Do you ever pin any of your bugs after they die? Like to use to educate people? Or is it too emotional for you after their passing?
I try to pin and frame as many as I’m able! It’s part of continuing to enjoy such short lived buggos. It always sucks to lose insects you’ve worked so carefully raising and watching, no matter how long you’ve had them, but it happens 😢 (hell, it’s why most insects/spiders lay hundreds of eggs, stuff happens and that gives them a better survival chance). The two tarantulas here are Doc (P. cancerides) and Creamsicle (P. murinus). Doc was, unfortunately, a mature male, and Creamsicle had a bad molt.
Grog (D. tityus, beetle) and Anne (P. regalis) have been pinned for quite a while waiting on frames. Eastern Hercules Beetles dont live very long once maturing and Anne was a very old mature male pokie.
Sometimes, due to a bad molt (or my general ignorance for how to go about it with a particular critter), the bugs or spiders aren’t able to be pinned, but I still keep them in my sealed, padded display.
I also have friends who bring me dead insects/spiders, sometimes, too. Sometimes they’re a bit chewed on by clean up crews or fungi, so I disinfect them and place them in my frame for later.
That will not help save the bees at all. They need the excess honey removed from their hives. That’s the beekeepers entire livelihood.
Seriously refusing to eat honey is one of those well-meaning but ultimately terrible ideas. The bees make way too much honey and need it out in order to thrive (not being funny but that was literally a side effect in Bee Movie). Plus that’s the only way for the beekeepers to make the money they need to keep the bees healthy. Do not stop eating honey because somebody on Tumblr told you too.
excess honey, if not removed, can ferment and poison the bees. even if it doesn’t, it attracts animals and other insects which can hurt the bees or even damage the hive. why vegans think letting bees stew in their own drippings is ‘cruelty-free’ is beyond me. >:[
the fact that we find honey yummy and nutritious is part of why we keep bees, true, but the truth is we mostly keep them to pollinate our crops. the vegetable crops you seem to imagine would still magically sustain us if we stopped cultivating bees.
and when you get right down to it… domestic bees aren’t confined in any way. if they wanted to fly away, they could, and would. they come back to the wood frame hives humans build because those are nice places to nest.
so pretending domestic bees have it worse than wild bees is just the most childish kind of anthropomorphizing.
If anything, man-made hives are MORE suitable for bees to live in because we have mathematically determined their optimal living space and conditions, and can control them better in our hives. We also can treat them for diseases and pests much easier than we could if they were living in, say, a tree.
Tl;dr for all of this: eating honey saves the bees from themselves, and keeping them in man-made hives is good for them.
Plus, buying honey supports bee owners, which helps them maintain the hives, and if they get more money they can buy more hives, which means more bees!
I tell people this. About the honey and what to do to save bees. I also have two large bottles of honey in my cabinet currently. Trying to get some flowers for them to thrive on. Support your bees guys
… uh guys… the whole “Save the Bees!” thing is not about honeybees. It’s about the decline of native bees almost to the point of extinction. Native bees do not make honey. Honeybees are domesticated. Taking measures to protect honeybees is as irrelevant to helping the environment as protecting Farmer John’s chickens.
To help save native bees, yes, plant NATIVE flowers (what naturally grows where you live? That’s what your bees eat!), set up “bee hotels,” which can be something as simple as a partially buried jar or flower pot for carpenter bees, and don’t use pesticides. Having a source of water (like a bird bath or “puddles” you frequently refresh) is also good for a variety of wildlife.
Want to know more about bees that are not honeybees?
Every place has different types of bees. Every place has different types of plants/flowers. Those hyped-up “save the bees” seed packets that are distributed across North America are garbage because none of those flowers are native in every habitat. Don’t look up “how to make a bee hotel” and make something that only bees from the great plains areas would use if you live on the west coast.
This is every bee that has been observed and uploaded to the citizen science network of iNaturalist. You can filter by location (anywhere in the world! This is not restricted to the US!), and you can view photos of every species people have added. Here’s the page for all bees, sorted by taxonomy, not filtered to any specific location [link]. Have you seen a bee and want to know more about it, but you don’t know what kind of bee it is? Take a picture, upload it to iNat, and people like me will help you identify it–and it will also become part of the database other people will use to learn about nature!
