Sunday, March 22, 2009

Critters currently destroying my belongings.

Hi, Critter Lovers!

I hope this post finds you all enjoying the first warm breezes of spring!


Unfortunately, with warmer weather comes the renewal of horrifying insects:
This 'pede was above my kitchen sink on Saturday morning. Thankfully it was only 1/4 inch long.

Before we discuss critter destruction, I'd like to show off our "new" couch!

Stella did not mind the old couch, which was perched on duct-taped-together phone books, even if it was getting holey.

The first incidence of critter warfare was a bug attack on two of my houseplants. But was a dual attack; two different plants, two different locations, and two different bugs!

My dear Mama bought me a lovely ivy when she visited in November:

Unfortunately the plant has been fading all winter. I should have taken action sooner, for I noticed tiny spider webs covering the plant.

Upon further research, I've discovered the culprit: Two Spotted Spider mites, or Tetrahychus urticae. These tiny spiders have been sucking the chlorophyll out of the formerly lovely ivy, causing it to wither and drop leaves!
(Actual size, .05 mm)

The female spiders have been laying up to 20 eggs a day underneath the leaves. To remedy the situation, I've sprayed the plant with bug spray, but I think a more effective treatment would be to wash the plant with a special soap. The dry and warm climate of my house contributed to the spiders' success. Maybe I should try misting it, or I could just throw it away, as it could be spreading spider mites to other plants.

The next attacker struck my music studio. I'm so thankful to have windows for the first time, so I went ahead and bought some plants to decorate the space.
(Note the cool fountain made by my Father-in-law and the thrift store painting!)

Why, what are these white fuzzy bugs on my plant?

Could it be...a Mealy Bug? Pseudococcus longispinus is covered with a white, waxy coating that protects it from moisture loss. These guys love hiding in the nooks and crooks of plants, as well as in soil and pot crevices. Using a pointy mouthpart called a stylet, mealy bugs suck the moisture out of plants. Their toxic saliva harms the leaves, causing them to drop. Meanwhile, they excrete a sticky substance called "honeydew" which can encourage mold growth.

In the following photo you can see the mealy bug's long tails.

Apparently the long tailed species gives birth to live young! Even better.

To control this infestation I've been manually removing the fuzzy bugs.

The final destruction of my property is on a much larger scale:

Oh! Perhaps the gnawing sound I heard upstairs was only a squirrel, EATING OUR HOUSE!


Thankfully, R fixed the fascia with some wire mesh and that foam stuff.

The squirrels have further "trimmed" the foam since I took the photograph. I would think the squirrels would be thankful for all of the birdseed I've provided over the harsh, cold winter. Ungrateful bastards!

I'm looking forward to hearing of your Spring critter encounters!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coyote spotted in Southeast Minneapolis!

Happy March, critter enthusiasts!

I did not post over my spring break, as you might have noticed. As with most vacations, the week flew by. I read a great book, joined Weight Watchers, hung out with sis AM and went thrifting twice, and went for a few runs with Miss Stella-kin.

It was on our run yesterday when we encountered a true wild animal; a coyote!


For once I was thankful that Stella took a poo-break, as we were stopped when the coyote ran across the trails near Franklin Avenue and the East River Road. At first I thought the animal was a dog, but I heard the man who had jogged ahead of us say, "I think that's a coyote."

Stella was quite interested; I was quite freaked out! Would it attack us? But the coyote was about 50 yards off.

We continued on our run with no coyote sightings, but did encounter a very strong smell I associated with fox urine (having smelled it in my Dad's trapping shed) but which I assumed was coyote pee. The same smell reappeared further south on our run, near the Lake St/Marshall Ave bridge. Stella again tried to pull me toward the scent.

I had been thinking about critters on the east side of the Mississippi as a lady I encountered on an earlier excursion told me that she'd seen a gray fox running around. It probably was the coyote, methinks, although I did see two red fox pups frolicking on that side of the river in the summer of 2007.

Let us learn about this dog and wolf cousin, then, the coyote!


Coyotes, also known as prairie wolves, are medium sized predators with a range throughout North and Central America. Coyotes weigh between 20 and 50 pounds and are around 30 to 34 inches in length, with the tail being as long as the body. Canis latrans (barking dog) actually evolved on this continent, unlike the gray wolf, which originated in Eurasia. I didn't know that.

It's a good thing the Minneapolis coyote didn't chase after us; coyotes can run 43 mph and jump eight feet! These canines are one of the few animals who have become more successful with the human expansion throughout the United States. Coyotes are extremely adaptable, dining on garbage and house pets when they live in urban areas. It is estimated that Chicago is home to around 2,000 coyotes.

Even when living in well-populated areas, coyotes are most often heard and not seen. Their barks, yelps and howls occur at night when they are most active, but occasionally during the day as well. We saw our coyote around 10 in the morning.

Mating season for wolves is now! Usually coyotes are done with the nooky around the end of March. A mating pair may be monogamous for several years. While they can dig their own dens, coyotes often enlarge existing marmot or badger holes.


After two months of gestation, six or so coyote pups are born! They develop more quickly than wolf pups. After about three weeks the pups emerge from the den for the first time, and after 35 days they're weaned. Both parents then feed the pups with regurgitated food.

coyote pups small version-ross warner.jpg

In the wild, coyotes live in forests, swamps, tundra, plains, deserts and mountains, with 19 subspecies covering the enormous range. They eat a diet consisting of about 90% rodents, but will eat carrion too. Packs of coyotes can take down an elk, and chase away bears or wolves from their prey.

If wolves populate an area, most likely there are few coyotes in residence. In turn, foxes avoid coyote territory, although they have been known to peacefully coexist. Wolves will kill coyotes, and both species will kill each other's pups. In the eastern U.S. and Canada, the coyote and wolf populations are quite mixed genetically. Both wolves and coyotes can interbreed with dogs; apparently the former is more genetically viable than the latter. It seems dog breeders are attempting these hybrids on purpose, which is generally considered a horrible idea.

The next question about the Franklin Ave. coyote is...will I see it again? Will there soon be a den somewhere on the east bank of the river?! I will start bringing the camera on excursions and obviously will keep you all posted!

Wile E Wendell!