Posts Tagged ‘popular science’

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.

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Crazier and Hairier

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

Peacock Spiders

If you haven’t seen this yet…

Oviposition, oviposition, oviposition

Sunday night dinner was a celebration of Greek food, Greek movies, a farewell to a great housemate, and an unexpected event.

In the beginning, it was a fairly normal evening.  A wasp was flying around, doing it’s wasp thing, and landed on a chair.  Fear not, soon to be Doctor Princess Marie!  This wasp is mostly harmless, unlike the pesky yellow jackets and hornets that would like to join you for a picnic.  So we let it be and eventually it flew off.

But alas! Minutes later it returned and reared its pesky, large and beautifully blue iridescent head.  After a few closer observations of its strange motions and careful examination of its back end, I realized it was ovipositing on the chair!  You can see the egg on the arm rest just below the tip of the ovipositor below.

What excitement and discussion of host choice and explanation of oviposition, the process of laying eggs.  Go figure, the entomologist of the house would get excited.  But the others appreciated the natural event as well.  I’m pretty sure that we used “oviposition” in practically every sentence afterwards. In true entomologist fashion, I collected and froze the wasp for identification and for my collection.  If only all my pinned insects had a story to go with them…

Special thanks to Jason for his fortuitous photography, Marie for diligent attention to insects on the porch, and Trevor for the delicious reason we were outside to witness this event.  Still working to ID the little thing, but I will let you know when I figure it out.

Helmets!

My niece has a doll with a bonnet.  It looks like it’s wearing a helmet.  So she named it Baby Helmet.  It turns out, that these guys have helmets too.

Photo Courtesy of Greg Lasley

This is a treehopper, in the family Membracidae.  This species is the Thorn Treehopper, Umbonia crassicornis, found in the Southern United States.  The helmet is the pretty green, yellow, and pink structure that creates the thorn-like appearance.  A recent article published in Nature found that the helmet is an appendage arising from the first thoracic segment.  Somehow it’s “escaped” the repressive function of the gene that leads to wing formation.  It’s almost as if treehoppers had a third pair of wings.  But not quite, they’re just wing-like.  They’re fused together, not used for flight, practical for mimicry, and in my opinion, make treehoppers look really cute.  Bug Girl has a great explanation of homology and summary of the article if you’re looking for more.

Why Science?

I think one of my main motivations of this blog is to check back every so often, and think about the context of my work within a greater body of knowledge.  That, and considering the importance of my work and the potential impact it has.

As I was getting an oil change the other day,  I came across a Scientific American article about scientific perception, the title: Trust Me, I’m a Scientist.  It made me think of another science-y article, The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, on Mother Jones.  One short article, one long article, both valuable in trying to understand the battles I may face as a scientist.

There is truly a great deal of value in the work in which my colleagues are involved.  My focus is in the applied sector and problem solving with growers.  In this regard, it is important to understand and recognize the preconceptions and notions based on cultural and experiential knowledge that people may have.

 

Ashes to Ashes

Emerald Ash Borer is now in Western New York!  If you remember my first Who’s Who post, the Emerald Ash Borer is a new invasive species that infests ash trees.  This is what the insect looks like:

Read more about the recent infestation here.  And remember: