Legend says a stake through the heart will kill a vampire. But it’s a bit more complicated if you’re plagued – as moose can be – by tens of thousands of tiny blood-suckers. In the case of moose, the vampires are winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus), and finding a way to stake them has been tricky. However, recent research has found a potential – and microscopic – vampire hunter. [Read more…] about Moose, Winter Ticks and Fungi
These examples, along with countless other documents ranging from the historically important to the more mundane, were all recorded using iron gall ink, which is made – in part – from the protrusions created after oak gall wasps lay their eggs within oak trees. [Read more…] about Making Ink From Oak Galls: Some History & Science
What are round-ish, mostly orange and commonly found in October on front porches or near entryways?
Obviously the answer is Harmonia axyridis, a.k.a. the multicolored lady beetle or lady bug. This insect, although beneficial to gardens, is no treat when it gathers by the hundreds on your doors or exterior walls in autumn. And more than a few will find their way indoors. [Read more…] about It’s Lady Bug Season
“I’ve got something for you,” my husband calls from the front door. He’s found an oddly beautiful beetle in the autumn woods. It’s around three quarters of an inch long, a dark iridescent teal, and its wings and wing-covers look comically small. Something about its body shape reminds me of a fat carpenter ant. But this is an oil beetle, a member of the blister beetle family, Meloidea. [Read more…] about Blister Beetles Have A Formidable Chemical Defense
Even if you have a top-notch security system, you could still return from vacation to find that your prescription drugs, tobacco products, rice, dog food, or other items have vanished. And you’d be on your own to solve this crime because the police would tell you to bug off. [Read more…] about Drugstore Beetles & Other Pantry Pests
I put the small brown ant I had mounted (but never identified) under a microscope and peered down at it. Two huge, headlight-like eyes stared back at me. That couldn’t be right; ants don’t have eyes that size and shape.
I took the specimen to my professor, who initially waved me off with, “It’s an ant.” But after looking at it under magnification he excitedly turned to a guidebook showing several unique species of jumping spider that look uncannily like ants. [Read more…] about Ant-mimic Spiders: Masters of Disguise
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) begin their annual fall migration in mid-August. These butterflies are the great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that migrated to Mexico last fall. [Read more…] about Help Monarch Butterflies on their Long Migration South
I’m not one to shed a tear when authoritarian rulers die, but once they’re gone, picnics become a lot more dangerous. Toward the end of summer, just in time for Labor Day picnics and County Fairs, the original queen in every yellowjacket wasp colony dies.
It’s not the stuff of Hamlet or some far-reaching conspiracy, it’s just that having a few thousand babies in the course of one season is enough to tire any Queen Mum to death. [Read more…] about Bee Anarchy Is Bad for Picnics
I was sitting poolside with my children on summer day when another parent hustled her son out of the water because of a swimming cockroach. The “cockroach” turned out to be a giant water bug (family Belostomatidae), among the largest of the hemipterans, or “true bugs.”
These insects are typically found in lakes and ponds, but sometimes show up in rivers – and occasionally in swimming pools. [Read more…] about Giant Water Bugs: Big Hemipterans, or True Bugs
As the Dalai Lama once said, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Really all it takes is one or two of the little whiners in your tent to spoil a night’s sleep. I’m convinced their ear-buzzing is an adaptation to raise a victim’s blood pressure so they fill up faster. Makes you wish you could return the favor somehow. [Read more…] about Monster Mosquitoes: The Shaggy Legged Gallinipper