Sexual cannibalism

It’s not only black widows…

Mantis

I was strolling about my garden this overcast, cool, slightly breezy, muggy morning (at 9am: 77°F, 57% humidity), pulling out the occasional weed, when I noticed two mantises mating.  It wasn’t until after I had taken a bunch of snapshots (the female rotating her head to watch me the whole time), and had downloaded the photos that I noticed that the male had lost his head!

Looked it up on Wikipedia:

The female [mantis] may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm… because copulatory movement is controlled by a ganglion in the abdomen, not the head, removal of the male’s head is a reproductive strategy by females to enhance fertilization while obtaining sustenance.

Here’s a video that shows the cannibalism in gruesome detail.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYp_Xi4AtAQ

Desert soil

Our Tucson dirt is a light grayish tan.  The top crust is hard when it’s not raining, and I remember the “Mexican gardener” at the girls boarding school where I taught my first year in Tucson sweeping the central courtyard with a broom.  If you stomp on it you get an echoey sound.  The Desert Museum website talks about desert pavements in their section on Desert Soils.  And I’ve discussed caliche in a previous blog (concrete from the landing pads the ancient Indians made for extraterrestrial landings).

Am digging up another small section in my vegetable garden area to work in more compost.  Had thought that when I retired it would be nice to live somewhere with a loamy soil that you could actually dig your hand into.  Our desert “soil” takes a pickax!  If you tried to stick even the tip of your finger into our dirt, you’d break your fingernail.  I will never get a manicure because my nails are always broken from yard work.

We did get a bit of a rain the other day.  (In Tucson we comment on precipitation probably the way people in Seattle comment on sunshine.)  The desert then gets an earthy smell, from the soil and the creosote bushes.  Added to that, my willow acacia (the one not downed by the previous winter’s freeze) is in full bloom, buzzing with bees and eliciting a subtle sweet scent, not as overpowering as citrus flowers or jasmine.

Fungi

The rains have also produced some fungi.  In the spring a crop of mushrooms in my vegetable garden looked like the eating variety.  Were they from spores from the commercial mushrooms that had been in my kitchen waste that went into my compost?   I should have downloaded a field guide to mushrooms to check.   Did not eat them.

(The parents, from the Czech Republic, of a good friend of my daughter go mushroom hunting on Mt. Lemmon each year.  I’ve always wanted to ask them if I could tag along.)

About a month ago, also in my vegetable garden, a patch of tiny black mushrooms, about the size of nails, cropped up, to be gone the next day.  Last week these interesting mushrooms (see photo) under a century plant in front of my house.

This morning, raked up what I thought was coyote scat from under a creosote bush, but the two nodules looked more like a puffball fungus when I broke them apart – see photo.  (Puffballs are white before turning into a mass of brown
spores which are eventually blown away by the wind.
) Anyone know for sure?

(I do have a bit of coyote scat in my yard from those young coyotes wandering through.  Noticed one pile growing – see photo.  I know they eat mesquite seeds as well as small animals.  Saw one pick up a seedpod, toss it in the air for fun, and catch it back into its mouth to eat.)

The Rapture

The Republican talk about sending all illegal aliens back to their countries – no Dream Act for them – which made me think of a plot, that the Rapture happens and all Catholics (hence most Mexican, Central and South American aliens) are beamed up to Heaven.

Where would California and Arizona be without their farm workers, construction workers, housekeepers, nannies, gardeners?  (I’m not trying to show racial stereotypes, just humor.  Know my favorite Representative, Raul Grijalva, would be beamed up and no doubt Richard Carmona, Special Forces in Vietnam, physician, and Surgeon General of the United States, running for Senate from Arizona.)

There have been a number of books and movies with that plot, but I think that the born-agains get raptured in them.

Reminded me of Civilization As We Know It breaking down after all of the rich people go to Ayn Rand’s mountain in Atlas Shrugged.  And – get this – all of those rich people get along, and do all of the trivial labor themselves!!  I remember (but I did read the book over 40 years ago), for example, she had a famous movie star happily working as a waitress.  Of course, nobody in the book had kids, so no nannies needed.  (Loved this quote – This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker)

The Pope and all of his Cardinals, priests (whether or not they had anything to do with little boys), and minions would be gone, and Italy, France, Spain, Ireland emptied.  Central and South America would revert back to the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans.

But wait – that also means that Paul Ryan (devotee of Ayn Rand) would be gone!  Hey, maybe the Mormons could be included in the Rapture and we’d have no Republican ticket!

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