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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Rhopalapion longirostre – the Hollyhock Weevil
Urbana, Illinois

The hollyhock weevil is, I believe, the very first beetle in the family Brentidae we’ve featured as part of our Friday series. Rhopalapion longirostre is an introduced European insect that feeds on hollyhocks, a common summer-flowering ornamental that, like its beetle pest, is also introduced. Some neighbors have a stand of these just up the road, and every time I look they are covered in cute little grey weevils (perhaps not coincidentally, the flowers don’t look all that great…)

The female picture here is laying an egg into a flower bud. If you look carefully, you should be able to see the ovipositor sticking into the plant tissue from the tip of her abdomen.


Photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f13, 1/250 sec, diffused flash

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According to Google Trends, that is:

Insofar as internet search interest in particular insects reflects infestation levels, it seems summer 2010 is a banner year for our little cimicid friends. Peaks occur every summer as rising temperatures increase both the reproductive rate of the bugs and their motility.

Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug

Incidentally, it’s a shame Gawker can’t seem to figure out what real bed bugs look like. I certainly wouldn’t mind an infestation of stag beetles. That’d actually be kinda cool.

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Monday Night Mystery

Have the aliens landed? Or is tonight’s challenge something more…terrestrial?

Ten Myrmecos Points (TM) for the first commentator who can give me the correct genus and species, with supporting explanation.

The cumulative points winner for the month of July will win their choice of 1) an 8×10-sized print from my photo galleries, or 2) a guest post here on Myrmecos.

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From the PBS series Nature:

(as an aside, the narrator sounds suspiciously like the same guy who voiced this arachnid documentary classic)

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Calosoma scrutator, the fiery searcher
Savoy, Illinois

It’s a good thing Myrmecos isn’t a scratch-and-sniff blog. This beetle is a real stinker.

Calosoma scrutator, the fiery searcher, measures about 3cm long and is among our largest native ground beetles. The spectacular metallic coloration serves to warn predators- and, apparently, photographers- of the noxious chemicals it can release when threatened. I had to wash my hands after handling this insect.


photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
(top)ISO 200, f/11, 1/125 sec
(bottom) ISO100, f/13, 1/160 sec
indirect strobe in white box

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My ambient light bug portraits are nowhere near as good as those by the amazing Rick Lieder. But I’m working on it. Here’s a coenagrionid damselfly:


photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera
Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/800 sec

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In the wake of the Scienceblogs fiasco I have been thinking about the conundrum faced by bug bloggers who decide to offset the costs of their hobby by selling ad space. I’ve noticed a pattern.

All- not just some- but ALL the bug blogs that are supported by advertising serve those godawful Terminex ones. You know the ones I’m talking about, with the scurrying roaches and the scare quotes about Salmonella. It’s as if Terminex decided to take half their PR budget and buy up the blogosphere.

It doesn’t matter if every blog post is about the beauty and wonder of insects, and how each is a splendid marvel of nature. It doesn’t matter if the readership is like-minded buggy folk who cringe at the very thought of pesticides. Terminex will plaster a scare ad across the top.

There is a valid role in our society for pest control companies. It just happens to fill 10% of the space the current industry inhabits. The rest is snake-oil salesmen scaring homeowners into needlessly throwing money at them for imaginary problems. While I do know some excellent pest control people, much of the business- and especially the large internationals- is populated by the ignorant, the money-grubbing, and the ethically-challenged.

Judging from the current blog ads, it seems bug bloggers don’t have a choice. If you run ads, you get Terminex. Surely there must be other companies whose products intersect with an entomologically-literate readership.

[editor’s note: we are not about to start serving ads here at Myrmecos. This is merely an observation stemming from what we’ve seen on other blogs.]

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Our garden beehives have been growing quickly. The afternoon’s orientation flights- where young bees try out their wings and learn to recognize landmarks around the hive- were especially busy so I pulled out my video gear:

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[the following is an invited post by coleopterist Ted MacRae]

Ted MacRae from Beetles in the Bush here, and today it is my privilege to present this week’s post for the Friday Beetle Blogging series here at Myrmecos Blog. For what reason was I bestowed this great honor? I’d like to say it was because of my witty prose, my stunning photography, or even my all around niceness.  In truth, however, it was simply because I was the June winner of Alex’s Monday Night Mystery contest – so he had to let me!

These are some of my most recent photographs of Cylindera celeripes, or the Swift Tiger Beetle.  This tiny (6-8 mm in length), flightless beetle and I have become good friends over the past couple of years, which is saying something since the species has been dealt a rather bad hand by man over the past century.  Once abundant in the central and southern Great Plains, its numbers have declined drastically as the native prairie habitats it depends upon have been converted to row crops and exotic grasses.  It was last seen in Nebraska nearly 100 years ago, and only small numbers have been seen in the Loess Hills of Iowa during the past half century.  The Flint Hills of Kansas seemed to be its last stronghold, but last year I found robust populations in the Red Clay/Gypsum Hills of northwestern Oklahoma and extended its known range in the Loess Hills south into Missouri.  Since then, I’ve been monitoring these two populations and perfecting laboratory rearing techniques for this never-before-reared species.  Just yesterday (big announcement!), the first individual reared completely from egg to adult emerged from its pupal chamber.  The photos shown here were taken last weekend in Oklahoma’s Glass Mountains – the first shows a female in the act of ovipositing into a small hole she had dug in the soil, and the second is a closer view of the same individual after she had finished her business.


photo details: Canon 50D camera
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens
ISO 100, f/14 (top) f/13 (bottom), 1/250 sec
Canon MT-24EX flash (1/8 power, double diffusion)

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Monday Night Mystery

What in the world is this strange creature?

The point breakdown* will be as follows:

2 points for order
2 points for family
2 points for genus
2 points for species
2 points for describing the behavior

As in past weeks, you have to be first in each category.


*What are Myrmecos points good for?  The cumulative winner at the end of the month gets to choose either 1)any 8×10 print from alexanderwild.com, or 2) a guest blog post on a topic of their choosing.

[update]: the answer is here.

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