Showing posts from June, 2012

Science Video Friday - Wasp Divebombers

Parasitoidism was one of the first really neat events I learned about early on in my Entomology studies that got me hooked on insects. It's the process by which an insect (such as a wasp or a fly) lays an egg on or in another organism. That egg then hatches, the larvae feast on the innards of the poor host, and then burst out of its body, killing it. The end result can be gruesome, but today's Science Video Friday showcases the (relatively) peaceful start of the process: when the parasitoid lays its egg in the victim.

Mysterious Oozing Mycelium

That title sounds delicious, doesn't it? To clear up the confusion, I'll go ahead and post the picture now.

This is the reason I searched for "oozing mycelium" on Google. I never fathomed that I would search those words.
I chose a nice, sunny day last summer to go for a walk in some woods near my house (thus getting me out of the Sun while still being able to claim I spent some time outside) and found some neat stuff. The most perplexing thing I found turned out to be this fungus. The white parts you see are the mycelia of the fungus--masses of fungal roots, essentially. They spread over the substrate, and the fungus takes up nutrients through them. The substrate here is decaying wood.

As for the red droplets on the fungus, I'm sort of at a loss. The closest species I've found is Hydnellum peckii, also known as the bleeding tooth fungus. The droplets of red liquid are there, sure, but that's it. I can't find any images of what the mycelia of H. peckii lo…

Science Video Friday - An inside tour of E.O. Wilson's office

E.O. Wilson is one of my heroes, so he makes it into Science Video Friday once again! Here he takes us on a tour of his office and talks a bit about ants (of course) and his inspiration.

Adventures in Science Communication: the Middle School Crowd

Way back in February, I had the opportunity to give a presentation about insects to a local middle school. I have a friend who was student teaching there for the semester, so she knew they had a science club for the kids on Fridays. Well, the teachers were interested in getting someone passionate to talk to the students about science...

...guess who they called.

I had two weeks to prepare and wasn't quite yet besieged by schoolwork, so I started outlining what I wanted to talk about and reached out to others on Twitter for advice. I follow some pretty erudite people on Twitter, so their comments were of course integrated into my plans.

I wanted to bring stuff that they could hold, as well as stuff for them to take home. I ended up bringing both live specimens (a hissing cockroach and a few species of millipedes) and dead specimens (local butterflies, a drawer of assorted beetles and other insects from the college collection), as well as many pictures. I wanted to focus my presentatio…

The Glowing Eggs of Semionellus placidus

When I need to talk to someone about a facet of Entomology that blows my mind, I've taken to mentioning millipedes. I've been keeping millipedes as a labor of love over the past year, which is something that has taught me a lot. Probably the coolest thing I've learned about is some species' propensity to fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

I've chronicled my previous experiences with a millipede species that fluoresces under ultraviolet light previously here and here, so if you want a primer about Semionellus placidus, check out those posts. I've established that this species fluoresces under UV light quite nicely, and I've found it in the field from spring until fall. It also appears to be quite abundant (in southeastern Ohio, at least) and lights up the leaf litter whenever I'm looking for it.

UV fluorescence in arthropods isn't anything new: it's been reported most notably in scorpions, many insects, and some other millipede species. A few month…

Science Video Friday (on Saturday!) - Photuris flashing

I recently ordered a new camera (a Canon Powershot SX150 IS) after my old camera (a Canon Powershot A560) went kaput, and it arrived a couple of days ago. Since then, I've been testing it out and getting used to it. I've gotten a few good shots, but I still have a long way to go before I'm comfortable with it. I have to say though, it's a huge step up from my old camera, which isn't surprising considering I had been using the A560 for about six years.

I decided to test out the video function last night and was impressed with the results. It shoots in HD, so I can actually get some quality video out of it. The subject I turned to was a firefly in the genus Photuris that seemed to be on its way out the door. I grabbed my hand lens and recorded a short video of it flashing, which you can watch below. It was interesting to watch up close, which I had never done before.

Fireflies produce light via a biochemical reaction utilizing luciferin, luciferase, ATP, oxygen, and ma…