wasps, paper bags

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 11:50 pm
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For several days in a row, a few wasps were hanging around the bay window, and buzzing whenever I opened or closed the side window. I was concerned they were building a nest in the soffits. That wouldn't necessarily bother me, as long as the wasps didn't end up in the house. (That has been a problem in the past.)

But I also didn't want to worry about trapping the wasps between the screen and window, or accidentally crushing them, whenever I closed the window (it is the kind with the screen on the inside, and with a handle that you turn, to close the window). So I looked up how to stop wasps from building a nest. I found that there are fake hornets nests that you can buy to scare wasps away. The fake nests don't actually look that bad either, they are like a paper lantern in a drab color. But I also read that you can make your own fake hornet nest with a small paper bag. So I did that, and stuck it outside. It seems to have worked. The wasps aren't hanging around the window any more.

I did see one of the wasps resting on the fig tree later on. It was very pretty actually, mostly black with iridescent blue highlights.
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Yesterday after work, I drove to Congaree Park with my mom. From the status updates posted by the park, the peak firefly activity might have already been over. But even if so, I thought it would still be neat to be in a wilderness area after nightfall. Most other parks around here close at dusk. The forecast was for clear skies, so maybe there would also be a nice starry sky - here in town there is too much ambient light to see more than the brightest ones.

I looked up directions on how to drive there. I found that the Google Maps app has an option for downloading a zoomable map of a selected area. You can download maps of where you are planning to go using WiFi, and later on use them to navigate with GPS, without using any cellular data.

But my car also has a built-in navigator. So once I reached the outskirts of town, I turned it on and entered the address. I just wanted to be sure that I didn't miss the turn-off way down on Bluff Road. The expected route displayed on the screen, but once I started driving, it told me to turn right when I was certain that I should turn left. I stopped to verify on Google Maps that my memory was correct. Then I turned left and drove on. It started nagging "Turn left... recalculating", "Turn left ... recalculating", "Make a U-turn!" and so on and so on. I have no idea where it was trying to take me to. I wanted to turn it off, but neither my mom nor I could figure out how. Finally, after parking the car again and pressing a bunch of things on the screen, I turned it off.

The park's website had said that only flashlights with red filters or covers should be used, to avoid disturbing the fireflies. I happened to have a flashlight, plus a small BugLit flashlight, plus a headlamp, all with red LEDs. As my mom was coming too, I also brought 2 other flashlights, with red/pink cellophane covering the lights. But they weren't necessary. I only needed a flashlight on the way out. My mom only used the BugLit. The ones with the cellophane covers were still really way too bright anyway.

The parking lot was full already at the park, so I parked behind another car on the side of the road. It was already dusk. On the boardwalk, we walked past a lot of other people. We finally stopped at what seemed a good spot. (Beset by thoughts of "Maybe there are more fireflies further down. Or maybe there are fewer. Maybe that would only take us closer to that crying baby.") There were a lot of people noises. In the beginning, people were also constantly walking past behind us in both directions. Later on, much of that subsided and it was more peaceful. Surely there are places in the park where one could see fireflies too, without the crowds of people. But you'd need to be familiar with the park to know where to go.

There were a lot of fireflies, but not as many as I had hopefully envisioned. The peak activity must already be past. I didn't notice much synchronicity going on, although there were moments when a small group of them would flash at nearly the same time, and then go dark, and then do that again a few times. But there were also other fireflies around them doing their own thing, so it wasn't very obvious. The status posted by the park today said "Fireflies were again active last night (Friday, May 26). Visitors reported that separate groups of fireflies were synchronized (as opposed to all of them being synchronized together)." Maybe it was more obvious in other spots, than where we were standing.

When I see fireflies in my yard, the color of their flash is bright yellow. But the flash of the ones in the park was more white, like moonlight. (Maybe that was only because they were further away - the ones that were closer did have more color). But that white light made them look like twinkling stars in amongst the trees. Very magical. Twinkling moving stars. The kind of thing which might make you believe in fairies. In the moments when people were being quiet, you could hear the nighttime insect noises all around. There were occasional owl (I assume) calls. (Not hoot-hoot sounds. Though now checking YouTube for owl calls, it didn't sound like those, so maybe they weren't owls after all.)

