Stan Temple to Talk at Bird Club Meeting

All are welcome to the Noel J. Cutright Bird Club meeting this Tuesday, June 3rd at 7:00 pm for a special presentation by Stan Temple, Senior Fellow and Science Adviser with the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

His talk marks the centennial of the extinction of the passenger pigeon in 1914. Temple uses the case of the passenger pigeon to call attention to the world’s ongoing extinction crisis and our relationship with other species.

In 1914, the last surviving Passenger Pigeon died in a Cincinnati Zoo, ending a calamitous half-century in which the pigeon declined from billions to one and then to none as a result of uncontrolled market hunting and the resulting disruption of nesting colonies. The loss of one of the world’s most abundant birds stands as the iconic extinction event in our country’s history.

In 1947, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology erected the Passenger Pigeon Monument at Wyalusing State Park, and for the occasion Aldo Leopold penned one of the most poignant essays ever written about extinction, “On a Monument to the Pigeon,” which later appeared in his classic book A Sand County Almanac. The society rededicated the monument during its 75th annual convention on May 17, 2014.

For more than 30 years, Temple was the Beers-Bascom Professor in Conservation in the Department of Wildlife Ecology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, a position originally held by Aldo Leopold himself. After earning three degrees from Cornell University, Temple worked with endangered species on islands in the Indian Ocean and then returned to Cornell to lead the peregrine falcon reintroduction program.

Changing Habits for Habitats

This year, the Coyotes homeshool high schoolers, age 13-17, studied environmental science here at Riveredge Nature Center. As part of their yearly curriculum they are required to do a community project. The 2014 class started a blog as part of their project. The title of their project for 2014 is Changing Habits for Habitats. The goal is to decrease your carbon footprint for the month of May.  They have put together a calendar of habits for  May and will be posting a new blog post each day corresponding with the calendar.

Visit the Changing Habits for Habitats blog here.

Also, visit the projects Facebook page here

Bug o’ the Week – Longhorns without Bios

Salutations, BugFans,

 

These three, neat beetles have been queued up for a long time, waiting for their BOTW.  They have two things in common – all three are in the beetle family Cerambycidae, and all seem to be leading lives under the radar – two of them don’t even have common names.

 

The Cerambycidae (the Long-horned beetles) (possibly from the Greek karabos – “beetle” – and keras – “horn”) have many fans – partly because of their improbable antennae (the males of many species have antennae that are considerably longer than their bodies are); partly because some species reach “lunker” size (some North American species grow to two-plus inches, which is dainty compared to the 6 ½ inch Titan beetle of South America); and partly because although many are drab, some are astonishingly showy (http://bugguide.net/node/view/842452/bgimage).  Their other claim to fame is their ability to vocalize; some species make a squeaking sound by rubbing their head against their thorax, especially when handled.

 

It’s a large family, with more than 20,000 species worldwide and 1,200 species north of the Rio Grande, and it’s divided into eight subfamilies.  Many LHBs are economically important because their larvae bore into dead/dying/cut wood, lowering its value as timber (but aiding in the recycling of the forest).  Adults feed variously on flowers, fungi, sap, vegetation, etc., if they feed at all.  They are sturdy fliers (remember – the hardened front pair of wings, the elytra, covers a second pair of membranous flying wings.  That armor allows them to crawl under logs and leaves without tearing their flying wings).

 

In a Class (Insecta) where most individuals’ life span is a year or less, Cerambycids can be remarkably long-lived.  Adults of many species live for several years, but the larval stage can last a decade or more.

 

When the BugLady photographs wild geraniums in spring, she often does so in the company of a lovely PIDONIA RUFICOLIS beetle (or two) (and judging by pictures posted on line, other photographers do, too).  Within the Cerambycidae, they are Flower longhorns in the subfamily Lepturinae (leptos is Greek for “narrow”).  Unlike most other Cerambycids, Flower longhorns are mostly diurnal (active in the day), are often found on flowers, and may be brightly colored, and they have a “broad-shouldered” appearance, sometimes dramatically so.

pidonia ruficollis13 4

PIDONIA RUFICOLIS

 

This species lacks a common name, but since ruficollis means “red necked,” we’ll christen it the Red-necked Pidonia (RnP).  It is found in the eastern half of North America; its Internet presence consists of pictures and inclusion in museum collections and on natural area biodiversity lists.  Its color is described as “highly variable.”

