Archive for the 'Insects, Fish, Frogs' Category

Aug 21 2016

Butterfly With a Birthday Cake

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Butterfly with a birthday cake (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Butterfly with a birthday cake (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Dana Nesiti (who usually takes photos of bald eagles) has been experimenting with insects.  This one caught my eye.

Is this butterfly celebrating its birthday with 16 candles?

Well, no.  The birthday cake is actually a black-eyed susan with stamens.

And the butterfly is a wild indigo duskywing.

 

Thanks to Dana Nesiti for the cool photo and butterfly identification.

(photo by Dana Nesiti)

3 responses so far

Aug 15 2016

Found A Big Cat

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Caterpillar of the Promethea moth, twig held by Ramona Sahni (photo by Kate St. John)

Caterpillar of the Promethea moth, twig held by Ramona Sahni (photo by Kate St. John)

On August 6 at Jennings Prairie we found a big green “cat” with a yellow face.  Ramona Sahni held the twig while I took the caterpillar’s picture.

Dianne Machesney later identified it as the larva of a Promethea moth (Callosamia promethea).  He’s named for Prometheus, a Titan in Greek mythology who was a clever trickster and benefactor of mankind.

Nowadays “Promethean” means “boldly creative, defiantly original” — and because he was a Titan, “big.”  The adult male and female moths show off these qualities.

Male Promethea moth (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Male Promethea moth (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Female Promethea moth (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Female Promethea moth (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

It’s amazing that they look so different.

Big, bold, defiantly original.  No wonder these moths are Promethean.  😉

 

(caterpillar photo by Kate St. John. Moth photos from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the images to see the originals)

One response so far

Aug 11 2016

TBT: Watch Out Guys!

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Praying Mantis (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

Praying Mantis (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

On Throw Back Thursday (TBT):

Why is it so dangerous to be a male praying mantis?  Find out in this article from August 2010: “Watch Out Guys!

 

(photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

 

No responses yet

Aug 10 2016

Tree Crickets Tune Their Ears

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Bug noise is everywhere on hot summer nights. Some of the singers are tree crickets.

Tree crickets (subfamily Oecanthinae) live on every continent except Antarctica.  Camouflaged to match their habitat, these long, skinny, nocturnal insects live in trees and shrubs where they eat just about anything. They’re especially fond of aphids.

Male tree crickets “sing” to attract a mate by rubbing the ridges of their wings together, shown in the video above.   The females don’t sing but they certainly listen.  Each species has a distinctive range of frequencies.  The ladies ignore the cacophony of other species. They only listen for their own.

Because insects are cold-blooded they move slower in cold and faster in heat, so they trill faster when the weather’s hot.  This means the frequency, and thus pitch, of their songs goes up in higher temperatures.  Here’s the sound of a snowy tree cricket (Oecanthus fultoni) at different temperatures.

So here’s an interesting problem:  Female tree crickets recognize their own species by the frequency of the trill, but the frequency increases as the temperature rises.  How do they recognize the higher-pitched songs?

In a study published last April, researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough used laser Doppler vibrometry to measure vibrations inside the crickets’ ears.  The instruments were so sensitive that they could see changes at the cellular level.

The study found that “as the temperature changes, tree cricket ears adjust at a cellular and therefore mechanical level to match the changing frequency of the song.”

Read more about it here in Science Daily.

 

(video of a tree cricket “singing” in Alameda County, California from Wikimedia Commons)

7 Oecanthus species in western Pennsylvania as shown at Oecanthinae.com:  Four-spotted (O. quadripuntatus), Snowy (O. fultoni), Black horned (O. nigricornis), Pine (O. pini), Narrow winged (O. niveus), Two spotted (Neoxabea bipunctata), Davis’ (O. exclamationis)

2 responses so far

Aug 06 2016

Big and Beautiful

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Royal Walnut or Regal Moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Royal Walnut or Regal Moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Beautiful moths come in all sizes.

On Monday I wrote about the pink-and-yellow rosy maple moth whose wingspan is only one to two inches.  Don Weiss supplied Monday’s photo and commented that they found this big and beautiful moth at the same time.

The royal walnut or regal moth (Citheronia regalis) is the largest moth in the western hemisphere north of Mexico.  With a wing span of 3.75 to 6+ inches, it lives in deciduous forests from New Jersey to eastern Kansas and east Texas to Florida.

Citheronia regalis is always big but not always beautiful.  As a caterpillar it’s so scary-looking that it’s called a hickory horned devil.  Click here to see its final instar on someone’s hand.

