Grasshopper antenna

Grasshopper antenna

Grasshoppers have antennae with a basal segment (the scape) and a flagellum that is annualated into a series of segments. First instar grasshoppers have antennae with 13 segments. Adult grasshoppers have more segments ranging from 18 to 28. The new annunli are produced by division of annuli into two parts during a molt. It is not clear how the additional segments are useful to the adult grasshopper.

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Prairie Mole Cricket

Prairie Mole Cricket

Prairie Mole Cricket
Photo: T.J. Walker, University of Florida

The Prairie Mole Cricket is the largest cricket in North America. They are regarded as rare, being confined to the Missouri, Arkanasas, Oklahoma, Kansas border area. They were once more widespread, but agriculture and development have eliminated much of the former habitat.

The males call from burrows in the ground that reflect the sound like an amphitheater. Sounds have been heard over 400 meters distant from a burrow. More males are found in recently burned areas of prairie which are thought to be attractive. The reduction in vegetation height may allow the calls of the males to carry longer distances. Prairie fires burn above ground vegetation, but do not measurably heat the cricket burrows underground. Burning a mosaic patchwork of Prairie may be beneficial.

To hear their calls, visit the U of Florida Website.

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The Fungus Among Us

Stonefly

Stonefly

Fungi are associated with the guts of many species of insects including aquatic insects. The fungi are thought to be primarily commensalistic, but under certain conditions can become parasitic. Some gut fungi have the potential to be mutualistic. Fungi are frequently found in immatures of mayflies, stoneflies and black flies that live in water.

In agricultural areas, crops may be treated with fungicides to prevent damage to food plants and to minimize the amounts of toxic and carcinogenic fungal toxins in our food. Some fungicide applied to crops may enter the surface water where it is absorbed by aquatic insects. In a pilot study, a group of scientists* measured gut fungi and fungicide levels in black flies from agricultural and non-agricultural sites. Black flies from agricultural sites had detectable concentrations of fungicides and reduced numbers of gut fungi. The impacts of the fungicides and level of impact on aquatic ecosystems is unknown. Mayflies and stoneflies, which are often used as indicator species of stream health are known to contain fungi but the fungal-insect interactions have not been explored in detail. It is important to understand what impact fungicides might have on these species.

*Wilson, Emma R.; Smalling, Kelly L.; Reilly, Timothy J.; Gray, Elmer; Bond, Laura; Steele, Lance; Kandel, Prasanna; Chamberlin, Alison; Gause, Justin; Reynolds, Nicole; Robertson, Ian; Novak, Stephen; Feris, Kevin; White, Merlin M. 2014. Assessing the Potential Effects of Fungicides on Nontarget Gut Fungi (Trichomycetes) and Their Associated Larval Black Fly Hosts. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 50: 420 – 433.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jawr.12166

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Preserved In Art

Plaster Beetle

Plaster Beetle
Image: U Wisconsin Extension

The UK National Portrait Gallery in London preserves paintings of famous people for posterity. Paintings require upkeep such as cleaning and coating and are routinely inspected. During inspection of a portrait of Edward VI, a beetle was discovered preserved in the varnish coating the portrait. The tiny beetle was not identified to species, but is thought to be a plaster beetle. The varnish was applied in the 1800s and preserved the beetle for over 100 years.

Amber, an important source of insect fossils, is a hardened tree resin. The liquid traps insects and eventually hardens, preserving the insect by excluding oxygen. Varnish varies in quality, but it is also a resin, applied as a liquid that hardens as it dries. Insects trapped in artwork could potentially become fossils of the future.

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Sand Wasps

Sand Wasp

Sand Wasp

Sand Wasps are common in the Wisconsin “Desert” Prairie where there is plenty of sandy soil that is exposed for digging nests. Along trails that lack vegetation, male wasps cruise up and down.  The females will occasionally land, briefly dig in the sand, then fly off.

Sand wasps are solitary and do not form colonies.  A female captures a prey, paralyzes it by stinging and places it in a nest.  The female will lay and egg and seal the nest.

In the lower photo, the sand wasp in flight beats its wing so rapidly they are only a blur.

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Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: Digestive Transformation

Caterpillars and moths eat different foods. Caterpillars consume solids and moths consume liquids. In the larva, the crop is aligned as part of a straight tube to allow solid material to easily pass through the digestive system. In the pupa, the entire foregut, including the crop, shrinks to a narrow tube. Adult moths, if they feed, drink fluid that is stored in the crop. In adults, the crop is no longer in line with the midgut, but is a diverticula. The crop can expand to store fluid during feeding. The fluid in the crop can be slowly released to the midgut as needed for processing and absorption. The internal changes during metamorphosis are as amazing as the external changes.

Changes to the Digestive System During Metamorhposis Left: Caterpillar  Middle: Pupa  Right: Adult  After Judy and Gilbert

Changes to the Digestive System During Metamorhposis; Crop shown in green.
Left: Caterpillar; Middle: Pupa; Right: Adult
After Judy and Gilbert, 1969.

JUDY, KENNETH J.; GILBERT, LAWRENCE I. 1969. Morphology of the Alimentary Canal During the Metamorphosis of Hyalophora cecropia. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 62: 1438-1446

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Living With Carnivorous Katydids

Indiana katydids are mild mannered, cryptic herbivores. Male katydids sing love songs at night to attract mates. This is not the case with Chlorobalius leucoviridis a predatory katydid from Australia that preys on cicadas. Male cicadas call for females with loud choruses. Females cicadas respond with a flick of their wings that creates a sound resembling a finger snap. The sound elicits response from male cicadas who will search intesively for the source. Chlorobalius leucoviridis is able to mimic the wing flick sound made by female cicadas. Male cicadas hear a call and search for a “date”. When they arrive, they learn too late that the call was an invitation to dinner from Chlorobalius leucoviridis and the cicada is the dinner.

Predatory Katydid

Chlorobalius leucoviridis , a predatory katydid.
Image: PLoS ONE, Marshall & Hill


Marshall DC, Hill KBR. 2009. Versatile Aggressive Mimicry of Cicadas by an Australian Predatory Katydid. PLoS ONE 4(1): e4185.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004185

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