Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bioblitzing the creepy crawlies

Years ago, I read a book by David Bodanis, The Secret Garden: Dawn to Dusk in the Astonishing Hidden World of the Garden, and was enthralled by this vibrant, busy, teeming world that we so heedlessly pass through. I have since spent many a peaceful evening examining the inner parts of tiny plants and the beasties that live on and under them.

So it was inevitable that I would start and end the Bioblitz with my eye to the magnifying lens.

This, however, is my first attempt at photographing what I am finding. Not the best photos, but definitely better than my scrawled notes and sketchy drawings.

These are all inhabitants of the soil around my back door; most too small to see with the naked eye; some, even with the 40x hand microscope are just little dots with legs. You'll see what I mean here:
The larger beetle-like thing* here was barely visible without a lens. Up on the left, there is a tinier beetle. I found quite a few of them; I could see them walking around, sometimes see that they are green, sometimes even see the two antennae. Nothing more.

About that larger one; they hop, like a grasshopper, whenever they are disturbed. There were many of them in a couple of pine cones. (*Later: these have been identified as springtails, Orchesella cincta. See note below photo on Flickr.)

This one was big enough to track without a lens. I caught him and photographed him on a paper towel. About 1 1/2 cm. (5/8 inch).
A millipede. Very tiny.
A pale brownish mite.
A centipede, the "large" variety. A bunch of smaller ones were impossible; too fast, too pale, too tiny.

A spider on a clay pot.
On the bottom of that pot, collembola, springtails. Isn't this one cute? I love these things; so busy, always, so shiny white, even in a bucket of mud, so irrepressible. (See note by Frans Janssens.)
Miniatures: red, shiny mites. These guys are really, really tough; put a piece of Scotch tape on them to hold them still while you go for a better light, come back and find them walking around in the glue. Pour alcohol on them, to disolve the glue; they slow down a bit, then recover and go on about their business as if nothing had happened. (Other beasties would die instantly.) I don't know if they get a hangover.
And macro-biota; an earthworm, trying to get out of the light. I left this in the larger size, so you can click on it and see the "ribs"; it looks rather like one of those outlet hoses for your dryer.
Not photographed: something that scuttled out of view very quickly. Baby slugs. Sowbugs. And, in the water in the bottom of that pot, some tiny swimming worms, about the length of the springtails, but much skinnier, of course.

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3 comments:

Jeremy Bruno said...

Bodanis is such a great writer, isn't he? I have a few of his books, but never heard of that one. I'll have to look it up.

burning silo said...

Nice report on your findings of small creatures, Susannah. I wonder if the thing that jumps could also be a species of springtail? It sort of looks a bit like one, especially with that kind of antennae.

Wanderin' Weeta said...

Bev;

I was thinking the same; a springtail of sorts. Back to hitting the guides!

I think I'll post, when this is all over and I have a bit of time to spare, a list of the reference sites I found most useful. A bit too late for the Bioblitz, but there's always next year, isn't there?