacuum that uses a paper bag, there was never a way to check on the status of a spider or bug after suction. My handheld has a clear, plastic container, but it usually has quite a bit of dust inside to obscure the view. Today, it just so happened that the handheld was mostly clean inside and a bug was on the ceiling. After a quick “vroom,” the bug was gone. I then peered inside and saw the bug crawling around. Certainly it was dusty, but otherwise it seemed fine. Does this mean all those spiders and bugs from the past just crawled back out of the vacuum when it was stored back in the closet? Ugh. Oh, ugh! I have checked around on the internet about this question. After reading affirmations that bugs are indeed killed by vacuuming (one even a scientific study) and also that certain death is in question, I can only conclude that there is no answer that applies to all situations. It’s likely that life or death depends on the type of bug, the type of vacuum and who knows how many other variables.

Admire The Flowers

Flowers are admired by more than just bees!

Flowers are admired by more than just bees!

Most people have heard the old adage that they should stop and smell the flowers, which can be taken literally or figuratively. I opt for both. But I actually stop to admire flowers more than anything else. I’m not a big sniffer! Here are three flowers I recently spotted in our area. I have no clue what they are beyond being pretty. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with lots of flowers around, so no matter the season, there’s usually something to catch the eye. I like all of these. The white is wavy, the yellow/orange is weirdly fuzzy and the fuscia is just so darn colorful! With all the variety around though, this area doesn’t have everything. When I was young I lived in a different house and it had a lilac bush. That bush fascinated me. Lilacs have always been a favorite of mine because of that. I haven’t seen lilacs since moving to a different area of the country. And, according to this Q&A at the Grumpy Gardener, I won’t be seeing them in this area because the winter is not long or cold enough. We’re just in the wrong hardiness zone for lilacs. Do you have a favorite flower you don’t see anymore?

Another Fun Video

What can ferrets get into? Everything!

What can ferrets get into? Everything!

This is another favorite video of mine that I found on YouTube. Yes, I am a fan of ferrets. I’ve never had one as a pet, but they seem like they would be pretty awesome. This video captures the mischievous nature of these cute pets. It also shows off the talents of quite the budding film directors. I would not be surprised to see James Coffman or Jason Pollard’s names on the credits of some future films. Way to go, guys!

A Vertical Life

Such suction power!

Such suction power!

OK, yes. I already discussed snails here. But I find them fascinating, so I am discussing them again! I spotted this snail doing the snail trick of descending an almost vertical surface. Snails like to climb on walls and other weird things. What’s up with that (pun intended)? I can’t imagine they’re searching for food on these long treks. Walls, outdoor chairs and planter pots just have no food on them. What do snails eat? I turned to my trusty snail resource, Snail World, to find that plants and algae are big on the menu for land snails.  In trying to find out why snails climb, I discovered a page of snail facts that was quite interesting, although it didn’t explain the why behind climbing. The reason for such vertical journeys still seems to be up for debate: it could either be to escape heat on the ground, to escape some chemical danger, to migrate, etc. I’ll keep looking!

We Got Dewed!

Dewdrops bring a whole new layer of beauty to things :-)

Dewdrops bring a whole new layer of beauty to things 🙂

So, what do you call it when everything outside is wet, but it didn’t rain? I’m familiar with the concept of morning dew, but the amount of water in this dew was pretty spectacular. All I could think as I observed the new look of everything was, “We got dewed!” Love it.

Face To Face With A Bee

I'm guessing that this is a honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I’m guessing that this is a honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I like bees. I think they’re cute. Bees buzzing around flowers are my favorite. If you knew me, this might seem a bit odd, because I’m horribly afraid of spiders. I guess the addition of wings and lack of two more legs make a difference! (Being outside is a big help, too!) Anyway, being a fan of bees, I stop and look when I notice one. On cooler days, it’s sad to see some bees lying flightless on the ground or some object; they can’t fly when it’s cold. The other day I saw this bee on the roof of a car. I didn’t think it was cold, but perhaps it was cool enough to make this bee pause. It didn’t seem to mind when I put my cellphone only a foot away to capture a photo. Imagine my surprise when I enlarged the photo later and noticed that the bee seemed to be looking at me! I think this little guy is a honey bee, but identifying bee species is not my forte. But then I noticed, does the bee’s face seem to be deformed, or is that just an illusion because of the angle? And what is up with the middle leg on the near side — as in, where is that leg?! I’m thinking either this bee was in quite a battle or maybe it’s got a disease or parasite. Either way, this fuzzy buzzer has a story to tell. I wish I could speak “bee.” I hope this one got to fly another day. Bees aren’t just cute though, they’re fascinating. Really! Just check out some of the bee facts at the International Bee Research Association. And scientists now say that some bees not only put the colony first via altruistic suicide by stinging to protect the nest, but also some Eastern honey bees are more susceptible to the Varroa mites that have been decimating some bee populations. By being more susceptible, those bee larvae get the mites first and die — and healthy bees push them out of the nest before the other bees can be infested. Wow, huh?

