A Pawsitive Blog About Love for Nature

Backyard Habitat Videos and Pics
Tidbits, Tips & Tails
Nature Calls Fur Action
Pawsitive Thoughts & Inspiration

Today we were lucky to capture a Tarantula Hawk Wasp on video with my Mom’s iPhone. It is quite the impressive insect that lives in the desert southwest. They have dark blue bodies with orange wings. The females have curly antennae, while the males are straight. While we have read that this wasp can be both social and solitary, we have only seen them flying solo.

Although this wasp’s primary diet is nectar, it preys on tarantulas for their hosts, thus its namesake. If you are lucky – which we have never been – you may see them flying with a tarantula in their grip. The poor tarantula is paralyzed by the sting and becomes the wasp’s host. The wasp then lays its egg on the tarantula’s stomach and after the larvae is hatched it will feed on the live but still paralyzed spider.

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp is also known for its painful bite. Lucky for Arizonans, they are not aggressive wasps. They only sting if provoked and only the female Tarantula Hawk Wasps have stingers. However, they seem to be erratic flyers and we suspect that many people may get stung because they fly into you. My Mom has personally shared many dances with these wasps trying to get out of their way. Like most creatures, they do not want to entangle with humans or roadrunners, the only bird known to eat them.

Dr. Justin Schmidt is an entomologist from Arizona who travelled the world getting bit by insects to gather data for the development of his Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index. He rates the Tarantula Hawk Wasp as the second most painful insect bite in the world. Dr. Schmidt rates bites on a scale of 0-4, the higher the number the more painful the sting.

According to Dr. Schmidt, the Tarantula Hawk Wasp rates a 4.0 making it a traumatically painful sting. Dr. Schmidt has said that if you get bit by the Tarantula Hawk Wasp it is surprisingly electrifying and that all you want to do is lay down and scream. Luckily their venom will not cause death and the pain only lasts five minutes if that is any solace. To learn more about Dr. Justin Schmidt and his biting adventures with insects, check out his book: “The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science.”

FYI. . .below is a list of the top ten most painful insect bites per the Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index. My Mom tells me she was bit by three of the top ten. When my Mom was a child, she stepped on a Yellow Jacket Wasp which she says felt like a cigarette burn and very painful. Before she became a bee whisperer, my Mom has had her share of Honeybee stings which she describes as mildly painful. Several years ago, my Mom was sitting on the floor when she was bit numerous times by a fiery mob - Fire Ants that were sneaking in through a crack in the patio door - ouch, ouch, and ouch!

  1. Bullet Ant Bites / Rating = 4.0+
  2. Tarantula Hawk Stings / Rating = 4.0
  3. Paper Wasp Sting / Rating = 3.0
  4. Red harvester Ant Bites / Rating = 3.0
  5. Honeybee & European Hornet Stings / Rating = 2.0
  6. Yellow Jacket Sting / Rating = 2.0
  7. Bald-faced hornet Sting / Rating = 2.0
  8. Bullhorn Acacia Sting / Rating = 1.8
  9. Fire Ant Bite / Rating = 1.2
  10. Sweat Bee Sting / Rating = 1.0

Sources:

National Park Service

Planet Deadly

Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index

My Mom told me that when she was young one of her favorite programs on TV was called Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. It was a program that featured real interactions with wildlife, mostly predator and prey situations. Some times in our backyard habitat we have our own mini Mutual of Arizona's Wild Kingdom. We were delighted that our cameras captured this cat and mouse game.

Bobcats and Coyotes are real mousers and ratters. PLEASE help us spread the word - NO POISONS or TRAPS of any kind. THANK YOU!

Tis the season for Javelina! Recently we have captured a lot of Javelina footage on our backyard cameras. Per our observation, we see a lot more Javelinas between September-May. Like everyone else, once summer hits, they are not as active and seek cool shelter from those 100+ degree temps. My Mom has told me some interesting stories about her encounters with Javelina.

Several years ago, before I was born, Mommy and my late brother, Lancelot, went walking on a trail in residential area. As they were about to cross the street to pick-up the rest of the trail, a Javelina jumped out of the bush and turned to walk in the opposite direction. Mom and Lancelot froze and did not cross the street until the Javelina cleared. Lancelot, a Brittany Spaniel who had a penchant for barking, was completely still and voiceless while they both watched the numerous Javelinas emerge from the bush. Eighteen Javelinas later, Mom and Lancelot continued their walk.

