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Showing posts from October, 2012

The Top of the Gob Pile

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I was inspecting an area with an acid mine drainage problem last Wednesday for work and we found the source pretty easily: a massive gob pile. What's a gob pile? It's the pile of stuff left over from coal mining. There's a lot of different materials in it, including a lot of shale, giving it a black color. It's an ugly thing that causes lots of problems, but regulation in the US has stopped companies from abandoning them since 1977.

Interestingly enough, there were a few plants growing on the top of the pile, and a few old stumps, which held some biology after all.


This tiny grasshopper blended in with the fall colors, until it jumped onto a patch of moss.


Pixie Cup Lichen, Cladonia pyxidata, grew in a couple patches.


British Soldier Lichen, Cladonia cristatella, made itself known with its bright red caps. Those red caps on the stalks hold its spores.


And since I can never resist turning over a decaying log, I was rewarded with this scarab beetle grub. Not sure what it is, …

Science Video Friday - The Naturalist President

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There are a lot of reasons to admire Theodore Roosevelt, America's 26th president. Chiefly among them to me is his passion for conservation. This video from The American Museum of Natural History explores the roots of his passion, which grew from his interests in natural history during his youth.




A Herd of Zebras

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After enjoying a meal in the park a few weeks ago with my girlfriend, I stopped by a sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) to check for any insects. The sweet gum is abundant in Ohio and is one of my favorite trees. It reminds me of when I was a kid and would throw the seed balls at my friends. Good times.

I noticed an orange bug near the trunk of the tree and stooped down to investigate.


Success! I had found Pselliopus barberi, a species I like to refer to as the zebra-striped assassin bug. I kept looking and found another one. Then another. And another....all in all, I counted 29 in total! There were about six pairs which were mating, though I disturbed a few (as you can see in the above photo).
It's not every day that you find so many insects in one place. So what was going on?
The answer lies in the season. This species overwinters as adults, so when it starts getting colder in the fall, the adults band together to find hiding places under bark and wrinkly crevices on trees. So…

This centipede is so happy!

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Quick! Describe centipedes in one word!

You said "optimistic," right?


Because the face on the back of this centipede's head is super happy, even when suspended in ethanol. This is a centipede in the genus Strigamia, collected last October from leaf litter when I was searching for millipedes. I wonder if other species have different faces...

A Portfolio of Historical Insects

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I had some extra time after work today, which I used to visit Marietta College's Special Collections. They keep scores of old documents, many dating back to when the Ohio Company of Associates first established Marietta in 1788 as the first settlement in the Northwest Territory. What I was after today, however, had an Entomological bent to it.

Samuel Prescott Hildreth, a doctor who lived in Marietta during the early to mid-1800s did some of the first work in Ohio studying insects. He was a naturalist and published the first observations of the periodical cicada's 17 year life cycle, which is what I was after. I didn't find any of his cicada papers, but the librarian did bring me a book he wrote and illustrated, entitled "Portfolio of Insects."

This book includes paintings by Hildreth of various insects from Marietta and elsewhere in Ohio. When I first opened the book, I was greeted with beautiful illustrations of the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) during all of …