We stayed after most other people had left. It was nicer then, without all the distractions, even though the twinkling fireflies seemed fainter by then, more misty and dreamlike. As we were on the way out, a few other people arrived. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the crowds too.

Other than the fireflies and the flashlights of people walking by, at ground-level it was quite dark. But looking up, you could see the sky a lighter blue between the dark outlines of trees. Even when we left, around 11pm, the sky still was that color. Not pitch black pierced by white stars, as I'd expect. Although the stars themselves were plentiful and beautiful. Does the night sky never really get black, even in the countryside? The moon was almost new, so the light wasn't from it. Maybe it was still ambient light from town; the park is only about half an hour away. Or do the stars always make the night sky seem a lighter color?

On the way out, I stopped at another small parking lot to get a better view of the sky. It was beautiful. I wasn't able to see the milky way (would it be overhead? I don't even know where to look). I think there was a pond nearby, but it was too dark to tell. There were some weird animal noises coming from the other side. I have no idea what it was. My mom guessed it might be a male deer. Maybe, based on this - the sound was sort of like that, though it's hard to remember now.

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How can I have lived here this long, without having heard about this phenomenon before?

Synchronized fireflies lighting skies at Congaree National Park
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The day before yesterday, there was a tickle at the bottom of my leg, and I found a flea. I grabbed it, and unsure of what to do, held it in a stream of water at the bathroom faucet for a long time. Then I let the water wash it down the drain, and ran the water for a while longer. I was afraid it might still be alive, and might jump back out.

In the past when we had cats, I remembered submerging any caught fleas into a cup of water mixed with dishwashing liquid to drown them.

Yesterday evening, it happened again, in the same bathroom. I don't remember ever finding fleas in the house before*, so I believe it was the same flea. This time, I took it to the kitchen, dumped some water and dishwashing liquid into a plastic container, and held it submerged in that for a while before letting go.

(Feeling the flea struggling in my grasp. Trying to drown the poor thing a second time, after it survived the first traumatic attempt. I'm such a bad person. Life is so cruel. I don't like killing, but fleas are one of the few things that I long ago decided should always be killed, because of the severe misery they can inflict on other beings, and because there's no way to peacefully coexist with them.)

This morning, the flea was motionless at the bottom of the container. But now I don't trust dumping it down the drain again. And I don't want to dump it in the yard. So I considered dumping it outside the fence, to be on the safe side.

But first... how long does it take a flea to drown? The answers given on this page are rather scary:

Can dish soap really be used to kill ticks and fleas?

Now I've decided to leave the flea soaking for at least another day.

*Our dogs have been at Qiao's house the past week rather than here. But I've been going over to feed the neighbor's dogs this last week, while they were away on a trip. One of their dogs had a bad flea problem in the past from what they told me, so I think the flea must have jumped on me while I was in their yard. Although I didn't notice their dogs scratching much while I was there.

little flies

Saturday, January 14th, 2017 01:41 am
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This morning, there was one of those little flies in my cube when I arrived. It flew in my face more than usual; it would definitely be a nuisance if it was always around. Not much later I heard a suspicious "smack" from my neighbor across the aisle. A little later after that, I heard a smack from the cube right next to mine. Upon which the coworker across the aisle got up and had a little chat with my neighbor. She asked if he's been having a bunch of little flies lately. Yep, he said, he already killed 6 this morning. He called them gnats. They discussed where they might be coming from.

So much for my visiting fly theory.

While I can handle, and even appreciate, a single solitary insect, the idea of having a bunch of them flying around in my cube, or anywhere else near me, is unpleasant and begins to be "something that must be dealt with", even if I don't like to kill them. It's sort of a contradiction, isn't it?
One = Why, hi there cute little bug. Let me help you out. So nice of you to visit. What's it like to be you?
Twenty+ = Agh, invasion. I suppose I'll have to kill them all. Kill, destroy, destruction.

little fly

Friday, January 13th, 2017 01:06 am
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Every day I've been at work, since about the week before the winter holidays, a tiny flying insect (not sure what that kind is called, but it's smaller than a fruit fly) has flown into my cube sometime during the day. It flits around between me and my monitor for a while, and eventually leaves again.

