On a winter day, I drove down to a nearby wetland bisected by a town road and walked carefully onto the ice. I was looking for cattail heads to dissect so I could meet the caterpillars who overwinter inside the seed fluff. Many of the cattails I found that day had blown over during the previous week’s windstorm, but there were enough still standing for me to collect two from each side of the road. [Read more…] about Cozy Cattails: A Caterpillar Haven
A western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) had made its way into our house, and movement of boxes from the basement likely brought it to our living space. Even beyond human houses, this bug is considered invasive in the Northeast. [Read more…] about Western Conifer Seed Bugs In The Northeast
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced plans to reclassify certain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticide products as “Restricted Use” effective January 1st, 2023. [Read more…] about DEC’s Intent to Restrict Certain Neonicotinoid Pesticide Products
Whether one has owned a pet cat, dog, chinchilla or what-have-you, or merely admired the grace and beauty of a horse or deer, most of us develop positive links with at least one four-legged animal. But for everyone except maybe scientists, warm and fuzzy feelings evaporate when you move up to critters with a thousand or more legs.
Insects, all of which have six legs, seldom elicit an oxytocin feel-good rush. I mean it’s unusual for folks to get doe-eyed over a mosquito, yellow jacket or cucumber beetle. On the whole, though, insects are nowhere near as creepy as eight-legged beasties. The term arachnid, I’m pretty sure, is Latin for “things with too many legs for my comfort level.” It includes ticks, which can transmit around a dozen serious illnesses to humans, as well as spiders. These latter, of which we seem to have an innate fear, are equal parts by weight of legs, eyes and hairs, by my estimation at least. [Read more…] about Counting on Arthropods
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