Because Javelinas are social and family oriented, they travel in a herd – typically 5 or more but it is not uncommon to see 10 or more. The dominant male leads the herd. Javelinas will fiercely defend and protect their babies. While some people may not find the Javelina a very attractive animal, no one can deny that their babies are adorable.

When Mom and Lancelot encountered the herd of Javelinas, they knew to quietly yield to the Javelina since several babies were part of their herd. Like most animals, if they do not feel threatened, they will just continue to go about their business. However, if they are threatened, they will attack – and you do not want to get bit by a Javelina, they have some big chompers!

Here are some WILD FACTS about Javelinas:

It has been a long week. We are still saddened by the loss of our roadrunner. Thus, time for some happy thoughts.

While the majority of my blog posts contain actual videos and pictures that my family has taken, we do find some gems out there that we are enthusiastically compelled to share with you. We hope you enjoy the below video as much as we do!

Happy Friday everyone - and may I highly recommend petting your dog, cat, bird, other pet child to relax.

Enjoy,

Mabel

We are grieving the loss of a Roadrunner that we found lifeless in our backyard habitat a couple of days ago. In our attempt to reconstruct the death scene, we surmise that a Harris Hawk killed him for food, but was then spooked by Lambchop and I as we were let out to play in the yard.

In our previous Blog discussions of our backyard habitat, we have shared moments of fun, beauty, harmony, and joy with all the gentle creatures that visit. We have also shared surprising and what could have been scary moments with finding rattlesnakes. We have not yet shared moments of sadness when a creature’s survival ceases because they succumb to a predator.

It just breaks all our hearts to know that it was Roadrunner, the iconic symbol of the desert. Roadrunners are such animated birds and have always been one of our favorite backyard habitat visitors. However, believing that a Hawk may have been involved, we are reminded of the lessons learned in Ecology 101. Hawks are predators and birds, like the Roadrunner, are part of their food web. If we were to ask the Harris Hawk: “Why the Roadrunner? He would humbly reply: “Why not? Birds are what I eat.”

For these reasons and more, we do not harbor any negative feelings about the Harris Hawk because he was just being a Hawk. Hawks are magnificent creatures that are so vital to the ecosystem that we should never dismiss them. We must honor both the Roadrunner and Hawk.

Ironically, our next Blog post was going to be about the Harris Hawk. A couple of weeks ago one perched on our fence and my Mom took many pictures and a video. We will share these images soon.

For now, we will continue to mourn the loss of our Roadrunner friend – may he forever run wild and free.

Incidentally, a great book about Roadrunners is called “A Lighthearted Look at the Roadrunner” by Chuck Waggin. Charles Amesbury was an artist and writer whom lived in the desert southwest. He loved the desert and all its wildlife as much as we do. In this book, Mr. Amesbury shares his knowledge of and love for these spirited birds.

When we show respect to other living things, they respond with respect for us.

Arapaho

Our backyard habitat attracts various visitors - birds, toads, snakes, squirrels, rabbits, javelina, hawks, etc.,

Recently, the pictured bobcat visited the Backyard Habitat. We believe he had just caught his lunch since a long tail was dangling from his mouth - likely a packrat, which are quite common in the Arizona desert. My Mom tried to record the bobcat’s visit on video but he was too eager to "eat and run." Thus, we were only able to snap a couple of pictures - as you can see, he is so beautiful.

Bobcats, like coyotes, hawks, owls, and other predators, are so important to our ecosystem - they help keep things in balance so that we do not have an overabundance of packrats and other rodents. Nothing against packrats or rodents in general, they, too, play a role in our ecosystem - everything/everyone does - however, balance is key to sustain Mother Nature's resources.

Many people opt to use poisons or traps to kill rodents whom they deem to be a nuisance. If this bobcat ate a packrat that had been poisoned, he would also die - very horrifically, since most poisons are anticoagulants, which means ingestion results in internal bleeding that may last for weeks. Poisons are a gift of death that keeps on giving, including seeping into the soil and groundwater, which impacts all our health.

