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The deserts of Arizona have quite a few unusual arthropods. The sight of some of them can cause visitors to hop right out of their boots. Last night I had one of those in my upstairs bathroom. Here is what I saw:

It is sitting the bottom of the bathroom door, to give you some idea how big it is. What would you do if you saw this?

I have to admit I took these photos in a rush. Not because I was afraid of this giant spider, but because I was afraid our kitten might catch and eat it. I wanted to put it outside quickly in order to save its life.

This is a prime specimen of a giant crab spider, one of the largest spiders around. It can easily get to be 2 inches across. Giant crab spiders don't build a web, they chase down other arthropods for food at night. Crickets are a favorite snack. They are called crab spiders because their legs extend sideways rather like a crabs.

Can you see the eyes? The big black structures in front are its chelicerae, or jaws. Although it can bite, it is not particularly dangerous. The only potentially harmful spiders we have here are black widows and Arizona brown spiders, a relative of the brown recluse.

I went and got a large glass and a card. I set the opening of the glass over the spider, slid the card under gently so I could lift it from the surface, and then carried the spider outside. It ran away into the night when I let it go. I wished it good luck.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has more information about the giant crab spider and other desert arthropods.

When we looked for insects today, we found some insect eggs on our lemon leaves. What are they?

Lacewing Life Cycle

Can you see the egg? It is the white oval on the hair-like stalk.

lacewing egg

The insect that laid this egg was featured as "Bug of the Week" early on. It is the beautiful green lacewing adult.

green lacewing
The egg has actually hatched, because it is white and the end is open. The lacewing larva that crawled out probably looks something like this on I found on June 18.
green lacewing larva

When the larva has finished development, it spins a cocoon around itself, forming what looks almost like a spider egg case. In fact, I'm sure a lot of green lacewings are destroyed each year due to mistaken identity.

My son and I found this lacewing cocoon underneath a bird's nest that fell out of a tree last week.

green lacewing pupa

The green lacewing is a beautiful, beneficial insect that goes through a lot of changes during its life cycle.

For more information for kids, try:

Nature Close-Up - Ant Lions and Lacewings  by Elaine Pascoe

Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

It was raining yesterday, which made me think of our family’s favorite insect-themed video, Microcosmos. Why think of a video? I thought of it because this film has the most incredible footage insects in a rain storm. In one scene a ladybug shoots up into the air like it is on a trampoline when a raindrop hits the leaf it is standing on. In another, a cricket struggles against a torrent that would be a trickle to a human. These are scenes that really show how rough the world can be for something that is small. Even a raindrop can be a huge obstacle.

Microcosmos was made by some incredibly gifted French filmmakers. I was able to find the French version of the movie trailer on You Tube. We have a readily available version that has been translated into English. Unlike many other nature shows and documentaries, the dialogue in this one is very minimal. I found the music to be well, different, but the visuals are so astonishing that you should not let the music put you off if it isn’t your usual fare. This is only a brief snippet of some of the scenes:

The good news is that Microcosmos is still available in video or DVD, even though it was made in 1996.

Microcosmos (1996)
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Jacques Perrin Director: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou Rating: G Format: DVD

Winged Migration (2001) was made by some of the same people and is also great for people who enjoy nature.

Starring: Philippe Labro, Jacques Perrin Director: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud Rating: G Format: DVD

Life in the Undergrowth, starring David Attenborough also has awesome footage of creatures, but with a lot more information about what you are seeing.