Tag Archive | insects

Bugs ‘n’ More! Insect outreach with kids

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Getting out to talk to kids about bugs has got to be one of the coolest things to do in science outreach….As we did last year, we went to the Richmond Nature Park for their insect (and spider!) show. Great thanks to all the volunteers and especially Emily Toda for putting this together.

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Tanya Stemberger was out to get the kids into entomophagy (eating insects), serving up tasty insect treats with Grant Olson. Tanya is subtly indicating that this is going to be awesome.

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Grant is a professional in the world of insect cuisine, as he works for Enterra, a company that produces animal feed from insects. Of course, all the bugs served up were human grade!

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Catherine Scott was on hand to talk to kids about our native spiders, and to show some great examples, including black widows and jumping spiders. Here she is with a Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the great insects we had on hand for kids to touch and handle.

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It was great to see Mike Hopcraft, the Reptile Guy, back again with his awesome collection of scorpions, tarantulas and more!

We had an absolute blast showing these cool insects and spiders to the kids. If you ever get the chance to do this kind of outreach, DO NOT HESITATE! It is awesome!

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OK, bear with me here. I got so many great shots of kids playing with insects, I put them in a gallery. Just click on the first image below, and a slideshow should appear. Enjoy!

 

Weekend Expedition 49: you don’t have to go far!

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This weekend I spent close to home, working on my final thesis tweaks before it goes out to my committee. Instead of going on a proper expedition, I decided to explore our new neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. Right near our house is a largely-disused railway line that has some good habitat, including tall grasses and saplings, so that is where I rambled. In addition to finding the cuckoo wasps on Friday evening, I also saw a bunch of other cool stuff!

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At the top of the grasses where I found the chrysidids, I encountered many large sac spiders (Clubionidae). These fearsome-looking spiders all seemed to be feeding on the same thing: Aphids! With these huge chelicerae and fangs, it seems to be a bit of an overkill!

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Check out the chelicerae on this girl!

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Also interested in aphids, these Myrmica are milking a thriving colony on a sapling. I figure these are Myrmica incompleta, a fairly robust species.

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Myrmica are rather fascinating ants, and a genus I am working with. More on this another day.

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These ants have quite the herd of aphids!

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On a quick trip to Trout Lake (in East Van), I found some little katydid nymphs. These appear to be meadow katydids, a welcome change from the introduced drumming katydids.

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A robust dolichopodid (Long-legged Fly) by the side of Trout Lake. They are quick!

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Not quick enough for this tiger fly (Coenosia spp.)!

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Here is a Coenosia looking regal and dramatic in the sunset.

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This golden dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) was also looking regal (and probably freshly-eclosed).

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Back at the railroad tracks in Kerrisdale, I found these Lasius taking honeydew from a scale insect on an oak sapling.

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and some mating Coleophora deauratella (red clover casebearer).

Weekend Expedition 48: Iona and McDonald Beach, Pacific Spirit Park

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Ochlerotatus dorsalis, a saltmarsh breeding mosquito, is abundant at both McDonald and Iona Beach. This one was particularly persistent and bit readily on my hand.

This weekend, Catherine and I made a few quick trips around the area to hit some of our favourite haunts. The weather was nice, but after a long week including a move back to the Lower Mainland, we were not up for major exertion. Here are some of the cool things we saw.

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An dew-covered weevil at McDonald Beach.

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Here is another shot of the Ochlerotatus dorsalis. This light-coloured, day-biting mosquito is super-pretty.

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The forest of Pacific Spirit Park was full of harvestmen. They could be found on almost every bush along the trail we walked.

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This sac spider posed for at least a few frames before dropping to the ground.

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A freshly emerged muscoid fly. You can see the ptilinum poking out from the front of its face (just above teh antennae), which it used to pop the cap off its puparium.

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A particularly robust springtail on a fallen leaf.

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This damsel bug appears to be feeding on some kind of nematoceran fly.

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At Iona Beach, there are oodles of non biting midges (Chironomidae) as there are sewage ponds nearby as well as less-polluted man-made ponds.

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A male zebra jumper.

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This cuckoo wasp was diligently exploring every nook and cranny in this dead log, looking for a host nest for her eggs.

