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

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blink Blink: It's Firefly Season

With so many of us busy as bees on a daily (and nightly) basis, it is easy to find ourselves overlooking the small wonders in our own backyard. Sure, we notice the unusually colorful migratory birds and chat with neighbors about the raccoon breaking into trash cans, but rarely do we stand or sit still long enough to admire how the littlest species (littlest yet visible to the naked eye, that is) communicate with one another and how we can communicate with them.

Insect interactions are incredibly complex and warrant fields and fields of study far more engaging than this little blog post can accommodate, but the call and response mating rituals between fireflies can be observed and contemplated by interested backyard bug-lovers after a few moments reading up on the topic in Carl Zimmer's 2009 New York Times article: Blink Twice If You Like Me

In the article Dr. Sara Lewis, an evolutionary ecologist at Tufts University, offers insight on the insects and a few patterns to look for when the fireflies emerge - at that perfect evening hour to coincide with winding down - and throughout their fascinating nightlife. Take a few moments to take a closer look and you may observe the following:

  • Each firefly species has its own pattern of flashes, discernible by the number of pulses (flashes) and seconds of delay in between.
  • Fireflies flashing in the air are males. The females stay down in the grass observing and looking for the flash patterns of males of their own species.
  • Female fireflies will sometimes respond with a single flash of their own, always at a precise interval after the males.

If this topic captivates you as much as it does me, you may want to check out this Tufts Now news article about the 2011 findings in Correlated Evolution of Female Neoteny and Flightlessness with Male Spermatophore Production in Fireflies (Coleopetera: Lampyridae) and start practicing the double blink of the male Photinus greeni on your penlight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Firefly Season

Just had my first firefly encounter this season and was instantly reminded of that great NY Times article published a few years ago: Blink Twice If You Like Me.  In it, Carl Zimmer highlights research on flash patterns and mating rituals done by Dr. Sara Lewis, an evolutionary ecologist at Tufts University. I highly recommend reading or re-reading it.

Fun fact to remember: Fireflies flashing in the air are all males. The females sit down in the grass observing, looking for flash patterns of males of their own species. They will sometimes respond with a single flash of their own, always at a precise interval after the male’s.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top Ten New Species

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University released their Top Ten New Species in 2010 this week and they are an interesting crop! Check them out here. They range from very cool Bioluminescent Mushroom and Underwater Mushroom to the not-so-cool Jumping Cockroach and T-Rex Leech. Thankfully, the creepier crawlers are not anywhere near the state of Maryland.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How to Build a Butterfly Garden

The sun is shining, the nurseries are buzzing with gardeners, and more than a hundred species of butterflies are starting to spread their wings in Maryland. Not only are these creatures beautiful and friendly; they are also important pollinators for plants and crops. Welcoming them into your garden is an easy and rewarding hobby. Here are a few tips for building a butterfly garden or amending an existing garden to attract local butterflies.

What Butterflies Look For:

- At least five hours of it each day.
Water - Ideally a muddy puddle but a bird bath should do.
Warmth - Rocks or a warm surface to rest on cloudy and cold days are a must.
Particular Plants - Some for laying eggs. Some for nectar. Some for caterpillar food. And some to protect them from wind (details below)
Insecticide-Free Gardens!

Great Butterfly Plants for (and native to) Maryland:

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium sp.)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Milkweed or Butterflyweed (Asclepias sp.)Speedwell or Ironweed (Veronica sp.)Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Great Nectar and/or Larval Hosts:

Annual and Perennial Flowers
Asters (Aster sp.)
Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
Daisy (Leucanthemum sp.)
Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
Phlox (Phlox sp.)

Trees and Shrubs
Blackberry (Ribes sp.)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
White Oak (Quercus alba)
Viburnum (Viburnum sp.)
Willow (Salix sp.)
Wild Cherry (Prumus serotina)
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

You may have noticed that the well-known Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), pictured in this post, is not on the recommended list above. This is because the popular plant has recently found its way to the invasive list. Luckily there are plenty of other native plants in these lists with large, colorful flowers that will bring just as many nectaring butterflies to your garden.

*Special thanks to the students and faculty, past and present, of the University of Maryland's Institute of Applied Agriculture for the informative brochure on butterfly gardens

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Coming Soon

Hey there, Just Sayers. Apologies for the gap between posts. We've been off the grid for a week gathering information and ideas for an exciting spring season on the blog. Check back soon for the following fun topics:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Will Stink Bugs Meet Their Match?

"If 1 in 10 people had stink bugs in 2010, 9 in 10 people will have them in 2011." - Michael Raupp, Entomologist, University of Maryland.

Is the answer to one invasive species, another invasive species? USDA researchers think so. The potential predators, parasitic wasps from Asia, are being raised in quarantine in a lab in Delaware and appear to be killing off 80 percent of the little stinkers. If the wasps are proven effective and selective in their embryo destruction, researchers are hopefully they will be released in 2013. Read the entire Baltimore Sun article on stink bug research updates here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring March of the Stink Bugs!