True to its name the caterpillar feeds on walnuts, hickories and a lot of other trees.  Since their only job is to procreate the adults never eat. They live only a week.

Now’s a good time to find this big and beautiful moth in southwestern Pennsylvania.

 

(photo by Don Weiss)

4 responses so far

Aug 01 2016

Rosy Maple Moth

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Rosy maple moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Rosy maple moth (photo by Don Weiss)

Can you believe the colors on this moth?

Fuzzy pink and yellow, the rosy maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) lives only a week in this beautiful body. Its wing colors are highly variable but its head and back are usually yellow with pink belly, legs and antennae.

Most of its life is spent as a green-striped caterpillar, eating maple leaves, and passing through five instars.  When fully mature the caterpillar crawls down the tree and pupates underground.

In western Pennsylvania the moths are above ground from May to September but are easiest to find in late July.  The adults don’t eat.  They have only one job, to procreate.

The action begins around sunset.  The females perch on the undersides of leaves and exude pheromones.  The males fly around “sniffing” the air with their big fluffy antennae.  Perhaps this division of labor is why the females have insignificant antennae.  (My guess is that the moth in Don Weiss’ photo is female.)

If you’re lucky to see the rosy maple moth you’ll be surprised at how small it is — only 1″ long. Click here to see one on the tip of a finger.

I found one once at the Panhandle Trail in Collier Township.  Its beauty stopped me in my tracks.

 

(photo by Don Weiss)

One response so far

Jul 27 2016

Alien On The Loose

Asian longhorned beetle animation linked from USDA website

Asian longhorned beetle animation linked from USDA website.

Eeeeewww!  It’s an alien!

I’m not kidding.  This bug is an alien invader from China that hitchhikes as larvae in wooden packing material.  When it gets here it eats trees … lots of them!  If it shows up in your neighborhood it has to be eradicated.  Otherwise your town is doomed.

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky, 1853)), or ALB, is a very large wood-eating beetle native to China and the Korean peninsula.  Its white-spotted black body is an inch long with antennae 1.5 to 2 times longer than its body.  The antennae are unique, banded black and white.

Because it arrives in infected wood, ALB’s first location in North America is a warehouse. From there it spreads unpredictably, depending on the shipment.  It’s been found in suburbs and cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio and Ontario.  Click here for the map as of July 2015.

When the beetle gets loose it’s not picky.  Its eats maples, elms, birches, willows, poplars, ashes, hackberries, horsechestnuts, London planetrees … just about anything … but it takes 3-4 years to notice it.  The adults are active late spring until fall so July is a good time of year to see its damage or the bug itself.

And this bug is noticeable. Big and showy, even its larvae (at left) are huge.

Larva and adut Asian longhorned beetle (photos by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Larva and adult Asian longhorned beetle (photos by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

If you don’t see the bug you may see its evidence.

This unusual leaf damage is a hallmark of ALB. They eat the ribs of leaves, not the papery part.

Leaf damage from Asian longhorned beetle (photo byPennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry , Bugwood.org)

Leaf damage from Asian longhorned beetle (photo by PA DCNR, Forestry at Bugwood.org)

Its entrance and exit holes are unique, too.

The female excavates a niche in the bark and lays her eggs in the hole.  Each roughly chewed egg niche is half the size of a dime.

Two egg niches drilled by Asian longhorned beetles (photo by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Two egg niches drilled by Asian longhorned beetles (photo by Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

To get out of the tree, the beetle chews a perfect-circle hole as big as a pencil!

Asian longhorned beetle exit holes (photos by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut and Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

Asian longhorned beetle exit holes (photos by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut and Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

We can stop ALB if he’s confined to cities but if he gets loose in our forests all bets are off.

So if you see an Asian longhorned beetle or its damage, report it.  There are some look alikes, but USDA wants us to be better safe than sorry.  Call them at 1-866-702-9938 or click here for details.

Report this invader!  Don’t let him take hold!

Adult Asian longhorned beetle in someone's hand (photo by Michael Bohne, Bugwood.org)

Adult Asian longhorned beetle in hand (photo by Michael Bohne, Bugwood.org)

 

Read more about Asian longhorned beetles at USDA’s beetlebusters.info website.

(beetle animation linked from USDA’s website, photos from Bugwood.org)

4 responses so far

Jul 21 2016

TBT: How to Swat a Fly

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

House fly (photo by Alvesgasper from Wikimedia Commons)

House fly (photo by Alvesgasper from Wikimedia Commons)

It’s July and the house flies are getting more annoying.