The first or second time it came, I thought it was stuck inside the building. I considered catching it to take it outside, but it didn't cooperate. I thought maybe it was thirsty, and put out a drop of water for it, which it didn't go near. When it kept coming back (even though I wasn't sure it was the same one), I figured it must be doing ok inside.

I didn't know if it was a single fly, or a different one each time (I had thought the lifespan of tiny creatures was likewise short, but maybe it isn't that short) but after a few days, it started to seem like it was. It feels like it purposely comes to visit me. I have to be careful when it does, not to accidentally smoosh or inhale it. (That would make me feel bad.) Today for the first time, it landed on my hand, walked around a bit, flew up, landed again, and repeated it several times. As if it finally trusted me enough to do that. It was the first time I had an extended look at it. Then it flew away again.

Hurricane Matthew

Sunday, October 9th, 2016 03:00 am
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Didn't do much damage in my area, as far inland as we are. Our power flickered and went out for a couple hours during the night (as noted by the electric fans and telephone light turning off and on), but was back on by morning. The recycling bin outside was knocked over, and some rain leaked in under the garage door but didn't go very far in. Those grooves I cut in the concrete have been working very well.

I haven't yet heard from my sister though, who was in Charleston. Unless she evacuated after all. I hope she's ok.
[Update: got a text from her, she is ok.]


This flying insect was gathering nectar from the lantana flowers in the evening, last week. It was flitting too quickly for me to get a clear shot of it. It looked unusual due to its thick torso. From doing an image search, it may be some type of hawk moth?

insect on flowers
insect on flowers
insect on flowers
insect on flowers
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After comparing the sounds on my video to the sounds on the katydid video that I originally thought it sounded like, they no longer sound the same to me. And when I search on katydid sounds, the results come back with all kinds of different sounds. So now I'm not sure if the ones in my video are really katydids, or if they are something different. Can anyone confirm/deny?


The first 10 seconds of the video is the kind of sound that I find most relaxing/hypnotic... it's like 2 critters take turns calling, back and forth, back and forth, each with a slightly different pitch, higher, lower, higher, lower...

cicada molting

Sunday, July 10th, 2016 12:51 pm
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When I went to bed last night after 3am, Serena was outside barking at something. I told her to hush, but she kept at it. I figured she'd stop soon. A few hours later I woke up, and she was still barking, or again barking. So I put on shoes and went outside to check.

She was chewing on something. Uh-oh. I fetched a flashlight. She was sniffing at a cicada shell on the ground. Maybe she ate a cicada? But wouldn't that be buzzy and unpalatable? She started barking at something else in the same area. On a thick blade/root of grass, were another 2 cicadas... or rather one cicada and one shell. I didn't want her to eat that one too, so I detached and carried the blade of grass to a safer place (on top of the trash bin) out of Serena's reach. The cicada was motionless the whole time.

I petted Serena to calm her down, and went back inside. Before I even got back to bed, she was barking again, in a different part of the yard. I opened the window and told her to hush. She ignored me. I turned the volume up on the sound machine, though her bark being a higher pitched noise, it didn't help much to cover it up, and went back to sleep. At least her bark is quieter than Zorro's and doesn't carry as far.

Later after getting up, I checked the top of the trash bin. The live cicada was gone; presumably it made a safe get-away.

I got to thinking - the live cicada had been much larger than the empty shell. Yet it must have just molted last night from that same shell. How does that work? I wondered why the one I moved hadn't simply flown away. Are insects in a stupor state after molting, making them easy prey?

Here is a Cicada Molting video. The part about 2 minutes in where the wings start to unfurl & extend is fascinating.

This animated gif shows the same process, though with much less detail.

Cicada Molting/Eclosing Process - this page describes each step of the process. It explains why a just-molted bug might not be as unpalatable as I had imagined.
"The Soft and Chewy Cicada Teneral Stage, Yumm!!"
The teneral stage is that stage in a Cicada's development where the Cicada has just finished carrying out it's molting process but it is still relatively soft. Like the consistancy of a newly molted soft-shelled crab. ... It's at this stage where the Cicada is most vulnerable.

