This is Diplora, our pet praying mantis.

Diplora, with (another) meal

Diplora, with (another) meal

Exoskeletons

We have kept praying mantis’ before. Diplora joined the team when she was still very small – to start with we fed her Drosophila (fruit flies) from our compost bin.

Diplora consuming a fruit fly

Diplora consuming a fruit fly (while upside down on the roof of a glass box)

Like other insects, praying mantis’s get their shape from a stiff exoskeleton, so to get larger they shed this outer layer from time to time.

Diplora in the process of moulting

Diplora in the process of moulting

Diplora has done this 3 times since we got her and we suspect she only has one more moult to go before she (or he) becomes fully adult.

Several exoskeletons from one mantid as it grew larger

Several exoskeletons from one mantid as it grew larger

One of the interesting things about this process (ecdysis) is that the exoskeleton retains a lot of the fine detail of the mantid, but with the advantage that we are able to examine it in detail – because unlike Diplora, the exoskeleton stays still while you have a good look at it.

Exoskeleton showing the compound eyes

Exoskeleton showing the compound eyes

We have enjoyed looking at details such as the compound eyes, the spikes on the forelegs, mouthparts (mandibles) and their fine antennae.

Exeskeleton showing antennae and the eyespots on the arms

Exeskeleton showing antennae and the eyespots on the arms

Exoskeleton showing detail of forearms and an eyespot on the arm

Exoskeleton showing detail of forearms and an eyespot on the arm

Detail of abdomen

Detail of abdomen

We have not yet fully captured the process on video, but here is some footage from someone who has (for a different species of mantid).

Compound eyes and pseudopupils

One thing that puzzled us with our mantids was the appearance of black dot in each eye – which isn’t always there, depending on the light. You can see it in the photos above, especially the one at the top. This is known as a “pseudopupil” and is essentially an artefact of the viewer. The compound eyes are made of many cones, with lenses over each. The lenses reflect some light, but in one position, relative to the viewer, no light is reflected, and so a dark spot appears.

This site has a series of photos of all kinds of insects showing this effect.

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It is lady beetle season here. There are dozens of the larvae in our garden, so we collected some up and have been watching them, and feeding them aphids and mealy bugs. The larvae moult several times, getting larger each time.

Lady beetle larvae

Lady beetle larvae

We weren’t sure what species they would be. We didn’t find any kind of overview with information about the species that are in NZ, which are both native and introduced. It is  especially difficult to find information about the larval stage.

After a couple of days, the first few larvae started to pupate. The pupa was a yellowy colour, later becoming much darker – almost black.

Pupating larvae on left, larvae on right

Pupating larvae on left, larvae on right

One evening, about a week later, the first beetle hatched. At this stage it was a pale cream colour.

Emerging from the pupa stage

Pupa after a beetle has emerged

Pupa after a beetle has emerged

chaos ladybeetle newly emergeDSC_2701

By the morning it had turned the classic red and had two black spots. So probably, we have Adalia punctata. We now have about 8 beetles, apparently all of the same species.

We have since found a little more information, including  this paper here. There is also information on the Coccinellidae family on Wikipedia.

The beetles don’t seem to be quite so keen on the mealy bugs, but are enthusiastic about the aphids.

Ladybeetle and aphids, on a rose bud

Ladybeetle and aphids, on a rose bud

And we now have several bright orange clusters of  lady beetle eggs. Quite a few clusters of eggs were laid, but also quite a few of those were eaten by the beetles themselves. Lady beetles are described as ‘voracious’ feeders, with some eating 1000 aphids in a life time.

chaos ladybeetle eggs DSC_2664

Cluster of lady beetle eggs

The whole life cycle was quite quick and we can recommend these as a species to try, if you would like to keep some insect pets.

Life cycle of the 2-spotted lady beetle. A, the adult beetle. B, group of eggs on under surface of a leaf. C, a young larval beetle covered with white wax. D, the full-grown larva. E, the pupa attached to a leaf by the discarded larval skin

Life cycle of the 2-spotted lady beetle. A, the adult beetle.
B, group of eggs on under surface of a leaf.
C, a young larval beetle covered with white wax.
D, the full-grown larva.
E, the pupa attached to a leaf by the discarded larval skin

It is Autumn here. There was fog lying on the ground in Hagley park this morning. It was a beautiful day.

CINJAT Hagley Park IMG_3398

CINJAT Hagley Park IMG_3400

CINJAT Hagley Park IMG_3418

CINJAT Hagley Park IMG_3422

CINJAT Hagley Park IMG_3429

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