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What an odd-looking creature I found on my desert milkweed flower this week. It is bright orange with striped legs. Look at the black spines on back end (abdomen). It also seems to have its straw-like beak piercing a black insect.

This insect is a young assassin bug, a stage called a nymph. If it were an adult, it would have wings.

Assassin bugs use their front legs to capture other insects for food. They stick their proboscis or beak into their victim and suck out the juices. In this case the nymph has caught a tiny parasitic wasp. The wasp was probably searching for aphids, which is what its larvae use for food.

assassin bug nymph

Edit: I was able to find an adult to show in this later post.

lacewingI just have to share the beautiful insect I found this morning on my hollyhocks. Look at the rainbow colors in her wings and her shiny golden eyes. She is so delicate and ethereal.

The lacewing is one of the many insects considered to be beneficial that you may find in your yard. Her larvae feed on other insects such as aphids, whiteflies and lacebugs. The larvae are like tiny alligators with curved jaws sticking out in front. If I find one, I'll try to get a picture to add here.

I have two ideas for today and they both have to do with fat.

First, did anyone read the Weekend Fun for making cheese? One of the cautions was to watch out because the milk can suddenly bubble up and over the pan when heating. I have had that experience a couple of times. I began to wonder why milk would act this way whereas water does not.

The answer goes back to the fact that oil and fat float on water. While heating, the milk fat forms a layer at the surface, repressing the activity of the liquid underneath. At boiling temperatures the fat layer splits all of a sudden, allowing the liquid underneath to roil up violently. Soymilk, with added oils, can have the same reaction.

How would you test this idea? I would suggest seeing whether heating nonfat milk had the same reaction. Then add oil to nonfat milk and do the test again. What happens? Do you have any other ideas?

The next part has to do with another kind of fat. Take a look at this article on how the species of bacteria in your gut during early childhood may determine whether you are obese later on.

I knew a little about how important gut microorganisms are in other creatures. My favorite critters, the insects, have many bacteria and/or protozoa inside them performing all sorts of roles. For example, termites can't really digest the wood they eat. They carry tiny organisms inside that are able to digest wood. Without them, the termites would starve.

Obviously we have a lot to learn about our own relationships with microorganisms.

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