What Is It?

Is this an Aeonium arboreum? Your guess is as good as mine!

Is this an Aeonium arboreum? Your guess is as good as mine!

The more I look around, the more I realize I have no clue what things are. I’m talking specifics here, not generalities. Of course I know that something is a plant or animal or rock, etc.; the problem comes when I try to actually identify such things specifically. Take this plant. I’m pretty sure it’s a succulent, but the exact type of succulent is still a mystery. I searched around the internet for almost two hours trying to identify it for sure. My best guess is that it’s Aeonium arboreum, also called the tree aeonium. This website gave me the best clue about it.  I did try using Google’s reverse image lookup. That told me that …. tada — it was a plant. Thanks. Thanks, a lot. So, even though I have always had respect for scientists, that respect grew even more. How they can possibly catalog and identify all of the billions of things in existence is a marvel. And finding a species is sometimes not enough, as there can be hybrids or variants to add to the challenge. Happily, I can still enjoy such things even without knowing exactly what they are!

Discovering Leeroy Jenkins

Hmm. Didn't the other players notice that Leeroy was AFK?

Hmm. Didn’t the other players notice that Leeroy was AFK?

I first found out about Leeroy Jenkins maybe five years ago. I’ve been a fan of massively multiplayer online role-playing games since the early days of “Everquest,” but at the time I heard about Leeroy Jenkins I hadn’t yet played “World of Warcraft.” However, I certainly knew about quests, fighting monsters, lag and grouping. I laughed and laughed after I first watched the YouTube video of Leeroy Jenkins (warning: there is R-rated language in the video). What MMORPG player hasn’t ever had something crazy happen during a game — and those unexpected events usually end up causing laughs. Those are really one of the best parts of playing such a game. I could just imagine being one of the other players who was seriously discussing strategy when Leeroy comes back from being AFK (away from keyboard) and just dives into battle. Initial shock quickly followed by pumping adrenalin as you try to run to the rescue — and everyone ends up dying. The good thing is that it’s only a game, but there is some cost to dying. The video soon launched Leeroy Jenkins into the realm of pop culture, as detailed in a Wikipedia page. There are many Leeroy Jenkins videos now on YouTube. I don’t know if this is the original video, but it posted in 2006 and has had more than 45 million views. The link I gave earlier has only a couple million views, but the video quality is better. Why is Leeroy Jenkins a viral video. For me, the quick switch from serious to ridiculous really got me laughing. And I still laugh to this day, which is why I’m even mentioning the video. Was it staged or spontaneous? That’s still being debated. I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos, but only a few stick with me — Leeroy Jenkins is one of those.

Caterpillar Close-Up

This caterpillar looks like a fuzzy friend, but is it really?

This caterpillar looks like a fuzzy friend, but is it really?

I’m sure this fuzzy, little caterpillar had no thoughts of being immortalized in a photo the day this was taken. It probably still has no clue of its “fame.” That’s OK. Nature often provides the best subjects to photograph. Once I got the photo, I wondered what type of caterpillar it was. Sadly, as with the snails, there seem to be so many in the world that it’s difficult to identify individuals. I found a fascinating interactive identification guide at DiscoverLife.org, but I didn’t find any caterpillars that I thought matched my photo. And in researching caterpillars I was surprised to learn that some can sting and be toxic. That was news to me! Being a fuzzy fellow, this one likely became a moth when it matured. Why do I say that? Because caterpillars either become moths or butterflies, and butterfly caterpillars are never fuzzy, as noted at the Purdue University website.