Posts Tagged ‘insects’

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tent Worms: Eastern Tent or Forest Tent?

Forest Tent CaterpillarLike a B-grade horror film, they’re back. Writhing en masse, draping cobwebs, and raining tiny “peppercorn” poop onto us, tent caterpillars have returned. Known variously as tent worms, army worms, and a host of other names not suitable to print, there are actually two species of tent caterpillars. » Continue Reading.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Intense Tent Caterpillars

eastern tent caterpillarThey hang around on finely spun strands of silky string; blue-black caterpillars parachuting ever-so-slowly to earth, landing in yards, crawling around on decks and porches; even finding their way into homes. Over the past few weeks, several people have asked me about them. Some have been coping with large numbers of them. And one person asked if they were the same worms that make their webs in apple trees.

They are not. They are similar, though. Both are hairy. Both are dark colored. Both grow from less than one-eighth of an inch to two inches or larger over a six to eight week period. And both are tent caterpillars. Beyond that, they’re clearly different. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

What’s Good for Your Lawn

Japanese Beetle (adult and grub)The Memorial Day long weekend is often a time to put in the garden, spruce up the yard, and of course, mow the lawn. After the snow from our prolonged winter melted away, many homeowners were disappointed at the condition of their lawn. Areas of dead grass are sometimes, but by no means always, due to heavy feeding by last fall’s grub crop. Grubs, of course, are beetle babies. Not like Ringo Junior, but the larval stage of European and rose chafers, and Japanese, Asiatic-garden, and Oriental beetles.

Unfortunately, you will have to wait until late summer to exact revenge, because short of becoming a skunk-herder and letting your flock dig up all the grubs, absolutely nothing you do to right now will kill the grubs responsible for vandalizing your lawn. Or kill any grubs for that matter. They are done feeding and are in the pupal stage, essentially impervious to poisons. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Creating Backyard Habitat for Pollinators

Kim EiermanOn June 11 and 12, 2018, the Adirondack Pollinator Project is set to host two free public lectures by Kim Eierman, an environmental horticulturist specializing in ecological landscapes and native plants.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn how to create habitat for pollinators in their own backyards. After the lecture, a one-hour reception will give guests the chance to ask questions and begin planning their own pollinator gardens. Free packet of wildflower seeds will be distributed and there will be a limited supply of pollinator plants for sale. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Wild Pollinators And Crop Viability

pollinatorsIf you’re like me, you enjoy the beauty of colorful flowers and love eating fresh fruits and vegetables. You recognize that many of the medicines and supplements we use come from plants. And you realize that the astounding diversity of ornamental, food, and medicinal plants that we grow or forage would not exist, if not for the interdependent synergy (referred to in biology as ‘mutualism’) that exists between flowering plants and their pollinators (bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies). » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Web of Mystery: Euonymus Caterpillars

Ermine SpindleJanet Hayward Burnham, of Bethel, Vermont, was driving to the bank one day when she saw a tree on the side of the road that looked like it was covered in decorative webbing, “cans and cans” of it, as if for Halloween. However, it was June.

Burnham is an illustrator, children’s book author, and writer of sweet (as opposed to sexy) romances and mysteries. She is, in other words, an intellectually curious person and she pulled over for a better look. From the sidewalk, she could see that the whole yard was covered in cottony webbing. Deep inside the webs were yellowish-white caterpillars with black heads. “I’d never seen anything like this in Vermont,” Burnham said. “Clearly, it was infested with something. What were they? Should we be concerned?” » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Forest Pests: Velvet Longhorn Beetles

velvet longhorned beetleSome invasive insects appear to be trying to win us over through sly public-relations moves. Emerald ash borer (EAB), the Asian beetle killing our ash trees, arrived looking like it just came from a Mary Kay convention, all bright, glitzy and glitter-coated. And it could have been simply called the green ash borer, but instead managed to get itself branded “emerald,” something everyone likes.

A new forest pest on the horizon seems to have taken a page from EAB. Trichoferus campestris, better known as the velvet longhorned beetle, has cleverly brought the cuddliness of the Velveteen Rabbit and the romantic image of Texas Longhorns together in its name. Don’t be fooled by this brilliant strategy, though. Let’s pull back the curtain and expose the velvet longhorned beetle (VLB) for what it really is. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Backswimmers: Upside-Down Aquatics

backswimmerI had just finished my safety talk to some middle school students when I heard a bloodcurdling scream. In many years handling aquatic insects and other small water creatures, I have never been wounded. Crayfish have once or twice gotten hold of me but never drawn blood. So I was quite surprised to hear through the minor chaos that a student had actually been bitten.

