Posts Tagged ‘entomology’

Bug-Blogging Galore

Over at IB401, the entomology students are blogging faster than a swarm of locusts in a candy shop*:

Drop by and leave them some comments!

*or, whatever.

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Chlaenius sp. ground beetle, Urbana, Illinois

This colorful beetle came from our back yard.  It’s a ground beetle in the genus Chlaenius, recognizeable from its pubescent elytra and pungent defensive secretions.  Like most ground beetles, Chlaenius makes a living as a predator.

The beetle’s metallic sheen is not the result of a pigment but of fine microscopic sculpturing on the integument.  This is evident when the insect is viewed at a different aspect: notice how the color turns to green in lateral view:


The same beetle, in sideview.

photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/80 sec, indirect strobe in a white box

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A student at the University of Illinois navigates an aphid swarm between classes.

A student at the University of Illinois navigates an aphid swarm between classes.

We’ve had plenty of traffic here at the Myrmecos Blog as bewildered midwesterners look for answers about the swarm of tiny insects that has descended on our cities this week.  As best as we can tell, here’s the scoop.

Q: What are the annoying little bugs that are swarming Central Illinois this week?


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This week, Public Radio International is hosting a forum whereby you- the fine people of the General Public- get a chance to converse online with eminent entomologist May Berenbaum about all things DDT.

The forum accompanies a piece from last week’s “The World”.  For background, you can read Berenbaum’s recent Washington Post essay about the DDT-malaria problem here:

What people aren’t remembering about the history of DDT is that, in many places, it failed to eradicate malaria not because of environmentalist restrictions on its use but because it simply stopped working. Insects have a phenomenal capacity to adapt to new poisons; anything that kills a large proportion of a population ends up changing the insects’ genetic composition so as to favor those few individuals that manage to survive due to random mutation. In the continued presence of the insecticide, susceptible populations can be rapidly replaced by resistant ones. Though widespread use of DDT didn’t begin until WWII, there were resistant houseflies in Europe by 1947, and by 1949, DDT-resistant mosquitoes were documented on two continents.

Aedes albopictus - Florida, USA

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Update on the oddity

mystery2aI hadn’t anticipated that my keen readers would try to guess the *species* of the aforementioned oddity, but since the guessing has headed in that direction I’ll post this hint, which shows the much more commonly seen worker caste of our little mystery bug.

Stakes are now at, um, 15 points. Yeah.

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An oddity


This odd little beast crawled out of a leaf litter sample from a mesic oak/pine forest in Florida. Ten points to the first person who picks what it is.

(Not sure what you’ll do with ten points.  But hey.  You’re all a creative lot.)

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Alaus1Alaus oculatus (Elateridae) – The Eyed Elater

One of North America’s largest beetles, the eyed elater is more than an inch long.  Alaus oculatus is widespread in the deciduous forests of eastern North America where their larvae are predators of wood-boring beetles.  Other species of Alaus occur in the south and west.  This individual was attracted to a pheromone trap intended to bring in longhorn beetles as part of a University of Illinois study on beetle pheromones, a ready demonstration of how predators may exploit the chemical signaling of their prey.

This particular beetle has been around the block already, apparently. Many of the hairs have worn off and both antennae are missing segments. Still, a striking insect.


photo details: Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 50D
ISO 100, f/11, 1/160 sec (top) 1/125 sec (bottom), indirect strobe in a white box

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