A comment on the same page mentions that nymphs begin to emerge from the ground to molt, when the soil reaches a certain temperature. So maybe many nymphs emerge around the same time. I sure hope Serena didn't eat a whole bunch more. I like hearing the buzz of adult cicadas!

I still plan to post some cicada and katydid sounds that I recorded.

I often hear cicadas up in the trees in my yard, but not katydids. Katydids must prefer more wooded areas. I noticed several times while driving home from work at night, that I could hear katydids singing most of the way along the ride home, from the parking lot at work and along the main streets. But as I near my neighborhood, the katydid sounds decrease, until finally there are none at all to be heard. There are only the cricket and other night-time insect sounds. In spite of there being a good amount of trees around here.

niceties, oddities

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 01:20 am
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The killdeer chicks must have hatched. I saw & heard the 2 adult birds along with at least 3 small ones cheeping about in the shade of a tree.

Worked late today. Left the office a bit before 11pm. The ..critters.. in the trees making their noises - I don't even know what they are (note to self: look up the critter sounds; do cicadas make 2 different kinds of sounds?), but the sound is so relaxing and peaceful for me. And the quality of the night - the temperature, amount of humidity, scents as well as sounds - reminded me of similar nights experienced when I was a child.


Outside the gate on my driveway, something odd. Reddish brown spots, like something bled along there. They don't look like rust spots, as they aren't directly under the gate. Maybe a dog was wandering around bleeding. Or maybe a dog caught some prey and carried it, bleeding, in its mouth.

Then I remembered something odd from yesterday. Driving home, I had passed a guy jogging along the side of the street. It's rare to see a jogger in that area. He had orange shorts on. The odd part was a black scarf over his mouth. It had white circles on it which somehow reminded me of those ghost/ghoul masks. It's summer and was probably at least 85 degrees outside. Why would someone jog with a scarf over their mouth in summer? It's not a dusty area. I wondered if it was some kind of gang initiation.


For the past month, my LJ has been getting spam comments on old posts, all of the same style but with different wording and URLs, and from different IP numbers. At least one every other day. All comments on my LJ are screened by default, so it's not doing anyone any good.


Last Friday, the day I found out about my sister moving... when I went outside for lunch and a walk, I got caught in a rainstorm and got soaked. The forecast had foretold a clear sunny day, so although it started to get stormy and sprinkle, I didn't pay it much attention, other than bringing my umbrella along. My mind was on other things. Then suddenly it was pouring down, really pouring down, and even standing under a tree with my umbrella didn't help much. After it finally let up, I walked to our nearby Fitness Center to dry myself off with paper towels. It sounded like I was the only person in the building. Besides the paper towels, there was a blow-dryer that I used to dry my shirt. That was an experience. But my pants and shoes were still quite wet, and I didn't want to wear wet socks and shoes the rest of the day. So I drove home and worked the rest of day from there.


Monday, May 30th, 2016 08:43 pm
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13 mosquito bites on my calves and 3 on my right arm, within a few minutes. I should know better than going into the back yard without covering up, especially in the evening. Even when I think it's only going to take a few minutes to pull up those 5 dandelion plants that I've been eyeing from inside for days now, thinking I should bag them before all the fluff-ball seeds get blown away.

I need to cut down all the other junk that's started growing back there since I had the tree cutting last year. But not tonight.
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The person I hired to reseal the sunroom roof has finally finished the job, this morning. He came down with the flu in the middle of it, so I don't fault him too much for the delay this time. (Though I do still fault him on not getting back in touch with me last year when he was supposed to do it the first time.)

Something I wasn't expecting to see, upon getting out the ladder to take a quick look at the roof, was a lot of insects stuck and struggling to free themselves from the still-tacky silicone coating. Ten or so stuck insects in the section near the edge where I was looking, and likely many more across the rest of the surface.

I tried to help a few of them get free. But even after being freed from the surface, they still had the sticky stuff on them. My efforts may have made it even worse for them. The first one might have survived; it disappeared after cleaning its legs for a while, so I'm not sure. The 2nd one died. Apparently nail polish remover, even the natural kind made from maize, is toxic to insects. I suppose the most humane thing to do is to leave them stuck to die that way, rather than being partially squashed, dismembered and/or poisoned. Or maybe a quick death by poison would be better. I don't know. I just don't know.

