Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Honeycomb

It’s cold today, so here’s a shot from earlier this year when it was warmer! From the farmer’s market in Saratoga Springs, NY:

20140122-224337.jpg

How beautiful is honeycomb?! I’m not even a huge fan of honey, but I want to just dive right into this. Plus, there was a wasp buzzing around – bonus!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

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Friday Favorites: On Moths and Woolly Bears

Wow.  I posted last week, but it didn’t ever go online – and I didn’t even notice.  My very first Friday Favorites is a week LATE – darn you WordPress!!  I’ll actually post that real first one some other time, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite buggy things from last week!

FAVORITE PIECE OF ARTWORK

I’ve got a friend named Margaret Zinser who is a glass artist.  Before she was a glass artist, however, she was an entomology grad student with me – when I first met her, she was just starting to get really into making glass beads.  When she finished her master’s degree, she decided to become an artist full time, and she’s been super successful.  She’s built up an amazing reputation for herself and her work currently fetches what I consider incredible prices, but I’m also happy she’s doing so well doing something she loves even if I can no longer afford her artwork.  Over the last couple of years, however, she’s been tempting me badly by blending her deeply rooted interest in insects with her skill at lampworking to create some spectacular glass insect beads.  A few weeks ago, she posted a photo of a collection of moth beads she had just created:

Moth beads by Margaret Zinser

Moth beads by Margaret Zinser

I fell in love with the bead at the top right, the brown and red moth, so I bought it.  It was quite a splurge for me, but boy do I love it!  It’s huge and a sort of subdued blingy, but it also works very well with the “naturalist chic” look I usually go for.  I’ve worn it every day since it arrived.  :)

FAVORITE Wild BUG SIGHTING OF THE WEEK

Yesterday I was out with a coworker taking a walk during a short break and I was very surprised to look down and see this walking quickly across the grass:

Woolly bear

Woolly bear

Though this is not the only insect I’ve seen this week (Asian multicolored ladybugs and brown marmorated stink bugs were the others – and they were crawling around in the light fixture above my desk at work), this woolly bear was the most surprising.  It’s been quite cold recently.  There was one day, during the arctic vortex, that the high was in the low 20’s, which is about as cold as it ever gets here.  And here was this big caterpillar, out wandering around on a chilly (though not frigid) day like it was just any other mild day.  How strange!  I really didn’t expect to see it, but I was happy I did.  According to this woolly bear, if you believe the legends (the less black, the milder the winter), we’re supposed to have a moderate winter.  Ha!  Frozen pipes and below-record temps don’t scream “moderate” to me…

Favorite Insect Gift

I really enjoy my office mate.  She’s a smart woman and fun to be around, and she “gets” me in a way that few people ever truly do.  On Thursday, she told me she had a present for me, and Friday she presented me with the gift: two rat tailed maggots!  I haven’t ever seen a live one, but I have REALLY wanted to for years.  She knew that, so when she cleaned out her little pond at home and found two of them, she brought them to me.  I may have squealed like a little girl just a bit when I saw them!  Sadly, by the time I got home, one had perished and the other one had somehow managed to ooze its way out of the small hole in the lid of the container it was in, so the truly cruddy iPhone photos I took of them at work are the best I have:

Rat Tailed Maggot

Rat Tailed Maggot

I have NO idea where that maggot ended up.  I’m hoping it’s not in my house. My husband will probably divorce me if he finds a dead rat tailed maggot on the floor…

Coolest Natural History Event

One of my online friends sends me great photos and links to other cool aquatic insect things she discovers now and again.  I love getting her e mails!  One she sent recently directed me to a blog post by Chris Helzer, a scientist, land manager, and blogger from Nebraska, about aquatic insects he had found frozen in ice.  It was completely fascinating! I seriously doubt it will ever get cold enough for me to see the sort of thing he witnessed here in North Carolina, but check this out:

Frozen water boatman

Frozen water boatman. Photo by Chris Helzer, used with permission.

That’s a water boatman, frozen in the ice!  Now that’s just cool, literally and figuratively.  I encourage you to read the rest of the post because the photos are great and it highlights an interesting natural history phenomenon, though the whole blog is quite good.  I ended up poking around and reading random posts for about an hour last night, which was enough to convince me that I should become a follower.  Now I can learn all about prairies in Nebraska, which, considering I work at a prairie in North Carolina, might actually be useful for work as well as satisfying my natural curiosity about the world.

