Showing posts from 2010

An Introduction to Treehoppers

Treehoppers are marvelous little creatures from the family Membracidae. They're in the same suborder as the cicadas (Auchenorrhyncha), and were formerly classified in the order Homoptera. Treehoppers can be pretty tiny, only millimeters in length. The one in the picture below has a dime for scale. They're quite interesting creatures, and can vary a lot in their shape, often sporting horns and structures that allow for nice mimicry. 
Entylia carinata, a common species in Ohio
This particular species, Entylia carinata, formerly had the species name of bactriana, after the Bactrian camel, which has two humps. The similarities are striking.

The moniker carinata means shell-shaped.
Fun fact: the guy on the left is the man who named the species as carinata, Johann Reinhold Forster. Painting by John Francis Rigaud, 1780. Image credit to Wikipedia.
Notice how its body is shaped to mimic a leaf, right down to the notch near its head.

For some more information about treehoppers, check out t…

It's Hard to be a Hornworm

In Ohio, there's a delightfully gregarious caterpillar known as Manduca sexta, or the tobacco hornworm. It's placed within the Sphingidae family, which is composed of the hawk moths. Take a look at the Wikipedia page for the hawk moths: they're all spectacular. Some of the adult moths resemble birds or bees, they're just amazing. To get back on topic, the tobacco hornworm feeds on tobacco (obviously), as well as other plants within the family Solanaceae, which includes tomatoes. This makes them pests to gardeners, which is pretty unfair. Tobacco hornworms develop into some beautiful moths and are quite large, so they're truly a sight to see once they reach maturity. Luckily for me, they also feed on Datura wrightii, a plant within the same family as tobacco and tomato, which grows near my house.

I had the fortune of finding a few of the caterpillars on the Datura plant, so I plucked them along with some leaves and placed them in a container in my room. They were st…

Capstone Shenanigans

Back at the start of November, I had the pleasure of accompanying my good friends Ryan and Will to the site of Ryan's capstone project in Lowell. He was looking at a layer of rocks in an outcrop there, and had invited me to come along since he had seen a lot of insects buzzing around during his earlier trips to the outcrop. That was pretty much all the information I needed, so I tagged along to see what all was there, as well as to make sure that Ryan didn't die in a rock slide.

Since it was early November by the time we made it out to the outcrop all together, it was a bit chilly and there weren't a huge amount of insects like there had been in September. Not to say there wasn't still a lot of neat things to see, I just didn't end up finding any huge grasshoppers. The first things I came upon were bagworm cases on some branches. Bagworms are in the family Psychidae, and the larvae build cases out of whatever detritus they find around them. It's all held togeth…