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3: R + D+ BT

arkofeden in ark_of_eden


Last time on the group journal, there was a rambling thing about dead turtle shells and the superworm colony and Lil Thorn the blue-tongued skink being adorable and Ensou the pied ball python also being adorable. Behold, I come bearing yet more gratuitous animal friend photos, because nobody else on the Internet ever posts pix of their critturz.

Photobucket may be different now, but all these pics are on public libraries/albums/whatever and each one has informative text, so feel free to skip the rest of the entry and just arrow forward and back if you find yourself there. :P

Beginning with another deceased animal friend: here is a bagged-up red fox being stored in the freezer. It was necessary to knock out some shelves to be sure that it would fit. (No graphic death, just a vague lump in black garbage bags.) For some reason, I hadn't ever thought that a fox would take up this much room in a freezer.

For the record, I've been waiting for a genuinely free weekend to process the body, so I won't have to stop in the middle and go do something else. This upcoming weekend may be such a one.

Unfortunately, there are no new pics of Ensou because the camera is dead or the smartphone is arcane or some other thing, so whenever he does something cute (like try to strangle us or hang from our Army-issued glasses with his one finger), I'm always without pic-taking capabilities. :/

However, the newest addition to the local Reptilian Overlord World Domination Focus Group is Teto, a baby corn snake that the Dragon named after the fox-squirrel from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Teto is indeed conveniently cleavage-sized for long glider rides through jungles of toxic fungi. Since zie's so super tiny, I don't think that I want even the vet attempting to sex zir until zie gets a good bit bigger (Ensou-sized, maybe) because of the risk of internal damage to zir tiny snake-junk. Teto can be female too, so we don't really care either way.

(Note before the pics start: I edited all of these on a different machine that's widescreen and high-res and whatever else, so I hope the photos look okay. They kept looking very small on my comp, so possibly I over-sharpened them or something...forgive me my sins, and just focus on the adorable tiny animals. ^^;;)

* Hello Teto!
Baby corn snake stickin' to our hand. Zie is so damn teeny and has googly anime heroine eyes. Considering how tiny zie is, Teto is amazingly chill when being handled by an enormous creature that could easily eat zir.

* Teto climbs a thing.
This was a wood bird perch or something, but I went with it when I couldn't find any (convenient, affordable) branches or other things for zir to climb. And sure enough, zie climbed it. It's about a foot high, I think.

* Teto chilling in a lump.
This pic was taken after Teto ate a pinky mouse--odd, since snakes are supposed to hide and have a food coma after eating, but I couldn't complain. Zie was just coiled up on top of a hide, looking criminally adorable.

* Lil Thorn is still a substrate ninja.
Look at that expression. ^_^

* Lil Thorn constructs another defensive position.
I never get tired of these. Using two food bowls, a log and a branch as hard cover and substrate for concealment, Lil Thorn waits like the Indonesian guerrilla fighter that he is for unsuspecting high-value targets.

* Lil Thorn requires more victims.
Somedays I check Lil Thorn in the morning and I see him like this, parked on top of a food bowl and looking intense, just to make sure that I know that more sacrificial worms/fruits are required to fuel the Reptilian Overlord.

Totally buried except for his head. EEEEEEEEEE OMG.

The skin's actually a meditation seat that I took up off the floor a bit after this, specifically to keep the critters from walking all over it. ^^; I actually took this pic because Lil Thorn had just shed and the bright sunlight really brought out all of his beautiful colors--he's not just brown with brown, but has orange, red, yellow, pale grey, etc.

* How dare you test Lil Thorn's patience, biped slave!
And I kept stalking him because of all the pretty colors. He was taking a nap under his blanket (this is a cheap microfiber throw that I got just to keep on the floor for him to burrow in...I know, I spoil the shit out of the animals, which is why it's probably a good thing that we'll never reproduce :P) and I lifted it up and got another shot of his beautiful new skin~ And he glared wrathfully at me, as he usually does when I wake him up. GRUMPY SKINK IS GRUMPY

* Lil Thorn now cooks differently.
Previously on the gripping adventures of Blue-Tongued Skinks Gone Tame, Lil Thorn had a collection of smaller flat rocks to cook on under the sun lamp. However, I discovered that these were actually chunks of concrete which, being porous, sucked up every drop of skink pee shed over them and locked in that fresh urea scent, causing a persistent cloud of pee-smog to hover over that corner of the tank. Critter-safe chemicals couldn't get it out of the rocks, so I tossed them. The one chunk of natural slate, being nonporous/less porous, could be cleaned of skink perfume; thus, I went to Home Depot and bought one natural slate tile ($1.35?) that was big enough for Lil Thorn to curl up on. I think he's still kind of paranoid about it because it's unnaturally flat. :/

BTW, after becoming comfortable with the idea of Lil Thorn being female, we recently discovered that he was male on account of him performing a visible functions check on his twin-linked lascannons. They do, in fact, work fine. o_o;

Amazingly, I was able to catch the female beetle laying eggs, which she did by ovipositing them through a little tear in the toilet paper still covering the roll. (This is just a standard TP core.) I peeled back the paper to take the picture, and since the eggs were sticky all over I was able to restick it again afterward. For scale, the round pink thing at the bottom is our thumb. They're maybe a millimeter long?

