Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mating Life of Bugs

Not all bugs, just some bugs.

I recently went to the Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley, California to listen to a lecture on archaeological discoveries. I arrived to learn the speaker had taken ill and that lecture was postponed. The substitute lecture was on the sex life of bugs. It was fascinating!

Here are a few of the tidbits I picked up. I hope I don't get anything wrong.

Female aphids give birth to females as soon as they're born, and those females give birth to females as soon as they are born. Males are born in the fall. Ants are friends of aphids. They treat them as cattle, herding them and caring for them, because the aphids secrete "honey dew" which the ants love. This is also the aphid's urine. Ladybugs (whose real name is lady bird beetle) are the aphid's enemy. The larva of ladybugs love to much on aphids.

Males are drawn to a female by the pheromones the female gives out. After the male mates he goes on to mate again. The female mates once and dies.

Wasps are the cicada's enemy. Wasps are carnivores. Bees are vegetarian.

Damsel fly:
Male has what looks like a spiky ball on the end of his penis. He uses this to remove any previous sperm in the female before he mates with her.

Dung beetle:
Both make the dung balls for their young. Very devoted parents, especially the female. She would rather eat her young than leave them.

Praying mantis:
They eat everything smaller than they are, which is why the male must approach the female very cautiously. Once he makes contact the female bites his head off. This must happen in order for the male to ejaculate.

Honey bee:
A good queen lasts about a year. Life span of a worker is six weeks. Drones come from fertilized eggs. Workers come from unfertilized eggs. A normal hive sleeps during winter. The drones are kicked out of the hive at this time. When it's time for a new queen, a female is hatched and swarms with the drones (also hatched since all the others died). How many times she mates with drones will determine her worth as queen. If she doesn't measure up she is killed and a new queen is hatched. Queen's only job is to lay eggs. Swarms aren't aggressive. They are focused on mating with the potential queen.

Two flies plus two piles of manure equal 8,000 files. Maggots are used to clean out wounds since they eat decaying flesh.

Blister beetle:
They don't blister when they are eaten. They blister inside the body. Larva jump on bee when one lands nearby.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Las Vegas, Nevada

I’ll get to our trip to Las Vegas in a bit. First I wanted to mention the place we stopped at around the halfway point in our drive—Kelso, California. Kelso was one of the many railroad towns that cropped up during the heyday of the railroad. As freeways took over Kelso fell into decline. Over the years we’ve watched those townspeople who remain slowly renovate the area. Their first task was the depot, which eventually became the home for their museum. Then they added restroom facilities for travelers. (When you’re traveling across the desert you have no idea how welcome these facilities are.) Kelso is also the Mojave National Preserve’s principal information center. Nearby the Kelso sand dunes tower over the desert. Further on you can explore Hole In The Wall, Mitchell Caverns, volcanic cinder cones, and a beautiful forest of Joshua Trees. It’s absolutely beautiful here in springtime when the wildflowers are blooming. We had a nice lunch at The Beanery (hearty sandwiches and great ice tea) and I’d recommend it to anyone passing through and needing a short respite from the long drive to Las Vegas or from a day exploring the area.

Click here for pictures of Kelso Depot.

Click on the names if you’d like more information about Kelso Depot or the Mojave National Preserve.

Now for Las Vegas…

What a difference two years have made. That was the last time we were in Vegas (to the best of our recollection). We always stay at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street. We prefer Fremont Street to The Strip because for us it always has a “party” type atmosphere at The Fremont Street Experience. You also don’t have to deal with people trying to stuff fliers and “coupons” in your hands. Because of our stays at this hotel, we always get deals in the mail. We couldn’t refuse the most recent deal. We both needed to get away before the fall rush around here and the offer came at the perfect time. We were able to get a Junior Corner Suite in Golden Nugget’s new Rush Tower at a greatly (and I mean greatly) reduced price. The rack rate for the room (according to the price list on the back of the door) is $1000 a night. We got it for $99 a night and I think we are officially spoiled for the Rush Tower now. It was quiet and the registration desk is away from the casino with very easy access to the parking garage. The entire tower is nonsmoking. The room was comfortable and spacious. Upon returning home I received an email from Golden Nugget thanking us for our stay and offering a complimentary room upgrade should we decide to return again this August or December. I saved the email even though it’s doubtful we’ll return again this year.

I took the liberty of taking pictures of the Junior Corner Suite. You’ll also notice several pictures of Fremont Street during the day and at night, as well as other miscellaneous shots of Las Vegas. (The link is at the end.) Vegas truly does come to life at night. It’s the lights that make it feel like magic. We arrived on Thursday and wandered along Fremont Street. Friday night it was packed. More vendors, more tourists, more street performers, more excitement. This year (summer 2010) the Fremont Street Experience is celebrating the 70s and we heard 70s era music in the casinos and on the street. And, of course, you get the big overhead screen putting on a show for you as well—more 70s music. A lot of fun.

What wasn’t fun was discovering how the cost of meals has skyrocketed in the last two years. It used to be that food was the cheapest thing you could get in Vegas. Not anymore. The breakfast buffet at the Golden Nugget now costs $9.99. On weekends it becomes brunch and costs $17.99. Dinner is $20.99. Yes, it’s all you can eat, but it’s quite a change from being $5.99 for breakfast and $9.99 for dinner, and brunch used to be a Sunday only thing.

The other change was—no coin machines. (They are few and far between.) I’d arrived armed with a bag of quarters only to discover there were no machines to take them. Plus the cashiers didn’t have counting machines to exchange coins for paper. I had to go to another casino down the street—the only one with a counting machine. All the slot machines now take paper money in and dispense vouchers to cash out. You take your voucher to the cash redemption machine and get your money. I don’t know how they handle jackpot winners, since I say nary a one while we were there (which is also strange now that I think about it). You’ll also find an explosion of penny machines everywhere. Caution: be careful or you’ll find yourself betting over a dollar on these machines. In case you were wondering, there were no big winners for us this particular weekend, not that there ever is but just for the record.

We also try to get out beyond the casino when we in Vegas. This trip we decided to go to the Atomic Testing Museum. We trekked out, me armed with my camera, only to discover the museum had a no photography rule. The museum was interesting at first, then became repetitive and boring with the same thing over and over again. Plus, numerous audiovisual displays side by side made it very difficult to hear what was being said. I don’t think I recommend this museum. I did, however, have another visitor tell me the Liberace Museum was great and worth the cost of admission. Perhaps next time.

Click this link for all my Vegas photos.