Some native Texan bees I’ve met!
A sweat bee! [link to iNat]. These flowers are tiny, no larger than a dime.
A longhorn bee! [link to iNat] I don’t know where they nest, but I often find them sleeping on the tips of flowers at night (so cute!)
Meet your local bees! Befriend them! Feed them! Make them homes! Love them!
This is one of the native bees I met in Arizona! This handsome man is a male Melissodes sp., AKA a type of long-horned bee. I saved him when he was drowning in a puddle.
I love him
This is a great post all in all but I’d just like to note that colony collapse syndrome is definitely a thing, so domestic honeybees are absolutely in danger as well
Europen Honey Bees are an invasive species in the US and compete with native bees.
Native bee populations are specifically evolved to pollinate certain native plants. Most are unlikely to have a significant effect on the pollination of the non-native crops that people need to grow to survive. It’s true that honeybees will compete with native bees as well, and can be classified as an invasive species, but so long as native bees are supported and native flora is maintained, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to coexist. And while there’s a whole different argument to be had about the negative effects of growing nonnative crops at all, if they fail, as they likely would without the honeybees that a large percentage of farmers keep to pollinate their and other local crops, the effects on humanity will be catastrophic
Lest people think I am anti-honeybee (no? I love honeybees?? They are precious??), the above is correct. Like it or not, the way we grow our food (much of which is not native to where it’s farmed) absolutely requires pollinators like honeybees. We would have a hugely massive food crisis on our hands without honeybees.
But, because so much $$$ is tied into the continued production of food, governments and food production companies will do whatever they can to mitigate the effects of colony collapse and other honeybee health issues. What can you do to help honeybees? Buy and eat food. Easy, right?
What is being done to protect native bees? Well,
1) Scientists and researchers are feverishly trying to get them listed as protected species and absolutely failing (see @thelepidopteragirl’s post about colleagues of hers: [link]).
2) Scientists and researchers are trying to get pesticides known to have devastating effects on bees and other pollinators banned and absolutely failing ([link]).
3) Scientists and science communicators (like me now, apparently) are trying to spread this information about native bees and their importance so more people can do little things like plant native flowers (lookup North American species for your zip code here: [link]), change how often they mow their lawns ([link]), and vote out the assholes who are profiting by destroying our environment ([link]). Success on this one: TBD, and by people like us.
As a gift to the honeybee lovers out there, please accept this photo of one making out with a stinkhorn mushroom:
^An excellent post on the complexities of the “Save the Bees” movement
To add, honeybees are also having problems in, you know, Europe and Asia, where they are native!
I feel like that gets forgotten by many, as Tumblr is very USA centered.
How do you feel about trees? Interested in crazy tree facts? (I'm a forestry student and have many facts to share)
you probably know this already from being a dendrology major, but the biggest change to how i saw trees came from the realization that trees are a growth form, not their own thing. in other words, trees evolved multiple different times in multiple different families, and because they all have secondary growth (wood) and happened across similar anatomy so they kinda look the same, humans were like ‘ah yes. these are all trees’.
this means that there is no main tree family to which all trees belong. which is very trippy.
i think it’s easy for us to see a tree, and see another tree, and be like ‘ah, these are both big tall woody plants with leaves attached to branches, therefore they must be closely related to other big tall woody plants with leaves attached to branches’, but that’s not necessarily the case. you can have trees that flower. you can have trees that dont flower. back some 400 million years ago, there were trees that reproduced with spores. you can have a plant family that just so happens to have a bunch of different species of trees that are closely related, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all closely related to other trees just because they happen to grow like a tree.
for example: maple trees and birch trees are both trees that flower, which lumps them into the big clade of all flowering plants: the angiosperms. both the maple tree and the birch tree then fit into the same sub-clade, the rosids, which includes about 70,000 species of flowering plants of all kinds. from there, though, the clade splits into two orders: the fabids and the malvids. the maple tree is in the malvid group, while the birch is in the fabid group (although both of these trees as we know them now are pretty far down the line, if that makes sense. like a good few million years and a half dozen families of evolution from there).
according to the angiosperm phylogeny website, the fabid/malvid split happened about 100 million years ago. flowering plants entered the scene 130 million years ago. this means that the last time the ancestors of maple trees and the ancestors of birch trees were closely related was when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (this would be in the peak of the cretaceous period). even then, they might not have even been trees yet at all.
obviously you can have trees that are more closely or distantly related, but there’s a sample of like…..how far apart trees can be from one another on an evolutionary basis. like. idk in high school i just assumed that all trees were in a big family of their own and that’s why they all looked like trees lmao
Buckle in kids, this one should be exciting andfull 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?
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
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!
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!
I am but one person with too little time and too many hyperfixations and even though my yard is actually kinda small it ends up taking on a life of its own because hey let nature do its thing, right? What’s the worst that could happen?
So, right now, the very back of my yard is a mini-forest of hackberry, elm, and soapberry saplings about chest high (so thick you can’t walk through them without cutting them down, it’s a situation). Behind those, there’s this tangled mass of common hedge parsley and catchweed bedstraw. Both of these plants are terrible. The catchweed is essentially nature’s velcro and it tears into your skin as a bonus. The parsley is fine until is goes to seed—I have clothes I can’t wear until I sit down for a few hours and pick all the burr-covered parsley seeds off them. No, they don’t come off in the wash.
The back of the yard is the worst, but the catchweed and the parsley are all over my entire yard (along with the invasive rescue brome grass I can’t get rid of). I’ve been picking as much of it as I can every time I go outside. I want to destroy ALL OF IT!!!
Except… uh… today while I was watering my trees… uh…
Sorry for the grainy quality, I was far away. But… uh… Swallowtail Butterfly host plants include… plants in the… carrot family…
You know, like… parsley? She laid several eggs while I watched, and I found three total. I know there’s gotta be more. Well, I guess that’s one host plant I’m not going to run out of… and I’ve never raised swallowtails before!!!
So I put the plants with the eggs inside, and went back to watering. Okay, maybe I don’t hate parsely as much. But I still hate catchweed. GRRR!!!
Oh! Hello Mexican Honey Wasp friend! What are you doing over here?
Wait… are you…
I watched this wasp, and… yes. The only flowers that seemed to interest her were these tiny catchweed flowers.
Well. I guess I’m not pulling out all of the parsley and catchweed. As if I’d have been able to in the first place.
Just goes to show how even “weeds” are essential components of any ecosystem. My current situation is just a gross imbalance of three particular species.
March 18, 2019
@guardianoftheduat : the seeds aren’t bad in and of themselves. They are perfect and wonderful and do exactly what they are supposed to do…
Which is catch onto passing mammals so they can end up dispersing and creating nice lovely ecosystems with diverse plantlife.
What does that look like for humans who wear (*sigh*) the wrong clothes that day?
These are one of my favorite pairs of hiking pants. They were expensive. They look wrinkled. They’re not. Those little dots are parsley seeds. Let me pull open that middle wrinkle for you.
I will have to hand pick off each individual seed if I want to wear these pants again. These things are essentially the strongest industrial grade velcro, and they are tiny. Maybe a sweater shaver can get them off, I don’t know.
This isn’t the only article of clothing in my “parsley seed” pile. I have a bunch of clothes I can’t wear because of the parsley seeds. This is why I’m trying to pull out all the parsley this year, I don’t want this to keep happening!
It’s a pain. I never have enough time to tame the yard, then I never have enough time to tame my pants. Viscious cycle.
Sorry for all the questions but I got curious after your last post (the earring one): how do you, like, kill the insects animal friendly? Are you bummed out over it or is it just part of the job for you?
Hi there! I’m still working on your first question, I’ll post that tomorrow.
I don’t kill the insects, my friend who makes the earrings does. There is a big long complicated discussion about collections in general, in terms of being able to have a historical catalogue of species diversity and populations, and you can’t have that without killing things. In some ways, it’s a harder conversation for animals like birds and mammals, because they live longer, reproduce less frequently, and are seen as more intelligent.