Traps are another death tool that maims or kills innocent wildlife. It offers any animal that may get ensnared in them pure torture. Last year, we observed a raccoon in our yard whose right paw was caught in a rat trap. My Mom called our local animal rescue but unfortunately, they could not be of help because the raccoon was mobile. As you can imagine, it was very disturbing to watch the raccoon walk and climb with this trap on him. We could only hope that this creature was smart enough to manage to release himself from the trap.

Please visit this website for other humane alternatives to poisons and traps: Raptors Are the Solution

This post began with a quote from the Native American tribe, the Arapahos. The Native Americans are great teachers of respect for nature and wildlife. Their teachings have shown us that we are all connected; subsequently, we must honor and respect all nature. Senselessly killing our wildlife is inhumane and a waste of our natural resources.

That is why. . . .in our Backyard Habitat, we welcome all visitors and are always honored by their presence. No traps or poisons, just love for nature!

Thanks to all who voted. And the Winner is. . . . . Mabel and Her Bee Costume. Donations will be sent to all organizations as indicated, with an extra donation going to Mabel's charity, GREENPEACE.

My siblings and I are getting very excited because Halloween will soon be here. This year, as part of our Halloween celebration, my siblings and I are dressing in costumes of animals/insects beneficial to our ecosystems. We are also each representing an environmental organization that helps these wild creature.

Because we have been such good sports in donning these costumes, my Mom will be donating $15 to each of these organizations.

Help us choose which one of us is wearing the BEST COSTUME and my Mom will provide an additional $15 donation to the organization represented by the winner.
Please vote by November 3, midnight

THANK YOU for voting and caring for nature!.

🎃Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!👻




If you would like to learn more about the wonderful work of these reputable *environmental organizations OR join us in donating to them, please visit their websites by clicking their name below. Thank you for supporting wildlife!

*NOTE: The organizations are all 501(c)(3) non-profits.

My name is Mabel and I am addicted to chasing balls, frisbees, and yes, I confess, rabbits and squirrels, too!

Our backyard habitat attracts many visitors - birds, butterflies, bees, and of course, some of my favorites, rabbits and squirrels. It is a chaser’s DREAM come true.

However, Mom says N-O! to chasing my cat siblings AND any creatures in the backyard. She often lectures me on how the wild creatures struggle to survive in the harsh desert ecosystem, where they face hot temperatures, lack of water, and many predators, including humans.

Mom also reminds me that the rabbits and squirrels are constantly being chased by their predators - the hawks, coyotes, and bobcats - and therefore, I do not need to add any more stress to their lives.

However, the canine voice in me is constantly telling me to chase, chase, and chase. I would never hurt any of my friends that I chase, I just love to watch them run. Can I help it if I enjoy doing the bunny hop with actual rabbits - as in, watching them hop, hop, hop away from me.

But I digress. . .

I know Mom is right (as always!). Our backyard habitat is a welcoming and safe place for all our visitors. Moreover, it is so important to be kind to all animals. Through kindness, compassion, and understanding, we can coexist in peace together.

So for now, as I sit by the patio door and watch the rabbits and squirrels play, I will just DREAM. . . . DREAMING about the day that Mom is not watching me so that I can chase rabbits and the squirrels, errrr I mean, balls and frisbees.

Mabel, Tabby, Lambchop, and a couple of their backyard habitat friends are dressed in costume to wish YOU a Safe and Happy Halloween!

Who knew that Javelina and Cooper Hawk like to Trick or Treat?

Javelina are some of our favorite animals to observe in the backyard habitat. While they resemble a pig and are distantly related, the Javelina is classified as a Collared Peccary. They often appear outside our fence in their large family group of six or more.

Within the Javelina family, there is a definite hierarchy with the alpha male as the dominating member. This hierarchy is apparent when it comes to food. If food is found the alpha Javelina gets first dibs.

It is amusing to watch how they get into skirmishes over food, particularly the younger adults, since they are on the leftovers end of the pecking order. However, there appears to be an exception for the babies. If the babies are hungry, they can help themselves to whatever the alpha is eating without any consequence.

We have observed a lot of love in Javelina families. They will cuddle with each other, scratch one another, and roam together. Javelina also fiercely protect their babies, which do not stray too far from their mother. In this video, look for the two Javelina babies nursing – something you do not see very often.