Well, so far these posts have been a bit less scientific than I’d expected to make them, but maybe that’s okay.  I just need to get back into posting the more scientific posts as well, to balance out the cultural entomology and “fluff” that I seem inclined to post on Fridays.  We’ll see how it works out!  In the meantime, anyone want to share some cool insect-related thing they experienced this week? I welcome links to blog posts, stories, anything you want to share – in the comments below!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: The Last Thing Many Aquatic Insects Ever See

If you’re a small, aquatic insect, fish, or tadpole, this image should make you fear for your life:

Dragonfly nymph

Dragonfly nymphs are pretty ferocious, so I imagine that something like this is the last thing many small aquatics ever see, right before that mouthpart snaps out, grabs them, and eats them…

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Crane Flies of Winter

In case you haven’t heard, it’s been SUPER cold in many parts of the US!  We had record low temps in my area a few days ago, so we got hit pretty hard too. Unsurprisingly, the insects have been a wee bit scarce with the cold snap, but these are still going strong:

Crane fly orchid

Crane fly orchid, Tipularia discolor

That’s a crane fly orchid, the closest thing to an actual crane fly I’m likely to see for a while.  They’re awesome plants!  That one leaf pops up in the fall and represents the entire above-ground part of the plant until it disappears in the early spring.  Then in the summer, a tall stalk with 40 or so vaguely crane fly shaped green flowers appears where the leaf used to be.  There are no flowers where there are leaves and no leaves when there are flowers – a pretty funky system!  Even better: the orchid flowers are pollinated by noctuid moths.  When a moth visits a flower, the plant deposits a sticky pollinium (a packet of pollen) on one of the moth’s eyes.  The moth then pollinates other flowers WITH ITS EYEBALL when it finds a new one.  What a crazy bizarre plant!  I enjoy them quite a bit.  Still, I think I’d still prefer to see some insects…

Stay warm everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Changing Up Fridays

Welcome to 2014!  Woo, new year!  You have NO idea how happy I am that 2013 is over.  I hope you all are looking forward to the new year as well.

The start of a new year is a good time to start thinking about the way you do things and to make changes, and I’ve decided I’m going to make some changes on the ol’ blog here.  I haven’t had as much time to work on my blog as I have in the past.  Unfortunately, that means that I’ve come to rely on my weekly features almost entirely and haven’t been able to write about scientific papers or other more hard-core science nearly as often as I would like. It has become increasingly difficult just to get Friday 5 posts up!  However, I realized a few days ago that it really wasn’t because I didn’t have time to write the Friday 5’s, but because I didn’t want to write them.  I looked back and found that I posted my first Friday 5 on October 22, 2010.  I’ve written a Friday 5 on nearly every Friday since then.  That’s over three years.  That’s a LOT of Fridays!  Quite frankly, I’m running out of things to write about and I’m starting to find the format stifling – it’s sucking the joy out of blogging for me, and that’s not good. So, say goodbye to Friday 5.  Goodbye Friday 5!  It was fun while it lasted, but I’m not going to miss you.

Now say hello to the NEW DW Friday: Friday Favorites!

Friday Favorites is going to be similar to Friday 5 in many ways, but have a different focus.  Rather than simply making lists of related things, I’m going to create lists of insect-related things that make me happy.  This might sound awfully fluffy, but that’s not my intention!  All my favorite posts I’ve written are about things that I find absolutely fascinating and that I want to share with the world so badly that I can hardly wait to write about them. Those things are a joy to write about, so I want to get away from making my dull, arbitrary lists and instead focus more on the strange or wonderful things I see that make me think, “Wow, I have to write about this!”   My very best Friday 5’s stemmed from those sorts of experiences, but I find that recently I’m reaching to create those lists because I’m forcing myself to find 5 related things to write about.  Life doesn’t always give you things in neat little packages like that and I find that I’m not writing about things that I want to write about because they don’t fit the format I’ve set for myself.  That’s just stupid!  Changing my Friday format will help me refocus my blog on the things that excite me most and bring the joy back into my blogging experience.  I hope it will mean that I’m giving you all more interesting things to read as well!

Friday Favorites is going to be about the insect-centric things that have amazed me or I thought were beautiful or just made me smile.  I might occasionally throw in something non-insect just because the world is too amazing to ignore everything else.  I’m not going to give myself any restrictions for how many things I need to include each week or what those things need to be, but I will keep trying to post weekly because I like the routine.  I do, however, want to try to get back to a more scientific place with my blog whenever possible, so that it’s less about me telling stories about my interactions with insects (how did I even end up there?) and more about the reasons behind why I see the amazing things I observe. Those behind the scenes processes are what compelled me to become a scientist, why I still spend every day wondering at the amazing things filling the world. Deep down, I want to know how it all works – and I want to share what I learn about this awesome place we live with all of you.

So, Friday Favorites is going to be about the crazy cool, wondrous world we live in, seen through the lens of an entomologist.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Look for the first post next week!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth