Enjoying A Surprise! Catching Another Large Catfish.

Wow! I caught this 20 lb. Catfish at Oak Lake on June 10, 2022.

Do you like surprises?

Have you ever planned things out and then found out God had other plans for your day? Today I caught the second largest catfish of my life-time, but, it was not the way I had planned it! We often plan things out based on our past experiences.

About a month ago I caught a twenty-two pounder, (the largest fish I have caught here at Oak Lake , so far). A week ago I landed a nine pounder. Over the years I have lived here in Tennessee I have caught about a dozen large catfish. These big fish are really fun to catch as they take quite awhile to get to shore.

Nine Pounder

Each time I go down to the lake I wonder what will take the bait I offer. There are always surprises! Some days it is only bluegill. Other days I catch shellcrackers and bass. I almost always catch turtles that seem to like the same bait as the fish. The turtles and most of the fish go back in the lake to catch again. I keep a few of the bluegill for cut bait to augment the worms I bring with me. I most commonly catch the big fish on the pieces of bluegill, but on this day I was surprised to see my small “bluegill pole” and reel whizzing as a huge fish almost pulled it into the lake. Once I grabbed the pole I knew it wasn’t a little bluegill or even a large turtle by how the line went zipping off while the drag setting was stripping off line. I knew I had to be careful since I only had ten pound test line on this reel. I usually target the catfish with my larger casting rigs baited up with bluegill. Today the monster decided a night crawler was to its taste.

My mind reminded me from past experiences to keep the tip up and bring in line whenever it went slack. When possible I reeled in as much line as I could, but I had to let the fish use up its energy before attempting a landing. As the fish came closer to shore it made another run. I just had to be patient and keep redirecting the tip of the pole in the direction I wanted the fish to go to keep it away from the many hazards that might break the line. Eventually the fish tired and I brought it near the shore where I could attempt to scoop it up in my large fishing net. It decided it didn’t want to give up the fight yet and again it ran away from shore. Finally I got the net far enough under the fish for it to drop below the rim and I was able to hall it to shore. Next, I took my fish gripper and inserted it into its mouth so I could remove the hook and walk back away from the shore to measure and weigh it. I didn’t want to keep it out of the water too long so I quickly pulled out the tape measure and found it to be 32 inches long. I next used my electronic scale to find it weighed in at twenty pounds. I took a couple pictures with my phone and then hurried back to the lake where I held it in the water while I stroked its sides and pulled it back and forth to get the oxygen flowing through its gills to stimulate movement. When it finally showed life I released it directing it to deeper water watching it slowly move off into the middle of the lake.

As I returned to my fishing chair I put away my weighing scale and other items. I sat back and breathed in the air and thanked God’s for a great day of fishing. I pondered all the fish that I had caught that day and the fun of feeding my friend Snappy, the large snapping turtle that often pops up near the shore looking for a chunk of bluegill. He had eaten close to three fish so far. I remembered how he had grabbed a water snake just last week that was trying to steal the pieces of fish I was feeding him. Talk about surprises! I was amazed at how quickly he had snapped out and grabbed the snake just behind its head. I had watched in wonder as the snake coiled around the turtle’s body in a vain attempt to escape. It took about twenty minutes for the turtle to eat the whole snake, snapping off pieces and swallowing them down his throat. It’s amazing how much a turtle can consume in a day. I guess they take advantage of every opportunity.

Live and Let Live”.

I also watched as a muskrat swam by with reeds in its mouth apparently building a nest in the bank under a cottonwood tree on the shore. What an amazing pleasure to get to see all the wildlife around our small lake here in our neighborhood. So many kinds of birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and other creatures thriving in this ecosystem so near my house. I often see a kingfisher flapping its wings while hovering over the water, then sweeping its wings back as it dives into the water to emerge with a fish in its mouth. It then flies to a limb of a nearby tree to enjoy its catch or returns to its nest to feed its young. There are also the egrets and great blue herons that stand on their long stilt-like legs waiting for passing fish to stab with their long sharp bills. Once stabbed their necks sweep up and their beaks open to catch and swallow the fish whole. I’m not the only one fishing here. We also have a resident bald eagle and a couple osprey around the lake. I occasionally see the smaller green herons fly by, but more often just hear their raspy squawking sounds as they communicate with others of their kind. If you just sit quietly and listen you can hear bullfrogs and their smaller neighbors, tree frogs, peepers and even a frog that sounds almost like a sheep bleating. Dragonflies and damselflies come by often landing on the end of my fishing poles. Beautiful butterflies flutter around often landing on the moist ground near the water’s edge to absorb the water and minerals from the soil. Some even land on your arms to suck up the salt from your sweat. Watch out for the mosquitoes and gnats that want more than salt! Though the females want your blood to nourish their eggs they also become food for the dragonflies, fish and many other creatures that live around the lake. I don’t mind swatting a few in that they also are potential vectors of disease. For the most part, it is “live and let live”, a good mind set for those of us that love the outdoors.

I wonder how big this fish will be the next time I catch it? I also wonder how many bigger fish are out in the lake?

THE MOST SURPRISING TRUTH!

If you take some time to sit and ponder what is around you it doesn’t take long for you to find something surprising. If you think you have things all figured out you will soon see that you really don’t. The only One who does is God in heaven. He is not only the Creator but also the Sustainer. He definitely has a plan for your life as He does mine. He enjoys bringing surprises to us that demonstrate His greatness and love.

I Corinthians 2:9

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for those who love him.”

Let’s Make a Turtle!

By Request:

I recently posted pictures of my turtle sculptures on two Origami Facebook Group pages. After they were seen by many, a couple requested directions for making them. I had told the group where they could find the directions for folding the base units but not how they went together to make the completed turtle…..so……Here goes!

What You Need:

To make a turtle you will need two large squares to make the shell and six smaller squares to make the legs, neck and head, and one smaller square to make the tail. You need white glue, scissors, a holepunch and a bit of patience.