 

BRACHYLEPTURA RUBRICA, another Flower Longhorn, is also found in woodlands in the eastern half of North America, where its larvae feed on decaying trees of deciduous forests like oak, cherry, beech and hickory, and the adults feed on flat-topped clusters of white flowers such as dogwood and Queen-Anne’s Lace.  Brachy is Greek for “short,” and refers to the slightly shortened elytra.  Note the striped antennae.

brachyleptura11 1rz

BRACHYLEPTURA RUBRICA

 

The ARROWHEAD BORER (Xylotrechus sagittatus) (saggitatus is Latin for “arrow”) is named for the pale markings on its elytra.  It’s in the subfamily Cerambycinae.  The BugLady photographed it on the ceiling of her porch one night in mid-summer.  Bugguide.net says that it frequents pine forests from Arizona to Manitoba to Maine to Florida.  Its presence suggests that the BugLady ought to check into the health of her conifers – the larvae are said to begin their feeding in the sapwood layer but then to bore farther in, restricting their travels to a single annual ring.  They pupate within the tree and the newly emerged adults chew their way up to the surface.  One source said that the adults are so active on tree bark that they are often mistaken for crickets.

xylotrechus11 11rz

ARROWHEAD BORER (Xylotrechus sagittatus)

 

The BugLady is fascinated by all things phoretic (phoresy is the behavior in which one species uses another, harmlessly, as a taxi), and she found several notes about pseudoscorpions (of previous BOTW fame) being found on the legs and antennae of ABs and some other Cerambycids in Florida (check http://bugguide.net/node/view/137214 and click on the smaller pictures at the bottom, too).  Apparently, the pseudoscorpions inhabit the phloem layer of the cut pine and emerge with the adult beetles.  Some mites also hitchhike on the AB, tucked snugly under its wings.

 

The BugLady

Bug of the Week – Midges Again

Salutations, BugFans,

 

Recently, the BugLady got a phone call from a reporter who asked about the clouds of small, flying insects (they were midges) that were attracting attention in his community, so she decided to spruce up this BOTW from five years ago (new words, new pictures).  Midges out and about now, are able to tolerate the unpredictable weather on either side of summer, dancing up and down in the cool air of early spring and late fall, especially near wetlands (their rapid wing-beats raise their body temperature)..  The Diamesa midge (Diamesa nivoriunda) (“snow-born midge”) (probably) one of the two species on the sumac, is in a subfamily called the snow midges, and they fly from September into April.

diamesa midge10 2sm

Diamesa midge (Diamesa nivoriunda) (“snow-born midge”)

 

Clouds of midges are an often misunderstood and distinctly non-vampire-ish assembly.  Big flocks of small flies (even of mosquitoes) tend to be bastions of (non-biting) male solidarity, which means that aside from the possibility of inhaling a bit of flying protein, it’s safe to immerse yourself in a herd/flock/bevy/pride/pod of midges (unless you’re allergic – more about that later).  Check out the chapter on midges in the excellent A Guide to Observing Insect Lives by Donald W. Stokes for information about masses of midges and about the tendency of some species to orient over a “swarm marker” and stay within a midge-eyesight of it.

 

Cloud of midges

Cloud of midges

Midges, in the fly family Chironomidae, are mosquito doppelgangers, with only subtle variations visible to the eye.  Midges hold their wings out to the side a bit when at rest, and mosquitoes tuck theirs over their backs.  While both typically rest with only four of their six feet on the ground, mosquitoes tend to raise their back pair of feet, while midges lift the front pair (according to bugguide.net, chironomidae “comes from the Greek cheironomos – ‘one who moves the hands’ (which refers to the front legs, often raised and vibrated).”  Midge antennae tend to be even more feathery than those of a male mosquito.  And, of course, mosquitoes have those familiar, piercing mouthparts that are lacking in midges.

