Showing posts with label insects. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insects. Show all posts

November 27, 2017

More Fungus Beetles, Please

Cast-off exoskeletons of the pleasing fungus beetle pupae (Gibbifer californicus),
Imagine them hanging straight down — I turned them up to catch the light.
They are not quite an inch long.
A number of ponderosa pine trees around the house have died from mountain pine beetle infestation, the real culprit being the blue stain fungus that the beetles carry.

I had my eye on one large dead tree as a firewood source, mainly because it was next to the little dirt road that goes up in back. The woodpile was shrinking early last spring (the snowiest time of the year in this area), so I felled it. Just its top and thick limbs were enough to get us through — the rest I cut into rounds and stacked by the road.

Pleasing fungus beetle (Jeff Mitton)
Then warm weather came, and I procrastinated on bringing the rest down until last month.

Whereupon I found these cases on one of the split pieces — but what were they? I turned to What's That Bug, linked in the right-hand sidebar under "Resources."

Very soon I learned that they were the cast-off exoskeletons of the larvae of the pleasing fungus beetle, Gibbifer californicus, of the family Erotylidae, Pleasing Fungus Beetles. (Don't ask me, "pleasing to whom?")
The pleasing fungus beetle develops on soft conk fungi on aspen, ponderosa pine and other logs in forested areas. The biology of the insect is largely unknown; some apparently spend the winter in the adult stage laying eggs in spring; others survive as larvae within the fungus.

The larvae feed on the fungus during late spring and early summer, consuming large quantities. When full grown the larvae hang from the underside of the logs and transform to a pupa, often in groups of several dozen. With this habit, a grouping of pupae may appear some what like a miniature bat roost.
As larvae, they look like this. You can see how that matches the photo above.

As adults, they "feed on nectar, pollen and the bracket fungi growing on rotting logs. Larvae feed exclusively on the bracket fungi, so if you want to see adult and larval pleasing fungus beetles, search rotting logs with bracket fungi," writes University of Colorado biology professor Jeff Mitton.

I am pleased to know this now.

June 20, 2016

Venomous and Nonvenomous Links

In El Castillo cave, hand stencils join a red disk (not pictured)
that may be Earth's oldest cave art (Science/AAS)
Arizona wants to kill you. I thought the rattlesnakes were bad; now this: "Arizona Hiker Dies After Being Stung by 1,000 Bees."

Americans don't visit national parks anymore — that was the message a couple of years ago. (See the graph for early 2000s.) Now it's "The National Parks Have Never Been More Popular."  Free admission for the 100th anniversary helps, so does cheaper fuel. Or is this just one of those "fat is bad for you / fat is good for you" deals? Will M. and make it to Yellowstone this fall?

In case you missed it — although we are not talking about Chauvet-type art, still the evidence is that the Neanderthal people made art. And of course it's older than the Cro-Magnon stuff.

March 13, 2013

Signs of Spring (1)

Two nights ago: The first scent of skunk spray. So they are up and about.

Last night: A dinner guest said that a bear had been seen in or near Cañon City.

Today: Mourning cloak butterflies in the air when M. and I went for a walk up into the national forest.

February 08, 2013

Pine Beetles Down, Spruce Beetles Up

A new report from the Forest Service shows that the pine beetle infestation that has been so widespread in northern Colorado is waning, but spruce beetle activity is increasing, particularly in  the San Juans.

Read the entire summary here, with maps and graphs.

September 24, 2012

A Chinese Invader in American Agriculture

As bugs, stink bugs suck. They suck the juices out of plants. And then they stink — sort of like rotting apples but more repulsive.

We have our native brown stink bug — and I think it is going to be a good (in other words, bad) winter for them invading the house.

Now a Chinese stink bug is working its way across the country, as shown in this website devoted to the brown marmorated stink bug. Read all about 'em.

There is even a section for organic farmers.

April 25, 2012

Attack of the Miller Moths

Yes, there are more of them this year.
Linda McMulkin, horticulture coordinator for Colorado State University Extension of Pueblo County, said the spring moth population usually experiences a wild population explosion only after a wet summer and fall that's followed by a mild winter.

It's been bone dry in these parts for some time, but the mild winter and earlier spring temperatures may have allowed more of last fall's eggs to survive and take flight in search of a sweet buffet . . . . What can miller-hating humans do about the flitty, nasty creatures? Not much.
I've been seeing more of those smaller, tan moths that normally invade in May. Should look them up in the insect field guide.

Update, May 5, 2012: Revenge of the moths.

April 09, 2012

Pesticide Linked to Bee Colony Collapse

Pesticide residues are a leading cause of bee colony collapse disorder (CCD), says a report in Harvard Science.
Pinpointing the cause of the problem is crucial because bees — beyond producing honey — are prime pollinators of roughly one-third of the crop species in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock feed such as alfalfa and clover. Massive loss of honeybees could result in billions of dollars in agricultural losses, experts estimate.

[Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health] and his co-authors hypothesized that the uptick in CCD resulted from the presence of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid introduced in the early 1990s. Bees can be exposed in two ways: through nectar from plants or through high-fructose corn syrup beekeepers use to feed their bees. (Since most U.S.-grown corn has been treated with imidacloprid, it’s also found in corn syrup.)
Now you can expect wailing about how civilization will end without the use of imidacloprid.

August 26, 2011

Blog Stew with Disappearing Spiders

• An EMT's tips on keeping butt-crack spiders away.

• Re-thinking cosmic rays, clouds, and climate change: New evidence from CERN. Apparently current climate models leave out something big.

• M. and I will be going back to Yellowstone this fall, we hope. Evidence shows that concealed-carry in national parks has not led to an outbreak of violent crime. Quite the contrary.