For each of the large and the six smaller squares you will be folding them into pinwheel bases. (If you don’t know how to fold the pinwheel base you can easily find it by looking on line. It is a traditional Origami base unit.)

Raise and Squash the Points:

You will next have to fold the four points of the pinwheel up like a shark fin. Then push them down so that all the points face the middle as seen in the above picture.

Next you will have to tuck one side of each pair under the one on the opposite side to form the Eco-Ball unit. (If you want to see this step more clearly you can find it in the Eco-ball post in this same section of my blog.)

Hold It While the Glue Sets:

Now you will need to keep the edges together while the glue sets to make a solid unit.

This forms the swivel unit. You will need two smaller swivel units later, but for now go ahead and add glue to hold one side of the unit together.

Two Plus Four Equals Six:

Yes, you will glue the two large units and four of the smaller units as directed above. You should still have two more smaller units. Fold and glue them just to the swivel stage.

So…How Do We Put It Together?:

Now that we have the base units we are ready to make the shell and add the legs, neck and head.

The Shell:

Glue the two large units together to form the shell

Hint: It is easiest to glue the two smooth surfaces together on this step.

Add the Legs:

Look at the next picture to see where to glue and how to align the legs in relation to the body.

And Now the Neck and Head:

Take one of the small swivel units to use for the neck. You will then have to cut the other swivel unit in half to use as the head,

Glue the head to the neck.

Do You Want a Jaw?

If you want your turtle to be able go open his mouth you can add a jaw. Take the remaining half of the swivel unit and cut off one of the squares on the surface.

Glue the jaw to the bottom of the head as shown in the following picture.

Finally the Tail:

To make the tail unit you will use the smallest square. Place it like a diamond and fold an airplane Point on one end. Open the paper and fold another airplane point on the opposite end. Now bend the unit in half. Pinch up the two middle triangles as shown below.

Add a couple drops of glue to hold the middle together and you have the tail.

Add glue to one end of the tail all the way to the middle putting the glue on the outside edges. Flip it over and place it as shown below. You will have to hold it while it dries.

It’s Time to Add Some Extras:

Now that you have your turtle you need to decide how to decorate it. It obviously needs some eyes. I like to add wiggle eyes that you can get from your local craft store. To decorate the shell you can use a hole punch to punch out a bunch of dots. Glue these to the shell to create an interesting pattern, be creative and make your own design.

Below are three turtle lovers from Texas Turtles making their own origami turtles. It’s fun doing Origami with friends.

These colorful turtles pictured above were made by my friend Viviana after I taught her how to make them.

So Many Patterns:

Turtles are very interesting creatures. I often catch them while fishing and have seen so many different kinds and different patterns on their shells and bodies. If you want to see several kinds if turtles you can find pictures in several of my earlier blog posts. You can also find pictures in books and on-line. You can try to mimic real turtle patterns while decorating your paper turtles. As you look at the many kinds of turtles consider the evidence of design. The beauty of these creatures required an intelligent Designer. When God created turtles He must have had those of us who love turtles in mind. Thank God for turtles and all the other creatures He created for us to enjoy.

Let’s Fold Some Bobblehead Cats

Are You A Cat Person?

Many people love cats. I have had a few as pets and many of my friends have them. Personally I prefer other pets that don’t shed fur all over the place. But that’s just me. One kind of cat that I don’t mind having around is one made out of paper. Would you like to learn how to make an Origami bobblehead cat? If so, here is what you need:

Get a sheet of two sided paper. Be sure one side is white. Most Origami paper comes this way. You will need two squares of paper. You can decide how big of a cat you want to make by the size of the squares of paper you choose. A good size to start with is one 6 inch square. Your second square should be one fourth the size of the first one.

Let’s Begin With The Body:

Turn the paper so it looks like a diamond and fold an airplane Point at the bottom.

Repeat at the top so it overlaps the bottom.

Let’s fold the thicker end skinnier so it will add weight to the bottom and represent a narrow tail. Just make another airplane Point to reduce its size.

Form the Body and Tail:

Next fold up the tail section so it goes up higher than the larger end.

Above is a side view.

Let Your Finger Be Your Guide:

Place your finger up against the body portion and then fold the tail portion parallel to your finger.

Next, let’s fold the tail in half again to make it even skinnier.

Give Your Cat Some Character!:

Wrap the end of the tail around your finger so it looks like the cat is waving its tail.

Now We Need A Head.

Take your smaller square and begin with the white side up in the diamond position. Fold the top down to the bottom.

Fold the right hand side to the bottom and repeat on the left.

Fold down the top just a little ways to form the top of the head.

Then fold up the ears on the left and right side so they extend beyond the top of the head. You should fold them so they go tight against the sides of the triangle at the top of the head.

Turn the paper over. Next fold up the bottom chin portion about three quarters the distance from the top. Tuck the back portion inside the head and then fold down just the top part of the white triangle to form the nose.

Bend the ears forward against the sides of the head. Next, open the ears with your finger so the white inside shows.

Some Assembly Required:

Now that you have made the two parts of the cat it’s time to put them together. Before placing the head on the neck it’s best to bend the two cheek portions away from you so the middle crease stands out. Then place the head on the body. Notice that there is a slot on the back between the ears in which to insert the neck. You can bend the head to any position you want to give the cat the desired look. If you make smaller versions they can be kittens. Usually kittens have bigger heads than adults in relation to their body size.

You Can Use A Penny to Balance Your Cat.

Interestingly we discovered that the cats have a tendency to fall forward. There are two ways to prevent this. One is to bend the body backwards at an angle. The other is to slip a penny inside the base of the cat. If that doesn’t work, you can also glue them to a piece of cardstock or a box top.

Add A Message:

It is fun to make several cats and give them away to friends. To make it better add a message like: “You are the cat’s meow.” Or...”You Are A Prrrr…fect Friend.” I’m sure you can think of even better messages.

