Sunday, March 31, 2013

Name that Toad!

Hey ya'll!

So the gardener came over earlier today and found what I suspect might be mum's "mystery toad". We're still at a bit of an impasse as to what we should name it and have narrowed it down to

Puggle (Ray's suggestion)
Big Momma (Mum's suggestion)
Yo Momma (My suggestion)

Please cast your vote in the comment box below.

Latest update: We have released Puggle back into the garden as of yesterday night! I daresay he enjoyed his time while he was here but a wild toad should always be allowed to do what a wild toad does best! Hop about to its heart's content! I will always be leaving out a dish of worms for him every night though! Perhaps one day I shall see him again. (4/3/2013)


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Visit to Happy Bee Farm

Hey ya'll

I hope everyone is doing well! This update is perhaps coming a little late but it is really the first time since the middle of this month that I've had time to compose anything so here goes! Two weeks ago, for my 24th birthday, Ray and I decided to do something different and took a drive up to Gohtong Jaya (which is the halfway point to Genting Highlands. There, we decided to visit the newly opened Insect Zoo, also known as the Happy Bee Farm. The farm itself is perhaps more of a roadside attraction than an actual insect exhibit but though it was small, the trip was rather interesting in its own way! Upon purchasing our tickets at the farm's entrance (I can't quite remember how much we paid to go in) we were assigned a guide who showed us around the farm and explained the exhibits. Although quite taken aback by this arrangement at first (most insect farms do not assign such tour guides to their visitors) I grew to be quite grateful of it as the guide's help and introduction to certain exhibits were invaluable. He showed us, for example, the various equipment associated with bee-keeping from the basic smoke guns, to the more complex structure of Queen barriers (intricate barriers made out of wood that are placed between specific cells in the hive to prevent the Queen from initiating swarming behavior). It was all rather interesting and sincerely made me consider a career in apiary if the whole PhD thing doesn't work out! We were also able to visit the stingless bee hives and sample the honey fresh from the individual cells! 

The farm's European Honeybee colony (Apis melifera)
Contrary to my expectations, the farm did not have an aviary-style butterfly enclosure, but to make up for that they certain possessed a wide variety of other insects! The best part about having the guide came during this part of the tour as we were able to interact and hold some of the insects!!! There was a small cage filled with chrysalids (I counted several common papilio species such as polytes and demoleus, euploea sp., and hypolimnas bolina) as part of the exhibit and we were also able to assist with the releasing of the already emerged butterflies!  

It was IMPOSSIBLE not to fall in love with this Elephant beetle (megasoma elephas)
The farm also boasts, typical to most insect farms of such a nature, an insect "museum" featuring specimens of butterflies and beetles from all over the world. 

The best part of the entire trip, perhaps, was when we got to visit the backroom! Here they showed us all the insects they were presently breeding and specimens that were being spread and dried! They were even willing to sell us a few for the right price! Unfortunately, due to my current lack of funds and indecision, we ended up buying nothing! A few papered swallowtails caught my eye but the price was not right and they only had males besides. The farm also possesses a souvenir store where you might purchase ready-framed butterflies, insects, toys, and a myriad of honey based products.

In summation, I would say that the Happy Bee Farm is worth a visit if you are the kind of person who is into insects, creepy crawlies, and other such creatures! Though it did not boast a grand operation on the scale of what one might find at the butterfly park in Kuala Lumpur, or up in Cameron Highlands, perhaps, the friendliness of the staff and the experience of getting up close and personal with some of these insects (and not just from behind the glass box) truly made up for everything! In fact, I think I will be paying them a visit again sometime soon to maybe buy some of those papered butterflies, beetle larvae, or mantis eggs after all!!!

for more info you can visit their Facebook Page.


Geckos and Toads.

Hey ya'll 

It's been awhile since I last checked back here! Work has been pilling up and so have the butterflies on the spreading board. Unfortunately, until I can find the perfect shadow box to display them in (I'm looking for something large, that will accommodate all of Khalid's donations, and some of my own besides) they will just have to wait. Last week one of the specimens fell apart though, a beautiful arhopala sp. that had striking purple colored wings. As you can imagine I was simply crushed! Perhaps as crushed as the disintegrated body of a beautiful butterfly gone to waste! Such is the problem when spreading specimens dating several years back! You never know what sort of pests (psocids in this case!) have gotten to them! Oh well, Khalid assures me that he has more spares and maybe the next time I go visit he will be kind enough to donate another one (fingers crossed!) 

