Bugs 101

I took a lot of Coursera courses between 2015 and 2017….then I got so busy with other things that I didn’t do any in 2018. Now I am back to an occasional course when I have a lull in other activities.

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The most recent course was in August – Bug 101: Insect-Human Interactions from University of Alberta.

I enjoyed the course beyond the content too. It was more thought provoking that I thought it would be.

  • It was very evident how much has been learned since my biology undergraduate courses in the 1970s and I found myself thinking more about taking some biology courses again – challenging myself to identify all the deltas between the first time I took them and now.

  • The world has changed too…much caused by what we have done (or were doing prior to 1970 but didn’t quite realize the impact of our actions at the time). We were just beginning to fully understand the impact of DDT on the environment when I was in school.

  • Scanning ScienceDaily in my news feed helps keep me updated at a ‘headline’ level but having a course integrate the topic is something I should pursue for areas I am really interested in.

  • It’s good to know that Integrated Pest Management is pushing toward more sustainable agribusiness.

Gleanings of the Week Ending August 31, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: August and Sunbirds and Spiderhunters -  Two sets of bird pictures this week…catching up a little on the gleanings…and good picutres to start out the post this week.

Rare Lightning Strikes Detected 300 Miles from North Pole | Smart News | Smithsonian – I’d never thought about lightning or thunderstorms over the arctic….so this was ‘news to me’ from several perspectives.

Impact of largescale tree death on carbon storage -- ScienceDaily – In our area, invasive insects have caused the deaths of two tree species in recent years: Eastern Hemlock (wooly adelgid) and Ash (Emerald Ash Borer)…die-offs that are definitely not the norm. I wondered if the research included these in their ‘insect outbreak’ category.

The practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint (that actually work) | WIRED UK – How many of these have you considered…implemented?

Here's How the 'Fish Tube' Works | Smart News | Smithsonian – And it doesn’t injure the fish? It seems like it would be very traumatic for the fish.

Tracing the History of Decorative Art, a Genre Where "Form Meets Function" – Short…with some good pictures…and links.

Microplastic drifting down with the snow: In the Alps and the Arctic, experts confirm the presence of plastic in snow -- ScienceDaily – Aargh! Something we have in our minds as being ‘clean’ because it is white, is polluted by things so tiny we can’t see them.

Insect 'apocalypse' in U.S. driven by 50x increase in toxic pesticides – Why are we still using such huge amounts of pesticides when we don’t need to….we have methods to grow our food without decimating pollinators and other beneficial insects.

BBC - Future - The wildlife haven in a Cold War ‘death strip’ – The land between what used to be East and West Germany…the borderland between Finland and Russia….places where the Iron Curtain divided people. This is a long corridor of land left alone for the decades of rapid growth in Europe – land where people didn’t tread but where plants and animals could thrive. It is the European Green Belt through 24 countries. Some species are already using it to migrate north to escape the effects of global warming.

What drives inflammation in type 2 diabetes? Not glucose, says new research -- ScienceDaily – A surprise finding….and now a lot more research needed about fat derivatives and mitochondria in people with type 2 diabetes.

June Yard Work – Round 1

I was out in my yard by 7:30 AM one morning this week. My husband had requested that I pull all the milkweed in the front flower beds. I agreed even though it probably means that there won’t be a Monarch (caterpillar) nursery at my house when the butterflies arrive in our area. There were day lilies and black-eyed susans growing around most of the plants so pulling them would not leave the ground bare. I took before and after pictures of three areas. Having the milkweed gone makes quite a difference!

I pulled the plants trying to get at least some of the root. There will probably be other milkweed plants that will come up since most of the plants came out with only a bit of the root right under the stem. Milkweed can grow new plants along their horizontal roots (i.e. a ‘stand’ of milkweed might all be the same plant). I also learned last year that cutting milkweed just causes it to grow branches. Hopefully I can continue to pull the tiny milkweed plants that emerge, and the front flower beds will look more traditional this summer.