But for me, it very much would bum me out. I have had to euthanize some of my insects (I do it by putting them in the freezer), and even that is really hard to do. I’ve never taken an entomology course because of it. When I was 12, I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was obsessed with fish and marine invertebrates since I was 4, I loved everything about them. But at one point, I realized… you can’t be a wildlife biologist without doing dissections. And I’m a vegetarian who couldn’t even eat fake meat for years because it freaked me out by looking too real (this was in the 90′s before they had good ones)–there was no way I would be able to do a dissection! So over 20 years later, I’m doing wildlife biology my way, but without any formal training, because every entomology course has a component where you create a collection–meaning, you kill insects, and you practice pinning them.
For most insects, they are killed quickly in a jar with chemicals. Ethyl acetate is the most common, and it’s used in nail polish remover. Freezing is used for some other insects (like moths, to prevent them from damaging their wings with the chemicals). I don’t know what method my friend uses, but he doesn’t use chemicals since he feeds the leftover parts to other animals (his research lab has a lot of fish).
The thing with collecting is, maybe it’s all part of the job for some, but I think most of the people who study any kind of biology were drawn to it by the living organisms. Very few people in this field take it for granted that the study of life necessitates death, especially when it’s at our own hands. Even my hardened entomologist friends have told me that the first few times are never easy. But in many cases, what you collect could outlive you many times over. There are insects sitting in collections that are hundreds of years old, which are still in good enough shape that we can still study and learn from them.
Top two: Lesser Goldfinch
Bottom three: House Finch, who is yellow instead of red like most (I love him)
Posted Feb 12, 2019
Whoa. Your Texas LEGO males are wild-looking. I’ve had 30+ Lesser Goldfinches hanging off my two sock feeders lately, but none of them look like that.
Oh yes, we do get the black-backed flavor males here. I don’t know if I’ve seen the green-backed ones in Texas. My guide says most males from Colorado to Texas are black-backed, west of Colorado they’re green-backed. You do get some awkward-transition males during spring though:
Also HOT GOLDFINCH ACTION
The above photos were taken at the FABULOUS bird blind at Inks Lake State Park in Burnet County, TX (being in that blind was a religious experience). I left the blind and got to see two grey hairstreaks mating, then got onto a trail for a little bit, and a hummingbird saw me and immediately proceeded to I shit you notdo hardcore aerial maneuvers (like, he was painting the sky with a gigantic smiley face holy carp that hummer was either loving life or was seriously high on fermented sugar water). And he was flying AT me for part of his show, too.
I’m not sure if it was from reading this post, but this morning I looked out at the thistle sock outside the kitchen window and there was an almost-completely-black-backed male Lesser Goldfinch on it! It’s the first of those I remember seeing around here. He got away before I could snap a picture, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and try to document him if he comes back so you can enjoy the sight of one black-backed male surrounded by umpteen green-backed ones. 😀
Allow me to add today’s new visitor to the yard:
The nearest pine is like, 20 miles away, but okay 😂 I keep joking about having great reviews on Finch Yelp
February 14, 2019
So, here’s the darkest male Lesser Goldfinch I’ve seen at my sock feeder in the last few days. Still some green on the back, but at least around here (SoCal) this counts as pretty dark:
Here’s a shot of some more typical local LEGOs:
LOOK AT HIM!!!!!!! LOOK AT ALL OF THEM!!!!!! He looks like a first-year black-backed (”awkward transition” is what I called it above). They molt and have solid black backs their second season. He’s your lucky boy! Keep an eye out for him!
Where do you get your thistle? I bought my first sock pre-filled (on sale!), but it’s getting empty and not many places seem to stock it. Seems mostly just hardware stores. Costs an arm and a let online, so I don’t want to go that route.
Not only do I run into people who think insects and other arthropods don’t qualify as animals, I run into people who know that they’re “technically” animals but they’re of the “opinion” they shouldn’t be.
What are people actually judging by here, though? Intelligence? Because there are definitely vertebrates like us with barely more brainpower than a cockroach, and then there are invertebrates like octopuses, as genetically distant from us as a cockroach but intelligent enough to learn people’s faces and solve puzzles. Are they going by anatomy? That an arthropod is supposedly just “too different” physically to be lumped with us as animals?
Let me show those folks something:
Here’s the animal kingdom. The giant pale blue is all the arthropods, the insects and spiders and crabs and things.
