Saturday, September 29, 2012

Manduca quinquemaculata: The Tomato Hornworm

In KLAB yesterday we planted some brassicas like kohlrabi, a couple different varieties of garlic, spinach, argula, and purslane. We also harvested zucchini, strawberries, beans, and tomatos. On the tomato plants we were surprised to find these guys:

Claire told us they were tomato hornworms, larvae stage of Manduca quinquemaculata in the order Lepidoptera (adult stage is a sphinx moth)! The best way to get rid of them, is just by pulling them out of your tomato plants, we started hunting.

Observed a larvae spin itself a cocoon!

AH! What happened to this poor thing? Parasites. So I removed the tomato branch it was hanging on (it was still living) & I brought it inside to observe. I noticed there were larvae inside the cocoons hanging of the tomato hornworm's body. Claire & I did some Good ole' Googling, turns out these parasites are a type of braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus. The adult C. congregatus will lay eggs in the tomato hornworm, the eggs will hatch and feed on the M. quinquemaculata larvae until they are ready to hatch as adult C. congregatus. So, the tomato hornworm, cute as it may be, is actually a pest for our tomato plants, so I put the parasitized tomato hornworm back in the garden.

The largest tomato hornworm we found (the one of my sunglasses in my previous post) is what is considered a 'wanderer' it is ready to pupate! So I decided that I am going to rear this M. quinquemaculata. It is interesting because this I thought that Lepidopterans going from the larvae to pupa instar will hang themselves and create their cases, but this tomato hornworm actually buries itself into the ground beneath the tomato plants during the winter will come out as a Sphinx moth in the spring, reproduce, lay eggs on the tomato plant, cycle begins again! I am moving it to a terrarium in which I will layer some soil and plant a tomato plant.

♥ moki

Pretty Insects from the KLAB Garden!

The Walking Cactus

The Walking Cactus   D. cactiformis

This species of Onychophora (or velvet worms), was named one of the top ten most interesting discoveries in nature for 2012. The armoured lobopodians had wormlike bodies and multiple pairs of legs. D. cactiformis is significant because it has segmented legs adding weight to the theory that arthropods evolved from lobopodian ancestors.
I also wanted to post this because of the short discussion we had two weeks ago concerning Onychophora and the theory that caterpillars could mate with other species.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mantis eyes

In one of our classes there was some talk about how a mantis' eyes looks like they're looking at you from whichever direction you look at the mantis. At this point I wondered why the mantis I caught had black eyes instead of pupils.

Googling wasn't that much of a help but I did find some sites that had possible answers. So the eyes can change color. But why?

Photo forum with a hypothesis that darkness effects mantis eyes. I don't recall how it looked when I caught it but it was in my backpack for an hour or two.

According to a reply here, it's caused by a lack of humidity. Probably doesn't apply to the one I had.

The eyes of my mantis are still black to this day.
In the freezer.


Friday, September 21, 2012

The Poodle Moth!

Thought to be a new species discovered in 2009, the Venezuelan poodle moth has become a popular internet sensation. Just look at that face.


Industrial Moth Art

Michelle Stitzlein creates these beautiful lepidopterans from found objects and recycled materials.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vanishing of the Bees

I am in Claire Pentecost's course Knowledge Lab (KLAB) this semester. Last week we watched a documentary called Vanishing of the Bees, 2010. This documentary really put into perspective the essential role of pollenating insects, particularly the honeybee, for modern living. Modern agricultural practices are at incredible fault for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which is  the name for this irregular circumstance of the vanishing honeybees. Monoculture and the use of systematic pesticides are both incredibily unsustainable and impractical practices.

It makes me want to be a bee keeper! Except there are a lot of jurisdictions that have to be followed in the suburbs and especially in the city (a couple of years ago KLAB wanted to bee keep in the garden, but the school nixed that idea due to legalities haha). However there are organizations such as  the Chicago Honey Co-op. fNews in April 2011 actually did a whole article about Chicago Beekeepers entitled: BUZZZZZ(ED): CHICAGO BEEKEEPERS. Check it out!