 

Midge at rest

Midge at rest

Adults are harmless, but midges “take the rap” for the actions of other biting Dipterans like mosquitoes, blackflies, no-see-ums, and punkies/gnats (and many of the common names given to midges, both sacred and profane, are interchangeable with those of their blood-sucking cousins).  The older literature tells us that adult Chironomids do not even eat, but recent researchers speculate that midges might dine sparingly on some carbs/sugars.  When the BugLady photographed several kinds of midges on staghorn sumac stems, they sure looked like they were feeding on something at the base of the hairs.  Hairs that cover both the fruits and the new growth of staghorn sumac are glandular.  The hairs on the fruits contain a red cell sap, as well as tannic, gallic, mallic and citric acids (which explains why, when the berries are soaked in water for a few hours, the water takes on a refreshing, tart, lemonade-y quality) (do NOT try this at home if you are allergic to cashews), and the hairs on the stem are similarly endowed.

 

Adults take to the air in a mating frenzy (the BugLady calls this the Normandy Beach strategy of reproduction), surviving only a few days or weeks (females live longer – more “fat” reserves – she’s designed that way, right out of the box.  Some insects accomplish that by spending an extra instar eating as females, emerging later than males but better fed).  Swarms are like big, open-air singles-bars, crowded with males hoping to attract females.  His fancy antennae are tuned to the high-pitched frequency produced by the female’s wing beat, and he can hear her sound even through the hum of the party.  If a female does enter the cloud, she pairs up with a guy and they leave together.  He subsequently returns to the group while she’s out laying eggs in gelatinous rafts on the surface of the water (the BugLady senses an “eye-roll” from female BugFans).

 

Eggs hatch in a few days.  Midge larvae/maggots may live for up to three years in habitats that range from damp edges to depths of many fathoms in both salt water and fresh (“fathom,” a measurement of about 6 feet, comes from the Old English word faethm meaning “outstretched arms” or “the length of outstretched arms”).  Kaufman and Eaton, in Field Guide to Insects of North America, say that many larvae build tubular retreats by gluing together small particles of stuff from their surroundings, using globs of mucous – a neat trick, underwater.

 

The red, hemoglobin-like pigment found in some species gives them the nickname “bloodworms” (a name that’s shared by a bunch of unrelated “worms”); the extra “hemoglobin” lets them pick up and hang onto oxygen more efficiently in habitats where there isn’t much of it, like the muck at the bottom of a pond.  Their method of locomotion – thrashing back and forth – also helps them capture oxygen.  Because of their ability to deal with low oxygen conditions, the numbers and species of midge larvae are considered indicators of water quality; and the presence of some pollutants causes characteristic “birth defects” in the larvae.

 

Bloodworms prey on mini plants and animals and scavenge on organic debris.  They are, in turn, a huge part of the diet of many fish (and so are available in pet stores), and fish leap out of the water to snag adult midges dancing above its surface (though the BugLady can’t imagine that “midge calories gained” make up for the “leap calories used”).  Trout like to grab them from below as the adults emerge from their pupal case, lodged in the surface film.  Besides fish, they are also prized by a variety of aquatic insects; swallows, bats, dragonflies and damselflies, and by the lovely dance fly, who presents his midge to the fly of his dreams in order to prove his worthiness.

 

Is there a down-side to midges?  One source noted that large numbers of midges perched on buildings might desecrate exterior walls with midge-poop (which seems like incontrovertible proof that adult midges eat).  And, apparently, a heap of recently deceased midges doesn’t smell so good.  Surprisingly, there is a large body of writings documenting human allergic reactions, including asthma, in the presence of midges (in both the adult and larval stages); apparently, it’s a reaction to the “hemoglobin” in the larva’s body – hemoglobin that gets passed on from larva to adult.

 

Some interesting midge pictures at: http://www.troutnut.com/hatch/887/True-Fly-Chironomidae-Midges.

 

The BugLady

Bug o’ the Week – Semi-aquatic Springtails

Howdy BugFans,

 

Having delved last time into the mysteries of the meniscus, the BugLady is introducing more creatures of the surface film, the semi aquatic springtails (SASTs).  Springtails are an amazing bunch of former-insects – older insect books list them in Class Insecta (they do have 6 legs), but recent thinking, supported by DNA analysis, is that they belong in their own Class – Collembola.  They seem to have evolved from a non-insect ancestor, and they evolved alongside insects.  The first fossil of a terrestrial arthropod ever found was a springtail that dated back 400 million years.