March 11, 2011

Time Flies Like an Arrow, But Bees Like Coffee

Bees in a bucket of espresso and regular coffee grounds.

I regularly pick up buckets of coffee grounds from a coffeehouse in town, because they make a great soil amendment.

Yesterday these wild bees (if that's what they are—must look more closely) discovered the coffee. They are back today.

Aren't bees naturally "buzzed" enough? They need coffee?

I know that my readership includes at least one jackleg bee researcher, so I am hoping to be enlightened.

The headline, by the way, derives from a classic example of a "garden path sentence."

April 26, 2010

Evaluating Tick-Removal Tools

Three researchers from the Acarology [ticks and mites] Laboratory at Ohio State University discuss tick-removal tools.

It's that time of year, even here in Colorado, which is not as "tick-y" as some places. I did pick up tick fever in Boulder County one May. What I remember from that is lying in bed for about three days with a splitting headache, too weak to pick up a handkerchief.
Ticks, potentially infected with disease causing agents, present an often-unrecognized risk associated with the wilderness habitat. Many people neglect to do frequent tick checks to interrupt feeding. The most effective method of interrupting tick feeding and stopping potential disease agent exchange is to mechanically remove the tick.
And that is what I failed to do after lolling in fresh springtime streamside vegetation. A day or two later we went to dinner at the Gold Hill Inn, and during the desert course I felt as though I were coming down with the flu—aches all over, fever, etc.

Hot match on the tick's butt? Don't bother, they say:
Needham tested several of these "folk" methods: fingernail polish, petroleum jelly, a glowing hot match and 70% isopropanol for their ability to induce ticks to "back out" or release from the host. He found that none of these methods initiated self detachment in adult lone star or American dog ticks.

April 14, 2010

Cilantro-Haters, Bed Bugs, and Stink Bugs

Do some people dislike cilantro because it smells to them like bedbugs?  (Julia Child hated it too.) Not so, says an anthropologist who dismisses the bedbug connection as folk-etymology:

Helen Leach, an anthropologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has traced unflattering remarks about cilantro flavor and the bug etymology — not endorsed by modern dictionaries — back to English garden books and French farming books from around 1600, when medieval dishes had fallen out of fashion. She suggests that cilantro was disparaged as part of a general effort to define the new European table against the flavors of the old.

But there is a reason why some people say it smells like soap to them.

Soaps are made by fragmenting fat molecules with strongly alkaline lye or its equivalent, and aldehydes are a byproduct of this process, as they are when oxygen in the air attacks the fats and oils in cosmetics. And many bugs make strong-smelling, aldehyde-rich body fluids to attract or repel other creatures.

I like cilantro well enough, but to me stink bugs smell like over-ripe apples. In the early winter when there are fresh-picked apples in the house and stink bugs have infiltrated the walls as well, it can get confusing as to which is which.

Wikipedia explains stink-bug aldehydes.

March 29, 2010

Nature Emerges from Hibernation . . . and Catches Fire

Three warm days in a row, and we are watching the big snowbanks shrink.

The flock of evening grosbeaks that hung around for the last month seems to have departed, and I have heard flies buzzing, while M. spotted a mourning cloak butterfly.

According to the weekly county newspaper, one of our neighbors saw a bear out of hibernation two weeks ago, although I bet it went back to bed during the last snowstorm.

So I was shocked, watching a Colorado Springs TV weather forecaster, to see all of the southeastern Colorado counties colored red on her map.

"Not another winter storm warning!" I thought. "Where did that come from?"

Nope, it was a "red flag warning" for prairie and brush fires.

Ah, the changing of the seasons.

July 13, 2009

October 15, 2008

Tamarisk-Eating Beetles Expand Territory

A little progress in the war on tamarisk -- imported tamarisk-eating beetles are spreading in Fremont County.

Tamarisk-eating beetles found in Fremont County likely are the descendants of bugs that were released in a nearby area two years ago, providing some hope that beetles released elsewhere in Southeastern Colorado could turn up later.

You go, beetles.

July 28, 2008

The Thistle Dilemma

Butterflies on musk thistle (Carduus nutans)

Here are the butterflies sipping nectar from a thistle. Happy happy butterflies. Everyone likes butterflies.

But the musk thistle is declared to be a noxious weed almost everywhere, including Custer County, Colorado. Bad bad thistle--it sometimes takes over pastures, particularly over-grazed pastures.

And every summer there is a "spray the noxious weeds" program. M. goes ballistic at the idea of anyone spraying anything anywhere near our place, and I am not too keen on it myself.

The last time I saw county spraying in action, it was one guy driving a flatbed truck down the road with a sprayer mounted on the bed. He steered with his right hand, while waving the spray wand wildly up and over the cab with his left.

Not exactly what you would call "targeted application." I could smell the spray 100 yards away.

So I try to control thistles mechanically, in the hopes that I don't give anyone a reason for spraying here. Alas, poor butterflies.

Anyone want to identify the butterflies? Some kind of fritillaries? They look like the Variable Checkerspots on this page to me.

UPDATE: In the comments, photographer Tom Whelan identifies it as a greater fritillary.

July 04, 2008

The Morning Moth

This large moth was on the front porch this morning. Some kind of spotted tiger moth? Anyone more able to identify it?

October 12, 2007

Season of the "Ash Bugs"

the tiny midges we call
They came out on about Oct. 9 this year, as the Gambel oaks turned egg-yolk yellow and tan: tiny midges (?) with a tuft of greyish-white fluff on their butts.

Right: "Ash bugs" on our dog Shelby's coat.

They fill the air like bits of falling ash.

"Goddamned ash bugs," M. says, stomping into the house. "One flew into my mouth, and one went in my eye. And they're in my hair. Sheesh!"

Down in Rye, meanwhile, there was some real ash in the air.