Posts Tagged ‘insects’

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Stings and Stingers: An Outside Story

hornet stinging apparatusAs a boy, I was exploring the loft of my grandmother’s barn when I disturbed a bumblebee nest among the moldering hay bales. In my memory, I leap stuntman-like from the haymow and hit the ground 10 feet below running flat out, rounding the corner of the barn then glancing back to see if anyone is in pursuit. There is an angry bumbler coming up fast. I vault the rusty ornamental fence and am steps from the screen door and safety when … I get nailed in the neck. Ow!

When we lived in Louisiana, I scalped a fire-ant nest while mowing the lawn and got stung a few hundred times as the ants swarmed up my legs. Vivid memory. I’ve been stung by several varieties of wasps and, as a beekeeper, I periodically get stung by my honey bees. Yes, it still hurts. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whirligig Beetles: Four Eyes On You

whirligig beetle “What’s this shiny black beetle with four eyes?” asked Erin Hayes-Pontius, a visiting UVM student, from her microscope. Without glancing up from my own scope I answered, “that’s a whirligig beetle.” Erin’s answer came back: “err, cute … but what’s it really called?”

I will grant you that the name whirligig is a bit odd – particularly when applied to an inert pickled beetle – but there are excellent reasons it. In life, whirligig beetles weave and whirl on pond and river surfaces amongst dozens of their peers. They move like miniature motor boats that appear to lack rudder function. There’s method to this seeming madness. The mesmerizing movement confuses predators, who find it difficult to focus on any one individual. Ecologists call this phenomenon predator dilution. It’s like the old joke about the two friends and the tiger: “I don’t need to outrun the tiger, I just need to outrun you!” » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Invasive Spotted Lanternfly In Albany County

Spotted lanternfly by Lawrence BarringerThe New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Agriculture and Markets (DAM) have confirmed that spotted lanternfly (SLF), an invasive pest from Asia, has been found in Albany and Yates counties.

A single adult insect was discovered in a vehicle in the Capital District. In addition, a single adult insect was reported on a private Keuka Lake property in Penn Yan, Yates County.

Following both reported cases, DEC and DAM began surveys in the area and report that at this time no additional insects have been found. DEC and DAM urge New Yorkers to report potential sightings to spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Invasives: A New Tick Species Is Spreading

longhorned tick courtesy wikimedia user CommonsourceYears ago I read an author interview, and although I don’t recall her name, one of the images she raised has stayed with me. It’s not an exact quote, but she said something to the effect that writing ought to feel to an author as if they were water skiing behind their work, not towing it like a barge. In general, I find this to be the case. The hours or days of research which go into an article are hardly exhilarating, but the wave-jumping that comes after shrinking those pages of facts into 800 words makes it worth the effort.

However, when I tried to water-ski behind a brand-new invasive tick that can reproduce without mating, drain the blood out of livestock, and potentially carry ten or more human diseases, including one similar to Ebola, something changed. A few topics whip across the water at high speed. Most at least pull me at a leisurely pace. This one made me drop the whole water skiing idea and swim for my life. Turns out there is a limit to how many miles you can get out of happy imagery. And to how long a writer should be allowed to spend alone in a room with the same metaphor. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Meet Rosy Maple, Contender for Cutest Moth

Rosy Maple Moth The church service was about to begin when some breathless kids pulled me out of my seat to “come see this awesome, pretty, pink-and-yellow, fuzzy baby moth!” on the Sunday school door. It was a rosy maple moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, notable for its dipped-in-sherbet coloring.

The moth’s coloring can vary from pink to purple and from yellow to white. “Our” moth had purplish-pink forewings with a creamy-yellow band across the middle. The hindwings were pale yellow with a touch of pink along the edges. Its woolly body was bright yellow above and raspberry pink below. The same pink spilled onto the legs, much to the surprise and delight of the kids. The head looked like a yellow craft pompom. With wings spread wide, the moth was just over an inch across and just under an inch long. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Examining Threats to Monarch Butterfly Migration

monarch butterflyThe monarch butterfly may be the most recognized butterfly in the world. With the exception of the Polar Regions, the medium-size butterflies can be found on every continent on Earth. Their spectacular migration in eastern North America, from breeding locations in Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in Mexico, is nothing short of a miracle and has been the subject of decades of study.

Monarchs have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (butterfly). The search for milkweed, the only food that monarch larvae eat, is the sole reason for the annual monarch migration. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Invasives: POOL Owner Citizen Science Program

Asian longhorned beetle The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has encouraged New York pool owners to participate in DEC’s annual Asian Longhorned Beetle Swimming Pool Survey during the month of August.

This is the time of year when Asian longhorned beetles (ALB) emerge as adults and are most active outside of their host tree. The goal of the survey is to look for and find these exotic, invasive beetles before these pests cause serious damage to our forests and street trees. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Northeast’s Most Alarming Insect

Hellgrammites If freshwater insects did senior superlatives before graduating from aquatic life, what would yearbook entries say about dobsonflies? Largest? Most ferocious? Most likely to change names? Most likely to bite a human? Or to be used as fish bait? Or to be confused with a centipede?

All of these superlatives apply to larval hellgrammites – insects that, upon emerging from the water, promptly change names to become dobsonflies. These fascinating predators spend their larval stage eating other invertebrates, including other hellgrammites. They’re equipped with impressive mandibles that can open wider than the width of their own heads and can handily crunch through the tough exoskeletons of most insects. An occasional angler has learned the hard way that the mandibles of larger hellgrammites are quite capable of penetrating human skin. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Paul Hetzler: More Blissful Ignorance, Please

It’s a rare blessing to have a job I absolutely love, but it’s not all roses. Although some of it is, literally, roses. All too often it is my dubious honor to bring to public awareness a new invasive pest or disease, and history has not always been kind to the bearers of bad news.

There is an old saying that knowledge is power, but there is another one that ignorance is bliss, and some days I’d be happy to trade some alleged power for a little bliss. » Continue Reading.


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.