Does this mean I wouldn't ever have a roof resealed like that again? No, I probably would do it again, if it needed to be done. But it pains me. Does anyone understand how I feel? Does anyone else comprehend feeling empathy for insects? When they don't even feel it for pigs or fish or chickens or cows?

I was going to drive back in to the office to work the rest of the day there, but now I've spent so much time on this, I'd better work from home.
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Serendipitously found. More info about veganism in regards to honey and honeybee pollination, including a lot of interesting details about bees and beekeeping.

Beekeeping and the Ethical Vegan

Why Honey is Not Vegan

The Honey Industry
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Note to self: Kroger's "Simple Truth" brand of dark chocolate covered raisins now includes milk in the ingredients. The front of the package even includes a small blurb "NEW FORMULA INCLUDES MILK".


Sometimes I intend to look up an answer a question I've had in my mind. Then after reading a bunch of webpages, I still may not have a clear answer, but have found a lot of interesting information. So I decide to put some links in a post, along with some text to explain why I'm linking it. And then what I thought would take a few minutes ends up taking hours and hours to finish...


I'm vegan as I want to minimize the suffering involved in the production of the food I eat, and as I don't feel it is right to raise animals in order to kill them. I don't believe that animals exist mainly to serve humans, or that humans have an inherent right to exploit them.

With meat, it's pretty obvious that meat production involves the killing of animals, and that the raising and slaughtering of these animals often includes suffering. With dairy products and eggs, it's also fairly obvious that large-scale productions involve non-ideal living conditions for animals and suffering. The dairy and egg industries are also closely tied in with the meat industry. On a small private farm, a farmer might choose to allow a chicken or cow to live until it dies of old age. But with large-scale production, that would be impractical. Female animals are slaughtered after their milk or egg production declines. Male offspring are either killed outright or raised for meat and/or for their sperm.

But the potential suffering involved in harvesting insect by-products is less obvious to me. I've never heard an insect squeal in pain, but to err on the side of compassion, I assume that they can feel pain and/or suffer in other ways.

In the case of honey, I've decided not to completely abstain from eating anything that has honey as an ingredient, but in general I avoid it. I could be wrong, but I think that beekeeping in general doesn't involve much suffering for the bees, and that the bees involved are still able to live a fairly normal life - living in their beehives with their normal social structure intact, and being able freely fly out to collect pollen. That the bees are robbed of their honey and given an inferior substitute in its place is troublesome to me, but I'm not sure that this causes them much suffering. However, what sticks in my mind is a long-ago news report where a truck carrying honeybee hives had an accident and overturned, letting loose the bees. Local authorities were called in to kill the bees.

Searching on honeybee hives truck overturned shows that those kind of truck accidents are surprisingly common.
Sep 29, 2015 - "Beekeepers and officers gathered as many bees as they could before 7:30 p.m., officials said. After dark, the bees became aggressive, so officials decided to burn the beehives."
Jun 28, 2015 - "A semi-truck carrying 400 beehives overturned on a busy freeway near the IRONMAN Triathlon course in North Idaho." "A similar truck wreck just two days ago released more than 20 million bees on State Highway 33 in the eastern Idaho desert."
Apr 17, 2015 - "As temperatures warmed and the bees became more agitated, firefighters sprayed a mixture of foam and water on the hives to slow down or kill some of the bees." "The overturned truck held 448 hives with as many as 14 million bees".

Why do trucks keep spilling swarms of honeybees onto US highways?
While there were only 387 beekeeping establishments in the US in 2012, commercial beekeeping is a multi-million dollar business, the US Department of Agriculture noted in a 2014 report. Many beekeepers – who work on a contract basis – live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often transporting the bees long distances to reach farmers.

Each truckload of bees contains about 400 to 500 hives, with each hive containing a single queen and between 10,000 and 30,000 worker bees.
It is next to impossible to recapture escaped bees following such an accident. In most cases, emergency personnel have to kill the swarms to prevent them from attacking people.

