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Entoblitz 2012

21 Feb

Relaxing and collecting in the woods at Entoblitz 2010

It’s time for Entoblitz 2012, April 27th-29th.  Be sure to check this out.  Entoblitz is a yearly collecting weekend that brings together entomology students, professors, and hobbyists from across the southern US.

This year Entoblitz is being hosted as a joint effort between Texas A&M and Oklahoma University, so we’re looking forward to lots of new faces.  The location will be right on the border between the two states, in beautiful Fobb Bottom Wildlife Management area, as well as Buncombe Creek.  Beds are available at the OU Biological Station, and there are camping and RV options as well.

It’s been a lot of fun every year!  It’s a great opportunity to visit limited-access collection sites, take photos, visit with colleagues, and generally have an excellent time entomologist-style.

Registration closes February 28th, so don’t delay!

For more information visit:

OU Entoblitz Website

A&M Entoblitz Website

Entoblitzers insect collecting at a light sheet.

10 Weird Things About Bugs

17 Feb

Running this blog has been a learning experience for me.  (Graduate school, too.  Who’da’thunk?)  Whenever I take a new picture and want to share it I first have to figure out something to say about it.  So I dive into web searches and the literature and talk to people and in the process I get to find out more about how bizarre and wonderful nature can get.  I thought I’d take a moment and highlight some of the weird (and awesome!) bug things I have learned in the past two years.  So, in the style of Bill Nye:

Did you know…?

There is a family of grasshoppers that disguise themselves as sticks.

Tent caterpillars cooperate and lay down foraging trails like ants.

Argentina is home to hordes of  large gregarious spiders.

Earwig moms sometimes feed themselves to their babies.

Mantisflies pupate in spider egg sacks?

Sexually dimorphic yellow and black garden spiders on a web in Texas.

Male garden spiders play love songs for their mates.

There’s a reason “ladybug” is one word and “lady beetle” is two.

Exotic dung beetles were introduced to Australia because nothing there would eat cow poop.

Two tortoise beetle larvae with dimorphic coloration.

Tortoise beetle larvae often make elaborate shields out of poop.

Fire ants can virtually halt decomposition of bodies by picking off the maggots.

Now you know.

Gruesome leafcutter ant battle

23 Dec
Fighting leafcutter ants

Leafcutter ants attempt to rend and intruder limb from limb.

While scoping out leafcutters in Argentina we came across this (eerily quiet) scene of devastation and carnage as two opposing colonies of leafcutter ants battled for control of a nesting site.  Since leafcutters lack stings and venom the tactics were straight forward.  Surround and isolate an opponent and then attempt to tear her limbs off.

Check out the gruesome footage below.

Herpetology, I love you

26 Sep

On the topic of unusual critters that show up in my house, I found this teeny little rough earth snake chilling out on my bedroom rug.  Despite the fact that I was just posting about the giant water snake on my back doorstep this is actually pretty unusual for me.  For the most part, I can’t even manage to find these guys under logs and in leaf litter where they’re supposed to be.

As far as I can tell the timeline went something like this:

6pm:  I share a comic on Facebook with the comment, “Herpetology, I miss you.”

10pm:  Herpetology misses me back.

Danger In the Flowers

1 Apr
A stealthy specimen in the flowers (Welder Wildlife Refuge, Texas).

A stealthy specimen in the flowers.

Above, a predator lurks stealthily among the flowers.  Can you ID the rare specimen pictured here?

Many insect predators employ cryptic coloration and a sit-and-wait strategy.  In particular, flowers make a great place to lie in wait for prey, as they are the subjects of frequent visits by hungry herbivores seeking nectar, pollen, and even tasty blossoms.   Well camouflaged predators like spiders, preying mantises, ambush bugs and more sit unmoving until unwary prey venture close enough for a quick kill.

Alligator in the wildflowers....

Alligator in the wildflowers.

(PS.  April Fools!)

We did indeed encounter this little alligator while insect collecting for Entoblitz at the Welder Wildlife Refuge last spring.  He was greatly admired, but not added to anyone’s collection.

If you live in the Texas area check out Entoblitz, sponsored by Texas A&M’s Entomology Graduate Student Organization.  It’s been a lot of fun every year;  we gather a diverse crowd of professional and amateur entomologists and get some pretty cool specimens.  Entoblitz 2011 will be held on April 22-25 (Easter weekend) at the Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area in far west Texas.