 

There are lots of generic springtails leaping around – more than 8,200 species worldwide (700+ in North America).  Most kinds of springtail are found on land, leading invisible lives in leaf litter and soil, anyplace that has a little moisture, even Antarctica.   Depending on the humidity (and humidity is very important to an ST) there can be massive numbers of individuals – 300 million STs (or more) on/in an acre of prime land.

 

A word about the general appearance/biology of springtails:  There are two basic body types – cigar-shaped and globular.  Like the Jumping Bristletail, of recent BOTW fame, they wear their mouthparts on the inside (endognathous) rather than the outside (which makes it impossible for springtails to nibble on people, despite anecdotes to the contrary).  They have antennae and tiny, simple eyes, but neither they nor their ancestors ever had wings (they are primitively wingless); and because most lack a tracheal system, they breathe through their cuticle.  Their cuticle is waterproof/hydrophobic (check out this Discover magazine article for a scanning electron microscope’s view of ST cuticle http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/10/02/incredible-skin-helps-springtails-to-keep-dry-underwater-and-always-stay-clean/#.U12z__ldVws).  Some species secrete noxious chemicals when provoked.

 

A springtail’s metamorphosis is called ametabolous (“ametabolous insects emerge from eggs into immatures of virtually the same shape as the adults. They’re considered ametabolous because the insects simply get bigger and do not undergo any distinct rearrangements of body structures between the immature and adult stages.bugguide.net), and they continue to molt throughout their lives.  Although the BugLady has only seen drab STs, they come in every color of the rainbow.  It is speculated that they evolved in colder climes, and many species are active in the early days of spring and at the tail end of fall.

 

What makes a springtail a springtail?  Most species have, on the lower side of their abdomen, a “jumping organ” – a forked structure called a furcula that attaches near the end of the abdomen and is “folded” forward, held against the middle part of the abdomen by a clamp called a tenaculum.  When the furcula is released, it slaps down onto the substrate (whether land or water) and the ST is launched.  It can sail through the air more than 20 times the length of its 3mm body (it uses this trick when it’s alarmed, not for everyday locomotion).  The springtails that inhabit the water’s surface have flatter furcula.

 

sprngtls I tricolor furcula14 7

Springtail forcula

The name Collembola comes from the Greek “kola” and “embolon” (“glue peg”), which refers to a peg-like structure underneath the first sections of the abdomen.  Scientists long believed that this structure, the collophore, contained a mucous/adhesive/glue that helped the springtail stick where it wanted to stick.  Now it is thought that, while it may provide traction, it functions more importantly in helping the springtail take up/regulate moisture.

 

Because the term “aquatic” is reserved for critters that actually live in the water, surface-dwelling springtails are referred to as semi-aquatic springtails, and they are found on the stillest of still waters.  About 15 species of North American STs are semi-aquatic or riparian (though the equally water-repellant terrestrial STs may be found on the water if spooked onto it).  Like water striders, the SAST’s claws are not situated at the tips of their stubby little legs but are located higher up the leg, above the surface film, so as not to rend it.  The little, gray Podura aquatica is a very common SAST; the BugLady believes that the striped ST, photographed on the Ephemeral Pond at Riveredge Nature Center, is Isotomurus tricolor (or maybe I. palustris).

 

sprngtls I. tricolorEP14 3

Isotomurus tricolor (or maybe I. palustris)

SASTs cruise/walk/hop over the surface, often in groups, and their shed skins are often seen on the water.  Adults produce pheromones to draw a crowd.  They feed on stuff that they find under their feet, chewing on dead organic matter, algae, bacteria, and fungal spores on the surface film (some are adapted to eat lipoproteins in the surface film).  As a group, they’re labeled detritivores.  They’re eaten by fish, amphibians, and aquatic insects, both as eggs and after hatching.  They get from one pond to the next with the help of seasonal flooding.

