Monthly Archives: May 2013

A blog post from Colin

The following is a treat, a blog post from Colin Tindall. Colin is a student at John Pittard Elementary School and hopes you enjoy his sharing a post about two of his favorite things: insects and farts:

The Farting Bug

If you like farting, this bug is right up your alley. The Bombardier Beetle can FART up to 30 times to protect themselves!!!  They have 2 chambers in their abdomen. Inside the chambers are 2 different chemicals called concentrated   hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. When you mix them together … BOOM!!!

Colin found a video he would like you to view also.

A visit with Colin

My nephew Colin is often just the right kind of kid. Yesterday, while James (Kelly’s brother) were doing the BBQ thing, Colin walked up and said: “let’s go hiking -that’s what you want to do.” So off we went to the creek. Development has changed access to the creek from across the street, to down the street, to now about a half mile down the street is where the housing and no trespassing signs finally allow access. When we made the woods associated with the creek there were satyr butterflies and dozens of Calopteryx maculata. Watching the gourgeous ebony wings and gorgeous metallic bodies of the Calopteryx damselflies flit into and out of the sun/shade just made me feel better. Colin was right – it is what I needed.

This a crappy cell phone photo of Calopteryx, taken yesterday, that hopefully will give some idea of how cool it was to watch them.

This a crappy cell phone photo of Calopteryx, taken yesterday, that hopefully will give some idea of how cool it was to watch them.

The excitement of corn!

Euethola humilis rugiceps

Euethola humilis rugiceps

While a pristine agricultural field can be a very beautiful thing to see, I also enjoy seeing crop diseases, weeds, and pests. I find them interesting and think they have a lot to teach us. Yesterday I got to meet a new (to me pest) of corn: Euetheola humilis rugiceps.  This scarab beetle is damaging to corn at the seedling stage and causes farmers to lose stand density, which in turn results in a loss of yield. The adult feeds underground on the roots and damages the growing point of the plant, which causes the plant to die.

Digging Euetheola from a corn field.

Digging Euetheola from a corn field.

In the second photo you can see the dead central leaves that are characteristic signs of Euetheola damage in corn. The field is a no till field with a significant amount of Amaranthus palmeri. The farmer has yet another scarab to deal with later. The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, adults will soon be out and will be eating corn silks which also results in less yield for the farmer. Kelly is part of paper that will soon be appearing in Journal of Economic Entomology about how Popillia changes corn yields. I hope you farmers out there have clean, beautiful fields full of beneficial inseects and I hope you folks with interest in crop insects can have test plots full of Euetheola.

Son of Grocery Store Entomology

Today I bought some romaine lettuce for salad for dinner. I was very surprised to find 111_20130522_cCACoccinella californica on our lettuce! As someone who occasionally thinks about ladybugs, I thought to myself where there are predators there are often prey. You can imagine my happiness when I found aphids on the lettuce too! Then, as a bonus, there was a leafhopper!

The lettuce was not organic and the HQ of the farming corporation is Salinas, CA – a normal place to find Coccinella californica.

Aphid - cell phone photo

Aphid – cell phone photo

The salad was fine. I did wash the lettuce and kept the ladybug and leafhopper specimens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning bugs!

As usual this cartoon is based on real events. I thought about using Manti T’eo, to represent the non-biologist, but used a farmer. I respect and like farmers, and it is a farmer that was helping with some of my insect research that is responsible for for the statement central to this comic. I have not done it, but if any of you are participating in the lightning bug citizen science project, please comment and share your experience.

lightning bugs

4H insect presentation

On 4 April 2013, I was in the Missouri Bootheel to help a 4H group with an insect program. The kids were super well-behaved, in fact a little too restrained for my tastes, so we explained the holometabolous life style using interpretive dance.

I am leading a mass interpretive dance to tell the story of holometabolism. In this photo we are in the larval stages.

I am leading a mass interpretive dance to tell the story of holometabolism. In this photo we are in the larval stages.

After shaking it to a natural history beat, we got down to business – enjoying some bugs. I left our awesome and gee whiz bug drawers at home. The 4H leader told me she wanted to talk about native insects. So I brought a drawer of ladybugs, a drawer of dung beetles, a drawer of Lepidoptera, and a drawer of Hemiptera from out of the storage facility where the collection was living at the time. One of the 4H kids, Lawson, is also an entomologist and he brought his collection to the meeting also. So we set up the insects at half court in the gym and had an insect

Insect encounter! I love having children rapid fire questions and observations about insects - it is so cool to have them excited about the subject.

Insect encounter! I love having children rapid fire questions and observations about insects – it is so cool to have them excited about the subject.

encounter session with the drawers of insects. Children and insects seem to go together so well – it is fun to formally introduce them.

This summer I will get to go blacklighting with the 4H group. That will be a blast!

Ohh – that Rocky Mountain feeling!

Having recently moved from Idaho to Tennessee, I had a big surprise given to me by the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever!

Early last week I pulled an Amblyomma americanum from a place I would rather not mention to you tender readers. Because of where the tick was and how deeply it was attached, I used tick tweezers that I carry in my backpacking first aid kit but haven’t used for years. I have pulled 100’s of attached ticks over the years and have never had a problem… I examined the tick under magnification and the removal was a job well done!

By Wednesday, I was feeling muscle aches, headache, listless, and confused. Friday with all symptoms intensifying, I went to see my Dr. Luckily, I go to a sharp Dr., she agreed that my symptoms could be tick-related and chose to put me on doxycycline (the go to antibiotic for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) – if nothing else as a prophylaxis. Well, Sunday I was feeling pretty darn good (i.e. normal) and thinking clearly (or as close as I come).

So, why am I telling you this? Ticks and tick borne diseases are out there. So are insect borne diseases, water borne diseases, and poop/carrion borne diseases (for those of us who sample insects in carrion and/or poop). I have always felt I must have already been exposed and developed immunity to all the tick borne diseases. I was wrong. Luckily, I was able to associate my symptoms to the tick. Take the time to know what risks you are taking, and don’t exacerbate your risk – example: wash hands before eating after dung beetle work.

It is possible that the tick and my subsequent deterioration were not associated. As I am feeling better, there is no need to spend further $$’s on diagnosis. I really feel I dodged a bullet here. I hope this little “it happened to me” story helps this to NOT happen to you.