Make It Better!:

Interestingly this Origami project was made from another. I once found directions for folding a cat in a book I checked out of the library. I liked the head but I thought the body portion could be improved, so I created my own. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with Origami models. That is how many new folds were discovered. Modifying a basic pattern can lead to many interesting creations.

Evidence of Design:

Just look at God’s creation and notice the variety that can come from a basic design. Take birds as an example. Some birds have longer legs and longer beaks than others but they are still birds. When God created the various species He gave each just what it would need for where it lives and what it eats. Design has function. No matter where you look in God’s creation you can see evidence of intentional design.

Made for a Purpose:

Every time I see something that someone has created I think of just why it was made. Have you ever thought of yourself as a work of art created by a master designer? In the Book of Psalms in the Bible King David pondered this question and came to a conclusion. He said,

“I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

You can read the rest of his conclusions in Psalm 139. I hope you have come to the same conclusions when you look at yourself in the mirror. God created you for a purpose. He designed you so you could come to know Him and enjoy fellowship with Him through the gift of His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Creating Creatures From Paper

Are you creative? Do you like to see if you can catch the essence of an animal in a piece of art? What medium do you use? Paint, pencil, color crayons, clay, etc.

Paper is my favorite medium to use in art. It is inexpensive and can be manipulated in a variety of ways to create almost any form.

Once you choose your medium you have to come up with a unique way to use it. So where do you start? Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s ok to take an existing form and work with it in a new way. About 50 years ago my college roommate and I were seeing what we could make using the traditional German Bell fold. Although we manage to combine about 50 of these base units into a large sculpture it was not the most “user- friendly” shape to work with due to its beveled edges. We figured out a way to flatten the surfaces and make it into a pyramid. With these units we were quickly finding many ways to combine them to make Stars, satellites, rockets and more. Through the years I have taught students how to fold the units as well as written a couple of earlier blogs on this site so others could explore the possibilities of making their own art work. (To learn how to fold the square and triangle pyramids read my two earlier blogs in the Origami section.) There is always more to learn! Just this last week I came up with two new ways to interlock the units. Maybe you can come up with an original interlock system using these units.

In the picture above you can see the original German Bell in front of several of the straight sided pyramids in the back.

Creating New From Old:

So.,…What are some new things you can create from the old? I decided to create some animals. Obviously God did a great job when He made the real ones. We can only try to capture the essence of these creatures when we try to make our own versions. When you look at an animal you have to recognize its symmetry. You also look for the features that set this animal apart from others.

Think of the Giraffe:

Think of a Giraffe. What is the most remarkable thing about this animal? That’s right, its neck.

It also has four long slender legs, little horns on its head, ears and a tail. It has skin with strong patterning. Can you see how I tried to capture these characteristics in paper?

Consider Relationships:

You can also add animal relationships to your piece. Think of the Great Horned Owl. What are its major characteristics? What other animal is its most common prey? That’s right, the mouse.

Owls have big eyes and a round face and sharp grasping claws on their two feet. By adding the mouse it adds animation to the project. You can easily imagine the owl pouncing on the mouse after tracking it with its big eyes.

Explore Color and Texture Variations:

Whimsical animals do not have to be exact replicas of the original. You can explore using unusual colors and patterns. In the following creature I thought of the Ostrich and many cartoon birds I have seen through the years. As I created this Big Bird I kept adding elements until I was satisfied with the end result. Did you see what was added to capture a more representational wing? That’s right, the wing feathers. Even before that I had added the tail fan using another of my Origami base units. (It is made from Bird-Beak units, found in another blog post in the Origami section). Part of the design also had to do with balance. I needed more weight on the front of the bird so it would not fall backwards.

Use Your Imagination:

Fictional creatures also stretch the imagination. Think of the dragons you have seen in picture form. In making this Paper Dragon I wanted to create a spiky creatures with sharp teeth. I did not want him to be too scary so I kept him cartoon like in character.

Here are a couple more creatures. Can you guess what they are?

Some are more abstract than others. It is fun to try several ways to create the same creature. If you have looked through the Origami page you have probably seen a couple other Bird models: a Chicken and a Nesting Bird.

Who Is the Most Amazing Creator?

In the Bible we read that “man was created in the image of God.” Even though every person is different we all have several things in common. When God created each creature He added variety to each one. Each of us are a special unique design. There is only one “You”. Design has purpose. Much of what makes us up has been designed for function and balance. Why do we have two ears and two eyes? It allows us to have depth perception in sight and hearing. Our bodies are balanced for movement and we have joints in just the right places to bend in many directions. Much of our design is invisible on the outside. Each organ of your body is made up of a variety of cells which combine to make up the tissues from which the organs are constructed. If one were to look even closer, inside of the cells, he would find even smaller units (the organelles) which allow the living cells to function in specific ways.

What is your purpose? Why did God make you the way your are and give you the special talents you have? As you ponder the idea of design realize the complexity your Creator used to make you. As I try to create interesting art pieces I often think about how awesome an artist God is. We can have a lot of fun trying to capture some of the elements of His wonderful designs in the artwork we make.

Skippers: Tiny Butterflies That Pollinate Our Gardens

This year we planted some Zinnias to attract butterflies to our garden. One of the most common visitors were the tiny Skipper butterflies. These come in a variety of colors and sizes, but most are very small in relation to the other varieties of butterflies you commonly see visiting your neighborhood.

They Are Not Called “Skippers” for Nothing!:

As you can see in these photos, these butterflies bounce from flower to flower gathering nectar and at the same time gathering pollen from the anthers of the flowers as it attaches to their bodies so they transfer this to other flowers. They also like to visit the flowers in your garden boxes so you can have a lot of vegetables. Even though their flight seems like they are darting left and right, Skippers have very strong wing muscles and can reach speeds up to twenty miles an hour in flight.