 

When a young SAST’s fancy turns to love, he deposits on the surface film a spermatophore for a female to collect.  She does and they go their separate ways, never meeting.  The BugLady read two different accounts of egg laying by SASTs.  In one, the female fights her way down through the surface film and deposits her eggs below it.  In the other, although she is hydrophobic, her eggs are not, and they sink into the water.  In either case, when they hatch, the pale, new springtails are, until they pop up through the surface film, considered truly aquatic.  Reproduction is continuous within the masses of SASTs; adults live a few months at best, and they overwinter as eggs (and maybe as adults).

 

According to The Natural History of Aquatic Insects, by Louis Compton Miall (1895), one of the earliest accounts of the peculiar lifestyle of aquatic springtails was penned by Charles DeGeer.  In 1740, DeGeer removed some STs from water and noted that they shriveled and died within two or three hours.  He suspected that maybe the tube/peg might have something to do with water uptake to keep them moist.  He also placed some in a vessel filled with water and observed that they “crept to the bottom and lived for several days.”  Miall didn’t think that STs occurred below the surface, but noted that when he collected submerged vegetation and put it into a container of water, he found STs on the surface the next day.  Miall speculated that adults climb down through the surface film on plant stems to forage when pickings on the surface are slim and to overwinter in muck at the bottom of a pond.

 

The BugLady

Bug o’ the Week – Water Treader

Greetings, BugFans,

 

As the BugLady was leaning over a pier photographing aquatic stuff last summer, she saw a mugging.  Although she was right about the mugging part, she misidentified both the muggers and the mug-ee.  She thought, erroneously, that she was seeing a pair of young water strider thugs attacking a guiltless Mirid plant bug.  The two “water striders” rushed across a water lily leaf and grabbed the larger “plant bug” and scuffled with it, actually rolling it onto its back.  As the BugLady snapped pictures, the “plant bug” managed to get away and exited across the leaf to the left, while the delinquents ran away to the right,.

mesovelia mugging13 1

the mugging

 

the escape

the escape

 

Fast forward eight months, when the BugLady was researching the Water lily planthopper (of recent BOTW fame).  One reference noted that “Water lily planthoppers are preyed on by Water treaders.”  Water treaders??  When the BugLady looked them up, she recognized them.  It turns out the young hoodlum bugs were Water treaders (not to be confused with the delicate Marsh treaders – a whole different animal).  So was their intended prey.

 

marsh treader

marsh treader

Mulsant’s Water treader (Mesovelia mulsanti, named after a 19th century French entomologist-ornithologist) is fairly common in eastern North America but is easily overlooked and has a history of being ID’d as the nymph of something else.  In the introduction to his 1917 publication The Life-History of Mesovelia mulsanti, H. B. Hungerford says that it “seems worthwhile to present some notes concerning the biology of Mesovelia mulsanti whose habits and life-history are certainly among the most interesting of all the bugs that walk upon the surface of the inland waters.”  He proceeds, cheerfully, to do just that.

 

water treader

water treader

It is at home in the haunts of the marsh-treader on the floating vegetation growing in the shallow waters of the pools, where the clumps of sedge spread their slender stems upon the water from the bordering bank, where young cattails spring up and green algae carpet the surface of the waters” (Hungerford)

 

WTs are about 5 millimeters small (1/4” max), with long antennae, long legs, and a long face.  Nymphs and most adults are silvery-green.  Like the water lily planthoppers that they dine on, adult WTs come in uncommon winged forms or more-common wingless (there’s an “in-between” morph, too), and winged adults are darker with a white chevron on their backs.  Their long legs allow them to scoot along pretty fast on the water’s surface and on vegetation, and to take little hops.

 

They have a simple/incomplete metamorphosis – a newly-hatched individual looks similar to an adult.  Food-wise, what’s good for the adult is fine for the nymph, and they sport sharp, piercing mouthparts.  Contemporary authors describe a fairly languid/passive hunting style, saying that WTs feed by scavenging dead or injured insects or insects that are stuck on the surface film (and that they may practice cannibalism).  Earlier researchers like Hungerford tell us that “Water Treaders eat insects and other small invertebrates; their hunting method is to run along the surface of algae and duckweed, and even along the surface of the water, until they have run down their prey.”  It is not surprising to see them on a water lily leaf with aphids.

mesovelia, ahpids13 10rz

They also reach down through the surface of floating mats of algae and other plants and snag tiny crustaceans and aquatic insects that feed and shelter there.  When they catch something, they insert their “beak,” inject saliva/enzymes, and suck out their prey’s innards.

