Saturday, June 4, 2011

Red Bellied Woodpeckers and Spittle Bugs

 I don't know that Red Bellied Woodpeckers and spittle bugs have anything in common except that spittle bugs are present when Red Bellies have young in their nests. 

This is a male Red Bellied Woodpecker bringing food to it's nest in Springbrook Nature Center's woodlands this past Wednesday. 

As can be seen in the second photo below, the bugs he is finding in the trees look real yummy!

These look like some kind of fly larvae but could also be beetle or wasp larvae.  In any case they are full of protein and fat, and will help the baby woodpeckers grow. 

This male was returning to the nest about every 20 minutes, and I didn't see the female, so I wondered if she is still inside the nest with very little babies, and he is feeding her?
This female came to the suet feeder a few days ago and was taking away big strings and gobs of suet, so she must have a different nest and is feeding her babies suet.  One more reason to keep your suet feeders full all summer.  Mine goes down faster in the summer than in the winter.

You can tell that this is a female because the red on her head only goes half way to her beak.  On the male the red goes all the way across the head to the beak, as you can see in the picture above and below.
This is a photo I took in February of a male Red Bellied Woodpecker where you can actually see the red in its belly.

You don't see this very often, and many people wonder why they are called Red you can see the reason.  
Spittle Bugs hide in the blobs of white spit like material that can be seen on little plants in fields and prairies right now.  I took these pictures on Wednesday morning in Springbrook's south prairie.  Spittle bugs are actually immature leaf hoppers.  They protect themselves by producing lots of moist bubbles around themselves.  While hiding inside they suck the juices from the plant they are on, which gives them enough extra liquid to produce even more bubbles.  These little bugs live their entire childhoods and adolescence in a bubble bath!
You can see the little immature bug in this picture which I took after pushing away the bubbles.  The back end of a second bug can be seen in the top left of the picture, and there was a third in the top center, but it cannot be seen, as it was under the bubbles.

Leaf Hoppers, spittle bugs at this age, are in the group of insects known as Hemiptera, or, "true bugs."  All "true bugs" have sucking mouth parts, as these little guys demonstrate very well.

In the two pictures below you can see how the little 1/4 inch "bug" started creating more bubbles as soon as he was exposed.  He was completely encased in new bubbles in seconds.

These bugs must have predators, although I have never seen anything hunting in the "spit" for anything to eat.  Would you?

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