Category: inaturalist

honeymushroom:a selection of moths with extrem…


a selection of moths with extremely good names. tag yourself im saucy beauty 

I couldn’t help myself, here’s more

I’m Chalky Bird Dropping

May 21, 2019

Someone on iNat tagged me asking for ID help o…

Someone on iNat tagged me asking for ID help on a stick insect after somebody disagreed with their ID of Megaphasma denticrus. I initially agreed, looks like a fat gravid mama to me. But the disagreer made some good arguments and I thought hmmmmm. I better double check. Looks like the disagreer is right and I’m wrong! Thanks babes 😘

I don’t think they’re expecting these. 😂

May 16, 2019

If it’s in a postable format, I’d …

If it’s in a postable format, I’d love to see your list of species you’ve seen in your yard!

I keep track of my species on iNaturalist, so my species count is available for anybody to look at! And when I say “list,” I mean, photographs. Because I’m a scientist, and if it’s not verifiable, it doesn’t count 😉 The links below are organized by species, if you want to see my specific observations and photographs, click the little links for “# observations” above the organism’s name and it will take you to them.

The full, unfiltered “list” only shows the top 600 before it stops loading (by design), but here it is [link]

A tiny bit of background: This list covers 0.10 acres in east Travis County, Texas (my address says I’m in Austin, but I’m not, it’s a lie). My neighborhood is a housing development surrounded by agricultural land, and my house (and the development) was built starting around 15 years ago. My back yard is backed by a row of hackberry trees, and I have neighbors on either side. I bought this house in June 2016 and have been neglecting the back yard ever since, besides occasionally planting a few trees/bushes/bird feeders. I need to post some pictures of the yard over time because it’s starting to look like a legitimate forest. If I ever need to sell this place, oh boy.

The Spider Haven Species List – Numbers By Kingdom

Protozoans [link] 1 species (so far just Dog Vomit Slime Mold, but I have two other unidentified slime molds that don’t go into the numbers yet!)
Bacteria [link] 1 species (a plant disease–I need to get a microbio setup started for cultures bwahaha)
Fungi [link] 8 species (I’ve been slacking, I know I have more in my fridge ALONE right now)
Plants [link] 70 species (there’s more, I have photos from September 2018 I haven’t uploaded yet… ugh)
Animals [link] *cough* over 900 species… uh, I’ll need to break that down a bit…

Animals in my yard

Vertebrates [link] 72 species (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians)
Annelids [link] 1 species (earthworms creep me out, sorry)
Mollusks [link] 10 species (missing my tiny little slugs!)
Flatworms [link] 2 species
Horsehair Worm [link] 1 species
Arthropods [link] 828 species. Okay….


Crustaceans [link] 2 species (pillbugs!)
Myriapoda [link] 3 species
Arachnids [link] 75 species
Insects [link] 747 species. *SIGH*


Springtails [link]1 species (not easy to find!!!
Silverfishes [link]1 species
Cockroaches and Termites [link] 11 species
Butterflies and Moths [link] 279 species
Beetles [link]148 species
Earwigs [link] 2 species
Flies [link] 58 species
Webspinners [link] 1 species
Mayflies [link] 3 species
True Bugs & Allies [link] 124 species
Ants, Bees, Wasps, & Sawflies [link] 63 species
Mantids [link] 1 species, but I saw a mating pair and the male was missing a head [link]
Scorpionflies, Hangingflies, etc [link] 1 species 
Alderflies, Dobsonflies, Fishflies [link] 1 species
Antlions, Lacewings, Owlflies, Mantidflies [link] 4 species
Dragonflies and Damselflies [link] 23 species
Grasshoppers, Katydids, Crickets [link] 20 species
Stick insects [link] 3 species (but I think it should be 2, need to double check)
Stoneflies [link] 1 species
Barklice, booklice, and parasitic lice [link] 1 species
Thrips [link] 2 species
Caddisflies [link] 1 species (note: these are near-impossible to ID so I don’t really spend too much time on them)

They key take-aways appear to be: MÖTH, beetles, & true bugs. Not too much of a surprise, given I do a LOT of my snooping around the yard at night, and with my UV patio light on. Best $14 I ever spent! (I got it on sale, looks like it’s $20 now) [link]

Note: These species counts were accurate on the date I posted this list, April 12, 2019 at 12:47 am. The links will continue to work (oh please), but the numbers will change! They may go up as I add observations, or down as I my current observations are reclassified (happens ALL the time!).

April 12, 2019

I,,, misread nepenthens for isoetes on the las…

I,,, misread nepenthens for isoetes on the last post somehow and i felt,,,, f,,,fear,,,,

fun fact there’s literally no books out there showcasing all the species of isoetes in the world like u might find for other plants. if u want to know that information u gotta go digging through 89 levels of deep academia and only then may you possibly stumble upon a hit list of names. 

when i was researching for my term paper on them last semester i tried to build a distribution map of all the species, but the only book i could find was a weird old cloth-bound codex (literally a codex) that i had to specially request from my uni’s library storage building. after i got it i realized that 1. it…really was just deadass a list of names and ranges, 2. it was nowhere close to the exact ranges and just gave vague outdated country information with weirdly ambiguous sources, and 3. it was nowhere close to all the species known to us. the actual age of the book was hard to pin down; i want to say that it was 1970s, but it felt…….older somehow. it had quite The Energy and i quickly returned it 

im sure that if u were to dig through some databases, you’d be able to find a more comprehensive list– i accidentally stumbled on a comprehensive checklist of all the hornworts in the world published by phytokeys, for instance, and hornworts are kind of in the same category of ‘weird niche nonvascular plants one might glimpse for 3 seconds while hiking like bigfoot amongst the trees’– but man, why cant we just have a nice comprehensive coffee table isoetes book? 

this is off topic now but i keep reading these researchers in both isoetes and hornwort papers talking about how one of the biggest challenges to new research is that nobody knows jack shit about them, and i cant help but think like….comprehensive, readable knowledge of these plants is near impossible to find? like, most of the modern papers i was reading for isoetes kept shying away from discussing the fucked up anatomy of those plants to the point where the only book i was able to find that laid it all out for the reader in a semi-understandable format was a book from the late 1960s buried in the fern section of our library? all the illustrations in it were hand drawn? i still havent been able to find a good photo of some of these structures? i got a couple high resolution scans of some of the samples from my uni’s herbarium to publish on this blog, and had people literally come thank me because pics of specimens cut open to show the actual anatomy are hard as shit to find? like? 

this turned into a little bit of a rant but come on lads!!! to get to know these plants u gotta go through like 93 levels of academia and know like 6 people!!! it’s no wonder why nobody knows them well!!! 











But seriously, when we got our property, it was all just…grass. A sterile grass moonscape, like a billion other yards. With two big old maple trees. Just grass and maples, that was it. 

But then I got my grubby little paws on it, and I immediately stopped fertilizing, spraying, and bagging up grass clippings and leaves. I ripped up sod and put in flowers and vegetables. I put down nice thick blankets of mulch around the flowers and vegetables. 

When I first was sweating my way through stripping sod, I saw a grand total of 1 worm and 0 ladybugs. The ground was compacted into something that would bend shovel blades. 

Now, six years later, I can’t dig a planting hole without turning up fourteen earthworms, and there are so many ladybugs here. Not the invasive asian lady beetles; native ladybugs. They winter over in the mulch and in the brush pile. I see thousands of them. 

The soil is soft and rich. There are birds that come to eat, and bees of many sorts.

Like this is something that you, yourself, can absolutely change. This is something that you, personally, can make a difference in.

Like, last year I watched no fewer than twenty-nine monarch caterpillars grow up on my milkweed and fly away as butterflies. I watched swallowtails and moths grow. There are hummingbirds fighting over flowers now.

I did that. Me. You can do the same.

I would like to learn how to do this. Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming. I just want to find someone who can come over for a cuppa, and we can wander the yard and they can make me a plan. 

Preferably a very easy to follow, doesn’t take too much time every day plan.

It’s not nearly so intimidating as it sounds.

You can do a whole lot of good just by not spraying your yard, not mowing it so often, and not raking up leaves and grass.

But as a certified Lazy Ass Gardener, I can tell you for 100% certain that this is attainable, and requires absolutely zero, none, nada, zilch expensive or complicated equipment.

I don’t even have a plan. I just do things.

Wait so, dont mow as much, dont pick up the grass when you mow, and dont pick up leaves and your grass is healthier? my dad likes to mow the lawn every one to 2 weeks in the summer💀 what other tips do you guys have?