 

Hungerford again: “They are cautious creatures but do, on occasion, fall upon fairly lively prey.  The tiny nymphs feed upon more gentle organisms in the water as there are few upon the surface that they are able to overcome.  When offered springtails as suggested by Butler, disaster often followed…..the hungry little creatures would attack them, only to be turned topsy-turvy upon the water even by comparatively small springtails. 

 

WTs are eaten by fish and dragonflies, and nymphal water mites may parasitize them.

 

Ms. WT uses a specially designed ovipositor to pierce the stems of aquatic plants and ream out a hole.  She may lay as many as 100 eggs, each requiring a separate incision (“As frequently as not the male accompanies the female during the process. Having mounted her in mating he merely moves forward and remains perched upon her back as she busies herself with egg laying, mating being attempted and often consummated between her labors.” Hungerford).

 

The plants that she inserts her eggs into sink to the pond floor in winter and according to some accounts, the eggs hatch in spring.  There are probably several generations through the summer, but sources disagree about whether the final bugs of the year overwinter as eggs or as adults, hidden in the shoreline debris, bolstered by an internal antifreeze that keeps lethal ice crystals from forming in their cells.

 

WT vocabulary word – one of the two species of North American WTs that have found their way to Hawaii is troglophilic.

 

Where do WTs fit into the great scheme of things?  Within the order Hemiptera, in the infraorder Gerromorpha (infraorder is one of those potential notches between order and family that’s used as needed).  The Gerromorpha include water measurers, water striders, smaller/riffle/broad-shouldered water striders, and a few others.  As a group, they are sometimes called “semiaquatic bugs” or “shore-inhabiting bugs,” and one author calls them all “pond skaters.”  They are often seen locomoting across the surface of the water (including salt water – bugguide.net calls them the only true marine insects).  How do they do it?  A “hydrophobic” cuticle and hairs are standard equipment on the Gerromorpha, and their long, water repellant legs allow the pond skaters, whose weight is therefore spread out, to push down on the water’s surface without punching through.  Check the indentations on the surface in the water strider picture (curiously, the claws of a water strider are located up on its legs in order to avoid slicing the surface film, but a WT’s claws are in the normal spot at the ends of its tarsi.).

 

water strider

water strider

Another WT vocabulary word is meniscus – “the curve of the upper surface of a liquid, caused by surface tension.”  There is hardly a concept more important to aquatic invertebrates than surface tension.  Because it is in contact with the air, that top layer of water molecules is “stickier” than those under it, and a certain force is needed to break through it, whether from above or below.  The “meniscus effect” results in tiny, slippery hills where the water’s surface curves up to meet an “edge” of the shoreline, and of plant stems, leaves, floating debris, etc. (thanks to guest photographer Freda for the meniscus shot).  Life is Physics.  The various creatures of the surface film have developed different ways to navigate the meniscus – WTs actually “run” at the meniscus slope and then use their front legs to pull themselves “uphill.”  The BugLady recommends this beautifully-photographed article about bugs and the meniscus http://math.mit.edu/~bush/?p=762 (you don’t have to do the math – the folks at MIT already did it for you).

 

meniscus

meniscus

Interested BugFans can find Hungerford’s article at http://psyche.entclub.org/pdf/24/24-073.pdf.

 

The BugLady is confident that BugFans will look up troglophilic on their own,

 

Bugs in culture:  “I was stunned by the perfection of the insects.” – Pablo Neruda

 

The BugLady

Bug o’the Week – The Mighty Mosquito

Howdy, BugFans,

 

Who hasn’t seen the postcard (and keychain and license plate holder and t-shirt and coffee mug) that names the mosquito as our state bird?  It’s the insect we all love to hate (they are the very definition of the word “swarm”), but behind the legend lies a fascinating animal.

 

Yes, there are a lot of them – about 3,500 species worldwide, 150 in North America, and 50 in Wisconsin.  Mosquitoes (mosquito is Spanish for “small fly.”) are in the Order Diptera (“two wings”) and they are in the family Culicidae.  Some people think they’re kind of pretty (including the BugLady, when she’s not inhaling them). BugFans who are interested in the differences between the major mosquito groups can check this nice key: http://www.texasmosquito.org/PictorialKeys.pdf.