After I was done pulling milkweed and grass from the flower beds – I carried the pile back to the forest. Before I went indoors, I took some pictures:

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An insect on a leaf.

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A tiny mushroom in the grass.

Flower parts and drowned insects in the bird bath. I cleaned the birdbath and refilled it before I went inside. It’s more visible now that the milkweed is gone.

Zooming – April 2019

The accelerating change of the seasons in Maryland and Texas…so much to see and do. I’ve picked a few of my favorite images captured with the zoom on my camera. There are insects in at least two of the flower images (maybe a third)….the little critters enjoying the spring bounty. Enjoy the April slideshow!

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 2, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Good News for Eastern Monarch Butterfly Population - The National Wildlife Federation Blog – Now to sustain the improvement into a trend….and stop the decline for the western population.  

Joshua Trees Could Take 200 to 300 Years to Recover from Shutdown Damage | Smart News | Smithsonian – A very sad result of the shutdown.

Physician-targeted marketing is associated with increase in opioid overdose deaths, study shows -- ScienceDaily – Hopefully with the opioid crisis getting more attention…the targeted marketing is reduced or eliminated. The study used data from before 2016. Things have gotten a lot worse since 2016 but maybe there is a lag between prescription opioid use and opioid overdoses.

Rocking Improves Sleep, Boosts Memory | The Scientist Magazine® - A research topic….and maybe a trend in new bed purchases.

America colonization ‘cooled Earth's climate’ - BBC News – More than 50 million people died and close to 56 million hectares (an area the size the France) they had been farming returned to forest. The drop in CO2 is evident in Antarctica ice cores and cooler weather.

The World’s ‘Third Pole’ Will Lose One-Third of Ice by 2100 - Yale E360 – The Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountains are the source of water for nearly 2 billion people. The region has lost 15% of it’s ice since the 1970s. The current estimate is the river flows will increase until 2060 (flooding) but then will decline. There will be more and more bare rock rather than snow covered rock.

Oregon Launches First Statewide Refillable Bottle System in U.S.: The Salt: NPR – It’s starting with beer bottles. Reuse is better than recycle is better than landfill. If given a choice between buying something in glass or plastic…I choose glass.

BBC - Future - The ‘miracle mineral’ the world needs – Phosphorous. Thermic compost piles rather than mineral fertilizers. It’s economical and environmentally a better way.

Top 25 Wild Bird Pictures of the Week – Raptors – As usual – great photographs of birds from around the world.

What happens to the natural world if all the insects disappear? – Big perturbations of food chains. The article ends with a question: If we dispossess them, can we manage the planet without them? It would be a very different planet.

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 02, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Camouflage – Lots of birds can hide in plain sight! Owls are the ones I think of first in this category.

When 'alien' insects attack Antarctica: Terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to single introduced insect species -- ScienceDaily – A threat from a tiny flightless midge

Anak Krakatau: Planet Labs imagery of the aftermath of the landslide - The Landslide Blog - AGU Blogosphere – Imagery of the landslide that caused the deadly tsunami just before last Christmas.

What is the most commonly found ocean litter? – Yuck! Another reason that cigarettes are a bad thing.

A series of posts from NOAA’s 2018 Arctic Report Card: Visual highlights , Multi-year stretch of record and near-record warmth unlike any period on record, Reindeer and caribou populations continue to decline, Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers, Red tides and other toxic species expanding across the Arctic, increasing risks to marine mammals and humans – Quantifying the changes occurring in the arctic

Image of the Day: In Sync | The Scientist Magazine® - Infants playing with their parents…syncing of brain activity

New Ultima Thule discoveries from NASA's New Horizons -- ScienceDaily – A space mission to something we’ve never seen before….the aptly named ‘New Horizons’

Why are biology classes ignoring insects? · john hawks weblog – When I was in high school, insects were a big deal for biology classes; many students created an insect collect the summer prior to the biology year. I don’t remember too much about insects in my first courses as an undergraduate in biology I the 1970s…but there was probably more coverage than in the more recent textbooks.

