Posts Tagged 'insects'

Naturalist Notes

Viola canadensis, a native violet.It was cool, so this Robin (Turdus migratorius) was hunkered down on those blue blue eggs.A Red Velvet Mite of the family Trombidiidae. Predators of the leaf-litter zone, as large as a blood-gorged tick and, being mite-y, rather looking like one.So many vocal White-Throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) in the Ramble!And a recent sunset.

Atalantycha bilineata

Two-lined Leather-wing, also known as Two-lined Cantharid. One of the soldier beetles. This is one of the earliest Cantharids to emerge in the spring, evidently. Found from Nova Scotia on down. This one spotted in Virginia three weeks ago, where/when not too much else was flying.

According to Wikipedia, soldier beetles (Cantharidae) were called such because one of the first described had the colors of a British Redcoat.

Oak Galls

gall1The mighty oaks and their galls are an endless source of curiosity. This particular type, a hard, fruit-like structure, is created by a tiny wasp, which essentially irritated the tree into making them for their larva.
galls2Clever boots! The trees are Swamp White Oak (Q. bicolor), according to the Street Tree Map. (I’m waiting on some leaves to see if I can confirm that.)gall3The wasp’s exit hole. I think these are Disholcaspis genus gall wasps. D. quercusmamma perhaps? (Why, yes, a translation of that would be “oak breasts.”)

Thoreau Thursday

dipteraThe other day, when I noticed a host of gnat-like flies outside the kitchen window, it was 54 degrees F and overcast. matingNothing to see here, people, move along.

Well, actually, we can see an awful lot here. The top specimen is, I assume, male, because of those moth-like feathery antennae; the better to sense you with, my dear. You can just see, between his middle and hind legs, two barbell-like projections: these are the halteres. Flies are in the order Diptera, which means two-winged. Many insects have four wings; halteres are sort of vestigial hindwing stubs; they help with aerial maneuvering, evidently, like around your ears as they hunger for your blood stream. Yeah, mosquitos are Diptera.

Also, note out much larger the female is. She frankly looks like a member of another species entirely. Is this an egg-carrying adaptation?

“It is discouraging to talk with men who will recognize no principles. How little use is made of reason in this world!” HDT, March 4, 1852.

You may have had the experience of attempting to argue with a person who believes, say, that the tiles are showering down in New York City tunnels, or that “welfare queens” use their paltry government checks to buy champagne and other aspects of the high life that good solid working folk do not enjoy. You used all the evidence you could muster to argue, actually, no, neither of these things are happening, or, if indeed there’s evidence of one such incident, it only means there’s one example of it, not the rule at all. But not only are you not believed, the person becomes more convinced that they’re right.

Indeed, limited-information people actually double-down in their belief in their fantasies when presented with evidence that they’re wrong. Social scientists call this the “backfire effect.” (No one, after all, likes discovering that they’re chumps played for suckers.) Blindly following Trump as they blindly believed Obama was a Muslim coming to take away their guns, such willful idiots are the foot-soldiers of Trumpism’s attack on democracy. They are their own willing executioners. To note that, at most, they’re 25% of the population is an understatement of the threat they pose to us all. And besides, there’s definitely some of this conspiratorial thinking across the spectrum.

“…but it sprang back to its former stubborn and unhandsome position like a bit of whalebone.”

Wooly Bear

Pyrrharctia isabellaOur old friend the Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar, bearishly larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. This was found behind a large piece of bark, which was put back. img_2643Have you heard the one about judging winter’s length/severity by the amount of black and/or orange on the animal? Turns out that the colors are just a factor of age: the orange expands and the black contracts during each successive molt.Pyrrharctia isabellaThe caterpillar is overwintering in a state of dormancy. They can actually freeze solid and thaw out without ill-effects. An Arctic Wolly Bear (I’m not sure it’s the same species) has such a short period of summer that it can stay in the caterpillar stage for a dozen years, growing a bit each summer before finally cocooning and reforming as an adult, when it lives for about a day.

I would not recommend living in a state of dormancy right now. Things to do instead.


cocoonThe winter woods are quiet and relatively monotone in color. But look closer. (And listen!)

We were looking at tree buds. This big cocoon with remnants of leaf-covering was just hanging there. One of the giant moths of the family Saturniidae made this, I think. Will it make it? Has it already be taken over by parasitic wasps? Overhead, a trio of Red-tailed Hawks explored their own futures.

Ah, the future. There is a subset of Americans who seem pretty immune to reality. Perhaps it is a grounding in the fiction of religion, because if they believe that, they may well believe anything. Or perhaps it is the authoritarian personality that wants to be led.  Or maybe it’s the willful ignorance of the self-satisfied. All these could be in play. Don’t forget the power of conspiracy thinking, a strange urge to make everything seem rational, orderly, and controlled by somebody. And the windowless rooms of Fox and Facebook…

It’s really up to them in too many ways. They have to be convinced that lies, more lies, and damned lies are antithetical to democracy and civilization, not to mention their own damn-fool asses.

Oak Wilt

Damn it! I really wanted to start on a positive note, but the bad news just keeps coming. Oak wilt has been discovered in Brooklyn. This is a lethal fungal infection of oaks and other species, its spores spread by beetles.

img_2116When I was in Green-Wood on Friday, I heard a chipper hard at work. As I got closer, I realized it was grinding up one of my favorite old Red Oaks! That’s about 7 feet of stump still to go. This is the tree whose globular fungal growths, which have nothing to do with the wilt as far as I’ve been able to tell, have piqued my curiosity before. The sixth image down here is what these mushrooms look like when fresh.

Here’s more about the disease.

Oaks are so damn important. Their relationship to a host of life forms, particularly insects and birds, puts them deep within a spreading web of ecological connections (Muir Webs). And we have a lot of oaks here in the city, on the street and in the parks and woodlands.

I mean, it’s a double-whammy: a killer orange fungus soon to be soiling the White House, and a nasty fungal pathogen going after some of our grandest trees.


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