Friday, December 16, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
An elusive bumblebee, which was last seen in 1956, was recently found living in the White Mountains of south-central New Mexico, scientists announced Monday (Dec. 5).
Known as "Cockerell's bumblebee," the bee was first described in 1913 using six specimens collected along the Rio Ruidoso, a river located in the Sierra Blanca and Sacramento Mountains, N.M. Over the years, one more sample was found in Ruidoso, and 16 specimens were collected near the town of Cloudcroft, N.M.
The last Cockerell's bumblebee sample was collected in 1956. No other specimens had been recorded until Aug. 31, when a team of scientists from the University of California, Riverside, found three more samples of the bee species in weeds along a highway north of Cloudcroft.
"When an insect species is very rare, or highly localized, it can fairly easily escape detection for very long periods of time," Douglas Yanega, a senior museum scientist at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), said in a statement.
Cockerell's bumblebee has the most limited range of any bumblebee species in the world, having been spotted only in an area of less than 300 square miles (777 square kilometers), according to the researchers. By comparison, the rare "Franklin's bumblebee" species, which was last seen in 2003 and is on the verge of extinction, is known from a distribution covering about 13,000 square miles (33,670 square km).
Cockerell's bumblebee was able to fly under the radar for so long because the area where the species lives is rarely visited by entomologists, Yanega said. The bee species has also "long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species," Yanega explained.
An assessment of the genetic makeup of the three newly discovered specimens gives fairly conclusive evidence that Cockerell's bumblebee is a genuine species, the researchers said.
It is not unusual for an insect species to be rediscovered after several decades, when people might otherwise have believed it had gone extinct, Yanega said. UCR entomologists rediscover many "lost" insect species like the Cockerell's bumblebee, as well as discover entirely new species, at the rate of several dozen species every year.
"There are many precedents – some of them very recently in the news, in fact – of insects that have been unseen for anywhere from 70 to more-than-100 years, suddenly turning up again when someone either got lucky enough, or persistent enough, to cross paths with them again," Yanega said. "It is much harder to give conclusive evidence that an insect species has gone extinct than for something like a bird or mammal or plant."
Cockerell's bumblebee does not appear to be facing extinction. The bumblebee dwells in an area that's largely composed of National Forest and Apache tribal land, it is "unlikely to be under serious threat of habitat loss at the moment," Yanega said.
However, the researcher notes that since the bee species' biology is completely unknown, it may require additional formal assessments in the future.
You can follow LiveScience writer Remy Melina on Twitter @remymelina. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Now....I'm not sure if you all realize this, but a cornered garter snake is not much different than any other cornered animal. That snake came out fighting, lunging.....open mouthed, and bent on scaring the hell out of us. My brother was very helpful....as he stood behind me yelling...."well go on catch it!"
It was then that I realized my brother was as scared of the snake as our mom! I accused him of being a chicken.....and all he said was "SO?" It took several minutes and numerous attempts before I finally caught the snake. Marty fetched a brown paper bag to put it in and he walked it up the road to an abandoned field. When he got back, and mom got done scolding him for bringing a nasty vile creature into the house, I had the chance to ask him how it got out in the first place. He took me into his room, with a puzzled look on his face and said "I don't know, I had it in this large jar and made sure to put a paper towel over it" I nearly died laughing.
I've had many other interesting experiences with snakes and each one as reinforced my love of them. Recently I joined a group of conservation minded individuals called the RARR (Rise against rattlesnake roundups). This group is trying to bring about necessary changes to the way rattlesnake roundups are being done. Numerous (1,000's) of rattlesnakes are removed from their natural habitat and thrown into buckets and boxes.
They are transported to the event, where they are often frozen for several hours to allow for easier handling when they sew their mouths shut. These snakes with their sewn mouths are then passed around from person to person to have their picture taken with for a fee. These snakes die from stress within hours. Many of the snakes are skinned while still clinging to life and sold by the pound. The snakes are exposed to the elements and left in the sun with no water or shelter. Many snakes die from exposure alone. The officials that run the roundups claim they hold the event to control an overpopulation of rattlers. They want to make it a safer environment for people. This all sounds upstanding and full of good intentions, until you find out that they are shipping snakes in from Texas and other areas. If they are so overrun with venomous snakes, then why bring more into the state? It is obvious the snake populations are plummeting and they can no longer find them in large concentrations. Many snake hunters will locate a den site of hibernating rattlesnakes and gas out or burn out the snakes. They are able to remove many many snakes in one fell swoop. Rattlesnakes only mate every other year and they do not have large litters when they do. It is very easy to hunt these snakes to the point of extinction. Many counties throughout these snakes range our now free of rattlesnakes.
