National Pollinator Week kicks off today! What are you doing to promote and protect pollinators in your area?
Since 2007, the Pollinator Partnership has promoted National Pollinator Week to raise public awareness of the plight of pollinators, from bees to bats. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior have declared June 17-23, 2013 as National Pollinator Week this year.
To join the celebration and learn more about native pollinators in your area, check out the event finder on the Pollinator Partnership's website. If you have a blog, website, or Facebook page, you can also download free Pollinator Week graphics. Educators can order books, posters, and other teaching materials.
Learn More About Pollinators:
Did you know...
Leafhoppers (family Cicadellidae) produce truly unusual protein particles via their Malphigian tubules, and then use the substance as a protective coating. After molting, the leafhopper secretes these proteinaceous droplets, called brochosomes, and releases them from its anus. It then uses its hind legs to spread the brochosomes over its back, where it appears as a milky, blueish film. It's believed that the brochosomes provide the leafhopper with properties like water-repellence. The female leafhopper will also use the brochosomes as a protective coating over her egg masses.
I'm starting to see a lot of big, clumsy moths fluttering around my porch lights, are you? Here's one you might see, if you live in the eastern U.S. or Canada. Do you know what it is? If you do, leave a comment with your answer. Come back next Wednesday for the answer and a new challenge.
Last week's critter is known as the cadelle beetle, Tenebroides mauritanicus. This introduced beetle is a pest of stored grains, unfortunately. If you weren't sure of the species, did you at least place it in the family Trogossitidae, the bark-gnawing beetles? These beetles have a fairly distinctive body shape, with a clear "waist" between the elytra and pronotum. Kudos to Nicholas for correctly identifying this one.
Photo: Jessica Lawrence, Eurofins Agroscience Services, Bugwood.org
With cameras and field guides in hand, butterfly enthusiasts will descend on the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas this November for the 18th Annual Texas Butterfly Festival. During the 4-day festival, attendees will join some of the world's most renowned butterfly experts in the field in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, which boasts some of the richest butterfly habitats in North America.
This year, the Texas Butterfly Festival runs from Saturday, Nov. 2 to Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, and will feature the first ever 'Big Day of Butterflying' Species Count Competition. But stick around for a few more days if you can, because both the 20th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and the Focus on Diversity Conference will follow the butterflyfest. This is going to be Woodstock for naturalists, and you won't want to miss it!
Did you know...
The spongillaflies (family Sisyridae) are not true flies at all. They belong to the order Neuroptera, the nerve-winged insects, and adults look a bit like brown lacewings. Spongillafly larvae feed on freshwater sponges. With elongated mouthparts, they pierce the sponge and drink its liquid contents.
Let me introduce you to this week's challenge (hint). Do you recognize this insect? If you think you do, post a comment with its name, or at least the family it represents. Next Wednesday, I'll reveal its true identity and give you a new challenge. Good luck!
Last week's odd insect was the appropriately-named oystershell scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi), and was correctly identified by Nicholas and Moni. It really does look like tiny oysters have attached themselves to the plant, doesn't it? These pests of woody plants suck the life (and sap) right out of the plant, if given the chance. If you encounter them in your landscape, your best bet is a well-timed application of horticultural oil.
Photo: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org
This weekend, Jeffrey Glassberg of the North American Butterfly Association reported an exciting discovery via the NABA-CHAT listserve. On Friday, Dr. Cathryn Hoyt photographed a spotless comma (Polygonia haroldii) in the Davis Mountains of western Texas. This species is known to inhabit Mexico, but Dr. Hoyt's find is the first sighting of the spotless comma in the U.S.
In his email, Dr. Glassberg noted that butterfly watchers have documented U.S. sightings of 30 species in the past 13 years that were not previously known to inhabit the U.S. There's no doubt that Dr. Glassberg's popular book Butterflies Through Binoculars inspired more citizen scientists to observe and report butterfly sighting in the past two decades since its release.
If you're a novice butterfly enthusiast, I highly recommend membership in the North American Butterfly Association. Their website, magazine, and email listserve are all excellent sources of information, and will help you improve your butterfly watching skills. Who knows, maybe you will be the one to photograph the next new species in the U.S.!
Learn More About Butterflies:
One last look at the new articles published this month on About Insects:
Did you know...
The brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) recycles its own stinging hairs, using them throughout the life cycle. The caterpillar is covered in thousands (and some sources say millions) of these irritating hairs, which are an effective defense from predators. When the caterpillar prepares to pupate, it salvages some of these stinging hairs and weaves them into the walls of its cocoon. Before the female moth emerges as an adult, she embeds some of the stinging fibers into the tufts of harmless hairs on her abdomen. When she lays eggs, she deposits some of the hairs onto the egg mass, to help protect her developing offspring from predators.
Here's an unusual insect to identify (and it is an insect!). Do you know what this is? If you do, tell us by posting a comment with your answer. The correct answer will be given in next Wednesday's Bug of the Week post.
Last week's challenge featured the white furcula, Furcula borealis. This moth comes to lights at night during spring and summer, so if you live in the eastern U.S., you may see one hanging around near your porch lights. The caterpillars have modified anal prolegs, that look like long horns.
Photo: USDA Forest Service - Region 2 - Rocky Mountain Region Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org