Mexican Cactus Fly

The GNG had a very interesting visitor today, a Mexican Cactus Fly.  This is the largest flower fly in Southern California (with a body length of ¾”) and ranges from the Southern U.S. down to Central America. The fly itself resembles one of our larger carpenter bee species, but on closer inspection it is clearly an enormous fly!

Jeweled Araneus

As spring turns into summer, Jeweled Araneus orb spiders become fairly common and can now be found throughout the GNG. Females of this species get quite large, measuring about ¾”, and are able to build orb webs measuring over 7 feet in diameter!

Adult female Jeweled Araneus

Jeweled Araneus spiders are formidable hunters and can inflict a painful bite, but just like all spiders they perform an important roll in our environment and should be allowed to live in peace.  Without spiders, so many insect populations would exist unchecked, creating an unnatural imbalance.

All spiders are vulnerable to predators as the wait patiently in their web.  In the image on the right, this Jeweled Araneus quickly took up a defensive position (by making itself small) when a breeze pushed on its web.

A Brown Widow Invasion

An alien arachnid has taken hold in the GNG - the cosmopolitan Brown Widow Spider.  Although there is some debate about where it originated, most believe it came from South Africa. The first documentation of this spider in California occurred in 2003 and since then, Brown Widow numbers have exploded. For reasons unknown they out compete native Black Widow Spiders and now probably out-number them in our region.  Brown Widows are still mostly being found in urbanized areas (like the GNG), so there is a chance our native widow will survive this offensive.

Even though Brown Widows are less aggressive than Black Widows and are less apt to bite people, we should not be pleased with this displacement. Whenever an alien species takes hold it can be recipe for disaster.

Female Brown Widow Spider

.

Flame Skimmers Locked in an Embrace

Dragonflies have been around for a very long time - approximately 300 million years! As they evolved, this copulatory position emerged to accommodate the placement of their sexual organs.  Looks as though the GNG pond will be expecting Flame Skimmer nymphs very soon!

Mating Flame Skimmers - male is above, female below.

Great Horned Owl Enjoys a Breezy July Afternoon

This California Walnut branch in the GNG is a favorite day-roost for the continuing Great Horned Owl family.  The interesting thing about looking at footage from this trail camera is the amount of time these owls spend preening during the day.  They apparently get by on little sleep!

Adult Great Horned Owl