 

Yes, they grow up fast.  Eggs are laid on the surface of the water, on floating leaves, or in a spot just above the water line that will subsequently flood.  Depending on species and location, there can be several generations per year.  They generally hatch in a few days, and it takes about month to morph from egg through larva (called a “wiggler”/”wriggler”) (because twitching is their mode of locomotion) through pupa (“tumbler”) (because their mode of locomotion is tumbling) to adult, but in some species, development is telescoped into 10 days.  Mosquitoes don’t live very long – males for about a week and females for two or three.

Some species of mosquito overwinter as fertilized females in sheltered spots (or in basements, which explains why the BugLady sees the odd mosquito flying around her house in January), and they’re raring to go when spring comes.  Other species may overwinter in any of the above stages, in a state of delayed development called diapause, resuming growth when the water warms in spring.

 

Yes, they are adaptable.  Eggs develop in wetlands but also in birdbaths, puddles, pails, flower pots, old tires, and the dog’s outside water dish (if you build it, they will come).  The first line of defense in knocking down residential mosquito populations is getting rid of these man-made sources of standing water.

 

Yes, they do bite.  Females mate only once, but they may lay several “clutches” of eggs.  Males, newly emerged females, and non-egg-laying females feed on nectar, but before each cluster of eggs that she lays, a female must ingest a blood meal (in some species, the blood-letting starts with the second batch of eggs).  Some mosquitoes include humans on their list of possible donors; others restrict themselves to birds, reptiles, amphibians, or non-human mammals.

mosquitobite 1rz

She injects, with her saliva, small doses of anticoagulant and anesthetic to aid the process (the resulting red, itchy bump is caused by your body’s histamine reaction to the injected proteins).  Then she ingests so much blood that taking off seems impossible.  A mosquito’s abdomen has expandable tissue between each segment and also between the harder upper and lower surfaces of each segment, so it stretches both vertically and horizontally.  The tiny mosquitoes that mobbed this snapping turtle as she laid eggs (they covered her shell, and also the grass around her) seemed bloated and uninterested in flying.

snapper13 8brz

Most mosquito wigglers eat the algae, bacteria, debris, and zooplankton that’s floating around in the water with them.  Some species are predators, and a few even eat the larvae of other mosquitoes.  Wigglers are important food chain “middlemen” between the tiny organisms they feed on and the fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and the other aquatic insects that prey on them.  Adult mosquitoes are an essential food for bats, birds, dragonflies and damselflies.

 

Yes – Female mosquitoes of some species are notorious transmitters of diseases caused by various viruses, protozoans, and nematode worms (the warmer winters we’re having due to Global Climate Change are allowing some tropical diseases like dengue fever to move north as the mosquitoes that carry them extend their range).  These causative agents generally set up shop in the mosquitoes’ salivary glands, which ensures a free ride into the blood donor’s body (Remember to start your dog’s heartworm medication soon).

 

More fun facts about mosquitoes:

  • That annoying hum is actually a love song.  He sings alto, and she sings tenor, and when they hear each other (they sense sound with their antennae, and the male’s antennae are quite fancy), they vary their tone – by changing the frequency of their wing beats – until both are humming at the same pitch.  Romance ensues.

 

  • Some species of mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs in the seclusion of a small pool of water that is trapped in a plant; these reservoirs are called phytotelmata (“phyto” means plant and “telma” means pond) (the singular is phytotelma).  A specialized bog species, the harmless pitcher plant mosquito (Wyeomyia smithii) grows only in the water of the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea).  Tropical species of Wyeomyia develop in bromeliad “tanks.”  Holes in trees where rainwater collects are a common kind of phytotelma.
  • Wyeomyia smithii turns out to be a pretty interesting critter. Its eggs are deposited in the new leaves of pitcher plants.  The larvae/wigglers are considered top predators in the community of organisms that inhabits the pitcher plant’s water reservoir.  While they do eat some of the bits of partly decomposed insects that were meant to nurture the pitcher plant, they feed on organisms that feed on bacteria, ensuring a diverse crop of bacteria to decompose the insects that fall into the pitcher plant’s water.  They overwinter in the pitcher as larvae, frozen in its water.  For a thorough biography of the PPM, see http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Wyeomyia_smithii/.
  • There’s even a mosquito that helps with mosquito control.  Elephant/treehole mosquitoes in the genus Toxorhynchites are big, primarily tropical, mosquitoes.  According to bugguide.net, one species, Toxorhynchites rutilus, ranges from Connecticut to Florida to Texas to Kansas.  Turn them loose, especially in a manmade water tank, and they will feed on the wigglers of other species and of their own, and they do not require a blood meal.  Everything one might want in a mosquito!

