Showing posts from July, 2012

Recap: Midwest Native Plants Conference 2012

This weekend was a complete rush for me. Finally, after an entire year of waiting, it was time to attend the 2012 Midwest Native Plants Conference. This conference brings together gardeners, naturalists, and scientists from all walks of life for three days to learn about the ecology of native plants and their effects on other wildlife, such as birds and insects. It's a magical time, full of interesting people and lots of knowledge jam packed into the Bergamo Center outside of Dayton, Ohio.

This year's speakers included: Cheryl Harner, who spoke about native plants as habitat; Ian Adams, who wowed us with beautiful pictures of dragonflies and damselflies; Marielle Anzelone, who taught us that there's a lot of botany to find in New York City, and the keynote speaker, David Wagner, the man who literally wrote the book on caterpillars. Not one session went by without multiple gasps of excitement from the crowd--these were top notch speakers. This isn't even mentioning the m…

What happens when you combine a butterfly and a dragonfly?

You end up with an adult antlion! Antlions are best known by their larvae, which are also called doodlebugs. They're normally noticed by the traps they set for other small insects, which appear as small cones in sandy areas. At the bottom of the cone lies the antlion, waiting for an unlucky ant to venture too close to the rim before falling to its death at the huge jaws of the antlion. There's no alternative: the sides of the cone are too slippery. The helpless ant will continue to slide down closer and closer to the antlion, before it's finally caught and sucked dry.

Since the larvae are often covered in sand,  you could be forgiven for not recognizing adult antlions upon encountering one. Their jaws aren't nearly as prominent, and puberty manifested some other huge changes.

A far cry from its doodlebug roots.
Being a member of the order Neuroptera (the lacewings), they gain beautiful wings as adults, easily as marvelous as any dragonfly. They're cooler even! When wa…

Science Video Friday - Ohio's Biggest Salamander

Ohio has its fair share of amphibians, but none as unique as the hellbender. This huge salamander is as big as you're going to find in the US, with some individuals reaching lengths of almost 2.5 feet. Usually though, they will grow to a little over a foot long. This species has a beautiful scientific name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis. The genus name hints at its nifty way of breathing, meaning "hidden gill." While the hellbender has lungs, it can also absorb oxygen through folds in its skin, which look like wrinkles along its body.

Unfortunately, the hellbender is endangered throughout its range, causing concern for the species' survival. Scientists are working to reintroduce the hellbender to streams which it used to live in, and the first reintroduction of hellbenders occurred last month. It's hoped that these efforts will restore the hellbender to some of its former range and be the start of viable populations.

For more information about this release, the ODNR

Shiny Green Beetles Galore!

Ohio got pounded by the derecho two Fridays ago. I myself lost power, and the heat was terrible. But there was something good that came out of it!

June Beetles. June Beetles EVERYWHERE.
As I learned the next morning, Green June Beetles (Cotinis nitida) apparently like to emerge from the ground after a sustained rain, and boy did they come out! I saw at least a dozen in a small area, flying around a patch of clover and a fallen pine tree branch. 
The females that were around had to deal with many males vying for some action. For the good of the species, of course.
With all these beetles flying around, it was a miniature treasure hunt for me. I caught a few to keep under observation, and one to pin for my collection. It had been a few years since I had found any living June beetles, and they're so pretty, so I was fascinated. These guys are like tiny helicopters whizzing around in the air when they take flight. When I first saw them, I was a few meters a…