In the meantime, I've been getting my amphibian love on! I received, for my birthday, a pair of very beautiful Oriental Fire-Belly toads (bombina orientalis)! The toads, which are really a kind of frog, are green and black on the top and striking red, orange, yellow and black on the bottom! their markings, in fact, are very reminiscent of the markings of Japanese firebelly newts and Paddletail newts but I assure you the species are in no way related. As you might imagine, the brilliant coloring of the toad's underbellies signal to predators that the toad are poisonous, and when attacked, the toads can secrete a milky poison from their legs. When threatened, they have a very interesting behavior of flipping on to their backs to display their brightly colored bellies! They seem to be saying "eat me, and you just might croak!"  (ps. I do NOT lick them! They're NOT that kind of toad!) I initially started out with two toads, but have since gone and gotten a third. Their names are Kermit, Redtumbles, and Greentumbles (you can "credit" Ray for the last two names!) and although they are all male, seem to thoroughly enjoy mounting each other on a fairly regular basis! Kermit would often object to such an intrusion of his privacy with bark-like croaks but have since been fairly compliant. 

The boys

Planted terrarium with a makeshift "pond" that is their current habitat. More plants have been added since taking this photo. 
Aside from the toads we also have one relatively new addition to our family. Another leopard gecko, that was ALSO presented to me on my birthday! She came to us rather small and dull in color (I suspect it might have been the shock of being boxed...) but have since blossomed and grown in leaps and bounds! She's not as friendly as our previous gecko, Evil Keneevil, but she has a certain charm that is unique in her own way. We have named her Penelope Petite (credits also go to Ray). 

With all the new animals joining our household, though, I feel it is my duty to remind the average reader that pets do NOT really make good presents! An animal is a living creature with unique wants, needs, and requirements and purchasing one should never, ever, be taken lightly! These pets were gotten for me not on a whim but with the knowledge that I in fact already possessed the necessary equipment, knowledge, and skills to care for them. So please, obtain pets responsibly, and let's all do our best for our animal friends.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Transforming Work into Art

Hey ya'll 

I often get really down and out with myself when I go through a full day's work and have nothing to show for it. Along comes this program called MouseTracker (or MouseTracer, or something like that) which actually RECORDS your mouse movements and turns it into... well, some form of art! The mouse tracker records the activity of your mouse and turns it into images. Straight lines for movement. Black dots for when the mouse is stationary and white dots for the intensity of each click. Now you may think this is quite boring (what kind of "art" can be composed by just lines and dots?) but here it is... 

A physical representation of my workload for the day. 
Pretty nifty huh? Now I get a physical representation of my accomplishments everyday! Remind me to upload the link for you to download the program and try the next time I update. Much love to ya'll.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

PhD, Moths, and General Updates.

Hey ya'll

It's been a while and to skip the formalities of my apologizing profusely for my lack of updates, let's just get to the point now shall we? The month of March has perhaps been one of the most event-filled months in my life (and we're only talking the first week here!). The commencement of my enrolment into the PhD program at Monash University has left me up to my neck with work, and the increasing pressure to immerse myself in the Indigenous communities of Peninsular Malaysia (out of self interest but also as a principal component of my research) has meant that I have been driving up and down the peninsular (Literally!) to attend events, festivals, or just (as some anthropologists would say) "scope out the possible sites".  While it is always good to keep busy, and it is a very amazing and humbling experience to interact with some very empowered members of these communities, I really do wish I would be able to take a break every once in awhile.

However, not all is exactly unwell. In fact, you could say something very exciting has happened. Our dear friend, Khalid Fadil (you must remember him as I have mentioned him here on more than one occasion) has been very kind in that he has offered us a very generous donation to our butterfly and moth collection. And by generous I do not mean just one or two envelopes with nice things in them (although that would have been more than I would have asked for!), I'm talking about an entire box filled with envelopes of papered specimens that I literally pick out from a box!!! It was like a lepidoptera buffet, and I had an all-you-can-eat pass! Indeed it was more about resisting the temptation to just grab the entire box and go than it was about choosing only the ones I really want and have the skill to spread, besides (I'm afraid an amateur like me will do more damage than justice to the wings of the very small microlepidoptera). As you can imagine I'll have quite a lot to share within the coming weeks. A literal treasure trove!

Khalid's very kind, and very generous donation to my personal collection.