Yup. Those grass and leaf clippings rot down and fertilize the soil.

Grass does BETTER when it’s not mown short, and gives more hiding places to all sorts of insects.

Don’t spray. Let the bugs and ‘weeds’ live.

i have a 10’x10’ piece of garden that i initially used to grow things, but i abandoned it completely and now its absolutely covered in “weeds” and i even have a volunteer shrub that makes berries! the amount of native bees and other insects i attract is incredible. and all i do to maintain it is nothing.

For reals. I have to mow my front yard (I live in an HOA… ugh), but I don’t bag my clippings. I never water my yard (and I live in Texas!), but my grass is green all year. The clippings and mulched leaves keep in moisture and they’re nature’s fertilizer! Lizards and frogs hide under the leaves and clippings, and when you remove those, you are removing their habitat. Bugs will show up and munch on the clippings, and their waste adds more nutrients as well. I don’t fertilize. I don’t spray. I let nature do its thing. Even just in the front, there are bugs everywhere. I’ve found the tiny green sweat bees nesting in the ground under my rose bush, and the giant cicada killer wasps had a nest somewhere in my front yard last year–I couldn’t find it, but they were pollinating the sorrelvine that randomly showed up and decided to climb up my oak tree (which was the host plant for the Vine Sphinx moths and the first batch of sawflies I raised!)

In the back? I planted a few things in a small garden area, and I intentionally planted three (3) trees, but I’m busy/lazy and the back yard became the paradise jungle it is when I was writing my Master’s thesis after moving into this house, and I never had the heart to start mowing it. A bunch more trees decided to start growing on their own and I constantly have to murder soapberry and hackberry and elm saplings. My yard is covered in a mix of native plants and invasive bunch grass, in addition to random grains and sunflowers growing under the bird feeders. They all serve as hosts for insects. 

In less than three years, I have documented almost 1000 species of plants, insects, birds, fungi, slime molds, and mammals. My yard is 0.10 acres. I have ladybugs crawling out of my ears. The larvae are pupating all over my horse skeleton!!!

So yeah. Want species diversity in your yard? Plant native plants. Are you a lazy ass like me and want species diversity? Then don’t do anything, congratulations, nature still wins (just look out for all those invasives, and have fun pulling out catchweed -_-

April 5, 2019


plus catchweed, or cleavers, IS EDIBLE!!!!!! (but you must boil it for a some time so that the hooked hairs on it dont irritate your esophagus. The younger cleavers require less cooking.*)

*also some people are allergic to it, so do a skin test by rubbing on skin to see if you develop a reaction, and eat a small amount of it first

Funny Story!

I do not react to poison ivy (apparently). And I can’t tell the difference between the mature vines and boxelder maple (apparently):

^ that’s poison ivy

^ this is the same poison ivy

I had no idea until somebody on iNaturalist corrected my ID and asked me if I felt itchy. Pro-tip, maple doesn’t have berries, dummy.

But: I am so allergic to plants in general that I can’t eat most fruits and vegetables raw. I can’t carve a pumpkin for Halloween without wearing gloves. When I was a teenager and my allergies were a lot worse, I couldn’t sit in the grass if I was wearing shorts without getting a huge rash. When I had my first prick test at the allergist, I reacted to oregano. When the pollen count is high, I have to enter a Zen meditative state to keep from clawing my eyeballs out they’re so itchy (like right now, and this is after I’ve taken my allergy meds). One time I went for a short spring hike, and my allergies got so bad, my throat became so swollen, and my sneezing became so powerful, that I launched out a tonsil stone I didn’t even know I had (!!!). 

But I can manhandle poison ivy all I want, I guess.

I wear gloves when I go out on catchweed-killing missions (I’m not joking, my entire back yard is getting overtaken with that crap), but if I’m wearing short sleeves, and it touches my bare arms? I basically want to die for the next couple hours. My arms look like I got the worse chiggers ever. It’s all those damn hooks breaking my skin and letting all that pollen in!

Which reminds me, chigger season is coming! It’s not getting me three years in a row, I’m PREPARED! (*change/wash your clothes and take a hot shower ASAP after wandering around in tall grasses/vegetation!)

