Oak Gall Wasps

This weekend, I had the chance to visit the Discovery Museum in Sacramento, CA. While the museum itself was pretty awesome for a small space, I was most intrigued by something I saw outside.  The museum is surrounded by trails with some riparian habitat and plenty of oak trees in the area.  Typical California woodland.  All these oaks had these funny looking “apples” all over them which are really not apples at all.  They’re called galls, and are actually quite common if you know where to look.  Often, wasps or flies will lay their eggs in plant tissues (leaves or stems of plants) to develop.  The immature insect emits chemicals that mimic plant growth hormones thereby creating a protective covering for themselves as they develop.  Once they’re mature, they chew their way out of the gall and fly free!

This is a great blog post about the Oak Gall Wasps of California: Left Coast Naturalist: Oak Gall Wasps – the Cynipids.

via Oak Gall Wasps.

Passalid beetles: Nature’s efficient lignocellulosic biorefineries | Brodie Environmental Microbiology Group @ LBNL

One of my good friends from grad school now studied passalid beetles at the University of Kentucky.  While she’s interested in cooperation and sociality, it just so happens that passalids are of interest to another group of researchers.

Dr. Eoin Brodie works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and is also an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (whew, that’s a mouthful).

One of their research projects is to understand how these beetles might optimize biofuel production by studying the beetle’s symbiotic gut relationships.  Let’s hear it for my alma mater!

Passalid beetles: Nature’s efficient lignocellulosic biorefineries | Brodie Environmental Microbiology Group @ LBNL.

 

Track #Swarmageddon

And the cicadas return…check out this great post on The Two-Way from NPR about RadioLab’s quest to track the emergence!

via It’s Almost Cicada Time! Help Radiolab Track #Swarmageddon : The Two-Way : NPR.

Pat on the Back

Alright folks, I don’t usually toot my own horn but here it is.  I stumbled across someone else’s blog post about me.  Hah.  I won an award for being an awesome entomology graduate student (this isn’t news to me).  Neat!

Elaine Fok named 2013 Asa Fitch Recipient | Jugatae.

 

Booze in my backyard

So this is pretty neat: an article in The Atlantic about the Finger Lakes wine growing region.

I’m not particularly partial to Finger Lakes wine, being a California native and working in Napa and Sonoma for a couple field seasons. But the Reislings are notable, and I do try to support local wineries and businesses.  So maybe I need to take another look, or drink, around the region.

Spring Awakening

It’s finally snowing in Ithaca, just in time for spring! While the winter weather sends many of us into hibernation, perhaps we can appreciate the emergence of a giant stick insect, Dryococelus australis.  Here’s a video of it emerging from an egg.  Presumed extinct in the 1960s from its native Lord Howe Island, these giant insects have been found and are now being successfully bred in captivity.  Hooray science!

For the full coverage, check out Krulwich Wonder’s blog post for today.

Eat more bugs?

This is an article from Good about the possibility of including insects in our diet as a form of protein to increase food supplies. It’s an interesting proposition, as there are already several countries where insects are regularly consumed, either as a delicacy or as a staple for particular dishes. Here’s a list of the many edible insects from Girl Meets Bug, though I can’t say I’ve tried many. While this may be a way of addressing hunger issues, it doesn’t directly address many of the political challenges associated with food distribution nor the nutritional requirements for a balanced diet.

The Good article also highlights some other common uses of insects, including cochineal. It should be corrected that cochineal are not beetles, they’re scale insects in the order Hemiptera.

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