Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bug Life Cycles

I've wanted to do a post on these for a while. But since I cant stomach going to websites to learn about what I am posting, I am simply going to post some photos, and if anyone wants to give me information, then comments are greatly appreciated.

Mosquito Larvae

The reason I posted the Bat House post was because mosquitos have become much more of a problem than they have been. This is probably because I have a 5 gallon bucket of water keeping some Eucalyptus clippings for my aunt-in-law. We had to clip the Eucalyptus because it was blowing into our neighbors power lines during a storm. So like reasonable people, we went out  with one of those reach-and-pull-by-the-rope clippers during a lighning storm, in the dark to clip a tree that was six inches from black 220V lines delivering 200 amps. So we thought we were going to ship them to her. We didn't and in about a week, mosquito bite rates went through the roof. I am pretty sure that the grey curly things in the water are Tiger Mosqitio larvae. Based on that is what we have in the area, and now we have a lot more.

<Pre-emptive update: My wife saw my post and pictures and did the Google search for me. They are mosquito larvae. Based on her research, people on the internet say that bleach is a good way to kill them. Also soap because the larvae have to come up for air, and get it on their bodies when they do, disrupting their skin and breathing. Oil works the same way, but is more potent.>

We tried bleach about half a cup in about 3-4 gallons of water. We had apparantly no kill rate after 2 hours. No larvae floating on top, and the big one wrigglign away as per normal.

Fly Pre-Pupae

I looked this one up earlier in the week and couldnt get past two photos before I closed all my browser windows in disgust. These next photos are of fly pre-pupae or maggots. Flies find my compost, deposit eggs and in 3-4 days, I have lots of these guys. They like to live under the surface out of the light. When I rotate my compost, and open the lid, they are innevitably on top, but 10-30 seconds later, they are not visible on the top of the compost. You can see a sunflower seed in the middle for scale, and to the upper right of that, a cantelope seed.

Based on the flies I see in the yard, there are normal houseflies, green flies, and the guys below. Im assuming that all the maggots looks the same (maybe different sizes) and that they are all in there and i cant tell them apart. I cant find the website, but I think I remember them having a termperture range of 80-120F. So having them is indicative of a compost pile not being hot enough to kill them, weed seeds, and most pathogens.

Large Black Flies of unknown name (maybe a wasp?)

Based on the flies I see in the yard, there are normal houseflies, green flies, and the guys below. These guys I found in my finsihed compost storage bin which was known to have the pre-pupae in it. So Im assuming theat they hatched from those. They are large, 3-4 times the length of a house fly. In the picture you can see a scrap of paper with "eng" on it. That is 10pt Times New Roman for scale.

These guys were just chilling on the top of the pile when I opened the lid. Either they were drying out after recently hatching or they were in the process of dying from the parasitic infection I'm going to discuss next. When I came near, they moved, but did not fly away, and did not move by enough, or as fast as one might expect.

Fly Parasites

When i was diging thorugh the finished compost, (I cant remember whether it was the same or different bin that the one with the above photos - but it doesnt really matter since I mix compost from the two every other month), I found the following dead flies. They had small red aphid-like insects on them. The carapace had been split open, and the red aphid-like bugs were inside, presumably eating what was left of the inside of the fly. It is barely visible in the image. What is not visible, but what I did see was the same red bugs attached to the bottom of a much smaller different kind of fly. If I were to guess at the size, I would say they were 500-1000 microns (1000 micron=1mm). Inside the dead carapace, they looked gouged and fat. On the smaller fly (2 microns) they looked like 6-8 puppies clinging to the legs and abdomen of a mother dog - that was the scale.

Request for comments

If anyone knows anything about any of the four characters in today's post, please say something in the comments. If what you say cant be quickly verified on wikipedia, please post a source or a link. I want to learn, but cannot trawl through entomology websites on account of my weak suburban constitution. Thanks.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bat House Plans (Audubon Knockoff)

So this is something I've wanted to do for a while, but since it involved what i think is the most difficult power tool in existence - the router, I have yet to try it. I made the plans a while ago, and because I have received a few comments on this blog, I got in the mood to writing for it again.

So back in the spring, I took photos of this bat house sold by the Audubon Society. It is $50 if you can see in the photos after shrinking. The extent of my charity is paying taxes, signing petitions and voting for non-bigots. I really do not see $50 in craftsmanship here. I see $10 in materials and 10 man-minutes of work with the right tools, and a $40 donation to the Audubon Society.



So I reverse-engineered it. It's made of cedar so it doesn't rot. The 5 grooves which are present even on the outside of the house indicate that the entire box is made from 1 piece of lumber which is routed on both sides, then cut, then screwed together. The top and sides have two channels, but the others dont. To make it cheap, you would make it out of a single piece of 1x6x8'. So I made the drawing, dusted off my algebra and geometry, wrote out those equations in the middle left, plugged in t=3/4", w=5.5" and had Solver in Excel/OpenOffice/LibreOffice solve the equations for a, b, and c.

You are going to need a V-Groove bit, a Roundover bit, and a 3/4" Dado or Straight bit. Set up your jig to make the 5 V-Grooves on one side. Make the roundover routes. Cut the plank at the 46"/50" mark. Then route the 46" "half" with the straight bit on the other side. Then cut the 46" half into the A/B/B pieces, and the 50" "half" into the five 10" C pieces. 

A note on materials 

As with all router bits, get the largest chuck you can fo the bit you want. That means a 1/2" chuck for the 3/4" straight bit. The three bits for this project will run you about $40-$60, but they are some pretty useful bits. The Cedar, i found at Lowes for $10/board. My Home Depot doesn't carry planks of cedar.

A note on placement

Cedar was chosen because it lasts forever in the elements. So think about permenance. The screws looked brass or that funny outdoor gold patina stuff. The original builders avoided glue, I would also. 

I wouldnt mount it with a string because blind bats are going to be flying in and out of it - you wouldn't park your car in a garage that was suspended from crane would you? Id put two masonry screws through the bottom C board into the mortar of my brick.

Bats shit - think birds not mammals. Don't put it over something edible. And since it is the white bird kind (I think) it is going to be high in nitrogen, and might burn naked grass. I don't know I haven't built this one yet, but I would put it over ground I don't care about, or put some chippings/mulch underneath once I have bats.

I have also heard that bats - like all other mammals - get particular about the temperature of their home. They will prefer homes that are warm but not too warm etc., which is based on the amount of sun the house gets and the ambient temperture I am planning on solving this, but building 2-4 bat houses and placing them on the 4 sides of the house N-E-S-W. So the bats can choose the house of their choice based on the time of year and insolance.