April 5, 2019








The Official Cecropia Moth Life Cycle Post™

Buckle in kids, this one should be exciting and full of drama.

It all started with a text message. A friend out in Smithville (i.e. further out in the country than me) found some giant caterpillars:

I dropped everything to go see them. I lovingly adopted one caterpillar (who would turn out to be the female), and was also gifted with a cocoon (which held the male), one of many my friend found in her elderberry bush.

Winter came and went, the moths emerged, and got to business right away. They didn’t seem to mind that they were probably siblings.

The female laid eggs.

After about 20 days, they started to hatch:

They hatched three days ago.

Which brings us up to today. Most of them are out of their eggs by now. And they have started eating. I offered them a choice. Elm (good for me, I have lots of elm), or elderberry (please no it’s a baby I don’t have enough elderberry for 50 cecropias please no).

Here’s their little mini-home:

Elm (light green) vs elderberry (dark green)

Guess what the turds picked?

Of course.

My current plan is to grow the elderberry as much as I can (does the elderberry have favorite foods? Can I give it a ritual sacrifice? ???) and then return some of the caterpillars to the motherland when things get too ridiculous. I’m sure my friend will be super excited about that. And I can play with her bees when I visit, too!

Stay tuned (*sigh*)

March 19, 2019

Are they bigger?? They haven’t started Munchathon 2019 yet, but they are warming up, for sure.

March 21, 2019

They are bigger (and turning yellow)!

They finally turned their hungry on!

Not all my eggs hatched, so my “50” is greatly exaggerated. Looks like I have 13 if no more eggs hatch. A little more manageable. I can sneak them treats from my plum tree if I need to stretch the elderberry.

March 22/23, 2019

Baby’s First Molt


I just came home to find my first 2nd instar baby Cecropia! This was them this morning:

I had a feeling they were about to pop.

When they’re getting ready to molt, they will put down a silk mat to hold onto with their old skin (think velcro), while they crawl out of it. Then they hold real still for a few hours while their new head squeezes out of the old one so they have a hole to climb out of.

Here is the mat of one getting ready to molt:

In some species (and for older caterpillars), it can be more obvious, but you can usually see the silk when light shines on it. Here is the same caterpillar (side-view):

The silk mat is a little more obvious here. See how he looks like a fat sausage ready to pop?! (*whispers* it’s cuz he is).

March 26, 2019

So large!

I can’t believe how fast they grow! Elderberry bush is still holding out.

March 30, 2019

What region are you in? I’m in the midwest myself and my cecropias aren’t due to eclose until late April, and you already have third instar cats? Do you get two broods a year where you live?

Hello there! I am in central Texas (just outside Austin), and my caterpillars are still second instar. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center’s eggs haven’t started hatching yet, so there is a variation in timing, even in my area. We do not get two broods a year, our cecropias make cocoons in late May/June and stay there until the next March.

I would like to share a great tool for tracking insect life cycles (especially if you don’t know if a species of interest has two broods a year!). iNaturalist! Check it out [link]:

That graph in the lower right corner? That’s a life cycle chart. Each color corresponds to a different life stage. Blue is adult moth, and orange is caterpillar. I have this graph filtered to just show data from Texas, because that’s where I am, and it’s clear that we only have one generation a year!

Compare that to the Polyphemus Moth [link]:

Look, two generations a year!

There is one issue with these charts, and it’s that they rely on people annotating their observations in iNaturalist with life cycle information (tagging their observations as “adult” or “larva,” etc). Anybody can tag observations, so when I want to know how many generations a species has, I’ll go through the observations from Texas and tag them, then check out the chart. It helped me figure out when to expect my Io moths to emerge!

Good luck with your moths! 

March 30, 2019

Holy Mola! – The Oral History of an iNat Ident…


The iNaturalist community made international headlines a few weeks ago after the first hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) seen in North America was shared and then identified via iNaturalist and some dedicated participants. It really is a great story that shows the power of collaboration and the importance of keeping an open (and optimistic!) mind, so I thought it would be fun to compile an oral (although in this case, written) history from the participants.

What follows are the lightly edited and condensed recollections of most of the people involved, put together as chronologically as possible. I have not heard back from all participants, but am happy to add your input if you message me.