So, while honey production doesn't intentionally involve the killing of bees, it does happen, and when it does, it often involves millions of bees in a single incident.

(This brings up another interesting question/moral dilemma: Why do I avoid honey because of the above, but not the fruit and nuts which are pollinated by the transported bees? And are the honey industry and the honeybee pollinating industry one and the same, or not?)


I also avoid items made with silk. Silk cocoons are usually boiled in order to kill the silk worms inside before the silk threads are extracted. There's been some research on how to get the silk without killing the worm, but that particular alternative - semi-paralyzing the silkworm and slowly unreeling the silk at the same pace as the worm produces it, doesn't sound so great to me either. I don't think a silkworm could have a very normal or pleasant life under those conditions.


All that was a prelude to the actual topic of this post: Lac, also known as shellac.

I had read in the past that "pure food glaze" or "confectioner's glaze" in food ingredient lists could represent various substances including shellac.

Shellac is a resin exuded by the lac insect in southeast Asia. I haven't been certain whether the harvesting of shellac involves killing the insect or not.

I've assumed that similar vegetable or mineral-based products were also available, and that surely these other sources were cheaper and more widely available than an insect byproduct from southeast Asia. So I thought that items containing "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" were only partially likely to contain shellac, and therefore haven't avoided them.

Today, I tried to find some more definite answers. How likely is "pure food glaze" to be shellac, and does shellac harvesting kill the bugs?

Almost all the sources I've found today indicate that "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" only comes from shellac. I only found 2 pages contradicting that:

On a message board, someone wrote that it could be palm-derived: "About confectioner's glaze or pure food glaze, I do have some good news for you all. While it should be assumed to not be vegan unless otherwise told, I contacted Sunridge Farms the other day and they confirmed for me their confectioner's or pure food glaze is indeed vegan. I believe they said it's palm derived (which may be something people try to avoid for other reasons), but they said it's for sure vegan."

This page indicates that it can be contain corn-based zein or beeswax: "Is there a vegan alternative to shellac? Of course! Zein, a corn protein, is a competitive non-animal-based product. Pure zein is clear, odorless, tasteless, hard, water-insoluble, and edible. It is already used as a coating for candy, nuts, fruit, pills, and other encapsulated foods and drugs. In the United States, it may also be labeled as ‘confectioner’s glaze’. NOTE: As well as sometimes being made from shellac, confectioner’s glaze can also contain beeswax."

So it still sounds like the item labelled as pure food glaze or confectioner's glaze can come from various sources, but I'm still unclear as to what percentage of it actually does.

Regarding the harvesting of shellac, from what I've read (more details in the links below):
The female insects attach themselves to tree twigs, and start sucking out tree sap. The sap gets converted into lac and exuded from their bodies, forming a thick coating over them and their eggs. The females die, and the larvae break out of their eggs and somehow migrate to new twigs, to begin the cycle all over again. The twigs are harvested, and then the shellac is scraped off and processed.

Now, if the harvesting happens after the encased females are all dead and the larvae have all hatched and left, I'd be ok with using shellac. But I'm not sure if that is the case. (And even if it were true in most cases, there'd doubtless be some percentage of insects that hadn't yet died or hatched when the twigs are harvested.)

The Story of Shellac

New World Encyclopedia's entry on Shellac
In Kerra lacca, the insect starts as a nymph that is only about 0.6 millimeters (3/128 inches) long (ASB 2008). It settles on a host plant gregariously and there may be on average 150 such larvae per square inch of twig (ASB 2008). The insects project protrusions into the tree, penetrating the bark, and suck up the sap, which is chemically altered in the insects' bodies (Bryk 2002). When exuded onto the tree branch, this secretion forms a hard covering. Larvae begin secreting this lac after a day or two of settlement. As the insects are in close proximity, the lac secretions from adjacent cells coalesce with each other and form a shell-like covering over the entire swarm (ASB 2008; Bryk 2002).

After the first molt, the male and female larvae lose their legs, antennae, and eyes, and after the third molt, the mouthparts in the male larvae become atrophied, the males stop feeding, and they fertilize with the female (ASB 2008). The females' lac output increases greatly after fertilization (Bryk 2002). The female may lay 1000 eggs before dying; after hatching, the new larva break through the crust and swarm out (Bryk 2002).

