Neonics aren’t just bad for pollinators. As Shauna Stephenson reports, aquatic invertebrates are also adversely affected, which is bad news for fish.
Finally, after a dark and cold winter, some color in my Winogradsky column project. The streaks of rusty red are perhaps iron oxidizers, or purple non-sulfur bacteria. And perhaps at the bottom of the column I see some blobs of purple, evidence of sulfate reducing bacteria.
A (more or less) newly-described means of animal reproduction, featuring my friends of genus Ambsytoma, and Mark Liberman is curious about how the term was formed: kleptogenesis.
It looks like every outlet has picked up this story by now, but ICYMI: a small citizen science study suggests that a house cat will sit in a box, even if it’s only lines on the floor, and even if the box is an optical illusion.
A little bit pitch drop experiment, a little bit Michael Apted, a little bit genetic repository: William Beal’s 142-year-old seed viability experiment, reported by Nell Greenfieldboyce.
A microbiologist named Richard Lenski looked on. “The others were digging and trying to figure everything out, and I sort of held the map and held it under my jacket to keep it dry at one point. That was my hard work,” says Lenski. “I was wondering if cops might show up at some point.”
Hannah Kingsley-Ma goes mushrooming in Green-Wood Cemetery with the New York Mycological Society.
[Potter] Palmer and [Sigrid] Jakob think that one of the reasons for this fungal diversity is that some trees in Green-Wood—of which there are thousands, and hundreds of species—date back to the cemetery’s earliest years. (Green-Wood was founded in 1838.)
If you live in the mid-Atlantic, you’ve probably heard that Brood X is about to join us after its 17-year nap. Some links to prepare you:
- My field report from 2004.
- Melissa Block points her mic at “a zillion cicadas,” back when ATC could spend 7 minutes on a story like this.
- Pics and recipe pointers from Alonso Abugattas.
- Ditto from Kevin Ambrose of the Capital Weather Gang.
- Views of the instars from John Cooley and Chris Simon.
- Interactives of the various broods by year and geography by Jonathan Corum.
- David Attenborough messes with an amorous male.
Toni Burnham, the president of the D.C. Bee Keepers Alliance, says that, actually, “everyone should chill the hell out.”
* * *
While the murder hornet concerns may be less irrational than calls over putting toxic chemicals into a human body, Burnham says bee experts and entomologists in Washington are on the case, and that there’s no reason for those in the region to worry.
“Let [Washington state] handle it, and everyone calm down,” Burnham says. “Have a beer.”
A new non-native wasp has been spotted in the Pacific Northwest, Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia). These suckers could devastate native bee populations. Mike Baker reports.
Individuals are two inches long, and are big enough to be RFID-tagged for tracking.
Beautiful decapods: I was part of a team that reviewed and edited a white paper on crayfish, published by the commonwealth’s cooperative extension. Most of the work consisted of chasing down dead web links and finding replacements.
I attended a workshop focused on early detection of Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF) in Fairfax County. Speakers represented the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Fairfax County Urban Forest Management Division.
Spotted Lanternfly is native to China, and has also been found in India, Vietnam, and Japan. Introduced in Korea in 2006, it is considered a pest in that country. The insect was first detected in the US in September 2014, in Berks Country, Pennsylvania, where it was likely imported as egg masses laid on landscaping stone. The first Virginia populations were detected in the Winchester area last year.
A hemipteran, L. delicatula is highly invasive and can expand its range rapidly; it can use at least 70 North American host species, although it has a particular association with Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). A phloem feeder, the lanternfly sucks sap from its host plant, leading to wilting and reduced photosynthesis. Spotted Lanternfly also exudes honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold, further impairing the health of its host plant.
Because its American hosts include species of grapes, hops, stone fruits, and Malus, the threat of significant economic losses looms.
Egg masses are laid on the roughened, brocaded bark of A. altissima, other tree species, and even weathered stone, concrete, and metal. Spotted Lanternfly undergoes incomplete metamorphosis, the eggs hatching into nymphs that go through several instars before transforming into winged adults. It is conjectured the lanternfly extracts and isolates toxins from its ailanthus host, and hence that the bright red coloration of its later instars and adults constitutes aposematic coloration. The adult, about an inch long, resembles a colorful black-brown-and-red moth.
In Virginia, first instar nymphs for this season were observed on 26 April 2019. If you see an egg mass, nymph, or adult that you suspect to be Spotted Lanternfly, please report it via https://ext.vt.edu/spotted-lanternfly.
But, wait, there’s more! Fairfax County foresters hope to monitor possible sites where SLF might first appear, and that means monitoring populations of A. altissima, itself a non-native invasive species. It turns out that our map of ailanthus patches in the county is incomplete, especially on private property. Therefore, please report any Fairfax County observations of Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) to the MAEDN (Mid-Atlantic Early Detection Network), either via its mobile app or the web site.
In passing, David George Haskell mentioned the “news teller bee” in The Songs of Trees. Eric R. Eaton has the deets on this syrphid dipteran.
A beautiful one-frame visualization of the geology of the Mid-Atlantic by Kat Cantner, courtesy of Callan Bentley.
Charles Smith led the botany basics workshop at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park for Fairfax Master Naturalists. (I studied the eastern section of this park for a class in 2014.) We met a lot of old friends from the plant world. Charles pointed out a non-native invasive that I had not seen before, Small Carpetgrass (apt name, that) (Arthraxon hispidus).
In the meadow, Charles pointed out Beaked Panicgrass (Panicum anceps). I need to look at this plant a few more times before I can grok it. A tip for learning sumacs: fruits hang down from Winged Sumac.
On the west side of Walney Road, we did a very short ascent of the Ridge Trail to a patch of woods that has been left alone by White-tailed Deer. Charles describes this view a “what a good forest looks like.”
In the afternoon, Chris Ruck and his team electrofished a short reach of Big Rocky Run. Again, this was not a complete, protocol-compliant survey, but rather some cherry-picking so that we could see what species could be found in the stream. Forgive me for geeking out on the equipment, but it’s pretty cool.
A circuit is established between the anode, the pole in Danielle’s right hand, and the cathode, the cable in her right hand. Fish in the water are stunned, and can be scooped up in a net for study, as Chris is doing in the image at right. Voltage and other electrical characteristics can be adjusted for water conditions. You want rubberized waders for this job; if you’re wearing breathable waders, you will probably feel an unpleasant tingle, or worse.
We turned up 13 of a possible 20 species or so, according to Chris’s accounts. We spent a lot of time with the keys and the minnow representatives (family Cyprinidae). A little easier to ID were these Fantail Darters (Etheostoma flabellare) at left, and these four sunfish species (at right).