Jessica Nielsen (Coal Point Oil Reserve): My first observation of the hoodwinker sunfish was on the morning of February 19th, 2019. A colleague, Mark Holmgren, and I were conducting the reserve’s monthly bird monitoring survey at around 7:00 am and noticed a tall dorsal fin flopping about in the water about a hundred meters off of the point at Coal Oil Point Reserve. We weren’t sure at the time what animal we were looking at as we couldn’t see it very clearly in the water, but we assumed it was some kind of marine mammal based on the size of the fin and head. Later the same day, when a 7 foot long sunfish washed up on the beach, we realized that was what we had seen that morning.

I was alerted to the washed up fish by one of our UCSB student interns, Ruth Alcantara… Unfortunately, the fish was already dead but it was still a sight to see such a large and unusual fish up close. I took some measurements and photos and posted the finding to Coal Oil Point Reserve’s Facebook page.

Daniel Spach (Wilderness Youth Project): We were about to leave Devereux that day after tidepooling for a couple hours when a couple of the kids spotted what looked like a dead seal or something in an unusual posture near the beach on the rocks. When we got over there we were stunned to find something I had never seen or heard of anyone finding on a Santa Barbara beach… a Sun Fish? It was longer than I am tall, over 7 feet I’d say, super flat and roundish, with a mouth big enough to swallow my head. All the kids gathered round and were giddily excited about it, noting the shape of the fins and eyes, making guesses as to its watery demise. Everyone seemed a bit scared to touch it though, thinking it would be slimy like most decomposing fish we’d encountered but it’s skin was actually extremely hard, dense, and rough, like an ocean rhino or something.

Kittyhawk snapped a few pictures [TI: see above] with her phone. The kids all wanted to make sure their parents would get a copy of the pictures. Might be the only time any of us will encounter this fish for our lifetimes.

Jeff Phillips (@ljefe): My 10-year old son Pierce participates in the Wilderness Youth Project’s after school program every Wednesday. [On] Feb 22, when I met the group to pick up my son and friends at 5:30pm, they were excited about this huge fish they had found on the beach during their afternoon outing (sometime between 2 and 4:30pm). I’m a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so they knew I’d be excited about it. I had them send me the photo and with my son’s help to mark the location, I posted it on iNaturalist, originally identifying it as Mola mola. I thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing discussion among tomleeturner, rfoster, and mnyegaard.

Tom Turner (@tomeleeturner): I saw [Jessica’s] post and went down there with my family, because I wanted my 4 year old son to check it out. I posted it on iNat, of course, because…that is what I do. Everyone was assuming it is a Mola mola. What happened next is a classic example of iNat at its best.

Ralph Foster (@rfoster): I have an alert for Mola spp and was checking through the day’s offerings when I saw what I took to be a stranded Mola tecta. I was bewildered when I realised this was in California and not in New Zealand or Australia so I tagged Marianne [Nyegaard, who described Mola tecta], asking for her input.

Marianne Nyegaard (@mnyegaard): Ralph Foster emailed me with links to iNaturalist asking if I could see what species it was, strongly suspecting it was Mola tecta. I quickly checked and thought that the fish surely looked like a hoodwinker, but frustratingly, none of the many photos showed the clavus [TI: aka what sunfishes’ back “fin” is called] clearly. And with a fish so far out of range, I was extremely reluctant to call it a hoodwinker without clear and unambiguous evidence of its identity… I emailed Ralph and told him we needed more photographs and ideally a tissue sample, and posted on iNaturalist that his was probably just a Mola mola.

Ralph Foster: Since there were no diagnostic features shown, I also tagged the observer (@sealovelife) asking if there were more images available, which is when Tom directed me to his observation.

Tom Turner: By this time I was already out on the beach in the dark looking for the fish to get better photos, because what could be more fun than this? Alas, the tide had floated it away again.

Marianne Nyegaard: I then had a cup of coffee and doubt starting creeping in… I spent the next few hours obsessively zooming in on all the photos posted on iNaturalist… Some photos showed peoples’ hands on the sunfish, so I used their fingernails to gauge the scale and compared the skin with my archive photos. Even though the resolution just wasn’t high enough to be sure, I started convincing myself the skin at least wasn’t incompatible with Mola tecta and that ….perhaps it was a hoodwinker?… But I felt I needed to be absolutely 100% sure before settling on an ID, seeing I had described the hoodwinker and would need to back up my ID with absolute certainty with a specimen so far away from home.

