Posts Tagged ‘insects’

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jewelweed: Definitely Not A Weed

JewelweedBy definition, a weed is any plant growing where you don’t want it. To clarify, this holds true only in the garden beds or acreage under your cultivation. “Weeding” flowers in a park planter because they offend your sense of aesthetics is frowned upon.

To a plant, having “weed” embedded right in its name is probably akin to having a “Kick Me” sign on your back. Right out of the box there is bound to be a bit of prejudice against you, fair or unfair. Spotted knapweed, goutweed and Japanese knotweed are all pernicious invasive species, and deserve all the bad press they get. But occasionally an innocent bystander suffers from this name game. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Understanding Spider Silk and Spider Webs

TOS_Spider_SilkThere is an all-natural material, produced at room temperature, that can be used to build homes, to make protective coverings, to hunt and trap, and even to swing through the air. It’s hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and waterproof. On a per-weight basis it’s stronger than steel and more elastic than nylon or kevlar.

What is this remarkable material? Spider silk.

If it sounds impossible that a single material can be used for so many purposes, well, in a way it is. Depending on how you want to count them, there are seven or eight kinds of spider silk in the world, and any given spider species may make as many as six different kinds. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Climate Change is Altering Nature’s Clock

Salamander-Stager-600x383Scientist Curt Stager walks along the edge of the woods, his flashlight shining into the shallow water of a leafy, roadside pool on a dark night in Paul Smiths. It’s late April, and he’s out looking for spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers that have migrated to shallow vernal pools to breed. After poking around for a minute, he lets out an excited shout: “There’s a salamander! There he is! He’s early!”

In the water is a dark, four-inch-long creature with bright yellow spots. In the same pool not far away, wood frogs float on the surface. In another week, pools like this will be a filled with breeding frogs and salamanders, which will leave behind egg sacks that hatch into larvae.

Spotted salamanders spend most of the year underground, so seeing them is rare except during these annual breeding migrations. Their journeys are triggered by the first rains of spring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Are American Elm Trees On The Rebound?

TOS_American_ElmOn a recent damp May morning I walked around Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, with arborist Brian Beaty. While he is responsible for all of the trees in the center of the campus, our visit focused on a small number of trees that require an inordinate amount of his attention. These were the college’s mature American elms – tall, elegant, and, most importantly, healthy.

Beaty wants to keep them that way, which is why he checks on the elms almost daily from early spring to late summer, and has his crew look them over every time they drive by one. “We don’t have a lot big elms left,” he explained. Of the hundreds of mature elms that once adorned the college, only twenty remain. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Flat Stanley and the Dangerous Centipede

TOS_centipedeBiologists sometimes field questions about a “huge scary bug” that appeared in someone’s home or worse yet on their person. Most turn out to be benign organisms that ended up in the wrong place.

For me, the most common questions come in July, when male dobsonflies emerge. The males have impressive mandibles that look scary but are harmless to people. Recently however, one of these questions did actually involve something dangerous. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Avoiding Ticks In The Adirondack Region

#3 - HarringtonSummer should be a carefree season full of picnics and swimming, a time for hikes and barbeques on the deck, not a time to fret about tick-borne illnesses.  As few as ten years ago it was unusual to find even one brown dog tick or lone star tick on your person after a weekend of camping in northern NY state. Now in many places all you have to do is set foot in the brush to get several black-legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, which are harder to see than other ticks.

The deer tick is known to transmit Lyme disease as well as Babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus and other serious illnesses. In fact it’s possible for two or more diseases to be transferred to a host, human or otherwise, by a single tick bite. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bee Mimics: Pretending To Be Bees

Honey beeA while back I had a few hives of honey bees parked at a beef farm down the road, tucked up against a stone wall just outside a pasture. One day the owner called to say that my bees had invaded a building in a barn complex and were laying eggs in manure puddles.

I went down to check it out, and the building did have a lot of buzzing insects butting their heads against the windows. I looked closer. They looked like honey bees, but… not quite. And there were weird larvae wriggling in water seeping from manure. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Questions Answered About Black Flies

A-Buckskin-Man-s-Pocket-46To celebrate my 25th birthday a few weeks ago, I went for a trail run in Henry’s Woods in Lake Placid. Unfortunately, I forgot that we were in the midst of a yearly Adirondack tradition — black fly season.

Blissfully unaware, I decided to run while my companion, (my mother) walked. I’m not exactly Usain Bolt, so I kept my pace moderate. I paused a few times to catch my breath, but for the most part I kept moving.

An hour later, we emerged from the woods, and my mother was bleeding. She had been bitten viciously by the black flies. Meanwhile, I had escaped virtually unscathed. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Windshield Survey of Back-Country Bugs

Dragonfly SplatterNext time you arrive at your cottage, camp or favorite fishing spot and the car’s grille is bristling with wings and other insect body parts, its windshield greased with bug guts, you should be happy. Those insects develop underwater, and they are an indication that the water quality thereabouts is very good. And that you should bring paper towels and glass cleaner next time.

Flying fish excepted, it seems odd to call an airborne creature aquatic. But these insects spend the vast majority of their lives in an aquatic life stage called a naiad, or nymph. They breathe through gills that, while well-developed, are readily damaged by sediment and other kinds of water pollution. » Continue Reading.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Tips: Coping With Common June Garden Pests

k11094-1potatobeetleusdaPeggyGrebWhenever you have a few minutes, take the time to get up close to your plants. Turn the leaves over to look for eggs or newly hatching insects. Here are some insect pests that show up in gardens every June.

Colorado potato beetles (shown at left) love potatoes, of course, but their favorite crop of all is eggplant, which is related to potatoes. Luckily, they don’t have much appetite for tomatoes, another relative. The eggs are bright orange, about the size of a fat sesame seed and are laid in clusters of 8-12 on the undersides of the leaves. Crush and egg clusters you see. By crushing them now you prevent that whole generation from developing. » Continue Reading.


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