The pale green sliver is the chordata, which contains just three groups. One of those three groups is the vertebrata, literally every single animal with a skeleton: humans, horses, eels, owls, snakes, frogs, all the things people apparently think are “real” animals.
One of the other three types of chordata, your closest possible cousins, are these things, the lancelets:
Just like you, they have a notochord, which during embryonic development becomes your spinal column.
The third kind of chordate, and actually even closer to you genetically than a lancelet, is a tunicate, and here’s an example of one kind of tunicate:
This is a colony of several thousand little bags with mouths and anuses and virtually no other organs. As larvae, they resemble tadpoles and also have a notochord like you once did in the womb, but then they absorb it as they mature. These are our nearest cousins on the planet.
Now unlike the mature tunicate, an insect is a creature with a clearly defined head, jaws, legs, feet, eyes, a complete brain, practically anthropomorphic compared to those bags of filter-feeding jelly, yet it’s the bags of filter feeding jelly that share an immediate ancestor with you. If “bugs” are too weird to be animals then what the hell are we?
Basically if you’re going to say an insect shouldn’t be considered an animal, you may as well say a cactus shouldn’t be considered a plant because it looks funny.
Day trip to Corpus Christi, saw a million man o’ wars in the gulf coast. First time seeing them in person! Exciting!!!
Posted December 2016 / Rebloged December 18, 2018
These are siphonophores, colonies of a bunch of different types of organisms that… somehow function as a cohesive unit. It’s complicated and I don’t know too much about them besides DO NOT TOUCH! and also they’re not cnidarians (jellyfish)!
Mustang Island State Park
If that’s a man of war your bare feet shouldn’t be anywhere near it. Their stingers are long as hell and can’t always be seen
Yes indeed: if any of y’all are in the water, and you see a floaty balloony friend on the water like you see up there? GET OUT NOW. The tentacles are many, many, many times longer than you see in the photos here, and likely these ones had been torn up as they washed ashore.
It was a little concerning to see SO MANY OF THESE, but: it was December 29 or something like that (cold!), nobody was swimming, I was only barefoot because the tide was coming in and oh boy went OVER the top of my waterproof hiking boots (saltwater and sand in boots in December? may as well go barefoot).
We weren’t walking in the tide, we were well-above the level the water was swelling at, so we weren’t in danger, and we made sure to tell people who had never seen these things before not to touch them (although, they had a pretty good idea not to).
Very, very pretty though!
December 18, 2018
The ocean is fucked up
Definitely do not touch! However, they are cnidarians. They are in the class hydrozoa (colonial) unlike jellyfish. There is a very pretty hydrozoan that is relatively okay to touch, though:
they’re velella velella and they’re very small. some people call them cute names like “little sail” or “by-the-wind-sailor”
man-o-war’s less scary but just as colorful cousin
Whooops yes you’re right! I had a brain fart! They are not jellyfish but they ARE cnidarians (I should know better)
Also, fun fact I learned at the Texas State Aquarium, not all jellyfish stings are painful. I feel like I should have known that already (I’ve tickled enough anemones in my day), but the aquarium had a moon jelly petting tank and they are so soft.
Still, don’t go around touching things unless you are absolutely certain you know what they are!
December 20, 2018
Well hey let’s keep the reblog train going!
I’ve got two reports due tomorrow and I’m procrastinating!
Nice! The Pacific Northwest has a nice surplus of Moon Jellies, so it’s likely that’s what your mom and uncle were grabbing–same friends I was petting at the aquarium in Texas, AND, same fellow I took this crappy cell-phone selfie with in 2007 on Alki Beach in Seattle:
And since we are talking about jellies washed ashore in the Pacific Northwest, checkout this one I found on Lopez Island in 2013 (the month before I moved to Texas). It’s a Lion’s Mane Jelly (Cyanea sp.):
Unrelated (or… not?), in grad school (what I moved to Texas for), I studied biomaterials and tissue engineering. During her post-doc, my advisor had done some research on surface modifications for breast implants to reduce the foreign body response, and as a result, had several breast implants just… sitting around. So we played with them. I had one on my desk for a while as a stress relief toy. And I was very stressed.
All I’m saying is, Moon Jellies would make great breast implants. Nobody would notice the difference.