And yes, for reasons that are not completely clear, mosquitoes are more attracted to some people than to others.  A lot of scientific experiments have been done and anecdotal explanations offered (an individual’s general “sweetness” is apparently not a factor).  It may be a response to clothing color (they prefer dark), perfumes, blood type (they prefer Type O), pregnancy (yes), body heat, a particularly aromatic sweat, or distinctive carbon dioxide exhalations.  Ms. Mosquito can detect CO2 in the air from 25 yards away and home in on the source.

 

And by the way, the BugLady would like to suggest that whoever keeps writing “Mosquitoes are crepuscular – active at dawn and duskand they rest during the heat of the day” has only visited God’s country in the snow.

 

The BugLady

Earth Week @ Riveredge

Happy Earth Week!  There’s lots going on at Riveredge this week, and we’d love to have you join us.

Come for a walk, listen to the sounds, and enjoy nature – that alone is a great way to celebrate the earth this week.

If you’d like to do something a bit more, we  have wonderful events coming up this week (follow the links for more information about each one)…

  • A naturalist led walk on Friday at 1 pm, “Gone Hiking” – FREE for members and only $5 for non members
  • A showing of “Extreme Ice” on Friday night (a spectacular film about the melting of the glaciers) – FREE
  • And our ever popular “Work and Learn” earth day morning on Saturday – pick from all kinds of projects to help out nature and Riveredge during the morning (we have projects for all ages) and it’s followed up by a wonderful spaghetti lunch and bat program for all! FREE!

Join us for Earth Week – give time to nature and you will receive more than you can imagine!

 

Youth Tree Climbing Club @ Riveredge

Youth Tree Climbing Club

Our club is FULL for 2014!  Please check out our calendar of events to find an upcoming open tree climb.  We’d love to have you in the trees with us this season!

We are so excited about our brand new tree climbing programs that we’ve even decided to start a youth tree climbing club!  This is a pretty special experience – one where the members will climb together from June – October, form a tight knit community, and have all kinds of one-of-a-kind fun outdoors while developing a new skill, improving their fitness, and building relationships with our natural world.  Discover trees all over Riveredge, pick your own special “tree name,” and play fun games in the tree during each club meeting.  Learn more about tree climbing at Riveredge on our webpage. Youth age 7 years and above are welcome to join.

Club Membership Includes: 5 climbing days (parents and family members can climb too during the kick off meeting in June and the closing party in October), use of all equipment, tree climbing club membership card, recognition on the tree climbing club “trunk of fame” which will be permanently installed at the end of the climbing season at Riveredge.

Special Inaugural Year Perks: This year, the club members will determine the official club name and design the special tree climbing t-shirts!

Meeting Dates & Times:

  • Sunday, June 8th: 11:30 – 2:00 pm (includes a chance for family members to climb and a potluck picnic for all!)
  • Sunday, July 13th: 3:00 – 5:30 pm
  • Sunday, August 10th: 3:00 – 5:30 pm
  • Sunday, September 14th: 3:00 – 5:30 pm
  • Sunday, October 12th: 2:00 – 5:00 pm (end of year celebration: family members may climb and another potluck picnic for all!)

Price: $100 per youth member (Must be a Riveredge member to join, not a member?  Your whole family can join for as little as $40)

Can’t make a meeting or one gets rained out?  Club members who miss a meeting can sign up for an open climb as a “make-up” for the meeting missed (maximum of 2 times per season)

To enroll, contact the club leader, Jessica Jens (also the Executive Director of Riveredge) at jjens@riveredge.us/262-375-2715