Missouri traditionally could claim that timber rattlesnakes were found in every county in the state.....not anymore. There are more counties without timbers than with them. The few that have them remaining are showing signs of reduced numbers. We as humans have to stop our way of thinking when it comes to creatures that we do not understand, or like, or that make us fearful. We have no moral right to try and remove every animal that we deem unworthy of existence. No one will argue that snakes aren't cuddly or cute. Snakes can be creepy, simply because they are so different from 4 legged mammals. These differences should be respected and we should try to understand that snakes serve a vital role in the habitats where they are found. Killing them out only causes an unbalance in that ecosystem.
I am proud to be a part of a group that is working so hard to protect a species that many find unworthy of our consideration. As part of my involvement with this group I created a new blog entitled Rattlesnake Education and Awareness. My hope is that like me, many of you like the creepy side of nature. The side of nature that is often misunderstood. The side of nature, that makes nature and being outdoors so much more interesting. Please take time to visit the blog, become a follower and help us support the ongoing effort to educate the public. Hopefully through education we can all become better informed and make wiser decisions where wildlife is concerned.
If anyone is interested in contributing content to the new blog, just email me. We will be happy to have writers come on board and share their reptile (and amphibian) experiences with our followers.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
The ichneumon larvae will feed on the pigeon horntail larvae, consuming its body from the inside out. Once they have consumed the entire contents of the larvae they will pupate inside the rotting wood the following spring and once they are mature they will emerge from the decaying wood. The adults do not feed.
Even though the long ovipositor looks dangerous, it is harmless to humans, they cannot sting with it. It is designed for egg laying only. There are three species of Megarhyssa found in North America and may reside in the same area. Each species uses the pigeon horntail as their host. It is not uncommon to find all three species inside the same piece of rotting wood feeding on the horntail larvae. As each species of Megarhyssa uses a different length ovipositor to reach the horntail at different depths within the wood.
I've seen only a few of these large wasp-like creatures in our gardens in the past 5 or more years. I actually had one land on my leg once and walk around tapping its antennae on my leg as if trying to determine if I was a rotting log. I wasn't sure if I should be insulted or not.....was the wasp trying to tell me I have stumps for legs?
Thursday, November 24, 2011
This brightly colored moth is a Crocus Geometer Moth in the genus Xanthotype in the family Geometridae. They are extremely common throughout North America and frequently visit porch lights or other artificial lights at night. This moth can also be flushed from timbered areas and grasslands bordering timberland during the daytime. There are several species within this genus and each are nearly identical and generally cannot be accurately identified without genitalia magnification.
These moths are a beautiful shade of bright yellow with purplish colored blotches on the wings. Males have more blotches than females. Males of this species, like the males of most moths have feathered antennae to "smell" the pheromone emitted by the female. They are capable of smelling her scent from great distances. Once mated the female will lay her eggs on a wide variety of host plants including Spirea, goldenrods, catnip, ground-ivy, red osier dogwood, and rhodora azaloa. The caterpillars are twig mimics and blend in with the branches they are living among.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Garter Snakes are without a doubt one of the most widely spread of all the reptiles found in North America. In fact the Common Garter Snake(Thamnophis sirtalis) is the only snake known to be hardy enough to survive in Alaska’s inhospitable climate. It is thought to be the northernmost snake in the World with exception to a snake called the Crossed Viper (Vipera berus). In Missouri where I live I find several varieties in my yard, but one of the most common by far is the Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) which is pictured here above. They reach lengths up to 26 inches. As far as I know all garter snakes have the tell-tale stripes that run dorsally along their bodies. These stripes may be green, yellow, gray, black, red and even blue. The subspecies the red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis talis parietalis) is the most prevalent of the two species I find. Red-sided garter snakes are quite striking in their appearance with bright red color patches between the stripes.
Garter Snakes are colubrid snakes in the family Colubridae; over 2/3 of the snakes found in the world belong to this family, making it the largest family of snakes. This group of snakes is often described as a catch all for snakes that don’t quite fit into other families. Most within this family are non-venomous, but a few however have venom toxic enough to cause human fatalities such as the Boomslang, Twig Snake and snakes in the genus Rhabdophis which are found in Asia. Garter snakes do posses venom glands, but these glands are located posterior (to the rear) of the snake’s eyes whereas typical venomous snakes have venom glands located anterior or forward. The venom they posses is not lethal enough to affect humans and the garter snake lacks any real way of injecting you with it anyway. The venom is used to subdue prey rather than as a defense mechanism. Once the snake has captured its prey it will “chew” the venom into the unfortunate victim.