Flowers also provide a meeting place for males and females to find each other for reproducing their young after mating. It seems that the butterflies often share the same flower heads with other insects like bees, and beatles.

A Different Attitude:

One characteristic of these little butterflies is the angles at which they hold their wings when resting on a flower. Instead of having their wings out parallel to the flower top, these butterflies hold them swept back together against each other on their backs. They will also open them slightly as they move around the flower tops.

Interestingly there are over 3,000 species of Skippers world wide. Some even feed at night like the Peruvian Skippers.

Often Confused With Moths:

Since Skippers look so different than most butterflies they are often confused with their Lepidopteran cousins, the moths. One way to quickly tell the difference is to look at their antennae. Moths have featherlike antennae while butterflies have thin antennae with a club-like nodule on their ends. Moths more commonly feed at night (nocturnal) while most butterflies are (diurnal,) feeding in the daylight. The bodies of moths tend to be plump covered with thick hair, while butterflies are more streamlined and often free of hair.

Sipping Nectar

Take a Closer Look:

As you take the time to watch them you can clearly see they are marvelously designed for what they do. Where do you think this thoughtful design originated?

I am often reminded of all the evidence God left us in His Creation. Everywhere you look there are testimonies of His care and provision. Each creature was formed to bring Him glory and praise. Each one has an important role to play in the bigger realm of the cycles of nature established by Him in the beginning. Do you know your Creator? Do you know your purpose? You can find answers to these questions in God’s Word, the Bible.

Why not go out in your yard or to a nearby park and watch the Skippers play. Take some time also to think about your role in Creation.

How To Fold An Origami Star Quilt Block

One of the joys of Origami is creating an original fold. It often takes several attempts to arrive at a wonderful model. I often begin with different origami bases and start folding from there. In this model I began with the traditional Pin Wheel Base.

I next pulled up the four points like a shark fin and squashed them down.

Balancing the Folds:

To create pleasing models you have to consider the symmetry of the objects you are creating. In this case I decided to use Radial symmetry because I wanted a star shape.

In many models you fold the same way more than once to balance the sides of the form. In this model I found that two and four Folds would be a good pattern to follow.

Consider Using Multiple Types of Folds:

Besides the usual Valley and Mountain Folds, this model also uses Squash Folds. It’s amazing how many variations are possible folding a single sheet of paper.

Flip and Center:

I next flipped over the model and folded the four points to the center allowing the under part to flip back out.

Notice the Cross in the Center:

A good way to check your progress is to look to the center of your model. If you see the four corners pointing to the central cross you are on target.

Time for Another Flip:

To see the model as above simply flip the model over. You are now ready to go to the next step.

Lift and Squash:

Put your thumb in the middle of the fold and lift the four middle points one at a time. Fold the points clear out to the middle edges of the fold and squash the paper down flat. All four points need to be folded this way.

Bevel the Corners:

Next, fold in the four corners of the square. This will create an octagon.

It’s Time for Another Flip.

Flip the model over to the backside. It should look like this:

Hands to the Center:

In the next step it’s easier if you think of your two hands touching in the front of your body. Notice how the two sides of the four shield meet in the middle.

You Guessed It! It is Time for Another Flip:

Now the Fun Part. Watch the Point Appear.

Next take the rectangular sections of the model on each of the four sides and fold them in half like this:

And Now, The Final Flip!

Turn your model over and see the final Star.

If You Want to Quilt Block You Will Have to Fold Some More!:

Learn How to Lock the Pieces Together:

If you look under the middle points on each of the four sides you will find a pocket. You can insert the middle points of other Stars in this pockets.

Something to Consider:

While folding this model you probably noticed the value of repetition. Some times we have, to see, hear, or try something many times before we see its value. Think of how many times you had to try before you could ride a bicycle. In life we need to take the time to listen to messages and examples of others to discover the true joys of life. I remember as a child listening to Bible stories and seeing the life examples of godly people around me. There came a day when it all made sense, and I, like those who taught me, decided to give my life to Jesus. I believed what the Bible repeatedly told me about His love for me and how He died, was buried, and rose again to pay the price for my sin and make a way for me to join the Family of God. He took my life and transformed me into someone He could use to share this good news with others. Just like I was able to transform a sheet of paper into a beautiful folded model, He can transform your life into a piece of artwork that shows His greatness and power.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; all things are become new.” II Cor. 5:17

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” II Timothy 2:1-3

Another Fun Way to Use These Stars:

If you find a piece of gold or silver Origami paper in your pack, you can make an awesome Sheriffs Badge. If you compare the shape of the individual stars with a Sherrif’s Badge you will quickly see the similarity.

You can also make book markers like this cross. Can you think of others ways to combine them?

When Are Lice Nice? When They Are Barklice!

When one hears the word “lice” several scary thoughts enter your mind. “Blood sucking creatures”, “Creepy crawlers” , and other unpleasant images. Did you know there are some insects called “lice” that are not harmful? They are even helpful! Meet the Barklice.

I discovered these interesting creatures while we were walking around the yard of our friend’s house that had recently moved to a house out in the country on a large lot. My wife and a couple other ladies saw them on the trunk of a Mimosa tree and called me over to identify them. When I took a look I did not know what insects they were. I only recognized that they must be some type of “true bug” because of the way their wings overlapped on their backs. I had to do some research to find out what they were.

Move Around In Groups:

One characteristic that sets these insects apart is the way they travel around on the bark of trees. They wander like a herd of cattle. Traveling in groups makes them appear larger than they are so that predators have to think twice before taking on the large group. Like cattle, these creatures are grazing as they move around. Guess what they eat?

Nature’s Clean Up Crew:

These tiny little insects are beneficial because they feed on fungus, lichen, algae, and decaying plant scraps that grow on the surface of the bark of trees. So…if you find them on your trees, don’t be alarmed and definitely don’t grab a can of bug spray! No insecticide is needed. They are here to help!

