Should you care about tiny drab butterflies that look like moths? I’m not sure. But plants all over the world seem to care a great deal about them, coaxing skippers of a wide range of shapes and patterns to do the important work of delivering their pollen.
Posts Tagged ‘insects’
Early autumn is the time fog frequently shrouds valleys in the morning, and a heavy dew regularly coats unprotected surfaces for several hours after sunrise. As the atmosphere begins to cool with the change in seasons, moist conditions often develop at night and can continue well after dawn. This is ideal for our various terrestrial amphibians, which require damp surroundings for their survival. Among the members of these moisture sensitive vertebrates is the red-spotted newt, a unique form of salamander that goes on the move as the foliage changes color. » Continue Reading.
Over the past 18 months, I have had the incredible opportunity of having Monarch butterfly experts Chip Taylor and Lincoln Brower as guests in my home here in the Adirondacks. We had hours to converse with each and ask questions to our heart’s content. We found both brilliant, charismatic experts in their field. Each came to lecture at The Wild Center, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, under the sponsorship of a small non-profit I helped found, AdkAction.org.
Of course, I am no scientist and no expert on this subject. But I find myself having to make a choice of whether to side with Lincoln or Chip on Lincoln’s recent quest to have Monarchs added to the threatened species list, which offers all its potential protections. » Continue Reading.
My friend Theresa Mitrovitz from Tupper Lake has a small marvel in her yard this week which, if replicated in thousands more backyards, could help save the Eastern migration of the monarch butterfly. I hounded Teresa and her husband John into joining AdkAction.org, a non-profit for which I volunteer, and soon after Theresa jumped with enthusiasm to help with the organization’s project to conserve Monarchs and the milkweed so crucial to their lifecycle.
For twenty years Monarch numbers have been declining steeply. Last year no monarch butterflies were reported in the Adirondacks, and none were sighted in the annual butterfly count at Lake Placid. This year Monarchs have shown signs of a comeback in the North Country and elsewhere, but they have a tough period ahead if they are to continue their age-old flight back and forth to Mexico where they winter. » Continue Reading.
Scientists, wildlife conservationists, and food safety advocates have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).
“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” Dr. Lincoln Brower, a monarch butterfly researcher and conservationist, and one of those seeking the Endangered Species designation. The Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety are serving as co-lead petitioners, joined by Brower the Xerces Society. » Continue Reading.
Imagine you’re an insect cruising through the air. Suddenly, you realize you’re heading straight for a spider web. You’re doomed. But wait – you can still escape by slipping through one of the gaps. Spider webs are, after all, more gaps than web. You aim between the sticky threads – it’s going to be a close call, but you’re going to make it.
Then, as you pass through, the threads snap towards you … and you’re a spider’s dinner!
It sounds impossible that the threads of a spider web could actively reach out for prey, yet recent studies show that it is not only possible, but may be yet another ingenious spider strategy for capturing insects on the fly. How do webs do this? Static electricity. It turns out spider webs are attracted to the static charge on flying insects. » Continue Reading.
I don’t often shake down my cat for a dead mouse, but I did think it was fair, considering that he is always shaking me down for his cat food. I wasn’t going to eat his mouse. I needed it as bait, to see if I could catch a burying beetle.
Burying beetles, or sexton beetles, are nocturnal and they spend much of their lives underground. You’re most likely to find them under small dead animals, such as moles or mice, in a field, that is if you get there before the crows, raccoons, ants, worms, or bacteria do. » Continue Reading.
Toddlers aren’t the only ones fond of mud puddles. Butterflies and moths often gather at puddles in large groups. I witnessed about thirty tiger swallowtail butterflies around a puddle on a woods road one spring, their yellow, black-veined wings twitching slightly, contrasting with the brown mud. Another time I saw a crowd of swallowtails around a pile of damp wood ashes in my yard.
This curious behavior is known as “puddling.” Although butterflies and moths get most of their nutrition from flower nectar, puddling provides another way to obtain nutrients, and replenish fluids. The insects use their long tongues, called proboscises, to deliver the fluid or other material into their mouths. » Continue Reading.
August is when a majority of wildlife families dissolve, as the young gradually start to wander from their parent’s care and begin finding food for themselves and developing the strategies for surviving on their own. Among the many maturing creatures achieving independence as summer wanes are the young of the various species of bats that exist within the Park. Regardless of their habitat and the types of bugs on which they prey, all juvenile bats are now capturing their own food and exploring their surroundings without the supervision of their mother. » Continue Reading.
No one could fault you for running away, screaming in terror, if you saw a large, flying, cigar-shaped insect armed with a “stinger” bigger than a sewing needle. Thankfully, the female pigeon horntail wood wasp is harmless. That spear on its rear isn’t meant to pierce skin. It’s for drilling into wood; and it lays the foundation – literally – for a remarkable inter-species relationship.
Tremex columba is the scientific name for this member of the Siricidae family. Adult females measure one and a half to two inches, males slightly smaller. The female’s “stinger” is actually a specialized egg-laying organ called an ovipositor. This slender, hollow rod is divided top to bottom, both halves articulated. Serrations on the tip allow the wasp to saw into tree trunks, much like an electric knife cuts meat. Two additional segments on either side sandwich the ovipositor in a protective sheath. The whole apparatus originates midway down the underside of the wasp’s abdomen. » Continue Reading.
