Thursday, October 13, 2011

In a handful of moss

We've not been able to get out of urban environments for a while; all our outings have been to family gatherings or running errands. And since the weather changed, most of our bugs and other critters have disappeared, except for the one carpet beetle larva and a crop of fruit flies.

I was hungering for something green, something wet, something alive and slithery. So, at the end of another day hopping from store to store, I went out in the rain and gathered a few tufts of moss; tiny will do; let my camera do the walking.

Green and wet.

The moss was beautiful, glowing translucently under my light, the spiky leaves green at the top, a rich brown beneath. Underneath, where the moss still held remnants of soil, a couple of miniature slugs were sleeping. Disturbed, they woke and stretched, heading for new cover. At their full length, neither was more than a half inch long.

When I pulled the largest clump of moss apart, I exposed a cozy nest.

Slug eggs, almost as big as the slug diameters.

A closer view, trying to distinguish features of the developing slugs inside. No luck.

Closer view.

Apart from the slugs, their eggs, and one tiny earthworm (so tiny he crawled into my eyedropper), the only other visible animals were black springtails, from pinhead size on down to mere visibility, racing and hopping around. I found one stopped for a breather.

Springtail, Collembola.

Under a good lens, I found more animals: a little black snail, barely a pinprick to the naked eye once I knew where to look for it; another earthworm, identifiable as such only under the microscope, and a few slow-moving, beautiful, shiny, deep red mites. I took photos, but they show only red-black spots with a hint of legs along the edge.

This different mite was about twice their size:

Unidentified mite. 

It has eight legs, but holds the first two high in front, like antennae. And it looks like it's carrying at least one, maybe two smaller mites on its back. Babies? Or parasites? Maybe they'll know at BugGuide. I'll ask.


  1. what glorious discoveries and photography

  2. I never thought that anything about slugs could be beautiful, but these eggs are!!! Learn something new every day!

  3. So much from your tiny moss world. We just got back from two nights at the cabin. I was going through a whirlwind of cleaning getting ready for my new propane refrigerator and stove. I bet I could have found hundreds of dust mites if I'd wanted to look. But I just scrubbed everything up in a hurry. - Margy

  4. What a facinating world you found in the moss! Great photos to go along with your words.


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