Orange Shellac Technical Evaluation Report (2014)
Young larvae of lac insects are red and measure about half a millimeter in length and half as much in width. After emergence, they settle down on the lac host and attach themselves to the host by piercing its bark. They suck the sap of the host and start secreting lac. Under this coating the larvae grow while they continue the secretion of lac from the inside. After eight to fourteen weeks, the male insect emerges out of its lac cover, fertilizes the female and dies soon after. The female continues growing and increases lac secretion until the egg laying period (Bose and Sankaranarayan 1963).
There are primarily four different non-synthetic substances that may be used in place of orange shellac as a component of citrus fruit waxes: wood rosin, carnauba wax, beeswax and candelilla wax.
A number of other non-synthetic and agricultural substances have been briefly studied as alternatives to or in combination with the four primary waxes, including corn zein, xanthan gum, grain sorghum wax, casein, soy protein, and chitosan.(Hagenmaier 1998; Krochta, Baldwin and Nisperos-Carriedo 1994)

Lac Insect

Large number of tiny red larvae of about 0.5 mm. long come out of each mother cell and settle on the tender portions of fresh twigs of certain trees called lac hosts. The larva is sufficiently mobile to crawl along the branches of trees to find fresh succulent twigs. When it has fixed its position and inserted its probocis into the trees it secretes a protective coating consisting of a dark red chitinous scale and a yellow to reddish resin called the lac resin. The insects mature under the protective covering of the resin which becomes hard. Wax glands near the vital pores - the oval region, the breathing pores and the anal pore keep them open by secreting wax filaments.

The larvae mould [molt] thrice inside the cell and becomes sexually mature male and female insects in about eight weeks. The female cell is roundish and the insect remains fixed to the twig. The male cell is somewhat longer with a round trap door through which the insect, sometimes winged, comes out, walks over the females, fertilising several of them and dies. Their direct contribution to resin production is insignificant.

The female insect increases in size to accommodate her large number of growing eggs. The secretion of the resin and wax now proceed at a faster rate and a continuous layer is formed by coalescence and coatings. in another 14 weeks, when the female insect is about to lay eggs, she begins to contract, allowing light into the cell which shows up as yellow spots. When hatched, the larve emerge to begin a new life cycle of about six months.

Life Cycle of Lac-insect (with pictures)

So, am I okay with eating items containing pure food glaze, confectioner's glaze, and/or shellac? Answer: still undecided.


Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 09:57 am
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I just discovered a thick stream of ants going back and forth from my big dictionary to the crack in the corner of the window frame. The dictionary is right by the wall, so it's a short distance.

My initial reaction was that I should put out some ant bait right away.

But it appears that they had a nest in the thin area between the book cover and the book. They are carrying ant eggs/pupae away from the book, into the crack, presumably outside.

So, should I wait until they finish carrying away the eggs, and will they maybe then stay gone? Then I could fill in the crack so that they don't come back.

Sigh. I haven't even gotten around to caulking the last place ants came in, in the kitchen. I had used ant bait that time.

Oh gosh dangit. It's like a nightmare.

This afternoon I checked again, and almost all the ants and pupae were gone. There were only about 4 or 5 ants still milling around, and almost all the crud under the book cover was gone. I was so relieved, but I didn't have time to caulk the crack shut right then.

Now maybe 5 hours later I look again, and the ants are back in full force, this time carrying the pupae in the other direction and putting them back under the book cover! What the heck? Do they plan to carry them back and forth every day?

I guess I'll have to put out ant bait after all. But I don't want to end up with a bunch of dead ants, bait, and pupae under my dictionary book cover.

... Well, when I thump the book cover, some of the ants to start carrying the pupae in the other direction again. Maybe if I can keep that up until they're all gone again...

that's my saturday

Sunday, July 12th, 2015 02:43 am
darkoshi: (Default)
I started watching Last Tango in Halifax on Netflix from the first episode. I've watched 4 so far, probably over the course of 4 weeks.