I woke up to an email from Jessica Nielsen saying [she and Tom] were keen to go back out and find the fish again so I sent them instructions of what to look for and photograph, and then sat on the edge of my chair with all fingers and toes crossed that they would find it.

Tom Turner: At low tide (now two days later), I started biking on the beach from the east, and Jessica started walking from the west, 2 miles apart. We met in the middle, at the fish, now a few hundred yards farther east.

Jessica Nielsen: Tom and I waited for the tide to go out, found the fish…and we got to work taking the photos and fin clips requested. It really was exciting to collect the photos and samples knowing that it could potentially be such an extraordinary sighting!  Once we sent over the photos, Marianne responded very quickly.

Marianne Nyegaard: I was away from my desk most of the day, but when I checked my emails in the afternoon I literally nearly fell off my chair (which I was sitting on the edge of!). Tom and Jessica had indeed found the fish and had photographed and examined it, and taken a tissue sample. A huge amount of extremely clear photos were in my inbox and there was just no doubt of the ID. They had also examined the clavus by hand to confirm the number of ossicles, which was just brilliant. Eyes and ears and hands on the ground half a world away, wow.

Ralph Foster: If it hadn’t been for Tom and Jessica’s willingness to revisit and examine the specimen we would not have known with certainty that this was, indeed, Mola tecta.

Jessica Nielsen: We were all thrilled to hear the news. Mola tecta was just recently discovered in 2017 (by Marianne and her research team) so there is still so much to learn about this species. I’m so glad that we could help these researchers make the final definitive ID.

Tom Turner: iNaturalist at its best: experienced novice loops in expert who loops in the expert who then helps us learn about our find and gets info she will use in her research. And it was fun and exciting for all.

Marianne Nyegaard: Ralph Foster also alerted the University of California, who did a beach dissection and collected a large number of samples. Tissue samples will soon be on the way from California to my sister’s lab in Denmark, where I do all my sunfish genetics.

So, within 24 hours after I had first been made aware of this stranding we had confirmed the ID. I just love iNaturalist and am continuously amazed by how much fun it is to “meet” passionate people all over the world

This was an amazing discovery, made possible by iNaturalist, which brought people together from all over the world (including the scientist who discovered the species!) to correctly identify this fish very rapidly.

Remember, anybody can make these kinds of discoveries. Recently, the emerald ash borer beetle (which is driving ash trees to extinction in North America) was positively identified as existing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas—the farthest west it has been documented—based on an observation a 10-year-old made on iNaturalist, which was later identified by Texas Parks and Wildlife (and other beetle experts). Because of this early detection, even though we don’t yet have any known active infestations of the emerald ash borer in our part of Texas yet, we can take measures to be vigilant and spread the word that they are here to citizens, who can look out for more signs of them.

New species have been discovered based on iNaturalist observations. Plants and animals that have never before been photographed and being photographed and uploaded to iNaturalist, sometimes by regular people who have no idea what they just saw was important or noteworthy!

If you look hard enough and often enough, you will see interesting things. Sometimes they end up on the news!

March 20, 2019

A Mighty Snail Found in Ecuador – (Bonus) Obse…


Our (Bonus!) Observation of the Week is this large Thaumastus thompsoni snail, seen in Ecuador by souhjiro!

Edgar Segovia (@souhjiro) is a biologist who has a lot of interests, “mainly entomology, arachnology, carcinology and malacology, and I am also interested in aquatic biology and ecology.” His curiosity with nature started at an early age, when“[I] saw as child the insects on the garden or on my school patio, and the tadpoles on the puddles around my natal city of Cuenca…and compared them with the Atlas of the Animal World, from Reader´s Digest, which was my first and favorite book.” Even at at that young age, Edgar noticed detail such as the local frogs, mainly of the genus Gastrotheca, did not lay eggs like those he saw in the book.

As he grew older, Edgar was mentored by biologist Gustavo Morejon, who lent him books and showed him Universidad del Azuay’s insect collection. “As a 12-something year old boy, [I] was totally fascinated with that, and that furthered my interest on following a biology career,” he says. “I worked in ecological assessments with land insects, and also limnology studies in different places of my country, knowing meanwhile a lot of terrestrial and aquatic insects and macrofauna (including fish and herps) from Ecuador. Lately, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Charles Darwin Station, and could be in contact with the insects of Galapagos Islands in the flesh (or carapace).”

