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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They’re crazy and hairy and they’ve received a lot of press lately in the news and the blogosphere… ANTS! These ones, Nylanderia pubens, seem to be quite a nuisance to those living in the southern parts of the United States. They’re, well, crazy, and hairy.
As you can see in the video above, they move very quickly and can deliver a nasty bite. They exhibit super colony characteristics (like the Argentine ant), meaning they are not aggressive toward other colonies. If there’s a silver lining this the dark cloud, it’s that they may outcompete fireants. Oh yeah, and they tend membracids!
Photo Courtesy of Mississippi Entomological Museum
The best part about an online magazine, is that they send you emails only if you want them. And in the case of Saveur, I get tasty recipes to try on a regular basis. Last week, a number of recipes for a Summer Vegetarian Feast filled my email inbox. One was a delicious leek and zucchini galette, combining great flavor and seasonality.
There are leeks growing alongside my onions in some fields. Some of the growers I work with have a few different Allium species growing including garlic and leek. These crops could be subject to leek moth infestation, but leek moth is currently only known in certain areas of New York and Canada (in North America). An invasive species from Europe, leek moth, Acrolepiopsis assectella, is a small, brown to black moth with yellow-green caterpillars. The pupae are small cocoons with a distinct lacy casing.
Adult Leek Moth courtesy of AgroAtlas
Leek moth pupal casing
Leek moth damage include mining and perforations in the leaf, with window-paning damage where the caterpillar has not eaten all the way through all layers of the leaf tissue.
Leek moth damage
While there are no chemical treatments yet in New York, cultural treatments such as crop rotation, row covers, and removing vegetative debris at the end of the season are recommended. In Canada, a parasitoid wasp Diadromus pulchellus was released as a biological control agent as part of an integrated pest management approach to control leek moth. Perhaps that may be an option for leek moth control here as well.