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Showing posts from November, 2012

More Caterpillar Parasitoidism

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I'm finding interesting insects as I go back through my collection vials and inserting the final labels. The vials include a bunch of organisms I've collected over the years, and one in particular I just processed brought back some memories.


This is a pretty caterpillar called Leucostigma orgyia, more commonly known as the white-marked tussock moth. I picked it off a tree during the summer of 2010 and took it home to raise into a beautiful moth, as this was around the time my interest in insects was really starting to increase.

Things didn't quite go as planned.


My caterpillar friend had been parasitized! As I came to learn later, this is a pretty common occurrence, but this was the first time I had witnessed it. I cover parasitoidism in this post, but the short version is that a small wasp (in the family Braconidae) had found this caterpillar and injected some eggs into it, which later hatched and found on the insides of the caterpillar. Once the wasp larvae had their fill, …

Mushroom & Millipede Hunting

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Yesterday was a nice day outside, and I figured it would probably be one of the last before the snow started falling. I decided to take advantage of this, and set off to find some mushrooms. (Also, it was snowing when I woke up this morning, so I was correct in my assumption. Maybe I should take up weather forecasting.)

I packed some collecting supplies and set off for the nature trail near my old elementary school. It has a nice array of habitat types and gratuitous amounts of decaying logs, so I was optimistic that I would find some nice mushrooms. However, almost immediately after I stepped onto the trail, my trip turned into millipede hunting. It's just too difficult to resist turning over every decaying log I find in hopes of getting some millipedes out of it.

My habit ended up paying off: I found many millipedes and collected 7 specimens from 4 separate species. It's astounding how many little critters live in decaying wood and the surrounding leaf litter. It's a minia…

Neglected Collections

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After my college graduation last May, I've been using my free time to go back through the bug collections I did while still an undergraduate. I had a lot of material left over--both dry specimens and ethanol specimens, along with photographs and lists to organize. I never quite had the time to do it while taking classes (or at least, that's what I tell myself), so I'm very glad I can take care of it now.

I've had this blog post about respecting your specimens gnawing at me since I read it during the summer, and felt a bit guilty. I had some pretty crappy labels with my specimens, or even worse, no labels at all! For some, I could remember exactly where I was standing when I collected them, so it wasn't a huge problem. But for others...well, those just had to be thrown out as useless.

Some of my specimens were new to the collection and represented unique information, so I wanted to make sure they were properly labeled and taken care of. With that mission in mind, I…

Entomological Smackdown

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"Yet the law of priority compels its adoption, and one's regret is perhaps to a certain extent lessened by the satisfaction derived from abolishing a name so ill-formed and so ill-sounding as Opisthemega." -R.I. PocockThe above is taken from a manuscript clearing up confusion about the genus Theatops, which includes a few large centipedes with surprisingly fat terminal legs.

It's burying into the ground here, with the terminal legs trailing at the top of the picture. Yes, it can pinch with them.
There are many hidden gems like these in scientific publications, and it's always a joy to come across them. You're reminded that the entomologists writing them are people too. And I must agree, Opisthemega is a terrible name.
Reference: Pocock RI. 1888. Annals And Magazine of Natural History. 1:283-290. Link.

Science Video Friday - I Lichen This Post

The wonderful Field Museum in Chicago featured this video about Steve Leavitt and his lichen research, which hit my soft spot for these organisms.

Marvelous Mossy Millipedes

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I learned a new word recently: epizoic. It's related to epiphytic, which describes the relationship of plants that grow on top of other plants (think of bromeliads or lichens that grow on trees). While epiphytic plants have a house, epizoic plants have a mobile home---they grow on top of animals.

And what do some mosses use as a mobile home? Millipedes! In a paper published in December 2011, S. Daniela Martínez T. et al. describe this relationship between 10 species of mosses and a tropical millipede, Psammodesmus bryophorus.

Obviously this millipede is at the cutting edge of fashion.
Field work for this study was done at the Reserva Natural Río Nambi in Colombia. As the scientists sorted the 124 millipedes they collected, they noticed that some of their P. bryophorus specimens looked a bit green...because they had moss growing on their backs. (Sadly, the paper doesn't indicate whether or not the mosses caused any uncomfortable itching.)
Intrigued, they set to work and checked the…