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Insect Questions you are afraid to ask ;o)

My kids and I have several questions about the creatures I photographer. These questions I have not been able to kind on the web so hopefully people here can help. If anyone else has a "stupid" question they want to ask feel free to post yours here too.

1. Where do dragonflies go at sundown? We have recently had a fairly large number of dragonflies come out to visit during the day (and have no ponds or water near by). You do not seen any early morning or in the early evening. Where might they be hiding?

2. Last night was an amazing experience, we had to total of 20 mantises (or mantids- which is proper?) by our front and back doors. First it started with 2-3 hanging out at our front door with maybe 1-2 on the back porch. Now they appear to be coming in herds which I am thrilled over! Is this breeding season? They all appear to look the same.

While one or two will hang out with me all day most leave and then come back at night. Where is it they would typically go? I would love to photograph them on a more natural environment then my We have two large Lady Banks near our door but I cannot see to find them there.

I was joking with my husband telling him look my mantises are telling others, "hey come look at the crazy lady, she likes to talk to you and take pictures" lol. On a serious note it does feel they are studying me as much as I do them. Now I was told a while ago that mantises have pseudo pupils which are attracted by light. Yesterday with one mantis that likes to be picked up I held him/her in my hand under our porch. I watched the eyes as I rotated my little friend and the pupil always followed me as did his/her head. If they have pseudo pupils that are attracted to light why would it track me without any light source change?

That brings me to another question, in terms a dummy can understand how do you tell the sex? Please be as monosyllabic as possible ;o).

Back to the eyes, I thought the cause for the mantises eye color change was from the pupil expanding so they see at night better (at least that was how I took it when this "pupil" was explained to me). I have shots though that seem to "disprove" my understanding. While there is this black/ dark grey film that covers the eyes in my pictures you can still clearly see the pupil under this "film". Does this "pupil" respond more to heat than light? And what is that dark film that covers their eyes at night?

3. All of a sudden Katydids are flocking toward us too (boy I have been in macro heaven) and I always thought they were herbivores. While I have not seen the Katydids eat and insect it appeared these were stalking prey just like my mantises. Is there are Katydid that eats other bugs? I got some pictures which I will try to post when I get a break during school.

4. We have an orb weaver who mated about 2 weeks ago. When will she lay her eggs? Where will she lay them? Will she survive winter or should she be dying soon? I have pictures posted of her already while mating and after.

I have some other questions regarding our Orb weaver. Prior to mating she would build these beautiful round webs and would take them down almost every morning. One morning I was able to observe her taking down her web. It almost appeared she was eating her web. Is this what she was doing or did I miss it fall to the ground? About a week and a half prior to mating her web started to get really erratic. Almost like the spiders from spiders on drugs video. Is this some sort of mating thing?

5. Can anyone recommend an entomology book that would be good for amateurs? Preferably one the kids and I can both use and learn from.

If anyone is interested I post one of my mantis experiences on my FB fan page.¬es_tab=app_2347471856#!/note.php?note_id=152804518067628 It was a pretty strange night with some very playful creatures.

Thanks so much for all your help!

More questions has come up
The other night I finally found a Wolfie mom carrying her spiderlings. I read that she carries them for 3 weeks. My kids asked the following questions:

1. How do all the spiderlings stay on? It almost looks as if they are interlocked together.

2. What and how do the spiderlings eat while on their mom's back?

3. Does the mom spider sleep? If she does, does she sleep with the babies on her back.

4. Since babies are born this later in the year where do they go over winter? I would imagine they might "hibernate"? I read online that many insects lay their eggs in fall and the egg/larva over-winter but these are just spiderlings. I can imagine they dies during winter as that would seem to put an end to a species. Where might you find them hibernating?

I can't answer your questions
I can't answer your questions but that is a very cool photo.

I just wanted to say thanks and let you know that I have admired your work since joining the community.

Even more questions
My boys are learning about weather and today they did real well on their predictions. One thing we have noticed when there is a great chance of rain there is little to no ant activity.

Can insect help us predict the weather? If so, in what ways do different insects help us predict the weather?

We have been observing the mother wolfie for days. The night before last momma only had a few babies on her back. I figured they had gone through their first molt and it was time for them to be on their way. Then last night she had all of them on her back again. Does the mother hunt and allows them to get off to eat what she caught? We know it is the same spider because of her injuries. It is funny how friendly she has become, allowing us to approach and look at her. She always comes to the same spot too each night. I feel like I have a puppy

Last night we had 42 mantises. 22 on our front step and 20 on our back porch. Many of my "babies" are molting into a fabulous green with more course wings where before the wings almost look like sheer lace.

Anyways I wanted to know how much longer will these wonderful creatures be alive? Do they overwinter? I have loved their nightly visits. Last night I had 3 on me at one time. I talk to them and they look at me like a dog and turn their heads from side to side. One didn't even want to go back on the wall and went running up my arm around the back of my neck. Oh my they are such funny and playful creatures.

Sorry, back to my questions. Each molt is called an instar? Do different species have different amounts of instars?

If these mantises do not overwinter would it be possible under the right conditions to keep them alive a few extra months inside? I can get wingless flies to feed them and I have tongs to feed them too. A few will take a moth from me already. I know it sounds silly but I have really enjoyed having them around and if I could keep a few around over winter I think it would be a blast. I have proper containers for habitats but not sure about moisture requirements or if they can move from moths to wingless flies or not. I know there are come insects they really do not like, like the cucumber beetle. They seem to eat moths and aphids only (at least what I have observed).

If I cannot give them a few extra months of life, at what temperature will they start dying off?

Thanks again for all the help!!

Partial answers
I don't know nearly so much about insects as some people here, but here are a couple of facts.

Baby wolf spiders eat one another. Since you saw the mother with a few babies and later with the whole crowd, those babies must be eating something else. I don't know what.

An instar isn't a molt; it's a stage of life. Molts are the events between successive instars. Different species have different numbers of instars.

Insect eyes
Insects have compound eyes made of many units, called ommatidia (singular: ommatidium); so you wouldn't see a pupil, just a pseudopupil as explained in Wikipedia. Each ommatidium behaves like one eye and can adapt to different levels of illumination. You can see some images of compound eyes and ommatidia. Also check the glossary using the terms compound eye and ommatidium if you want more information.
Great questions, keep them coming. Glad that you are not afraid to ask; probably many will benefit from this.

(Added two hours later) BTW, just because of this question I added a few touches to the compound eye and ommatidium articles in Wikipedia, both in English and Spanish. Now I will take a look at our glossary; I may even do a little work there too.

#3, #4
Here's BugGuide's guide page for katydids. It says a little about their diet.

Orb weavers do eat their old webs. This way, they get back the protein in the web. I've seen even very young orb weavers doing it.

I wish that page said which species at other insects.

Answer to #1...
Dragonflies roost in various places at night. On the trunks of trees, under branches, on tall grass or even the eaves of buildings. They prefer comfortable places that aren't so vulnerable to the wind, and usually prefer high-up places to avoid predation. If you go outside at night with a powerful flashlight or spotlight, and go to the places you usually see them at dusk, you can sometimes find them roosting. If it is cold enough, they can even be easily handled or caught, then returned to their spot.

Damselflies typically roost in tall grass or on short shrubs or sticks. They are vulnerable to predation, even if they hold still to keep out of sight. They are harder to spot, because they often move around the stem or grass blade to hide behind it.

I will try those spots tonight. I have looked in those spots in the past without success however I have neglected looking tree trunks.

A spotlamp and a good pair of
A spotlamp and a good pair of binoculars can be useful. Of course, you have to use both at the same time. ^^

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