Garter snakes commonly prey on frogs, toads, small rodents, birds, slugs, lizards, leeches, earthworms, and fish. Since the majority of their diet consists of aquatic creatures they will most often be found in those environments. We have a large goldfish pond and that is usually where I find these snakes. They commonly feed on the toads and bullfrogs found near or in the pond. This photo was taken a few years ago near the pond. This red-sided garter snake (above and below) had captured a large toad and was doing its best to swallow it. There was quite a struggle taking place, almost like tug-o-war. The snake pulling with its mouth, and the toad pulling with its legs in the other direction. The toad was finally able to free itself from the snake and quickly hopped off to lick its wounds.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Although pesticides can help reduce the nuisance problems with camel crickets, they are not a long-term solution. Effective control starts with eliminating harborage sites, reducing conditions that are conducive or attractive to these pests and by excluding these insects from our homes:
- Caulk or seal gaps and openings around windows frames, doors, foundation and clothes dryer vents, crawlspace access doors (picture at right), soffits, as well as where heating/AC and plumbing lines pass through the foundation.
- Install weather-stripping along the bottom of house and garage doors so that it fits tightly against the threshold.
- Stack boxes and other items off of the ground and away from the walls in a garage or storage building. This helps improve airflow and makes it easier to check for crickets and other pests, including termites.
- Reduce moisture indoors, as well as in other critical areas such as basements or crawlspaces.
- Keep ground cover and mulch at least 12 inches or more away from the foundation. When possible, use an inorganic cover such as gravel up near the foundation.
- Keep ground cover and shrubs away from the foundation and siding. Do not stack firewood against the house. Remove piles of lumber or other clutter under decks that might attract crickets and other pests.
- Place sticky boards, such as those used for cockroaches and mice, in corners and behind appliances to catch crickets that enter your home.
Indoors: Any of the common household (indoor) insecticides can be applied to baseboards, and areas behind appliances. However, if you follow the steps outlined earlier for excluding these pests, the need for indoor applications should be reduced.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
This species of green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris) is one of the most common of all stink bugs found in gardens throughout North America. They are fairly large at 3/4 of an inch in length. The color is uniformly bright green with yellowish margins near the abdominal region.
These stink bugs are readily found near woodland edges, in agricultural fields, and gardens. I have hundreds of them in my yard this fall, which could be in large part because of the unseasonably warm temperatures we've been having. It could also be because of a lack of available predators to feed on them. Perhaps it is just a good year for them. The nymphs of this particular species give no indications of the adult form it will soon be. They look entirely different......the shape is somewhat similar, but look at the color! Early instar nymphs will be beautiful combinations of black, green and orange. Later instar nymphs will begin taking on the trademark green color. After 5 instars (molts) they will reach adult size, usually by August or September.
Stink bugs get their common name from the defense mechanism that these little stink bombs implement when disturbed or threatened. They possess gland located on the underside of their bodies that emit a musk-like vile smell that is sure to repel any predator bent on handling them or eating them. Young stink bugs will hide under leaf litter to wait out Missouri's cold winter months. When spring returns they will become active again and begin seeking mates. After mating, the females will lay their barrel-shaped eggs in clusters on the underside of leaves. The young hatch and feed on plant juices just like their adult counterparts. There may be several generations per year and it is common to find them in all stages of development in the same area. The life expectancy of green stink bugs is about 2 months in warmer climates, in areas where the onset of winter sends them into a dormant stage they will live many months longer.
Biological control is often attempted in areas where they are causing extreme damage; certain parasitic flies and parasitic wasps are known to use these bugs as the host for their own offspring. Many creatures are brave enough to risk the stink bomb for a quick meal....frogs, toads,spiders and birds will all make a meal out of these bugs.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants of this species. They are known to overwinter in Southern Texas, and most likely in other southern regions where the temperatures and food sources will allow. They have a very erratic, rapid flight that can make capturing them or photographing them difficult, but they are one of the most beautiful butterflies to visit any garden.
The adults feed on sap flows, rotting fruit, and bird droppings. They nectar only when those preferred food sources are not available. When found nectaring they seem to prefer common milkweed, red clover, coneflower, aster, and alfalfa, but will also be found on other varieties as well.
