Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bobby the Garden Toad, and Other Creatures

We have a toad living in our garden. :D It's a nicely plump, medium-sized fellow, who I first saw when I was watering the garden the other day (free shower!), and who was hunkered down in a lovely little hollow next to the garden fence this morning. Can you find the camouflaged and partially-buried toad in this picture?

What a lovely creature. The name "Bobby" was Paul's suggestion, the idea being that this is one of those names that could work for either a boy or a girl. I think it fits pretty well.

I may not know the gender of this creature, but for once I am pretty confident about the species. We have two species of toads in Connecticut, and I've had some trouble identifying individual toads in the past, but this guy seems to be a pretty clear example of an American Toad. These black outlines around individual "warts" on its back are characteristic of the species, and I think the patterns are rather beautiful:

I strongly encouraged Bobby to relocate to a more central location in the garden -- the hiding place in the first couple of pictures was dangerously close to the gate and therefore my feet -- and he or she has been hanging out among the carrots all afternoon. I like having a little amphibian friend around, and I hope the garden proves to be a suitable long-term home. :)

While I was out with the camera, I couldn't resist taking pictures of some more insects in the garden. There's a whole world of tiny creatures out there!

Here's a tiny leafhopper with a cool design -- it's a Saddled Leafhopper (Colladonus clitellarius):

This brightly-colored creature is some sort of sawfly, in the family Argidae, and I haven't been able to figure out any identification details other than that:

And this is a long-legged fly (family Dolichopodidae) -- can you believe the colors on this thing?

The internet tells me that long-legged flies prey on other insects, and they're actually good to have in a garden. So here's an example of a creature I never thought to pay attention to before, but when I stopped to look closely and learn about it, not only does it turn out to be gorgeous, but beneficial as well!

Here's a really bizarre insect that I just learned about. Can you tell what's going on here?

This is the larva of a Clavate Tortoise Beetle, and it's really super weird. The green oval-shaped thing with the spines is the actual creature. That big crinkly brown thing on its back? That's a mass of dried excrement. Poop. I couldn't make this stuff up. The larva actually holds this thing up over its back with a special "fork" on its hind end, and it can wave it around at will. Various internet sources suggest that this is some sort of defense mechanism, or a means of camouflage. Either way, blech. Also, ew.

So you can see what this weird thing grows into, here's a picture of an adult Clavate Tortoise Beetle that I took about a month ago:

These beetles really like my tomato plants (that is, to eat), so I'm keeping an eye on them. There are only a couple of these bugs around right now, but if more appear and start doing significant damage, it might be squishing time!


  1. It seems that my days run on themes - yesterday was your 'bug' day - and it's true - you can't make this stuff up! ;-)

    As for the beetle with poop on its back - I think I'll take sunscreen!

    I had some insects on yesterday's post myself - what web resource would you recommend for identification?

    Wouldn't it be nice if "Bobby" took care of your hungry bugs for you! :-)

  2. There are indeed some crazy bugs out there, and it's fun to learn about them! Yeah, it'd be nice if toads could reach up into the tomato leaves and get the bugs there, but I'm happy for Bobby to munch on slugs and other ground-level creatures, too. :)

    For bug identification, I've been having a great deal of success with -- I just tend to browse through the guide, clicking on the taxa with pictures that look similar to the bug I'm trying to find, until I've narrowed it down as much as I can. And sometimes I'll see a picture that's exactly the same as my mystery bug, and that'll be that! Also, if you make an account with the website, there's an option to post a picture of an unknown bug, and the knowledgeable people who visit the website will ID it for you! Apparently this works really well, although I've never tried that route myself.

    Good luck on your bug-identification adventures!

  3. Thanks Elizabeth - I will check it out - pictures are good - I have a harder time wading through the sites that ask questions to help you narrow down possibilities, and it may just be my novice powers of observation, but I always end up with something that I know, absolutely, that its NOT. Thanks for the tip that the one is a leaf hopper - that at least puts me in the right part of the database :-)
    I will persevere - and thanks for your posts - they mean I get to take a second, sometimes a third (Saratoga W & W) hike a day. Wish it would burn twice as many calories ;-)