Showing posts from August, 2012

Science Video Friday - Parasitoidism in action

For parasitoidism being as gruesome as it is, the following video is surprisingly cute. I'll attribute that to the soundtrack. It also doesn't hurt that these wasps are parasitizing the eggs of an invasive stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug.

Late Summer Insects: Now showing!

Summer's starting to wind down (despite the temperature still hovering around 90 degrees on a daily basis), and that means new insects are now starting to make their appearances. One of my favorite groups are the assassin bugs, family Reduviidae, and late summer happens to be one of the best times to study them. Ohio's most charismatic species reach adulthood during this time, including the wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) and the jagged ambush bugs (genus Phymata).

The ambush bugs are small, stout assassin bugs in the subfamily Phymatinae. The family contains three genera in North America, and the most commonly-seen ones are in the genus Phymata. The subfamily hasn't received as much study as the rest of the assassin bugs, so your best bet for identification is to check out BugGuide's page. Dan Swanson has done some great work to figure out how to identify the Phymata spp., but it can still be tough.

A jagged ambush bug, Phymata sp., awaiting its next victim on wingstem.

"It looks like an uncooked sausage"

One of my mantras when I go out to look for bugs and other critters is "Turn over that decaying log." You always have a great chance of finding neat stuff when you look through decaying wood, including creatures such as centipedes, millipedes, spiders, slugs, and of course, insects.

Today was no exception.

"O hai!"
After rolling over a particularly good log, I looked into a hole bored into the wood and found what one girl described as "an uncooked sausage" before she backed away to find some prettier biology. Despite its leathery appearance a bird or small mammal would look upon this beetle grub with much more glee. Then it would gobble this sucker down in a heartbeat.
A grub in the hand is worth...two in the log?
Judging by the size of this grub, I'm guessing that it's a grub of the Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus), though I'm not completely sure. I've uploaded it to BugGuide and hope to hear back about it soon. 
While decaying logs ma…

If it looks like a wasp, it's a beetle

The Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in my backyard has been a constant bane of my existence ever since it started to creep in a few years ago, but today it yielded some nice results. When it flowers during the summer, it brings in a lot of pretty bees and wasps, and today I found a wasp-mimic beetle.

The venerable locust borer, Megacyllene robiniae, was busily sticking its head into the knotweed flowers until I disturbed it. I took a few photos, then lifted my camera and realized the beetle was gone. Luckily, I was able to snap this photo of it folding out its wings to escape the paparazzi.
The locust borer is a longhorned beetle in the family Cerambycidae and develops as a larva inside of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), from which it emerges as an adult in the fall. It then nectars on flowers such as goldenrod and searches for a mate. This species takes its Batesian mimicry to the max--even the top of its abdomen, normally covered by its elytra--has the yellow markings that…

Science Video Friday - A Centipede's Song

It's time for a musical Science Video Friday, courtesy of a fan of house centipedes, Scutigera coleoptrata. I was very pleased after I found this video--not only is it about our many-legged friends, but it's very good and catchy. I sometimes find myself singing it from time to time. And some of the photos he features are pretty cute.

Science Video Friday (on Saturday!) - Curiosity ignored the cat, landed on Mars

NASA continues to be the most inspiring arm of government we have in the United States. At the beginning of the week, millions of us followed along on the web as the newest Mars Rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars to begin its study of chemistry and geology on the Martian surface. A full-fledged mobile science laboratory, it landed on Mars safely after the "7 minutes of terror" experienced by mission control in Pasadena, California.

The Internet erupted in joy when Curiosity transmitted back its first image of  Mars, seven minutes after landing. For a video of the descent, NASA has kindly provided one, embedded below.

And as usual, XKCD has succinctly summarized just what exactly NASA accomplished.

For more info on the landing:
Yahoo News
Washington Post

The Thrill of Discovery

Max Barclay, the collections manager in the Entomology department at the Natural History Museum in London just posted something on Twitter that I had to share. It's an account Alfred Russell Wallace wrote about the butterfly Ornithoptera croesus, when he found a male of the species in Indonesia. From his book, The Malay Archipelago, 1869:
"The beauty and brilliancy of this insect are indescribable, and none but a naturalist can understand the intense excitement I experienced when I at length captured it. On taking it out of my net and opening the glorious wings, my heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death. I had a headache the rest of the day, so great was the excitement produced by what will appear to most people a very inadequate cause." The butterfly is now known as Wallace's Golden Birdwing, and he wasn't kidding when he wrote that other naturalists wo…

Cicada Killers, Human Friends

Wasps: one of the most feared groups of insects. They're also one of the most hated, namely because of the propensity of some species to sting. If you've found yourself at the business end of a wasp, you probably weren't too happy. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that this is how many people view wasps:

But perhaps wasps don't deserve such a bad reputation. Many species of wasps play important roles in the ecosystem, including parasitism of caterpillars and pollination of flowers. Some aren't aggressive towards humans, for example the Eastern Cicada Killer, Sphecius speciosus.
Intimidating at first, sure. But not a threat!
This wasp isn't interested in ruining our day. The male might be interested in us at first, but that's because he's curious: he patrols his territory looking for females. If something new moves in, he has to check it out to see if it's a female he can mate with. You know, kind of like a teenager. The males can't even sti…