I know a local bee keeping family from where I live in Barrington, Illinois and have heard about their struggles to keep their business going, and I knew it was because 'the bees are disappearing' but I wasn't sure why that was happening and this documentary has really sparked a new research interest for me. Here is the preview trailer from the website... I have an avi copy of it I could share with whoever wanted to watch the documentary (just bring your laptop and ask me in class, it is on my usb drive). Also Flaxman Library has a copy of the DVD: the call numbers is DVD 6068.

♥ moki

Green Porno

Artist Isabella Rossellini has a series of videos called Green Porno in which she acts out the mating habits of different animals and insects. In tribute to our friends at the forest preserve, here is her video about Praying Mantids:


Ants, Parasites, and Insects on Radiolab

These Radiolab podcasts are about insects!

The first segment of Parasites is about parasitic wasps and other insects. The Argentine Ant short is about a species of ant that originated in Argentina and migrated all the way up to California. The first segment of Emergence, the episode that was on the air this week, is also about insects and it explores fireflies in Thailand and ants in New York City.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Tessa Farmer

Check out this work, might be inspiring...


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Princesses Become Warriors: Young Queens of Leafcutter Ants Change Roles If They Cannot Reproduce

Recently we discussed in class the role of a queen and her status to other ants. I thought this was interesting how the queen stayed alive even when it went sterile.

-Tim Lu

Friday, September 14, 2012

My caterpillar's been decapitated!!

Ohh, wait.. That's right.. They molt.

It's got a more vibrant looking exoskeleton now.

Here's the old husk. That stick is a Capri Sun straw.

Anyway, I managed to identify the species: Simyra insularis, the Cattail caterpillar or Henry's Marsh Moth. Lives near rivers, streams, marshes and feeds on the grasses there.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The insect mouth at work

(please also see the comments in the "comments" section)

We have been talking a lot about the anatomy of the insect mouth lately, and the grasshopper as our key  model for mouths across the diversity of diversity forms.  Likewise, we've been discussing the functional flexibility of traits in insects, and lo and behold, it looks like another one has been discovered: kissing!  Who knew.


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Cameraman's Revenge*

This Was shown in my Stop motion Animation class last week. Apparently back in 1912, viewers thought that the bugs were trained to act!


Insect Collecting Trip

Caught a lot of bugs during this Sunday's hunting trip. No dragonflies though :/

Pics of the larger insects:

While walking towards the bird sanctuary, a green flying thing was spotted. Thought it was a bird at first. It's a katydid!


For a sense of scale, this is a peanut butter jar.

After most people left, we went cricket hunting. Then I saw this mantis. It flew off a couple of times and was nicely camouflaged in the tall grass. The red coloring helped give it away.

Video link of the mantis grooming and katydid respirating.

Also caught a caterpillar. Black body with spines. Yellow stripes dotted with red spots. Spines protrude from the red spots. The yellow stripes form a Y shape at the head.
What species is this?
Didn't freeze it. I'm hoping I can raise it.


Friday, September 7, 2012

New Strange Species of Stick Insect

This new species of stick insect was discovered in the Philippines and is different from usual stick insects in that it has a thicker body, shorter legs, is wingless, and is found on the ground, when stick insects are usually found in trees.

The males are also brightly colored, whereas stick insects generally tend to be duller colors to camouflage with their environment.  But that might be due to the fact that it emits a "foul-smelling spray to deter predators"(BBC)  from a gland on the back of its head.

The scientific name it has been given is: Conlephasma enigma

Scientists have also given it its own genus because of how unique it is and are still determining how it relates to other stick and leaf insects.   "One feature, however, has been seen before.  The microstructures of Conlephasma enigma's mouthparts are strikingly similar to those held by another group of stick insects. The problem is that these stick insects live in tropical America, on the other side of the world, raising the question of how two insects so far apart might share a similar trait." (BBC)

Original Article
BBC article
Smithsonian Blog


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

country-city insect soundscapesss....

What is the fascinating graph below about exactly?

Check out my recent post to the City Creatures blog!