These last few days of warm weather have been lovely, but for many Marylanders the warm sunshine has brought an increase in brown marmorated stink bug sightings along with it. And the more we see, the stranger the places they tend to pop up. My sister came upon one resting confidently under the shampoo cap during a morning shower. I've heard stories of 'em hitchhiking on vehicles for hours, crawling into beds, and surviving spin cycles - but perhaps the most heebie-jeebie inducing is mentioned in a recent post by Frank Roylance, aptly titled "they're baaaack." Breakfast, anyone?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Stinkers!!

By now, most everyone in Maryland has heard about and had several encounters with brown marmorated stink bugs, right? Formerly considered little more than a nuisance, the population of shield shaped insects - widespread in Maryland, Deleware, Virginia and West Virginia - is now said to threaten fruit, vegetable, bean, corn, soybean crops as well as trees and ornamentals. (Smaller populations have been detected in Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and California).

The bugs - native to China, Japan and South Korea - are thought to have arrived sans any natural predators via shipping containers in or around 2001. While homeowners are finding more and more of them sneaking inside for the winter, the most damage appears to be in orchards. Associated Press reports:

They are about 5/8ths of an inch long and get their name from their marbled shell (marmorated means marbled). "We're fairly certain now that the primary method of distribution for them is in vehicles — anything from tractor-trailers to motor homes to cars," Jacobs said. "We first had them here, then all the sudden a population cropped up in Portland (Ore.). Like Johnny Appleseed, we're carrying them around and spreading them."

According to a report by the USDA task force, the bugs caused serious damage to apple, pear and peach crops in Maryland and West Virginia last year. Other crops are at risk because the bug has a broad palate. Like other relatively new pests, the bugs thrive because the predators that keep them in check in their native habitats don't live here.

"We expect it to be a really bad year based on the information that came out of working groups and speaking with various entomologists," Cooper said. "The numbers that are being observed in nature are huge, just much larger than anything we've ever seen before."

For a real doomsday report about the little guys, check out this FOX News article in which the insects are being referred to as "enemy number one." 
Here is some advice about how to treat an infestation in your home but as always, we here at JustSaying remind you that we are not experts and our hearts err on the side of compassion for all creatures (even when we know better) so... if you find that you are battling a bug infestation "of Biblical proportions," call a professional who will know how much treatment or prevention is neccessary and will be able to explain the pros and cons of chemical sprays.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Phasmid Friend

Check out this fantastic little creature I encountered earlier today. Glad it decided to stick around (tee hee) long enough for me to get the camera despite the fact I was in the garden reading the Insecticides chapter of a Pesticide Use and Safety text!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And in local bug news...

...just stumbled upon this grasshopper piggy-back ride. Originally thought it was a mom and baby but now that I look at the picture... hmmmm....

Friendly Flutterbug at Chesapeake Beach

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Visiting Butterfly

Mystery Critter

While outside with the camera snapping a few pics of a visitng butterfly, I came across another interesting insect. Anyone know what it is? Not a caterpillar but not yet a butterfly?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well helloooo, friend!

I love coming home to curious little critters! (Well... so long as the leg count stops at six)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Firefly Language

Love Carl Zimmer's latest article in the NY Times, Blink Twice if You Like Me. From the article:

The fireflies flashing in the air are all males. Down in the grass, Dr. Lewis points out, females are sitting and observing. They look for flash patterns of males of their own species, and sometimes they respond with a single flash of their own, always at a precise interval after the male’s. Dr. Lewis takes out a penlight and clicks it twice, in perfect Photinus greeni. A female Photinus greeni flashes back.

“Most people don’t realize there’s this call and response going on,” Dr. Lewis said. “But it’s very, very easy to talk to fireflies.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

2,500 plant lice with your pilsner?

Some maggots with those mushrooms? Rodent hairs? I probably shouldn't pose it as a question because chances are, you are already consuming a fair amount of rodent and insect filth thanks to the casual regulation of our food supply. In fact, according to E. J. Levy's recent Op-Ed in the NY Times, "’re probably ingesting one to two pounds of flies, maggots and mites each year without knowing it, a quantity of insects that clearly does not cut the mustard, even as insects may well be in the mustard."

For more about the stomach-turning contaminants deemed "allowable defects" by the FDA in their booklet: The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of Natural or Unavoidable Defects in Foods That Present No Health Hazards for Humans, definitely check out Levy's article.

(thnx Alissa)

Friday, November 28, 2008

more troubled trees...

Ponderosa Pines aren't the only ones suffering from the effects of some insects. Up in Worcester, MA, thousands of Maple trees are scheduled to be chopped down in the next months due to an infestation of Asian long-horned beetles. Following a tornado in 1953, Maples were planted as replacement trees, and unfortunately all those Maples and too little tree diversity allowed the pests to gain a strong foothold.

Read more about these Maples and plant diversification in yesterday's NY Times article here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

bad news bark beetles

Out west, in Montana, Colorado and Wyoming, a swelling infestation of bark beetles are taking a toll on millions of acres of trees. The suppression of fires, a decade of drought, and the fact that hard winters have softened, are said to be main causes for the flourish and expanded range of these beetles. Land owners are cutting down up to 75% of the pines in hopes to leave less competition for water and foster survival.

The Latin name for the beetles, Dendroctunus, means tree killer. Read more about the battle between bug and bark, and the domino effect this devastation has on the ecosystem here, in a recent NY Times article.