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I love the metallic sheen on these. They are also notable for having a very hard exoskeleton, a trait shared with other nest parasites such as velvet ants (Mutillidae).

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This shot is pretty cute!

 

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Osprey are always hunting around the ponds at Iona, and this one made several flybys.

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The Yellow headed Blackbird can be found at Iona, one of the only places on the coast where it occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some spring shots from Victoria

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It is a popular pastime among us West Coasters to point out our gorgeous spring weather to those of you who are freezing back East. I think that’s just cruel. Nonetheless, I can’t help but notice it is minus three in Toronto, snowing in Alberta and freezing in New Brunswick….Here in Victoria, the snakes are out, the flowers are blooming and we are expecting our first Rufous Hummingbirds any day now!

Here are a few shots from the past couple days in sunny Victoria!

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A springtime cove from high above on windy Mt. Douglas.

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This plump Gnaphosa didn’t mind the wind in a rocky retreat (thanks to Laura P. and Lynnette Schimming for the ID!)

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This elaterid is a bit of a cheat, as I had to flip a stone to find it.

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The first snakes are always how I have registered springtime…This one was just neonate sized.

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A cormorant fishing in Swan Lake.

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A Cooper’s Hawk from yesterday morning.

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Red-tailed Hawk about to bug out!

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Diapause is over!

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In Victoria, the weather has been getting a bit nicer recently, with a few sunny days in a row. I have not been taking much advantage of the fine weather, but I did get out yesterday in the backyard to shoot a little running crab spider we found at a gas station.

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During the shoot, Catherine and I saw a female Culiseta incidens mosquito, which is not an unusual species to find this time of year. These mosquitoes spend the winter in protected locations such as caverns, basements and hollow trees, where they live off their fat reserves in a state similar to hibernation. This state, in insects, is known as diapause, specifically reproductive diapause. This diapause state is induced by a certain reduced light cycle during the sensitive stage, which for many mosquitoes is the final larval instar and the pupa. In Culiseta, as in Culex,reproductive diapause is characterized by hypertrophy of the fat body (the bugs pork up on sugar), seeking dark places (for overwintering), and aversion to bloodfeeding (they don’t take bloodmeals). This environmentally-induced and hormonally-maintained state only lasts part of the overwintering period, and for many of our northern Culex, Culiseta and Anopheles only lasts until mid December.

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This means that anytime springlike conditions come about, such as this late-February fine day, the females can come out of their overwintering site and take a blood meal. This female came out and did so on me, and if things go right for her, she can use the protein from my blood to nourish her first clutch of eggs, which she will lay in an egg raft.

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These overwintered females are the first active bloodfeeding mosquitoes out there, so have a look for them when springlike conditions prevail. Enjoy some special time with one or two of them sucking your blood, as the next species to emerge will be the far more numerous and ferocious Aedes and Ochlerotatus which overwintered as eggs.

Some late fall/early winter insects

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Damsel Bugs (Nabidae) can still be found this time of year.

All the leaves were brown, and the sky was kinda gray, but with some blue yesterday. I went for a walk around the campus, and found some bugs!

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Anthocorid!

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A tree aphid. These seem to lack cornicles.

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A robust little fly. Any ID suggestions? Update! Valérie Lévesque has ID’ed this as a Scuttle Fly, family Phoridae! Thanks Valérie!

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The winter moths are here. You can blow on them to get them in this position.

I don’t get out much…

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Seriously, I don’t get out much! The recent rainy weather has made photography and pretty well all other outdoor activity really unpleasant. In addition, it seems more and more work is piling up that requires my attention. Because we had a rare sunny break yesterday, I went out on the campus for an hour to see what I could see. And what I could see was soggy! The summer insects are gone, and seemingly the forest is once again the realm of water, fungi, dampness and decay.

Update: I read this line in a novel this morning: “In the distance… Simon Fraser University rose up on Burnaby Mountain, a cluster of grey-slab buildings, miserable and gloomy, saved from utter desolation by the surrounding patches of evergreen trees.”

From “A Thousand Bayonets” by Joel Mark Harris.

Seems appropriate!

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Some nice Mycena.