Keeping fit: how to do the right exercise for your age – A good summary…although the key message is to keep moving…sustained exercise is the best strategy.

Our bodies may cure themselves of diabetes in the future -- ScienceDaily – It’s at the basic research level…but could be an approach to ‘diseases’ caused by cell death in the future (diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cells damaged by heart attacks, etc.)

Smartphone Nature Photography – part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post….

Identification. Sometimes I take a lot of photos so I can identify something later. This was the case with these caterpillars. They were devouring dogwood plants at Brookside Gardens last summer. They remind me of lemon bars (yellow custard underneath powdered sugar). I defaulted to thinking they were a moth or butterfly larvae…but they turned out to be a dogwood sawfly larvae!

Stories. Some pictures tell a story. If you are aware at the time…make sure you take the pictures of the whole story. This Achemon Sphinx Moth was discovered by summer campers going out between rain showers during a nature photography activity. Moths are more active at night and usually are hiding in foliage during the day. This one was on the ground and twitching. I knew from experience in the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit that it had probably been bitten by a spider. We took our pictures and left it where it was. I regret that I was too busy helping campers to keep my camera at the ready to shoot the moth being pulled between two rocks – presumably by the spider that never did make itself visible.

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Insects. Insects can be very fast moving and difficult to photograph no matter what camera you have. They often are slow or immobile when it is cooler. Cool mornings are good to find cicadas – silent and still…but maybe not dead. Butterflies can be under leaves roosting if it’s cool…or it is dusk and they are seeking a place to spend the night. Then there are masses of milkweed bugs that are prevalent in the fall. They are moving but there are so many that it’s easy enough to get a good number; I always try to figure out how many instars are shown in the same picture.

And sometimes it is just luck. This blue morpho sat on my wrist while I was at the exit of last summer’s butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens. I had my phone on the lanyard so was able to pull it out and one-hand the phone to take the picture.

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Specimens. There are nature photography shots that might be of specimens rather than out in the field. The shot of the blue morpho wing was from a specimen that had died using the 15x macro lens. I’ll try the 60x next summer. I included the label in the picture of the dogwood tree cookie…for documentation; I liked the irregularity of the rings.

Wet day color. Sometimes a rainy-day hike is a good thing. The color of fungus is often more intense on these days – and the phone handles the raindrops better than more traditional cameras.

Light. Sometimes an image is made by something special about the light – spotlighted ferns, the shadowing of a sectioned Nautilus shell, a sunrise.

Clipping. Because the camera only has a digital zoom, I often take the picture without zooming then make a clip after I get home. In the example below – the two butterflies (tiger swallowtail and male monarch) are clearly identifiable even though the clip has a painterly look.

So – go out and take some pictures! The only blooms we have outdoors right now are the witch hazels. There are other winter opportunities too: tracks in the snow (or mud), seed pods, snow landscapes, and ice crystals. And maybe a squirrel will be close enough and still enough….

Gleanings of the Week Ending October 6, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - The recipes born from hardship – A little history…and food chemistry.

Fall Foliage: When, Why & How Vibrant Will Maple Leaves Be? – Cool Green Science – A little about the season. Unfortunately our September weather was just opposite of what it takes to get great leaf color from maples.

A mechanism of color pattern formation in ladybird beetles -- ScienceDaily – The Asian ladybird beetle… more that 200 color patterns…from a single gene.

Each Pigeon Painting by Adele Renault Shows the Bird's Overlooked Beauty – Some eye candy of a very common urban bird. Pigeons might be worth a closer look through a birding scope or camera with a big lens.

Praying Mantis Seen Hunting Fish for the First Time | Smart News | Smithsonian – In India…a large praying mantis ate a guppy.

A one-way street for salt -- ScienceDaily – How quinoa gets rid of the extra salt that it absorbs from saline soils.

My Penn’s Woods, Ever Changing – Cool Green Science – A little history about the forest in Pennsylvania (and Maryland too).

Life Thrives Within the Earth’s Crust – We know that there are a lot of living things in soils…but now we are discovering that deeper still – in rocks – there is life where previously we thought there was none. It’s a whole new area of biological research.

The surprising truth about loneliness – Some results from the BBC Loneliness Experiment.

The American Dream is Harder to Find in Some Neighborhoods – Look at the overall US map and read the article…then look at the Interactive: Explore the Opportunity Atlas to look at more detailed map locations.

3 Free eBooks – September 2018

All three of the selections this month are multiple items. The first is a series of books from the late 1700s about insects; the second and third are magazines that are within the past few years.

Panzer, Georg Wolfgasng Franz; Sturm, Jakob. Favnae insectorvm Germanicae initia, oder, Deutschlands Insecten. Nürnberg:In den Felseckerschen Buchhandlung. 1796. A series of books available from Internet Archive here. They are in German but the plates (my Jakob Sturm) are the draw. Lots and lots of insects!

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Morfield, Angie Daly (editor). Missouri Conservationist. Missouri Department of Conservation.  Available from the department website here. The monthly magazine about conservation in the state. If you are a resident of Missouri a subscription to the printed magazine is free! I am looking at it online at this point…learning about the plants and animals of Missouri prior to my daughter moving there. Lots of great pictures of various parts of the state.

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Carey, Victoria (editor). Country Style: Australia Coast to Coast. Several issues of the magazine (2015 and 2016 vintage) are available from Internet Archive here. I liked the photographs of gardens and houses….and animals. They have a large ad for Fancy Feast cat food in every issue!

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 8, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: The LBJs and Top 25 Wild Birds Photographs of the Week: The Cranes and Top 25 Wild Birds Photographs of the Week: Birds in Flowers – Birds and more birds…starting the gleanings off with images of fast moving wildlife!

Natural refrigerant replacements could reduce energy costs and conserve the environment: Implementing replacements of CFCs and HCFCs could help UN signatories to uphold international agreements on carbon emissions. -- ScienceDaily – One of the ways new technology could help sustain the planet.

BBC - Future - How to drink from the enormous lakes in the air – I was intrigued by the variety of ways to collect water from the air coming out of labs and into production. Some are for very poor and rural areas…but others might be popular for home owners that currently buy bottled water because they don’t trust their municipal water supply.

Cake Art Features Realistic Flowers Made from Buttercream Frosting – The decadence of it all….I’m not a big cake eater, but if I was this type of cake would be what I wanted for my birthday!

Ancient farmers spared us from glaciers but profoundly changed Earth’s climate -- ScienceDaily – The advent of farming altered the climate enough to avoid the beginning of an ice age as the Industrial Revolution when the burning of fossil fuels caused the further uptick we are today.  A quote from the article: “we have maybe stopped the major cycle of Earth’s climate and we are stuck in a warmer and warmer and warmer interglacial.”

Two studies that suggest that some common medical practices may not be as worthwhile as previously thought: Widespread use of statins in healthy older people to prevent heart disease not recommended in new study: Any protective effect was limited to those with type 2 diabetes aged between 75 and 84 -- ScienceDaily and Experts advise against routine testing for prostate cancer: But for those men who seek counsel from their physicians, shared decision making is essential -- ScienceDaily

Photo of the Week – September 6 | The Prairie Ecologist – The August installment of the author’s square meter photography project. The two praying mantis shots (Aargh…non-natives European and Asian).

BBC - Future - Five memory hacks to make you smarter – A post well-timed for the start of school!