Even with shows like these which keep my attention and interest, I still pause them quite often in order to do other things. I've just got so much to do. That's also why I can barely find enough time to watch one episode a week. I watched the last one Wednesday night, past midnight* just cuz I wanted to, and naturally didn't get enough sleep that night because of it.

*actually, based on my browser history, I started watching it before 11pm, but then got side-tracked looking up info on audio sync issues and how to get the subtitles to display while watching it on the TV.

I get envious of Qiao and the amount of stuff he watches. He just finished watching all 10 seasons of Criminal Minds back-to-back (233 episodes! based on what Wikipedia says). He seemed to be watching 3 or 4 a day. (How can anyone do that and not have nightmares from it?) Today he watched 3 movies for a change. And he did an online course.

I vacuumed, washed 4 loads, changed sheets, ironed my shirts, fixed a seat cover for the chair, cut grass, cooked yellow squash, and washed dishes. Then I ate dinner and played some Words With Friends. At 1am, I thought I'd still have time to watch an episode of Last Tango before going to bed. But I decided to do a quick donation first, which ended up taking longer than expected (dang Firefox telling me I need to update Flash when apparently I already had the latest version, and dang Adobe website not displaying anywhere what the latest version number is, so that I waste time reinstalling the same version I already had). Then I read some DW. Now it's really too late to watch an episode.

I still need to do some research for a trip I'm going on. Not tonight, but I should tomorrow. I need to check Angie's List for ideas on who to use for some tree trimming. I still want to research HVAC options, and various other stuff.

My hands are hot. I forgot to wear gloves while using the string trimmer.

So many injustices in the world. So depressing.

A few days after I started taking SAM-e supplements, I had one of those rare tingly/goosebumpy feelings while hearing a song on the radio. It seemed encouraging. But in the weeks since then, nothing. They seem to be having no effect at all, and I'm getting tired of taking the dang pills already. I was going to start taking a larger dose, but that seems even more of a nuisance.

Wasps are getting into my stove's range hood. I had closed off all the small openings to prevent wasps from getting into the house a year or 2 ago. Yesterday I heard some buzzing up there. I discovered a bunch of dead wasps on the filter. Plus 2 still alive. I saved them; got them outside. Cleaned up the dead ones. Unblocked the openings; better to have a few wasps get in the house, than having them trapped and dying up there. Faced a dilemma: should I cover up the part of the filter that is meant to let light though, to keep from having the kitchen light attract the wasps? Though in doing so, I would no longer be able to see if any wasps are trapped up there (like the one I found today and freed). I ended up putting foil over it.

I should have taped the foil on from the bottom instead of the top. Then I could have more easily removed it to check. Too late now. Sigh.
darkoshi: (Default)
Meet the Camel Cricket aka "Spricket".

Most years we'll get occasional roaches in the house. But there were a few years where we kept getting those camel crickets instead.

I've also seen quite a few of them in the crawlspace under Forestfen's house. It's a definite shock when you're crawling* around the dim and cramped crawlspace with a flashlight, to come upon a bunch of them on the wall in front of you. But they're not as scary as other bugs; in the crawlspace they tend to stay still or only move very slowly.

*or rather as I do it, moving around while in a squat, to avoid getting dirt all over myself. If the space is so low that I'd have to wiggle on my belly to traverse it, I'm not likely to go that way. Even having to crawl on my knees in places tends to trigger sudden claustrophobia. But as long as I can keep a squatting position, I'm usually ok.

my poor aloe vera plant

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 08:15 am
darkoshi: (Default)
It started out as a cutting/offshoot that a co-worker gave me. It grew too big for the pot I planted it in, but I didn't transplant it. Now most of the green parts of the plant are outside of the pot, and the pot itself is full of the roots.

It's so hardy; survives inside the house on hardly any attention and little water. Even the shoots that come loose stay green and thick for a long long time before drying out.

But today the plant looks ill and near death. On closer inspection, it looks like some critter has been eating chunks out of it! There are also small black droppings, ranging from tiny to about the size of a small poppy seed. Some of the droppings are on the edges of the aloe blades, indicating the critter was small enough to crawl along the blades. What kind of critter could that be?

They seem too small to be roach droppings, but that's the only thing I can think of, besides spiders. Would spiders eat an aloe vera plant?