Two Major Groups:

While reading up on these creatures I discovered there are two primary varieties of Barklice: Aggregating and Web Spinning. As these common names imply, one group travel around in groups while others wrap the trunks of trees in silky webbing while feeding on the bark beneath. The ones I viewed were the Aggregating variety. Apparently there are many species in each of these two larger groups. Some have wings while others do not. Some are black (like the ones pictured here), while others are yellow, green, gray or brown. Most have striped abdomen with banding similar to the bees. Some have very long antennae and others of varying size.

The Web Spinning group is classified in the Achipsocas group while the Aggregating group is in the Cerastipsocas group.

So What Should You Do If You Don’t Like Bugs on Your Trees?

For those who don’t like creatures crawling on their trees, rather than using insecticides to banish them, just grab a high pressure garden hose and spray them away. That way no poisons need to be inserted into the environment. Most people, after they learn more about the creatures they fear, are quick to change their view of things with a little education. Before taking knee-jerk reactions it’s good to take a little time to gather facts to make better decisions.

Think About It:

Have you noticed that all creatures, great and small, have a purpose in the larger scheme of things. This is by design! When God originally created every thing He placed each in just the right place within the world. It was only when man sinned in the Garden of Eden when nature was cursed and it became more difficult for man living in relation to the creation around him. Man’s role as caretaker of the Earth remains and we should recognize our responsibility to use the natural resources wisely.

If you take the time to investigate you can discover your purpose as given in God’s Word, the Bible. The more you look around you the more you will find He left a lot of evidence in His Creation to direct man to see there is a Creator and Sustainer.

Why Not Go Out And See If You Can Find These Insects In Your Neighborhood?:

If you would like to see these little guys in action, go out and find a tree. The easiest trees to find them on are the smooth barked trees like Crepe Myrtle and Mimosa trees since the insects stand out against the smooth background. They also can be found on oak trees and other hardwood trees, though they are harder to see there because of the texture and coloration of the bark.

Look in moist places on the trunks of the trees since the humidity helps the fungi, algae and lichen to grow. That is where they will be feeding. Move your hand over the group and watch them move away in a herd. They are really interesting little creatures.

Largest Native Moth in North America: The Cecropia Moth

What a Beauty!:

“Big” and “beautiful” are great words to describe this species of the Silk Moth Family.

Adult specimens can reach wingspans of from 5 to 7 inches. (Look at the hand under the moth for perspective.) Their fuzzy wings seem almost like velvet in texture. Notice the mixture of colors that combine to give them such a distinct look. This one is a female. Her antennae are much thinner than those of their male counterparts.

Release Your Perfume:

You might wonder why God created the males with larger antennae than the females. The antennae of the males are extremely sensitive so that they can use these organs to locate the females. The females emit very small droplets of pheromones which are a biological perfume that attracts the males for mating. Males can detect these pheromones from up to seven miles away.

You Better Find Her Quickly!:

There is a very short window for Spring mating since the adults do not have functional mouthparts. They don’t eat at all in this stage of development. Their only task is to find a mate and produce offspring before they run out of the stored food in their bodies.

Beware of Imposters!:

One of the predators of these moths is the Bolo Spider. This arachnid has his own bag of tricks. One of these is emitting an odor that closely mimics the female pheromones of the Cecropia moth. When an unsuspecting male moth comes in tracking this odor he gets snatched up by the sneaky spider. The poor female moth has to hope another male will replace him if she ever hopes to have her eggs fertilized.

Other Dangers:

Scientists have theorized that these and other moths navigate by the light of the moon. Since house lights are often brighter than the moonlight off in the distance, many moths zero in on porch lights and end up on the walls or windows near the light sources. This is where most people encounter them. Some nocturnal creatures like to catch and eat the moths as they fly through the air. Bats and Screech Owls especially enjoy them. Besides these dangers in adulthood the young also face many perils. Many parasitic wasps and flies lay their eggs on either the eggs or larvae of the young. These parasitic eggs usually hatch out when the caterpillars go into the pupae stage. The larvae of the flies and wasp feed on the pupa when it is all wrapped up waiting for metamorphosis to complete its life journey to adulthood.

Colorful Creatures:

You have already seen how beautiful the adults are with all their amazing colors. The other stages of these creatures are also colorful! The eggs, when placed on the tops or bottoms of the host plants, are reddish brown and cream colored. When the little caterpillars emerge they are totally black. As they continue to shed their skins while growing larger ( scientists call these instars) the caterpillars change colors. They go from black to yellowish green to almost blue green just before they cocoon. The caterpillars reach sizes up to five or more inches in length! That is a big creature!

The Cocoons Are Vulnerable:

If the parasites mentioned before haven’t attacked the caterpillars, the pupae in their cocoons are also in potential danger. Guess who likes to eat these fast food tidbits? Squirrels and Woodpeckers. Fortunately for the moths the cocoons are camouflaged to look like part of the branches to which they are attached. Most go into the cocoon stage in the early fall to remain inside until the warm Spring weather returns. They are wrapped up well in their winter jackets that insulate them from the freezing temperatures of the winter months. The silk used to weave the cocoons traps air between the strands that function like a warm sleeping bag to keep the pupae at just the right temperature for development. When Spring comes the adults emerge and pump up their wings and take flight to find their mates.

Strength in Numbers:

It is amazing how successful these creatures are when you see the many dangers they face. One way they survive is in the vast number of eggs that the females produce. Females can lay hundreds of eggs. Because there are so many scattered around she can be sure some of them will survive to carry on the species.

