Friday, November 6, 2009

Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes: The Beauty Called Pyromelana

Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes are labeled "pyromelana" by science. Lampropeltis pyromelana means "shiny-scaled fire-against-black". The name is about the best in the snake world and so is the appearance of this awesome snake.

The best-looking milk snakes just aren't as pretty as pyros are. Even the beloved scarlet kingsnake is not painted quite as brilliantly as these mountain kings.

The amount of black and the triad (3 colors repeated) count varies greatly with pyros. One thing that is consistent is the red in pyros. Unlike the red in milk snakes, which varies greatly, the red in pyros is almost always the same, even in the albinos. The red in pyros comes as close to orange as possible without actually being orange.

Living in mountains that are covered with snow for a large part of the year and possessing such coloration, pyros really are a freak of nature.

This is a captive bred pyro that has some staggered triads or "zipper".

The coolest pyros available from 12 different locations can found at

Great natural camouflage:

Mexican mountain kings are a pyromelana subspecies labeled knoblochi. They typically have nearly twice the triads as Arizona mountain kings and also the white bands connect at the bottom in a chain-link pattern. They are just a different kind of awesome and are just as available in the pet trade as pyros are. This is my captive bred knoblochi:

Stumbling upon a knoblochi or pyro is about the height of field herping, but take only photos.

If your snake collection consists of only one snake and that snake is a pyro, your collection is still complete.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Garter Snakes

It is November and the fields around here are still very active with garters. There are also plenty smashed in the road as the blacktop lures them with warm temps. These are the first snakes that are seen around here in the spring, along with racers. They seem to thrive with a short hibernation period.

This close shot shows how the garters scales are "keeled", that is to say that there is a raised ridge running down the middle of the scales like the keel on a boat.

Most of these garters have battle wounds from cats or other animals. I'm not one for numbers, but I think if we were trying to go for garter numbers we could probably round up 50-100 of these in a day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snakes and Parenting

After getting a pet snake a while back, the snake was brought home and placed in a typical display tank. The top on this tank was not the sliding type, but it fastened shut in another way. I was excited. My son was also excited and he had held the little snake for some time when I brought it home. The next day my son showed the snake off to one of his friends and afterwards the top of the tank was not secured properly and the snake escaped. When I found out that the snake was gone I was angry. The more I looked for the snake, the angrier I became. My son apologized for what had happened, but I was stern with him and didn't immediately accept his apology. At that point I guess I was acting more childish than he was. The snake was eventually found, but that really didn't matter.

I learned that what matters most to me is being a good parent . It is important for a child to be the most important thing in a parent's life and that they know it. When a parent causes a child to feel less important than a pet, a hobby, or anything else, that is clear communication to the child. Also, spending more time with an interest than with one's own child can cause this. I believe that when a child receives this communication, it can only be overcome with consistent and improved actions by the parent, because words mean so much less at that point. Looking back on this situation, I learned that if I fail to give adequate instructions to my kid, the consequences are not my kid's fault. The fault is my own. Parents should never punish their kids for things that they haven't been adequately instructed on. Only bosses can get away with that. A good parent is willing to discard an interest or even a career that makes their child feel unimportant.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leopard Frogs

Next to snakes, frogs and other amphibians are some of the coolest creatures on the planet. They are cooler than most people in my opinion. Frogs are also thought to be good indicators of environmental conditions because they cannot tolerate very much pollution in the water. Leopard frogs are very common in the southern United States, but not all that common in the north.

These leopard frogs were found in a crystal-clear pool at about 7,000 feet elevation. The water was so cold that my hands went numb in just seconds when reaching for frogs.

Some more shots of frogs:

We thought this was the mama frog because it was the biggest frog at the pool. It croaked loudly when picked up, so it had to be a male.

These frogs by law are controlled for collection, so I only grabbed about 30 of them to sell in the classifieds. Just kidding.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kids' Bug Collection

It is always good to start the day out with scenery like this:
These standing rocks looked like creek bed guardians:
We found that mormon crickets eat grasshoppers. I meant to get a picture of that, but didn't.
There were hundreds of mormon crickets all over. Here are 3 more:
This is a borer beetle. Non-native borer beetles are destroying many forests in Utah and there doesn't seem to be a good solution to the problem.
This is a robber fly. They sound like WWII airplanes when they fly. Robber flies prey upon other flying insects including honey bees, which they catch in the air and inject with venom. They then suck out the insides like a spider. These look like they might be a young dragonfly, but they are not related to dragonflies. They actually eat adult dragonflies that are much larger than themselves. There is another robber fly photo coming up in this post that looks like a bee, but is just a common variation.
These scorpions are common to Utah's deserts:
The beautiful markings of a dragon fly:
Another dragonfly that has a great wing color (I put the dragonfly against white to make the color pop out):
Dragonflies are not actually flies.
Tiger swallowtail:
Wounded dragon. Sometimes this happens when the kids try to catch these guys.
A young buck that seemed to have very little fear of people:
Thermoregulating sage lizard:
Side-blotched lizard keeping an eye on us:
I took these pictures as an afterthought. I was looking for snakes and my son was looking for bugs.
Cabbage white butterfly. These never stay still.
Pulling back some bark revealed ant tunnels:
The ants quickly began moving the eggs to safety:
Is this a bee? No, it is another robber fly.
The robber fly landed near the ants and I wondered if it would eat one.
The pattern of this rocky mountain parnassian butterfly cannot be seen until it is caught and held still. When it flies it simply looks tan.
A parnassian that is ready to get back to the flowers of the meadow:
A beautiful piece of living art:
With some silver underneath:
A tiger swallow tail that was lacking it's swallow tails. Though it had a tear on one of the rear wings, it appeared that the swallow tails were not ever formed:
A front shot showed some blue near where the wing tails should be:
This one was smaller, but had it's wing tails and was in perfect shape:
The diversity of butterfly colors and patterns is incredible. I think that a person could study butterflies their entire life and still require a field guide for complete identification.
This one had white on the wing's edges:
A shot from the bottom. Crazy eyes:
This little guy had a spectacular pattern when its wings were open, but it wouldn't cooperate for a picture of that.Another variation of the cabbage white butterfly:
White admiral butterfly:
The wings were showing some wear:
Box elder bug hangout:
If anyone can identify the above and below plants, please do so in the comments.

Another white admiral:
A mushroom cookie growing out of a log:
Some red under the tattered white admiral's wings:
A white admiral with less mileage:
Some really large slugs were found out in the morning moisture. These were huge & spotted: