October 2004


This species is very common. It eats the leaves of wild plants such as gourds (uri), but also attacks commercial crops (e.g. soybeans and carnations).

Aulacophora nigripennisAulacophora nigripennisAulacophora nigripennisAulacophora nigripennisAulacophora nigripennis

Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles)
Aulacophora nigripennis = kuro-uri-hamushi

It’s a pity that this beautiful Japanese pit viper (mamushi) had been run over. It was on the path next to the road and it looked like a bicycle tyre had clipped its head. Luckily the snake was in a reasonable enough condition to be able to take some photos.

These are venomous snakes but you would have to be extremely unlucky to get bitten, since they are reclusive and slow-moving. They look worse than they are in reality and, according to the article on Wikipedia (here) of the around 3,000 people bitten each year, only ten die. Apparently, although the venom is quite strong, it’s very difficult for the snake to bite a human in a way that it can inject a large dose. I guess the only people who die are those people who try to pick them up to take photos (like me perhaps!!).

Gloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffiiGloydius blomhoffii

Reptilia: Squamata: Viperidae (kusarihebi)
Gloydius blomhoffii blomhoffii (nihonmamushi) = Japanese pit viper
[Note: formerly Agkistrodon blomhoffii blomhoffii]

Chlaenius micansChlaenius micans

Coleoptera: Carabidae
Chlaenius micans = oo-atoboshi-ao-gomimushi

Galerita orientalisGalerita orientalis

Coleoptera: Carabidae
Galerita orientalis
= kubi-boso-gomimushi

Location: Tagawa

This tree is about 800 meters from our home and I recently found out that it is the biggest camphor tree in the Munakata area. It’s nice to have a giant in our neighborhood! Apparently it is around 27m tall, has a girth of more than 8m, and is 800-1,000 years old. It even has its own small shrine at the base.

camphorcamphor

Camphor tree = kusu-no-ki
Cinnamomum camphora

I’ve found several of these burrowing cockroaches in the past couple of weeks. They live in the forest and seem to especially like woodpiles. My daughter, Aya, and I both enjoyed holding and playing with the big black roaches, much to Shinobu’s horror! It’s easy (for us) to see why some people keep them as pets. Aya was quite sad when we had to release the one she was holding. You can watch a video of her playing with the roach (but the video file is 6MB I’m afraid).

Insecta: Pterygota: Blattodea
Burrowing cockroach: oogokiburi: Panesthia angustipennis spadica

burrowing cockroachburrowing cockroachburrowing cockroach on Aya's handburrowing cockroach

VIDEO (6MB): Aya playing with burrowing cockroach

BBC article on pet cockroaches

It’s much better to encounter these huge centipedes (mukade) outdoors than inside the house! They are amazing creatures and I love watching the way their legs move in waves, but inside the house there is always the fear that I’m going to make a mistake when trying to catch one and it’s going to find somewhere to hide, then come out at night… The bite of these things is supposed to be horrendous.

This one was a reasonable size at 12cm long, but I’ve seen much bigger ones. I like the photo of it turning, showing the underside of its head with the huge poison claws (= modified front legs). Also, although (or because) it’s blurred, I like the photo of the centipede in motion – they do move pretty fast!

Scolopendra subspinipesScolopendra subspinipesScolopendra subspinipesScolopendra subspinipesScolopendra subspinipesScolopendra subspinipes

Large centipede = tobi-mukade
Phylum: Arthropoda; Subphylum: Myriapoda; Class: Chilopoda
Scolopendra subspinipes

This was one brave (or immensely stupid) fly! It just flew in and rested on the praying mantid’s wicked-looking foreleg. Well, I guess it was probably too small to even be noticed by the mantis, so it probably wasn’t ever in any danger. Not this time anyway.

Tenodera angustipennisTenodera angustipennis

Class: Insecta; Order: Mantodea; Family: Mantidae
chousen-kamakiri = Japanese Mantis
Tenodera angustipennis

We have so many lizards in our garden and we all enjoy watching them basking in the sun or stalking insects and spiders. It takes patience to sneak up on the adults to take photos but they are very photogenic creatures. We also occasionally find their eggs in a patch of ferns in the corner of the garden. The young lizards are tiny and look so cute and vulnerable as they crawl through the grass (although “cute” and “vulnerable” are probably not apt to describe their appearance from an ant’s perspective!!)

Takydromus tachydromoidesTakydromus tachydromoidesTakydromus tachydromoidesTakydromus tachydromoides

Reptilia: Squamata (scaled reptiles): Lacertilia (lizards): Lacertidae (wall lizards)
Japanese Grass Lizard: Takydromus tachydromoides (nihon kanahebi)

Smokey brown cockroaches (kurogokiburi) are said to prefer living outdoors, but we sometimes get them in our house. They are scavengers and will eat almost anything but normally feed on plant material. Fast moving and quite large (3cm) with spiky legs, they terrify many people, who claim that they are incredibly dirty and dangerous. Of course they may carry some germs, but these creatures are no dirtier than many other things around us, such as the pet dog that you allow to lick your hand (or face!) after he’s licked his backside! The fear of cockroaches is really quite irrational, since they cannot hurt us by stinging or biting, and we can always wash our hands after picking one up.

By the way, there are around 50 species of cockroach in Japan (but only 6 species are very common).

Good website on cockroaches: http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/cockroach.html

Periplaneta fuliginosaPeriplaneta fuliginosaPeriplaneta fuliginosaPeriplaneta fuliginosa

Insecta: Pterygota: Blattodea: Periplaneta fuliginosa (kurogokiburi)