* Supertiny baby superworm!
These little critters live in the adult box for now because they're...practically invisible and I guess there's no reason why they can't stay. They make tiny boreholes in the undersides of carrots.

* Box o' Larvae.
I started keeping more worms than before in this box, so I added more rolled grain until the substrate was about 2" thick. Since most of the worms prefer to stay buried, I started putting the baby carrots in vertically so that the worms didn't have to surface to get to a water source. Sure enough, they get chewed all over.

* Big worms, little worms.
The pet place was out of "large" superworms, so I got a couple buckets of "small" ones, reasoning that they'd probably grow up quickly enough. To show the size difference, here's a bunch of "smalls" nomming on carrots with a "large" crawling by itself. The "larges" are big enough to put aside for pupation. (And aww, those little ones are smooching in the borehole.)

* Pupae in bungalows and worm hermitages (MkII).
The bungalows are the same ones used for the beetles (see below); I decided to isolate pupae in them so that new beetles start out alone. The assortment of bottles with airholes scattered around are the current generation of worm hermitages, where larvae are imprisoned in order to reach enlightenment before they pupate. There's nothing in them except for lonely larvae.

* A gaggle/horde/murder/parliament/pod/flock of pupae.
The lid they're resting on is about the same size as those used for veggie dip or butter.

* The face of the alien invaders.
A closeup of some pupae, for those who have not yet met their RDA of creepy stuff. Small details like antennae, legs, wing cases, and mouthparts are sort of vaguely formed out of pupa-stuff from the time they emerge. As the pupae age, the details are filled in with a dark substance that gradually gains definition until the claws on the ends of the legs can be seen (among other things). I'm still trying to get a pic of a late-stage pupa.

* Box o' Beetles.
This is the current beetle box build--an Office Depot Really Useful Box with holes drilled in it, egg carton and a TP roll for hides, and the same carrots and grain that the larvae get.

* Beetles in bungalows.
The bungalows are made out of crappy Gladware with holes drilled into it, and each one has the same grain and carrots that the rest of the colony eats. They're used to isolate new beetles until their carapaces finish developing (see below). The beetles shown are all slightly different ages; the youngest is in the upper right (orange-red), and the oldest is in the lower left (a touch of blood-red on black).

* Beetle n00b can has karot.
When beetles de-pupate, they start out white and orange. Over about a week, they darken through red to pure black. There was a very sad incident in which I put a newborn beetle into the box with the other adults and he was attacked and somewhat disassembled. This was the reason why I made the beetle bungalows to keep new adults separate until their exoskeletons are entirely hard. (And the beetles that I've introduced since haven't had any cannibalization issues.) It's entirely possible that the other beetles, being used to associating orange with food/water, thought that the new beetle was a piece of carrot and tried to eat him. :/

* How to determine beetle womanhood.
Female beetles swell up with an endless bounty of eggs, which pushes their wing cases apart as shown here. This female's attempting to expel a sperm plug (see arrow); a completely expelled plug is circled in the foreground. I point this out because I'm sure glad that human reproduction doesn't require a stick the size of one's forearm to get cemented inside a lady's girlbits after sex. ;_;

* The Psycho Rapist Beetle.
I eventually discovered that the other beetles were being stressed out because of one male who was...exceptionally and constantly aggressive in a particular way, to everybody, regardless of sex. As you see here, depraved criminals really do look just like ordinary people. :( I isolated him because I couldn't figure out how to rehabilitate an invertebrate. It turns out that Lil Thorn is too lazy to want to eat live beetles, so this guy may end up being released into the wild. :/

* Super handy superworm life cycle group photo!
(Well, there's no egg, but use your imagination.) Again, this tub is about the size of a butter/dip container. Here we have:
- A small larva, about half the size of the ones set aside for pupation.
- A big larva, newly shed. The worms stay white and soft like this for a while until their deadly worm armor hardens. This one is pretty freaking big.
- An actual dead larva. When they die, they harden into sticks while drying and turn black as stuff inside them goes bad. This one's very recently dead. (Also, worms eat their dead. I think it has nothing to do with hydration and is just a resource conservation thing on their part.)
- A pre-pupa. If they stay normal-colored and curl up tightly, they aren't dead! I screwed this up for a while and kept disposing of worm hermits because I thought they'd died. X(
- A pupa. What it says on the tin.
- A beetle. ...Yep. (Beetles really do end up bigger or smaller depending on the size of larva they came from.)

* HomeStack: An armload of colony.
Here's the total bundle of bug-housing gear--the worm box, the beetle box, some beetle bungalows, and a few worm hermitages in the back. It can all be easily transported in one trip. (Then again, my operation is pretty small.)

* Ultra-high-tech insect colony storage methods.
Here's the sophisticated, floor-mounted, custom rack system that I designed specifically to house Zophobas moria beetles in ideal conditions. :D The species is said to do best in warm darkness, but most of the house gets cold easily due to our ultra-high-tech A/C system designed to simulate real outdoor conditions. Thus, I put all the boxes in bags and stashed the bags under the reptile tanks, which is the warmest place in the house. They're doing okay so far.

Honestly, I'm tempted to resurrect our personal website if only to make a better page about superworm colonies (for other weird people who want to raise them as critter food :P). I got all my info from one webpage that didn't even have photos on it, so I had to backtrack a few times while learning from trial and error. If nothing else, going about it that way costs money because you have to keep buying worms from the store in the meantime. X(