Keep Your Eyes Open!:

I hope you have enjoyed learning about these amazing creatures. Why not look around your neighborhood to see what creatures are out at night. Look around your porch lights and windows. You will find many other insects are attracted to lights. If you look carefully you may even find some that were caught by the spiders that have learned that house lights are good at bringing in their meals. As you look at the beautiful designs and behaviors of these creatures recognize that this didn’t happen by accident. Each creature is testimony to an Intelligent Designer. I believe this Creator is Jesus Christ. Consider the evidence of design. Consider what else you can learn about our loving, living God.

Special Thank You:

I would like to offer a special thank you to my neighbor, Brooke Thompson, who took this amazing photo of the Cecropia Moth that visited her house this week. She gave me permission to use her photo. Three of us in the neighborhood have posted pictures of different moths we have found around our windows this week. We live in a friendly neighborhood where most people enjoy the wildlife that abounds here in the Oak Lake area of Spring Hill, Tennessee.

The Lovely Luna Moth:

A Wake Up Call:

Who is knocking on the window at midnight? I had to investigate. I slowly opened the front door and went out to see a large green moth banging up against the window. It was attracted to the light coming through the window shades.

What a Beauty!

As you can see in the photos this is a large moth. It has semi-transparent lime green wings with eyespots of yellow and magenta. Scientists believe these eyespots confuse predators that think they are the eyes of larger animals. Each wing is covered in tiny scales that reflect the light and give the sings a shimmering effect.

The Tale of the Tails:

One thing you probably noticed right away are the long slender tails of this moth. Unfortunately this one had one tail broken off from banging into the window. Scientists have theorized that these long tails contribute to the moth’s survival by messing with the echolocation of one of their enemies, the bats. When a bat zeros in on the moth in flight it often misses the body of the moth and just gets a piece of the tail allowing the moths to continue on their way to find a mate.

No Time To Eat!:

A strange things about the adults is they never eat another meal. As young larvae they are ravenous gluttons eating as much as they can to grow in size before going into their pupal stage, but once they emerge as adults their life span is only days or hours. Their only parental duty is to find a mate!

Where and How Can They Find a Mate?:

Ever heard of pheromones? Pheromones are a biological perfume generated by the females to attract the males. Though emitted in microscopic proportions, they are very powerful attractants. A male can sense this odor from miles away and he follows it to where the female is waiting for his arrival. Once he finds her they mate and then the females finds leaves of host plants on which to deposit her eggs. She can place 200-400 eggs on the bottoms of these leaves. After that, she has done her duty, and she dies.

Tricky Larvae!:

What would you do if hundreds of predators were out to get you? Well, these little caterpillars are not without a few tricks up their sleeves. One strategy is their coloration. They are camouflaged to match their surroundings. If that does not work, they also can bang their mandibles (chewing mouthparts) together to make a noise loud enough to be heard by man. This clicking sound makes the predators pause long enough for their next trick. When a predator is about to take a mouthful of their body the larvae squeeze out some of the noxious stomach content which smells terrible and is very distasteful! This is like when someone is sick and barfs up the last meal they ate. It is not a pretty sight! This usually deters the animals seeking to eat them. If they do become a meal there are a lot more larvae than the predators can ever find. In this way there will be more Luna Moths in the future.

That About Wraps Things Up:

When the larvae reach the desired size they search for some dry leaves. They crawl inside and start to spin a tiny silk web. Just before they bind up the leaves to form their hiding place they emit any unnecessary food still left in their stomachs. This reduces their size do they can fit comfortably into the skin of the pupa for the next stage of their life. While inside the cocoon they undergo a marvelous transformation to become winged adults.

How Are We Going To Get Out of This One!

When it comes time for the adults to emerge from the cocoon they have to have a way to get out! Imagine if you were tied up in a whole lot of rope. It would be hard to escape. Well, these little creatures have been given special abilities to free themselves. One of these is tiny sharp spurs of chitin. This substance is like the stuff your fingernails are made of. These tiny knife-like structures allow the creatures to cut a circular ring that weakens the outside of the cocoon. They also have a special dissolving agent (like acid) that acts on the proteins in the silk to weaken its strength. After employing these two tactics the adults emerge from their bindings. When they first come out they are a gnarly sight, all wrinkled up and shriveled looking. They then start to pump fluid into their wings and they swell up and start to dry out hardening them for flight. The whole process is an amazing plan designed by our amazing Creator, God.

Ladies First?….Not!

One interesting thing about the timing of the emergence of these insects is that the males seem to come out well in advance of the females. This way they are already scattered around waiting for the ladies to arrive on the scene. As soon as the females start giving off their perfumes they are ready to find them. The window for mating is very short since neither the males or females have long to live after coming out of their cocoons.

Feathered Antennae: A Moth Characteristic:

If you look closely at the pictures in this blog you can find the antennae. Notice that they are much different than the long smooth antennae of butterflies. Moth antennas resemble feathers. This are designed as very sensitive sense organs to find their mates. The males have much larger antennae than the females. This is probably because they need them to detect the pheromones of the females.

Actius luna is the Scientific name of these insects.

These Creatures Point to Their Creator:

As you have seen in this post, these creatures are equipped with so many things necessary for survival. They are beautiful in design and suggest a marvelous Creator. If you have ever looked at a beautiful painting you probably wished you could have met the artist that created the piece. It was apparent that to make such a beautiful picture required a great deal of imagination and skill. As I look at the creatures I discover around me I can’t but notice these creatures could not have come to life without an intelligent powerful Creator who designed each with care and purpose. I hope you can see this evidence as well. He has not only left evidence in the things He created, He also has given us His Word, the Bible where we can learn more about His purpose for all things. He designed you with a purpose as well.

Cope’s Gray Treefrogs, The Original Tree-Huggers:

Mostly Hidden Wonders:

It was a real treat to find this little frog yesterday when I was weeding and trimming brush around my house in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Though these frogs are usually unseen they are often heard when making their mating calls usually in May and June of the year here in the Eastern part of the United States. Their call is a high pitched trill and can be heard from a great distance. (If you want to hear what they sound like you can find several examples on Google) .

