Showing posts from November, 2011

A Native Ladybug AND Ant-mimic?! No way!

It's not all that often when I find a ladybug (or to be more correct, lady beetle, since it's in the order Coleoptera and not Hemiptera) that isn't the invasive multicolored Asian lady beetle. So when I do, I get pretty excited. I get pretty disappointed when I see invasive organisms dominating the landscape, but when some interesting natives that I've never encountered before pop up, I'm apt to jump up and down in joy (ask anyone who's been out in the field with me).

Last month on a botany trip around campus, our group stopped to examine a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). My attention quickly wandered away from me and I found myself examining the other plants around the black locust, leading me to find some arthropods (woohoo!). One looked like an ant, but my previous experience during the summer taught me not to be too certain, so I caught it and pulled out my hand lens to take a closer look.

Not an ant, but rather an ant-mimic! This is actually a …

Hackberry: The Teenage Years

I was going through some of my photos from this past summer (preparing to organize and identify them), when I came across a picture of a tree with some very interesting bark.

I had a vague feeling of recognition when I took this picture, but I couldn't quite pin it down. After being a teaching assistant for a botany class this semester, however, I remembered what it was the second time around: American hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).

What's the easiest way to remember this tree? Definitely the bark: it's gnarled and warty, with furrows. As the tree gets older, it gets more warty and just a tad bit smoother. It hasn't reached this stage yet, so I would call this tree a teenager. 

The leaves are serrate (they have little teeth on the edges), and are alternatively arranged on the stem.

American hackberry is found in the West and Midwest, and is relatively common in Ohio. When its leaves fall off in the autumn, you can sometimes find galls on the leaves caused by a Psyllid i…

Chronicles of Ignorance: Wheel Bug Edition

Regular readers should know by now: I freaking love wheel bugs.
Click that picture to enlarge it, sit back, and really look at it for a while. There's no way you'll ever convince me that's not one of the most beautiful creatures in the world.
So when I catch wind of the wheel bug being talked about in a negative light, I try to set the record straight. Unfortunately, this time, I could not set the record straight. This link will take you to the website for a local news station serving Pittsburgh, WTAE. The video on the page talks about the wheel bug and how one resident discovered one in her yard and was a little frightened. 
Rather than trying to dissuade her of her fears, however, the news team proceeds to FLIP OUT. In what can only be described as an egregious example of shoddy journalism dipped in a vat of ignorance, the video goes on a two minute rampage warning about the dangers of the wheel bug and showing pictures of it to random people on the street, delighting in th…