Males perch on ridgetops where available to wait for passing females.....if no ridgetops are available they will choose high vantage points that allow them a good view of neary females. After mating, females will lay their eggs singly on the leaves of the host plant. In the case of these butterflies they use nettles, and possibly hops.
Their preferred habitat is moist woods, yards, parks, marshes, seeps, moist fields. During migrations, the Red Admiral is found in almost any habitat from tundra to subtropics.
I find them in my gardens in large numbers each year, both because I have nettles that I allow to grow in small populations to encourage their visit, and because our yard is near a moist woodland. Nettles are not generally the favorite plant of most people, although they are edible if fixed right. If you can manage to tolerate a few stray nettles you are amost guaranteed to attract this species to your yard.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I just wanted to write and Thank each one of my followers and visitors for your kind comments and enthusiastic support of MObugs. I appreciate each and every one of you. I may not always leave comments on your blogs, but trust me I am visiting, reading and enjoying your posts very much. I count my blessing each day to have such wonderful "web-friends."
Saturday, October 22, 2011
They are commonly found in grasslands and meadows near forested areas. These were found on a farm my husband family owns in Andrew County. It is predominately tall grass meadows with woodlands...perfect habitat for these cicadas. What is odd though, this is the first time we've ever found them on this farm. They have a very distinct call that sounds like a chainsaw cutting wood. It is very high pitched an whiney.
Cicadas are an important part of the food chain and provide nutrition for many animals from mice, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and even large spiders.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Water snakes are notoriously cranky snakes and often strike without warning. This feisty demeanor has earned them a bad reputation. In addition they are often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth and needlessly killed. While it is true they very much resemble the cottonmouth and hang out in the same environments and habitats as the cottonmouth the cottonmouth does not occur this far north in Missouri. The likelihood of actually seeing a cottonmouth in NW Missouri is less than 1%. However with global warming, habitat destruction and human persecution that could change over time and their populations could extend further north. This however would be many decades in the future and certainly not a concern now.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
While these webs are unsightly and certainly not aesthetically pleasing they do not cause any lasting damage to trees. The female moth will lay her eggs in clusters of up to a hundred on the bottom side of leaves. They will be encased in a hair-like substance that protects them until they hatch approximately a week later. The caterpillars begin feeding on the surface of the leaves and as they eat they produce a silky substance that is used to form the webs. As the caterpillars grow so too does the tent. In large colonies the tents may encompass the entire tree. When the caterpillars are in their last stage of growth before forming their cocoon they well begin feeding on the entire leaves of the tree. The reason these caterpillars have very little affect on the overall health of the trees they are feeding on has to do with the time of the year they are found. Trees in the fall are nearing the end of their growing season and preparing to go dormant for the winter. Sap and vital nutrients that the trees depend on in the growing season are now receding back into the heart of the tree. Therefore these caterpillars can munch away and the trees can withstand the feeding frenzy and come back to their former beauty the following spring. The only exception to this may be if you have extremely young trees or ornamental trees. The moths are native to North America and can be found throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 1940 these moths were accidentally introduced to Yugoslavia and from there it wasn't long before they spread to other countries. They are now found nearly Worldwide. In North America they are known to feed on approximately 120 tree species. They predominately favor hardwood species like walnut, pecan, hickory, elm, maple and fruit trees. Worldwide there are over 600 species of trees they are known to feed on.
As caterpillars they are highly variable in their appearance and can range in color from pale yellow to dark gray with yellow spots. They will have a combination of long and short bristly hairs, and two pale stripes running the length of their bodies. They will remain caterpillars for 4 to 6 weeks before forming a cocoon and emerging the following spring. In the pupal stage they can be found at the base of trees tucked away under fallen bark and leaves.
As adults they are mostly white in the northern part of their range, whereas in the southern part of their range they may be marked with black or brown spots on the forewings. The front legs have bright yellow or orange patches. They have a wingspan up to 2 inches and their bodies are extremely hairy, which aids in keeping them warm as they fly around at night. These moths readily come to lights at night and will often be seen at porch lights.
This species is often mistaken for tent caterpillars, because of the similar tent-like webbing that each species creates. The tent caterpillar however commonly occurs in the spring and they build a web home in the V's of trees, whereas the fall webworm is found in the fall (like its name suggests) and build their homes at the end of limbs. The fall webworm has a much messier tent than that of the tent caterpillar as well. So while these messy, webby tents are not that attractive to look at, rest assured your tree is safe and will be back next spring. The little caterpillars will most likely find a new tree to build their home in as the cycle starts all over again.