Month: August 2011 (Page 6 of 6)

Bug of the Week: Giant Mesquite Bugs

Related to the squash bug from last week, this week we found giant mesquite bugs.

These big bugs (about the size of a child’s thumb) seem like something from another age.

Let’s look closer.

I can tell this is a “true bug” because of the triangle in the middle of its back. Can you spot it?

Also, look how the wing changes texture from where it attaches on the back (at the right side) to between the water droplets. The wing veins run in another direction and the wing actually goes from leathery to more flimsy, like a piece of cellophane.

Let’s go back  to look at the squash bug. Can you see the triangle and the wing patterns, too? In this case the triangle is not a different color, but it is still there.

Those are clues entomologists use to tell if two insects are similar, and also what kind they are.

Squash bugs and giant mesquite bugs are alike in other ways, too. It turns out that the giant mesquite bugs will also produce odors to defend themselves.

In this photo you can see the mouthparts sticking down below the head. Giant mesquite bugs use their “beaks” to suck plant sap from mesquite trees. (The adults we saw were clustered around the green seed pods of the mesquite trees.)

Firefly Forest has photographs of the bright-colored immatures (nymphs) and more information.

Have you ever found a giant mesquite bug? How about other “true bugs?”

Seed of the Week: Sorghum or Milo

Our mystery seeds from last week arose from a simple question:  What is in the bird seed we are feeding our birds?

With some detective work, we found out that the smaller, shiny white or light-colored seeds are white proso millet, Panicum miliaceum.

The bigger, red or orangish seeds are from sorghum (also called milo), Sorghum bicolor.

Both plants are monocots.

Sorghum has broad leaves that may resemble those of corn plants.

The sorghum seeds start pale and then darken with time.

Studies have shown that different birds prefer different sizes and types of seeds. In our yard, most of the ground feeding species, such as mourning doves, inca doves, white-winged doves and sometimes curved-bill thrashers, will eat the millet and sorghum.

Refer to Birdzilla for more information and pictures of different types of bird seed.

Sorghum was thought to have come from northern Africa and it grows remarkably well in dry areas. In fact, it can grow where there is too little moisture for corn to grow. Although the leaves are large, it has an extensive root system and the leaves are waxy, to prevent water loss. It also can go dormant during periods of drought.

Apparently the leaves can contain too much prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide), and can be toxic. The foliage is converted into silage before being fed to animals to prevent prussic acid poisoning.

What an interesting plant!

What kinds of seeds to you feed your birds?

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