Edgar saw the snail pictured above (which, he notes, has a shell about 8 cm in length) not recently but actually way back in 2004, while instructing rangers at Sangay National Park. Tasked with teaching collection techniques for herpetofauna and invertebrates, including pitfall traps, he recalls

One drizzly morning, revising the pitfalls, among the Chusquea bamboo surrounding one of the traps, a big snail appeared. [Everyone] there was very excited, and we put it on a tree trunk to photograph it. For a time, we forgot about the pitfalls (then remembered and continued). The snail received a lot of flashes while all those with cameras photographed it, and I used the opportunity to talk about our very much neglected terrestrial malacofauna to the rangers.

This was not his first time encountering Thaumastus thompsoni. In fact, in 2002 he assisted Brazilian scientist Meire Pena when she was collecting specimens in the Azuay province. This species, says Edgar, “is associated with Chusquea and mixed chaparro forest patches on Andean Cañar and Azuay, and currently is under threat of habitat destruction for cattle farming, pasture opening, and fast urbanization, but that threat is not yet assessed properly. Great thrushes eat the snails, and sometimes near rock outcroppings their emptied and broken shells are found.” When he recently passed through this area, Edgar noted that the forest had regained some territory since 2004, and shells on the ground indicated that thes snails still inhabit the area.

As for iNaturalist, Edgar (above, in Plaza Sur, Galapagos), heard about it from Gustavo Morejon, his old mentor, and he says

the [iNaturalist community] accelerates the process of ID, and there are some specialists and experts on there…it motivates me to publish more observations on the web instead to keep them archived, and is even fun to stroll a walk taking pics of every interesting critter or plant in the path.

– by Tony Iwane. Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Give me this snail I need it on my face

I love him

(I think it’s time for bed) March 14, 2019 (3:36 am)

Cute Fluffbutts Getting Me in Trouble, Don’t S…

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time (October 2017), I was volunteering at the intermediate school for our Junior Naturalist After-School program. We all went outside and the kids got to run around and explore the school yard around the classroom we met in. One of the kids dug around in a peppervine bush a bit, and called our attention to these things:


Look at them, aren’t they perfect???

But what are they? all eyes turn to me Uhhhh well they’re caterpillars! But what do they turn into? Uhhhh probably a moth??? They don’t really care, they’re outside running around having fun (and staring at caterpillars go nuts on this peppervine bush I mean seriously guys). Meanwhile, I pull out the iNaturalist app, it tells me it’s probably the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moth, and I tell the kids and show them a picture of the adult moth and they LOSE THEIR MINDS because check it out: 


Above photo by Monica Krancevic, from iNaturalist [link]

Yes, friends, that is A MOTH. And the caterpillars look like fuzzy stripey sluggy things.

Except… Time passed. The horde of caterpillars disappears (though somehow the peppervine didn’t). Spring comes. And the last day of our program (March 2018), the side of our classroom is covered in moths. But… they’re not covered in Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moths. The moth in the photo above is a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer (Harrisina americana). Our moths looked like:


There is a closely related moth to the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer that doesn’t have the little red scarf. It’s called Harrisina coracina. That’s right, it’s one of the bugs that doesn’t even get a common name. Interesting! I went to the internet, and looked up the caterpillars of this moth to see if they were maybe lookalikes with the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. And! There were no photos of the caterpillars anywhere. It was enough to make me think that yes, in fact, they must be lookalikes.

Blast forward a few months to the summer (July 2018). I am dealing with VINE SPHINX MOTH DRAMA. They are eating possum grape like NO TOMORROW. I have to CLIMB A LADDER INTO A TREE AT 2 AM TO GET GRAPE VINES FOR THEM TO EAT. It’s a situation. I managed to find some small vines in the back corners of my yard, and I trimmed a bit of it off. And guess who was there?


Well, hey there, strangers! I know EXACTLY who y’all are, and y’all ain’t skeletonizing those grapeleaves! And better yet, I’ve documented two hostplants, when bugguide’s best guess is “I think grape leaves?” [link]

Of course I raised them.


So precious, so sweet. “LOOK MA, I’M PUPATING!”

