Elms Environmental Education Center

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Critter of the Month

Every month we highlight a different local animal.

July 2014: Chigger/Red Bug

Photo Credit: Alan Walker

 

spit
Chigger
Trombicula alfreddugesi

 

Who am I?

Uh oh. I have been noticed. Or my babies have. I am very small and as a baby can't readily be seen without a microscope or magnifying glass. Still you know my babies are around when your ankles start to itch. I lay about 15 eggs, a batch every day when the weather is warm. You see, my lovely children, eat skin. Your skin, rabbit skin, just about any skin they can get into. They will hang out in the grass and land on your foot as you walk by. Then they will spit on your skin making it dissolve into mush creating a hole. They only want to slurp some up so they can grow up. Is that so bad? You won't know my babies are there for a couple of days and they will only stay attached to you for a few days so chances are by the time you notice them they are about done feeding. After they have had their fill they will detach from your skin and hang out in the ground where they will change from a larvae to pupae. From here on out they won't bother you anymore. They don't do much as pupae, just wait to become adults. When they transform into adults, like me, they eat other tiny insects their eggs and plants. Oh and make more babies to harass you.

 

Where can you find me?

Everywhere it is moist, though mostly tall grass and on clumps of plants. I am never very far off the ground hanging out in large groups with my brother's and sisters waiting for some skin-bearing creature to walk by.

 

What do I eat?

Babies, or larvae, eat skin and adults eat other insects and plants.

 

What might eat me?

Other insects will happily eat me if they can find me. 

 

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • Only the larvae eat skin and are a nuisance to humans.
  • Chiggers are most abundant in early summer when the plants are lush.
  • We do not lay eggs in your skin.
  • We do not burrow into your skin. We are more like ticks.
  • We are related to spiders, not insects.

 

 

May 2014: Green Tree Frog

American Green Tree Frog

Hyla cinerea

Who am I?

I am a frog, I spend lots of time climbing trees, duh. Trees are where the food lives and I blend in really well with the leaves. My mate and I will get together in late April and I will lay eggs in the local pond or other still fresh water. I will usually lay eggs only once a year, but hey, rules are meant to be broken. I make a very distinctive call that kinda sounds like a duck. If you go out at night with a flashlight you can follow my call and easily find me.

Where can you find me?

In trees, duh. Oh, and on your windows and screens on summer nights, assuming you left a light on. Okay, in ponds and puddles and wheelbarrows -- anywhere there is water sitting around; that is where I lay my eggs. There you can find my tiny tadpoles if you look carefully. 

What do I eat?

I eat insects, all kinds including mosquitos, flies, crickets. Basically any insect that can fit in my mouth and is silly enough to get too close.

What might eat me?

I watch out for snakes, lizards, birds, turtles, oh, and people. People catch me and keep me in a little tank as a pet. Water beetles, fish, and other aquatic predators will eat my babies if they are not careful.

Cool reasons why I am the critter of the month!

  • I am skittish and will jump or climb at the slightest hint of danger.
  • I can sense vibrations in the ground so step quietly around me.
  • I eat mosquitos so don't hurt me!

 

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