The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Arthropods

Photo Friday – A horned beauty

I’m still not entirely sure how this little fellow caught my eye – he was resting on the rough bark of a maple tree, blending almost perfectly.

Maybe he sneezed, or something.

Either way, he’s probably one of my favorite finds of the summer, partially because it’s a “new-to-me” species, and partially because…well, just LOOK at him:

Bolitotherus cornutus (Forked fungus beetle) 1

Male Forked Fungus Beetle, Bolitotherus cornutus

Is that not one of the most adorable little faces you’ve ever seen? The little upturned “nose”! But the fancy adornments on the thorax of this male forked fungus beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus) are what makes him stand out from the crowd:

Bolitotherus cornutus (Forked fungus beetle) 4

These Darkling beetles (family Tenebrionidae) like to hang out on shelf fungi on maple and poplar trees, and are mostly active at night. Only the males sport these fuzzy-tufted “horns”. I have scoured the literature and can’t find a single conclusive answer for their purpose. I suspect they’re partially for fighting with or expressing superiority over other males, but the hairs suggest some kind of sensory function. I really don’t know, and would love it if anyone could shed some light on these structures.

Bolitotherus cornutus (Forked fungus beetle) 3

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An another note, I just wanted to tell you that I’m on the Entomology conference circuit for the next two weeks! I’ll be attending and speaking at the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America meetings. If any of you are coming, I’d love to know! Send me a tweet at @GeekInQuestion 🙂 (Also, once these talks are finished, I’m going to FINALLY get around to updating you all on my research a bit – it’s been a productive couple of months!)

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Photo Friday: Wolf spider parasite

I’m busy preparing my talk for the Entomological Society of Canada conference*, which is coming up in just a few short weeks! I plan to give a presentation about the cool/gross beetle parasites I found in some of my Arctic study sites.

Since I’m once again (still?) parasite-obsessed but don’t want to bore you with more photos of worms coming out of beetle’s butts, here’s another cool parasite (well, parasitoid, technically) from the Yukon territory, photographed while driving up the Dempster Highway this summer.

Parasitic wasp emerging from the egg sac of a wolf spider

Wolf spiders are incredibly abundant predators on the tundra – you can see them scatter underfoot with every step. Females are even easier to spot, since they are often toting their pale-coloured egg sacs at the end of their abdomens.

Many of the spiders’ eggs will never hatch, however: somewhere along the line, a teeny-tiny parasitic wasp laid HER eggs beneath the carefully spun silk.  The baby wasps hatch and then feed on the spider’s offspring, and the end result is what you see up there: little wasps emerging from the poor mama spider’s egg sac.
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* Speaking of the ESC meeting, if you are attending and haven’t yet submitted your images to the Photo Contest, GET ON IT! It promises to be a great competition, with extra-cool judges like John Acorn !! Go submit now!

Photo Friday: Terrifically uncooperative jumping spider

Ever since falling madly in love with the gorgeous big jumping spiders in Florida, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a native Phidippus to photograph.

Yesterday, during a lab that took our students to the outdoor horticultural center on our campus, a student collected a lovely immature male jumping spider from a row of peppers, popped it in his sandwich bag, and brought it to the instructor.

I was like, YOINK.

Ever since, I have been taking breaks from my work about every hour, trying desperately to get a decent shot of this incredibly bold and active little guy, who had no interest whatsoever in being cooperative.

I finally got one that works for me:

Phidippus sp.

Handsome little devil, no?

ETA:

Oh, what the heck, here’s one more:

Phidippus sp. 2

(This lovely specimen was collected by Joseph Perreault).

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I have to apologize for the lack of posting lately. I am feeling rather guilty about it, but, as my advisor (who, ironically, is blogging/tweeting like a boss right now) says, “you’re doing a PhD”. Yeah, I am, and sometimes the work has to come first.  😦

ESO Bug Eye Photo Contest!

The results of the Entomological Society of Ontario Bug Eye photo contest were announced last night!  We were treated to a slide show of the 130ish entries; there was some spectacular work!

Also this:

I took 2nd place in the “Ontario Insect” category for

Mine foot is tasty (omnomnom) - a green Katydid

2nd in “Photo by an Ontario Resident” category for

Anisomorpha buprestoides (Southern Two-Striped Walkingstick, Devil Rider, or Musk Mare)

and 1st in the “Open Category” for

Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans [Explored]

It was a good night! <—massive understatement. I’ll be one of the judges for next year’s contest 😀

I don’t think I mentioned this either: one of my photos was one of seven selected in the Entomological Society of Canada photo contest to be on the cover of the journal, The Canadian Entomologist, for 2013!

Stratiomys badia (soldier fly, Stratiomyidae)

Other than simply being ridonculously thrilled over these results, I think what I’m most pleased about is that all four of these photos use different techniques (natural setting/outdoors and studio), lighting (ambient light and flash), use of backgrounds (white box, coloured, black) and subjects (spider, phasmid, fly, katydid).  I’m happy to be producing decent AND diverse images! 🙂

Photo Friday: Suck it, arachnophobia

This installment of PF is a bit of a deviation, in that you’re getting VIDEOgraphy instead of PHOTOgraphy. It’s nothing spectacular, but at least I’ve followed Alex Wild’s macrovideo tip #1: use a tripod. I hope that’s ok.

I made this very silly video early this week. I’m actually planning on using this and other footage to make a much more sensible “Arachnid Anatomy” video to add to my collection of zoology lab vids.

You may recall a certain post from the fall of 2010, in which I described a harrowing and hair-raising encounter with The Biggest Spider in Ever (i.e., Araneus gemmoides, the cat-faced spider).  I survived that dramatic event, and I hadn’t come across that particular species of orb-weaver again until this year. We’ve actually had two simply MASSIVE females living on our property all summer – one under the second-story eaves and one under the roof of our woodshed.

I have been working very conscientiously at overcoming my very silly fear of spiders. (It’s a ridiculous affliction for any self-respecting entomologist, although I have been assured that I am not alone *ahem, Ted, Shelly, Alex*).

Anyways, you can see that I’ve come a very long way in two years! If there are any other arachnophobes out there, please rest assured that there’s hope for you yet! 😀

On a completely unrelated note, it’s been a bit quiet here because I’ve been getting re-accustomed to having a teaching/coursework workload, and because I’ve been prepping for a conference taking place this weekend, and because other reasons. Like new projects and social media addictions: I HAVE A TUMBLR. WITH LOTS OF PHOTOS AND STUFF. IT’S AWESOME. CHECK IT OUT.  (Tumblr seems to be the perfect blogging format for a person such as myself, i.e., one with the attention span of a gnat. But fear not, I’ll still be here in full force once I stop panicking about conferences).

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