The day began with a mosquito attacking me before I got out of bed, and it went downhill from there. Cheer yourself up by listening to my tale of woe about a long day during the Adirondack bug season, when mosquitoes provide the wake-up call, blackflies and deerflies assault you for hours, and no-see-ums gnaw you to sleep in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
Like it or not, they’re waiting for you. Legs reach out, legs with highly receptive sensory organs on them, and they know you’re coming. Brush past the wrong blade of grass, and you’ve got a hitchhiker, one that could possibly make you sick. What to do? Listen and learn about how ticks play the game of life and how you can beat them in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
The Wild Center will celebrate some of your favorite creepy crawlies, at BuzzzFest on Saturday, July 5th. BuzzzFest honors the creatures that make the world go round, from dragonflies to monarchs and all the buzzing, chirping and crawling things in between. This year there is a special tip of the antennae to honeybees.
Participants will be able to pet some crazy creepy crawlies from the Utica Zoo Mobile, join a dragonfly safari, visit The Butterfly Garden or talk with a bee hive expert to show see how to raise your own bees. Historical beekeeping gadgets and pictures from the Adirondack Museum will be featured. » Continue Reading.
The overwhelming abundance of pesky insects in and around aquatic areas in the Adirondacks from late spring through mid summer can discourage travel to these picturesque settings, however, the hordes of bothersome bugs that thrive in wetlands help support the rich diversity of life that occurs around these places.
Among the birds that seek out mosquito, black fly, and deer fly infested streams, swamps and shrubby lake shores is a common and vocal warbler whose voice regularly echoes across these watery habitats. Despite its small size and effective protective coloration, the common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) can be seen by anyone passing through its domain as it bellows out its characteristic song from a perch that temporarily makes this Adirondack resident fairly conspicuous. » Continue Reading.
On his way to becoming an internationally recognized scientist for his work on Monarch butterflies and the evolution of warning coloration in nature, Professor Lincoln Brower first tickled the funny bone of the scientific community with his elegant research and photos of “barfing blue jays” and proved that milkweed toxin protects Monarchs.
As a young scientist at Amherst College in the 1960s, Dr. Brower proved that the toxin that Monarchs ingest from feeding on milkweed plants as caterpillars is so potent at sickening birds that a blue jay once exposed to them in a careful lab experiment, and then given other foods for a month, would vomit at the sight of a Monarch. Dr. Brower’s photos of the unlucky jays, published in the Scientific American in February 1969, still circulate on the internet.
Adirondack residents will have the chance to hear Dr. Brower discuss that famous experiment and his subsequent decades of research on Monarch biology as well as the current threats to their survival in a lecture at The Wild Center, 7:30. p.m. Thursday, June 26. » Continue Reading.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a …? In September of 2012, I spied something fluttering wildly on the lavender phlox in front of my house. At first I thought it was a hummingbird, but as I moved closer I discovered it was a huge butterfly – the largest I’d ever seen, with a wingspan of about six inches. I rushed into the house to get my camera.
The butterfly was a challenge to photograph, its wings a blur as it hovered and darted from flower to flower, sipping nectar with its long tongue. The upper side of its wings were black, with a band of yellow spots from wingtip to wingtip. Another yellow band led diagonally from each wingtip to each wing “tail.” The tails were long, with yellow spots edged in black. On the underside, the coloration was similar to a tiger swallowtail – pale yellow with thin black stripes. I consulted my butterfly guides and determined the fabulous creature was a giant swallowtail, a cousin to our common Canadian tiger swallowtail. » Continue Reading.
Around the time when the puffy, spherical clusters of seeds appear on dandelions, male hummingbirds are engaging in their courtship flights, and hoards of black flies arrive when the air become humid, June bugs make their annual appearance during the evening around porch lights, street lamps, and well illuminated windows.
When indoors at this time of year after dark, it is common to hear the sound of this hefty, hard-shelled bug repeatedly flying into a screen, continuously beating its wings against a window pane, or buzzing around an outside light, as if attempting to get directly into the source of illumination. » Continue Reading.
Ever since humans invented agriculture and started moving from continent to continent, they have taken plants with them. In most cases imported, non-native plants do not spread much beyond the bounds of horticulture. But the exceptions are increasingly worrisome to biologists. Removed from the pests and diseases that kept them in check in their natural habitats, some plants multiply explosively. They can smother native ecosystems in a matter of a few years.
Some of these invasive plants, such as bush honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed, phragmites reed, and purple loosestrife, are all too familiar in our region. As if that’s not enough, we must now add a new menace to the list. The latest member of this rogues’ gallery is garlic mustard, a pungent herb in the cabbage family. » Continue Reading.
There are grounds for my suspicion; flowering plants are proven masters of deception. For instance, the sundew uses sparkling droplets of sticky “faux dew” to ensnare and digest curious flies; bee orchids dupe male wasps into wasting their copulatory efforts on floral structures that look and smell like a female wasp. And what about humans? As I labor on behalf of flowers, fertilizing, tilling, watering and sweating, I sometimes wonder if I’m being led down the proverbial garden path. Exactly who’s cultivating whom? » Continue Reading.