My cat chases them around the house and when she fails I try to swat them — but they evade me.

On Throw Back Thursday (TBT) here’s a timely article on How to Swat a Fly.

How to Swat a Fly

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original)

One response so far

Jul 18 2016

Bees and Electricity

Bumblebee on thistle with pollen grains (photo by Kate St. John)

Bumblebee on thistle with pollen grains (photo by Kate St. John)

Here’s an amazing thing: The hairs on a bumblebee’s body tell it where the flowers are.  It’s done with electricity.

Flowers use scent, patterns, nectar and even ultraviolet colors to attract insect pollinators.  Each flower also has an electric field that says, “I’m here!”  Scientists thought that insects picked up this communication, but how?  A study published in PNAS last May explains that bumblebees sense the electric field with their body hairs.

Bees and flowers are oppositely charged.  Without even trying, bees build up a positive charge on their bodies as they fly.  Flowers are negatively charged and that makes their pollen stick to bees through static electricity.  But the electric field is more than just that static charge.

Positive and negative electric fields: bee and flower (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Positive and negative electric fields: bee and flower (image from Wikimedia Commons)

In the diagram above, imagine that the bee is red and the flower blue.  As a bumblebee approaches the flower, a frisson of excitement passes along its body as its hairs bend in response to the flower’s electric field.  The bee feels the approach. Its hairs are pointing to the flower!

We humans can barely imagine this because we’re not sensitive to electric fields.  As we walk on a carpet we don’t feel the doorknob’s electric field until we touch it and are shocked at the discharge.  The best we can do is see our hair stand up after we rub a balloon on our head.  Here’s Emma at Emma’s Science Blog to show us how:

image linked from Emma's Science Blog: Emma does an experiment with static electricity, April 2014

from Emma’s Science Blog: Emma does an experiment with static electricity, April 2014

 

Now that we know about this communication between bumblebees and flowers, scientists think that lots of hairy insects sense electric fields, too.

I wonder if the house fly sees me with his hairs as well as his eyes as I approach to swat him.

 

Read more about bumblebees and electricity here at mashable.com.

(bumblebee photo by Kate St. John. electric field diagram from Wikimedia Commons.  Emma with balloon linked from Emma’s Science Blog. Click on the field and balloon to see the original images)

p.s. Thanks to Michelle Kienholz for alerting me to this story.

One response so far

Jul 13 2016

2016 Summer Slugfest

Published by under Insects, Fish, Frogs

Hosta leaves eaten by slugs (photo by Kate St. John)

Welcome to the 2016 Summer Slugfest.

The slugs are eating my hostas so this week I decided to kill them with kindness.  I bought them a beer.

Hosta leaves eaten by slugs (photo by Kate St. John)

Hosta leaves eaten by slugs (photo by Kate St. John)

Slugs love beer so much that when they get drunk they drown in it.  It’s the organic way to kill them.

Slug on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, 10 Jul 2016. Not at me home, but you get the idea (photo by Kate St. John)

Slug on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, 10 Jul 2016. Not in my garden… but you get the idea (photo by Kate St. John)

 

On Sunday afternoon I collected my tools:  small cat food cans, a trowel, garden gloves, and beer.  I don’t believe in wasting good beer on slugs so I keep a stash of old bottles just for them. This one is from December 2008.  My slugs drink “vintage” beer.

Slugfest tools: beer, small catfood cans, trowel, garden gloves (photo by Kate St. John)

Slugfest tools: beer, small catfood cans, trowel, garden gloves (photo by Kate St. John)

For each can I dug a hole to place the rim at dirt level.  I set one can under the most-eaten hosta and the other in a central location.  Then I poured beer to the rims.

Beer trap for slugs (photo by Kate St. John)

Beer trap for slugs (photo by Kate St. John)

The next morning there were 13 dead slugs in my two beer traps.  Great attendance!

Slugs in the beer trap (photo by Kate St. John)

Slugs in the beer trap (photo by Kate St. John)

I’ve added two more cans and am now offering vintage brew in four locations.

The 2016 Summer Slugfest is very successful. I’m gonna run out of beer. 😉

 

(photos by Kate St. John)

UPDATE ON JULY 15: The slugfest ended almost as quickly as it began. On the third day there were no slugs in the traps so I ended it the next day.

12 responses so far

Next »