Amazing Winter Survivalists:

Though we live in the south eastern portion, they are found even farther north on this side of the U.S. They can even survive the cold winter months using an amazing survival strategy. When God created these little amphibians He provided them with the chemical glycerol in their blood. Glycerol is like a biological antifreeze. When the cold winter months arrive the frogs go into a state of hibernation. Up to 80% of their little bodies can freeze up and their heart rate and breathing decrease to a minimal state. The glycerol allows them to survive by keeping their organs and membrane from breaking up. As soon as the temperatures rise to safe levels they thaw out and become active again.

Usually Live Alone:

These little frogs spend the majority of their lives in solitude. They only come together during the mating season. So where would you usually find them if you were to go out looking for them? Well, they don’t call them treefrogs for nothing! They are excellent climbers and have specialized toe pads which allow them to adhere to the bark of trees. Their moist bodies also help in keeping them in contact with the branches and trunks of the trees where they make their homes. Scientists use the term “arboreal” to describe creatures that live in trees.

Important Part of the Ecosystem:

Believe it or not there are a lot of food items up in the trees. They feed on flies and mosquitos and other small insects. The adults have a different diet than the young. In the early stages of metamorphosis the tadpoles/pollywogs are vegetarians feeding on algae and decaying plant material. After they shed their tails and emerge on land they subsist on a diet of smaller creatures like insects, worms, spiders, etc. These frogs are in turn eaten by many other creatures like birds, small mammals, larger frogs and salamanders, snakes and even giant water bugs.

Defensive Strategies:

Though they have many enemies, they also are equipped with some very effective defense mechanisms. One of these is their ability to change color and skin patterns to adapt to various surroundings. Though most often found in gray tones, they can also turn green and various shades of these colors. The one I found was a perfect match to the lichen growing on the wooden fence post. They can make this color change fairly quickly and even vary from dark to lighter shades depending on the surrounding temperatures. Warning! If you ever find one and decide to handle it, keep your hands away from your eyes and nose! They emit a toxic slimy substance from glands in their skin. It can cause a lot of discomfort if it gets in eyes or the mucus linings of your nose. It can also cause skin irritation in some individuals. It’s best to just observe them and not handle them in the wild.

If You Want to Win You Better Sing a Good Song!

When the mating season comes with the spring rainfall the males begin singing their songs trying to draw in a mate. He better sing a good strong song or he will be avoided by the picky females. They only go for the best performers.

Once a female is attracted the male grabs her and she lays her mass of jellylike eggs. (The female can lay a cluster if eggs from 100 to 200 in number in a single clutch.) The male then fertilizes the eggs and returns to his tree top existence. Shortly thereafter the little tadpoles emerge and begin feeding in the water. After a couple weeks they gain their front legs and drop their tails and crawl out onto the land to continue their life cycle.

Notice the Warty Surface of the Skin.

In the above picture you can see the texture of their skin. Like other amphibians their skin must remain moist so they can absorb air through their skin. They have receptors in their skin that can let them know about their surroundings. They are very sensitive to vibrations as well. Like other frogs they can hop away if danger approaches or crawl into crevices or under bark and into moss and lichen to hide.

Every Creature Has Its Place and Purpose:

When exploring your surroundings looking for creatures to study and watch their interesting behaviors, take time to consider the evidence of design. When God created the world and everything in it He had a reason and purpose for every thing He made. Each creature was given the built in features it would need to adjust to changes in its environment. Those creatures that would be food for others were designed to reproduce in greater numbers so that there would be enough food for the predators and enough survivors to carry on the species. You will find an incredible interdependent relationship between all creatures, great and small. The balance between how one organism affects the others can easily be knocked out of balance if we, God’s caretakers of His creation, don’t do our part in preserving the environment around us.

Do You Know Your Purpose?:

If you have never taken time to consider this important life question, it would be important to consider it now. According to God’s Word, the Bible, we were created to glorify God and enjoy His creation forever.

Colossians 1: 16 “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and earth, visible and invisible…..all things were created through Him and for Him.”

Hebrews 11: 1 and 6:

” Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…..And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

God has given us so much evidence of His existence in creation. The closer we look the more we see. He also gave us His Word, the Bible with the recorded history of the world and the prophecies of the future. So many of the prophecies recorded there have already come true and there is so much more to come. Be sure you don’t miss the opportunity to personally have a relationship with your Creator.

Cave Salamanders: Creatures of the Night

Have You Seen Me?

This morning I discovered this little salamander when I went to move the trash can down to be picked up on garbage day. When I rolled the can away I saw the bright orange color and stopped to take a closer look. We had a good rainfall the night before after several days with little moisture. Since I am not familiar with the salamanders of the south eastern states I had to do some research and sought advice on its identity from some herpetologists friends. They believe it is Eurycea lucifuga, the Cave Salamander, AKA: Spotted-tailed Salamander. It’s interesting to know that these two common names are often used to describe other species of salamanders as well. This is why scientists use the universal Latin names of the creatures they identify.

What’s In A Name?

Interestingly the scientific name of this creature reveals a lot about its behavior. Its Latin scientific name is Eurycea lucifuga. The species name “lucifuga” comes from two Latin words: Lucis= light, fuga= flee. In other words these creatures flee from the light. They are nocturnal and will crawl under objects to avoid the light.

Rarely Seen Unless You Go Underground:

I was very fortunate to encounter this interesting creature since they are usually underground in cave systems or outside them only at night. Some spend their whole lives underground moving around in the caves where they live. Others live outside in moist environments where they usually are hiding under rocks and logs and in crevices of outcropping of limestone. Where we live there are several underground Spring systems within the rocky underground. In talking with others who have seen them in our area it was usually after the Spring rains when they were moving rocks or boards on the ground. I find it interesting that there are several creatures we rarely see since they are nocturnal and come out at night. I wonder how many other creatures live in my neighborhood that I have never seen? Think about the advantages of having some creatures active at night while others rule the day. By having this arrangement many creatures can live in the same area sharing the same environment.