Roman Basin Recovered from Germanic Grave in Holland - Archaeology Magazine – It is made of bronze and was found in pieces that were put back together. It’s an appealing shape…which the article would have given more information about its size.

Today’s College Students Aren’t Who You Think They Are: NPR – It’s good to see this. I’ve been hearing anecdotal reports from my daughter about college students at the universities where she has been/is. It’s good to see that her observations are wide-spread…that it’s the ‘new normal’ and services provided by institutes need to evolve to support these students.

Ten Little Celebrations – July 2018

The little celebrations of every day add up to far more joy that the big celebrations of the years. I always find it easy to highlight 10 each month. For this month – I celebrated

Being home again after being away the last 3 weeks of June. I always appreciate being able to have my quiet time…sleep in my own bed.

The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) bounty. I sign up for the smallest share but it is still a lot. Still - love the fresh veggies and find it easy to ‘eat healthy’ with the abundance and variety.

 

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Compost in Howard County. I learned a lot when I toured the compost facility in my county and celebrated that they are building a second phase.

A free compost bin. I picked up a free compost bin from the county and have started my one composting – so far so good. I trained enough to be dangerous.

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Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). I’m always exited to find new/interesting places that are close enough to where live to explore again and again. I am waiting until it is a little cooler to return.

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Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. One of the places we’ve enjoyed in June-July for the past few years. Lotuses are always worth celebrating.

Photo shoots with summer campers. It’s been a summer volunteer gig for the past few summers – always some results worth celebrating. This year I discovered that it was still good even with it rained.

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Wings of Fancy. Butterflies area always worth celebrating…and being At Brookside frequently enough to notice other people celebrating too.

Saddleback caterpillars and sawfly larvae. I always celebrate when I see organisms I’ve heard about but not seen before (I’ll be writing a post about these soon).

Cleaned out flower beds. The vegetation in front of our house was overgrown by the time I got back from Texas. I celebrated when several mornings of work begin to make it tidy.

Zooming – July 2018

This month the zoomed photographs are dominated by flowers and insects…no birds (which is a little unusual for me but just reflects what I’ve been doing and the large number of rainy days that I haven’t gotten out at all). I’ve chosen 14 photos from over 1,000 that I’ve taken this month. I like to have a lot to choose from. I would guess that over 50% use at least some amount of ‘zoom’ on the camera. Enjoy the slideshow for July 2018!

Gleanings of the Week Ending November 4, 2017

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

How to Access Your Medical Records | Berkeley Wellness – I like the patient portal idea…just wish that every provider seems to have their own separate one.

First floating wind farm, built by offshore oil company, delivers electricity | Ars Technica – Hywind Scotland began producing power in September…now delivering to the Scottish grid. The turbines don’t require a firm attachment to the seafloor…using suction anchors like offshore drilling.

Germany Sees Drastic Decrease in Insects | The Scientist Magazine® - This story was reported in several my the feeds I monitor. A 27 years study….insect biomass declined by about 75% in that time. And the sampling was done in nature preseves!

Symmetrical Eyes Indicate Dyslexia | The Scientist Magazine® - Interesting….but what next.

The Millipede That Protects Itself with Cyanide – Cool Green Science – We found millipedes at the Belmont BioBlitz…but not these cyanides producing ones. Still – fascinating critters of the forest.

Stone Age Britons Feasted While Building Stonehenge | Smart News | Smithsonian – Pigs – maybe fattened with something sweet, like honey – that came from all over Great Britain. Cattle to a lesser extent.

The Real-Life Whale That Gave Moby Dick His Name | Smart News | Smithsonian – A little history behind the novel.

Compound Interest - Broccoli colour changes and cancer-fighting compounds – I tend to eat broccoli raw but have noticed the color change when it is cooked – never thought about why it did.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #110 and  #109 – Birds and more birds…I can’t resist including them.

Prozac in ocean water a possible threat to sea life -- ScienceDaily – Medications can have unintended consequences far beyond out intent.