And in August, guess who flew out? Of course it was H. coracina


Because I have been so stressed out/busy/all of the above, I’m just now finishing up my August uploads to iNat. So I only uploaded the adult photo in the last day or so. 

In many cases, there are really only two reasons insects are studied: money (hobbies) and money (agriculture). The first reason is why you can find basically anything you could ever want to know about the life cycles of the big flashy moths and butterflies, and the second reason is why we know the basics about moths that can cause huge devastating damage to plants and crops. But oh boy there are a lot of moths out there and there just isn’t enough time and money to study them all. So there are some gaps, even for species that can have notable effects on crops (I mean, these things can destroy grapevines, don’t get me wrong).

So when I started posting the caterpillars and claiming that they were a species that has a gap in the scientific literature based on rearing the adult, one person bookmarked my iNat observation of my cutie little possum vine eating fuzzbutts after asking me how I knew the species. And when I finally posted the adult photo, this guy was very excited and needs to double check with the guy who wrote the caterpillar ID book, but essentially asked me to rear them again, going for complete life cycle (with eggs), and sending him the adults so he can confirm for 100% sure that my species ID is correct, and he’ll co-author the paper with me.


I looked him up, guy is legit [link to his California Dept of Food & Agriculture bio page]

So uh, yeah. Unemployment looming, but I have three talks, an outreach event, research for a legit entomology paper (?!), and I’m planning to start a non-profit (for reals). At least I won’t be bored?

Will post about the public talks + outreach event separately, but if you’re in Austin, TX, come to the Texas Memorial Museum on UT Campus Saturday January 26!! Free Admission for Texas Wildlife Day! Me and a bunch of nerds will have fun activities relating to wildlife!

January 2, 2019












TIL there is a species of fungus that only exists in Texas and rural Japan, and is thought to have been in both places for 19 million years


turns people into cowboys or samurais depending on which place you’re in 

That explains why cowboy movies and samurai movies are so similar.

Cowboys are Alolan form Samurai

So in Japan it’s called Kirinomitake while in Texas it’s called either Texas Star (because after releasing spores it’s unfolded into a star shape) or the Devil’s Cigar because it starts out as a long oblong mushroom but then it unfolds with an ominous hissing noise and releases a big smoky black cloud of spores.

It only grows in these two places, and people did genetic testing and a bunch of math to determine that the two populations started diverging from each other nineteen million goddamn years ago, so it’s not possible for humanity to have moved it from one place to the other. They’re at the same latitude, but 11,000 fucking kilometers apart not to mention the goddamn ocean in the way.

“this is only another illustration of the unusual and unpredictable distribution of many species of the fungi. It would be difficult indeed to account for it, and we merely accept the facts as they are.”

So apparently it’s pretty common in the mycological world to find some bullshit that can’t be explained and would probably drive men mad to look at too closely, and just sort of shrug and move on with your day.

The species is also the only example of its genus.

Your daily reminder that anyone who devotes their life to studying fungi is not to be trifled with because their brain is full of things humanity was never supposed to notice.

just fucking mushrooms


Oh hey fun fact, apparently the sanctuary I do outreach at has these. I haven’t seen them, but the Travis Audubon Outreach Coordinator has photographed them and had them IDed. She was telling me about them a couple weeks ago and I was like WOW I NEED TO FIND ME SOME!!!

In exchange, I told her about the magical super butterfly-attractant Lantana that was off-trail. I swear like 30 species at once on that thing it was redonkulous.

If you’re in Austin, the Blair Woods Sanctuary is open to the public, dawn to dusk. It’s behind The Austin Wildlife Rescue’s intake center. There’s a pond, and two weeks ago it was STILL swarming with dragonflies! Nice little patch of wilderness with some walking trails and rare fungi I guess.

December 12, 2018

Update: Texans, Guess What?

They’re out right now and iNaturalist can tell you exactly where to find them [link]. They have been found within the past couple days in Austin, and within the past week-ish in Dallas-Fort Worth. Looks like this fungi come out in the cooler months between October and April, and they grow on the stumps and rotting roots of Cedar Elms. 

If you look at where these have shown up on iNaturalist historically (if you follow the link, click on the filter button in the top right and get rid of my date filter), and you will see they have a very interesting distribution pattern…

Very interesting

It’s almost like, the spores are in the water or something 😂

December 13, 2018