Faster Than You Think:

One thing that surprised me about these little guys was the speed at which they can crawl away. When I went to capture this salamander for a closer look it took off in its attempt to get away. While doing research I learned that they have other defensive strategies as well.

Lift That Tail!:

When threatened these salamanders often raise their tails diverting predators line of site. They intentional draw attention away from their heads which is where the majority of attacks come from their enemies. Some of these include birds, small mammals, snakes, lizards, and fish. If this tail – lifting does not work, their enemies may be likely to release their prey once they get a mouthful of noxious fluid secreted from glands in the skin of the salamanders. God has equipped these creatures well for their survival.

Unique Navigation Design:

Think of how hard it would be to move around in an underground cave with little or no light. How do they do it? Scientists have discovered that these creatures actually use the Earth’s magnetic field as a compass to navigate around the caves where they live. Some actually move to different places in the caves according to the changing seasons of the year. They also have ways of finding their mates using chemical pheromones. Pheromones are like perfume released into the air to attract their mates. Each salamander is equipped with organs called Jacobson’s organs. These are very sensitive to even microscopic particles of these substances.

It’s Time To Rub Noses:

One strange behavior witnessed during the mating season of these amphibians is when they first make contact with their potential mates. After the male rubs his nose against the female new pheromones are released which stimulate the mating process to begin. After mating they go the separate ways. The female will eventually return to the underground streams where she will lay her eggs on the bottom of the stream bed. Sometimes the eggs are laid singly and other times in small clusters. Scientists still have a lot to learn about their life stories.

Metamorphosis:

As you have probably learned in your science classes, the amphibians are the only vertebrate animals that undergo metamorphosis, the changes in form from birth to adulthood. Like frogs, salamanders also go through change. The newly hatched young have gills and often are completely different in color and shape from the adults. In this stage of their lives they feed on microscopic crustaceans and insect larvae, especially the larvae of flies and mosquitos and other Diptera species. Just think how many more annoying mosquito bites we would face if these little guys were not on duty! After anywhere from 6 to 18 months the young change into their adult stage. Being larger and able to move around out of the water allows the salamanders to widen their diets. As adults they eat arachnids like spiders, ticks, and mites. They also chow down on many kinds of insects and crustaceans. They also like worms.

Beneficial Indicator Species:

If you find frogs and salamanders in the areas where you live it is a good sign of the water quality. Since amphibians have moist skin they absorb what ever chemicals are in the water. If you start seeing fewer amphibians you should take notice. This may be an indicator of potentially harmful substances like pesticides and toxic chemical waste substances in our streams, lakes and rivers. It is important for all of us to be careful in disposing of wastes so they do not end up in our water supply. Many laws have been established to prevent this from happening, but each one of us is a steward of the environment in which we live. As a Christian who believes God created the world in which we live, I take the Biblical dominion mandate to heart. God created man as the caretaker of His creation and made us responsible for how we take care for what He has given us. It’s a big responsibility in which the small things we do each day can insure the continuance of the beautiful world in which we live.

Think of the Bigger Picture:

As you explore your surroundings keep an eye out for things you have never noticed before. There are so many wonderful creatures in God’s creation. As you see new things, think of the bigger picture. Someone had to design each creature for where it would fit into the scheme of things. Each has a purpose that affects all the others. Just like God has a purpose for the salamander He has a bigger purpose for your life. Take a little time to consider what the Bible reveals about this plan. It will make your life more meaningful as well as open the door to everlasting life with the One who crested you.

Spike Form Construction

Explore the possibilities of using the origami fish base in new ways to create unusual origami sculptures:

I created this ten-pointed star using one of the four-sided double-pointed units.

To create the base form you need to follow the following folding procedure:

On the left side of the picture above you can see the four-sided double-pointed units. It takes four pieces of paper to form each spike, and takes 30 pieces of paper to create the ten-pointed star. Remember that a little glue goes a long way. Don’t use too much or it will take too long for the glue to set.

Here is another building base: the bird beak base.

To make this base you take two of the forms you made in the last project and glue them together into the bird beak shape. You can then combine them in many ways to create interesting spike forms like the one below. I will show it from many angles.

Glue them together to create interesting forms.

Here is another flower sculpture using the same units.

Combine seven of the above units to create a 3-D Star:

Below are a couple flower designs. You can interchange the bottom pieces to get different color combos.

What Can You Create Using These Forms?

Have you ever noticed that everything around you is made up of structural design units. These go clear down to the atomic level. The atoms combined allow for tremendous variation but sound structural integrity. The atoms then can be used to create compounds and more. Just like it takes thought to create origami construction units it took a Great Creator to design all of creation. If you look at living things you will also see evidence of a common Designer. Even though we see common parts like eyes, ears, legs, etc. we see a lot of variation in the ways these organs are combined. I’m glad that God chose to make many different kinds of animals, trees, fungi, Protists, and bacteria. All of these were created with a Devine purpose. It seems like the closer you look the more marvelous and complex the designs, clearly evidence of an awesome God.

As you explore creating new forms using these bases, take some time to consider God’s amazing design in your own body. He created you with a purpose and He wants you to be a reflection of His marvelous plan for the ages.

Psalm 139:14 and 17

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” …..”How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

If you take a few minutes to look up and read the rest of this Psalm of David, you can learn even more about God’s amazing creation of each individual and His bigger purpose for each life.

Show Me What You Can Do:

If you try using these origami building units, send me a picture to show me what you have created. I wonder just how many interesting things can be created by combining these units.

The two pictures above are a complete Wheel of the bird beak units that form a spike star.

By varying the color of the paper pieces you can create some amazing patterns like the following:

You can also create free-form sculpture like the following. I call this one “Fire”.

Below you can see four different star designs I have created using these same base units.