There were no crayfish where we sampled in Winooski, Vermont floodplain ponds and only one likely candidate to produce such a scream. It was the reason I had specifically warned my students to use forceps. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Isolation and the Lonely Ants Club

carpenter antExcessive tinder is a major contributor to forest fires, but a shortage of Tinder can lead to an early death. For social animals like canines, deer, dolphins, elephants, primates such as bonobos and humans, and even bees and ants, contact with others is as essential to well-being as food and water.

A 2015 study done at Brigham Young University which garnered much news coverage in 2017 and early this year found that loneliness may be a greater health risk than smoking and obesity combined. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Adirondack Insects: Cluster Flies

cluster fliesSo here’s my movie concept: during a laboratory accident, a scientist exchanges his DNA with a fly. Over the next few weeks, our hero slowly shrinks in size and transforms into an insect with black spiky body hair, maroon eyes, and translucent, buzzing wings.

What distinguishes this movie from previous versions of “The Fly” is that this time, the scientist swaps his genes with a cluster fly. Instead of developing super-fast reflexes, he becomes clumsy and lethargic. Instead of rampaging through a city terrorizing people, he alternates his time between crashing against the window and lying upside-down on the floor, twitching. The crisis comes when his irritated girlfriend picks him up with a tissue and tosses him outside. He soars into the clear blue winter sky… but then his wings freeze. The final image: a tiny crater in the snow. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Goldenrod Golf Ball Galls

goldenrodA few Thanksgivings ago, my then-ten-year-old daughter and I went for an afternoon stroll. Unseasonably warm weather made for a longer than planned walk through a power line right-of-way and on down through steeply sloping woods to the Winooski River. As we moved through the tall scrub, Lauren’s interest was drawn to the golf ball-sized swellings on desiccated goldenrod stalks.

As usual, she had many really good questions: what were these woody spheres on dead plants; why did some have holes; what did they look like inside? We pocketed a few and continued our walk. The soft silty river bank was peppered with footprints left by raccoons, herons, skunks, and deer that prompted more questions. By sunset we had made it through the Muddy Brook Natural Area and back out onto the gravel road. Our catch of the day remained in our pockets until after dinner. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chirp, Click, Buzz: An Insect Orchestra

field crickets This time of year, I keep the windows cracked open on even marginally warm nights, savoring the sweet air that sifts through the screens. On that air comes the sound of others relishing the last bit of warmth before frost settles in: namely, crickets and katydids.

With trills and chirps, clicks and buzzing, these winged insects – all members of the order Orthoptera, along with grasshoppers – woo potential mates. This music is ancient – and has been a key to the insects’ survival for some 200 million years. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Painted Lady Butterflies Making Mass Migration

The Adirondack Park is tinted with a new hue of brown this past week, and not from the changing foliage of deciduous trees for winter. The painted lady butterfly with its cinnamon orange wings outlined by mocha appendages is making moves South for what is seemingly the “most massive migration since the ’80’s” as Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch claims.

Commonly mistaken for the monarch butterfly because of the similar coloration, the painted lady finds residence on all continents except for Australia and Antarctica. In the United States, extremely well breeding populations are found in the North, West and Eastern regions. Taylor said he is receiving “reports from Montreal to the Front Range of Colorado [that] entail the mid-continental migration of possibly billions of painted lady butterflies” this year. » Continue Reading.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Northern New York

emerald ash borer photo courtesy DECThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that invasive pest emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found and confirmed for the first time in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. DEC captured the insects in monitoring traps at the two locations.

DEC confirmed the specimens as adult EABs on August 25. The invasive pest was found within a few miles of the Canadian border and may represent an expansion of Canadian infestations into New York. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

North Country Deerflies

deerfly My students and I were conducting research in the Winooski River floodplain at Saint Michael’s College last week when the buzzing became particularly intense. A brisk walk is enough to outdistance mosquitoes, but deerflies combine fighter jet speed with helicopter maneuverability. And a slap that might incapacitate a mosquito seems to have little effect on these relentless pests. Deerfly season 2017 started slowly, but by late July there were enough to carry off small children. On trails between wetlands and farm fields, we were dive-bombed by countless, persistent, little winged vampires. Insect repellent did little to repel them. We slapped, feinted, grabbed at thin air, and usually came up empty. It was like Caddyshack, but with flies rather than gophers.

The horsefly family Tabanidae includes deerflies, along with larger Alaskan “mooseflies,” and the greenheads that ruin many a trip to New England’s beaches. Iridescent green eyes that make up most of the fly’s head give them their common name. Far more impressive is their bite: they truly hurt. Because greenheads emerge only from saltmarshes, we know they travel up to two miles in search of blood. » Continue Reading.


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