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Witches’ Butter! This is a weird basidiomycete that grows on woody debris (and sometimes bark).

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This is not predation, but just photographic conjunction of an amaurobiid and a millipede.

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The damsel bugs can be found through much of the fall.

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Some kind of Coprinus.

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Chicken-of-the-Woods! This is an older fruitbody, but I probably would have grabbed it when it was younger (if I got out more).

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A hardy orbweaver sits in her tiny web.

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I may not get out, but sometimes insects come in! This Western Conifer Seed Bug came into the lab. looking for an overwintering spot.

Weekend Expedition 30: A day off in Stanley Park

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A picture of me, with a sizable prey item, trying to hold it together!

It has been a busy couple weeks here in Vancouver, preparing manuscript revisions for an upcoming paper and writing grant proposals for upcoming fieldwork. They way it is looking now, I may soon be travelling to Honduras in the fall for a 3 week expedition to survey for Red-throated Caracaras and Scarlet Macaws in a remote region of Olancho. This trip will also be to familiarize myself with the terrain, meet the local conservationists and researchers, and get rolling on some permitting issues pertaining to future fieldwork. This is an exciting development for species and habitat conservation, as well as for my harebrained scheme to continue research on my favourite loud birds!

Anyway, with all the excitement, it has been tough to find time to go out to shoot, but that is exactly what I did yesterday, hanging out in Stanley Park, and seeing what the late summer had to offer.

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At first, I thought this fly was a member of the Orthorrhapha, the group including horseflies, but Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus correctly ID’ed it as a Tachinid! Don’t believe me? Check out the closeup of the antennae! The species is Euthera setifacies, one of only two species of Euthera in North America.

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That’s a Cyclorhaphan, man! Those antennae are aristate!

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The Himalayan Blackberry is still being visited by pollinators, but the vast majority of the fruit is ripe.

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The ripe blackberry is under heavy attack by Drosophila suzukii, an invasive species of vinegar fly from Japan. This is male shows why  the species goes by the common name “Spotted-winged Drosophila”.

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This male Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is also a harbinger of fall. Their colony cycle is almost finished, reproductives are being produced, and within a month or so their nests will decline.

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When the Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) start nectaring, it is also an indication their colonies are in decline. Because much of the sugar for the adults is produced by the larvae (trophallaxis!), when larval numbers are low, adults must find other sources of fuel.

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A Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa (Linyphiidae) has a snack at the top of her dome web. As fall approaches, these become extremely apparent in almost every salal bush.

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Our largest native slug, the Spotted Banana Slug eats some skunk cabbage.

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The termites are flying, and their long wings and slow flight make for easy snares for web-building spiders. I like how the green of the fern is reflected in the translucent wings.

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A Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula) hangs out by the water.

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A Black Dancer (Mystacides sepulchralis) a type of Caddisfly, rests near Lost Lagoon.

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Some kind of Nematus sawfly.

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A raccoon checks out the situation before crossing the water.

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I love how they hold their tails out!

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Those without tails make do.

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A very late brood Mallard Duckling from water level.

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I was excited to see this male Pine White nectaring.

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The omnipresent Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides).

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Skippers can be pretty cute!

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A lucky Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) takes advantage of the skipper abundance.

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An introduced Drumming Katydid female (Meconema thalassinum) hangs out on a fern. Check out Piotr Naskrecki’s awesome blog post showing katydids ovipositing!

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A colourful background makes this bumblebee pop!

Weekend Expedition 29: life isn’t all slo’ mo’

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Well, we have been working hard for 9 days with the Photron SA-5, and this weekend was mostly busy as well. I managed to get some time out to take some photos amongst all the high speed madness. Most of these shots were taken during 6 minute downloading breaks with the camera, and I also snuck in a quick trip to the local community garden.

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Culiseta incidens, probing my finger.

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tanking up!

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Graphocephala fenahi, the rhododendron leafhopper.

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A beautiful syrphid bumblebee mimic, Eristalis flavipes.

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A flower longhorn in the community garden.

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A western yellowjacket delves under bark for prey.

OK, you have made it to the end of the photos. Did I ever mention that I am part American? The following 2 videos were shot at a whopping 10,000 frames per second.

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