Ento-musings from the University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is a video of a crab moulting if you have ever eaten a "soft shell crab" its just one that is post moult.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dissolved Oxygen Rap

by Megan Parker, Laurel County Water Pioneer

Dissolved oxygen's what we're talkin' about
we're testin' the water before it comes out the spout

Tap the cap to make sure there's no bubbles
'cause if there is you could be in big troubles!

Next add the drops of Manganous sulfate
but you better be careful, 'cause you only need eight

Add in the drops of Alkaline Potassium
it's gotta be clean before you can get some

Add in sulfuric acid and take a look,
you won't see this in a science book

You better watch out if the water is cloudy,
you might get sick--not feelin' so rowdy!

The Annotated Dissolved Oxygen Rap:
Megan wrote these lyrics to describe the process of testing a stream for its dissolved oxygen content. It's a demanding test, and the rap contains some helpful hints! The 2nd stanza (tap the cap to make sure there's no bubbles, 'cause if there is you could be in big troubles), for instance, contains one of the most important reminders: when you take the water sample, the bottle must be totally free of air bubbles, or else the test will be compromised.

By the way, there is a very important relationship between dissolved oxygen and entomology. Aquatic insects (like immature mayflies, stoneflies, and dragonflies) require lots of dissolved oxygen to breathe. The dissolved oxygen content frequently drops to lethal levels in wild streams, especially when trees are removed from streamside areas: trees provide shade which reduce water temperatures, and dissolved oxygen leaves the water at higher temps.

Kudos, again, to Megan, the queen of water-investigation hip-hop!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wetland Rap

by Megan Parker, Laurel County Water Pioneer

We all smell bad, we're covered in ticks
in case you couldn't guess, we're straight-up hicks

It's a hundred degrees, with the sun beatin' down,
You may have a heat stroke and fall to the ground

We testin' the water and playin' in dirt
you better be careful or you might get hurt

Identifying trees, we're good--that's no joke,
Pine, dogwood, even red and white oak

We lookin' for beetles, salamanders, and bugs,
we wearin' our waders, we rollin' like thugs

You get stuck in the mud, so you might get wet,
but with this scholarship our futures are set

This rap was written by Megan Parker from Laurel County, one of the Robinson Scholars that I am working with this week at the Water Pioneers program. The scholars are learning about water quality, insects, forestry, and other fun stuff. At this very moment (9:38am at the Kentucky Leadership Center in Jabez, KY), they are getting ready to present their community action plans!!

Watch for MORE water-quality raps written by Megan.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

State butterfly

the Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus) – it’s Kentucky’s state butterfly. But what do you really know about it? I could not find out any particular reason it is the state butterfly other than it is rather common here. However, this isn’t the extent of its range; it can be found all the way from Canada to Mexico. I think that Viceroys are best known not for being Kentucky’s state butterfly but rather for being “not Monarchs”. These butterflies are very hard to tell apart from the Monarch. They are distinguished from the Monarch by their smaller size and by the black stripe on their bottom wings that the Monarch lacks. They mimic Monarchs because of the fact that Monarchs are poisonous (due to their consumption of Milkweed). It is interesting to note that they mimic other butterflies as well, such as the Queen and the Soldier, depending on the location. The deception doesn’t stop there. As soon as these insects hatch they deceive predators, not by mimicking a beautiful but toxic butterfly, but rather a revolting drop of bird poop which is obviously unappetizing to potential predators. The larva feed on Willow trees as well as other related trees. In conclusion, whether you are an insect collector or just an observer, next time you see a Viceroy butterfly (which you may learn to distinguish from the Monarch) don’t just think of it as a “not Monarch” but as a fascinating and elegant yet stealthy and deceptive unique species of its own.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Tonight, as my wife was coming home from doing laundry at about 9:00, she saw all the fireflies out and got excited. They don't get the big summertime swarms of fireflies in Utah (where she grew up), so it's still new to her. I grew up with them, and I'd spent many summer evenings in my childhood chasing them around the yard: I still have a hard time imagining growing up without fireflies.

We decided to get our two-year-old up to see them (he hadn't yet fallen asleep, anyway). I got out my net and a jar, and Lyn got out the camera. Lyn showed him all the fireflies, and I put some in a jar to let him see them up close.

Then, he said he wanted to go back inside and go to bed. My two-year-old would rather go to bed than see the fireflies.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Caterpillar Article from the New York Times

by Devin Kreitman, High School Student and 2010 KFELP Alumnus

Here is an interesting article from today's New York Times on Caterpillars disguising themselves as predators to scare away potential predators.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Millipedes deserve better

Millipedes! They’re a very cool and often neglected class of arthropod. People often think of them in the same way they do about their fast-moving aggressive cousin the centipede who, although interesting, does not hold the same place in the heart of this writer. I have found that for some reason people are quick to say they are “creeped-out” or disgusted by these creatures without really getting to know one. Millipedes are slow moving decomposers or herbivores, not like the fast carnivorous centipede. Millipedes don’t bite. Their only defense is to curl up in a ball and excrete a foul liquid. But that is not to say they can’t be handled if you are gentle. Millipedes make wonderful pets because they are fun to watch and easy to keep healthy. Another interesting fact about our friendly diplopods is that they are very old. In fact, the oldest fossil of an animal with organs specifically for breathing on land is a millipede. In conclusion, next time you find yourself confronted with a millipede reserve your judgment for after you become properly acquainted with it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

immortal jellyfish

by Ryan Finegan, High School Student and 2010 KFELP Alumnus

You may find it odd that my first post on this blog dedicated primarily to insects is about something that is most decidedly NOT an insect. However, I think anyone reading about biology will find the immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis nutricula) extremely interesting. Their common name is no hyperbole – they are the only example that this writer knows of true biological immortality. The jellyfish starts life as a “polyp” kind of a larva that lives on the ocean floor and develops. It then transforms into an adult jellyfish. This is completely normal in many species of jellyfish but after this one reproduces, it goes back to it’s polyp stage via “transdifferation”. This is when a non-stem cell turns into a different type of cell. This process could go on indefinitely if not for predation and other factors. One could speculate as to why exactly these animals perform this amazing biological feat. I don’t know that answer this one can only ponder it.

Infestation of Grasshoppers in Wyoming

by Devin Kreitman, High School Student and 2010 KFELP Alumnus

Here is an article from today's New York Times on grasshopper infestation. Here is the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/us/10grasshopper.html?ref=us

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Research Paper on the Northern Mole Cricket

by Devin Kreitman, High School Student and 2010 KFELP Alumnus

The Neocurtilla hexadactyla, also known as the Mole Cricket in English, is an insect that is a nocturnal herbivore, native to the Eastern part of North America. This insect is a member of the order Orthoptera. The Northern Mole Cricket is also my favorite insect because of their ability to cross most terrains. They have a life expectancy of two years except in central Florida where they live for only one year.

You may ask, how do I know what a Northern Mole Cricket looks like, so I can observe it in natural habitat? Well, they have short wings and their average size is 19 to 33mm. Their front legs are enlarged, shovel-like, and modified for digging. They are capable of flying for up to five miles during mating season, and can run quickly, yet they are poor jumpers. They can also swim if they land in a body of water. The nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller and do not have fully developed wings. The Northern Mole Cricket is completely harmless to humans.

Their habitat is usually wet, sandy, or muddy soil near streams, ponds, or agricultural fields. To mate, the male calls from its burrow. Then after mating, the female lays eggs in a chamber at the end of the burrow. The female guards the nymphs until the nymph’s forth-molting stage. The nymphs acquire food by feeding on the nutritious roots of plants. In Iowa, they are considered beneficial for the soil, since their tunnels loosen the soil to improve the drainage and aeration of the soil. Their predators include birds, assassin bugs, ground beetles, tiger beetles, and wolf spiders.

The Neocurtilla hexadactyla, or Northern Mole Cricket is a very mobile creature because it can swim, jump, run, fly, or dig across any terrain. They also have an interesting call that is like a cicada’s but weaker and less loud. In my opinion, the Neocurtilla hexadactyla, or Northern Mole Cricket is a wonderful insect.

Sources: bugguide.net/node/view/8789/bgimage, www.orkin.com/other/crickets/mole-cricket, www.ent.iastate.edu › Insect Diagnostic Laboratory, www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/popups/ins...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back from KFELP

by Blake Newton, UK Extension Entomologist

I have now returned from the Kentucky Forestry and Entomology Leadership Program (KFELP). It was an intense week, and we got a lot accomplished. All of the entomologists completed their insect collections with specimens to spare. I was also happy to see that one of the program attendees learned about the program via this blog. I am planning to add him as an author for this blog as soon as I get his email address. I think one of the other campers is interested as well. Hey Ryan and Devin: send your email address to me at blaken@uky.edu and I will add you to the list.

We have a similar week-long camp coming up in one week. Maybe I will meet some more potential bloggers there!