Nature in L.A.

Showing posts with label : insects

November 17, 2015

Insects Steal the Show at Riverside Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park BioBlitz!

Riverside Citizen Science BioBlitz participants heading into the field.

On October 17, scientists and volunteers brought their equipment, expertise, and enthusiasm for biodiversity to Riverside Citizen Science’s first-ever BioBlitz. Starting at dawn and “nature-partying” into the night, Riverside residents explored Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park in search of floral and faunal diversity.

There are a variety of reasons why the intense sampling of plants and animals that defines a BioBlitz is important: to foster a community committed to environmental stewardship, to unite amateur and professional scientists to learn from one another, to document the astounding diversity of life that exists – even in urban environments...

September 20, 2015

Meet the Insects of L.A. City Hall

Being a resident of the most filmed city in the world, there are some buildings that I have as much familiarity with from portrayals on the silver screen as I do from my daily commute home.  One such building is our iconic City Hall, completed in the 1920s in a fashion one architect described as an architectural hybrid “Modern American” style.  Built from concrete taken from sand from all 58 Californian counties and mixed with water from all 21 Missions, this classy behemoth has been featured in dozens of films and TV shows (my personal favorite cameo is Carpenter’s 1980s classic, “Escape from L.A.”).

Photos above by Estella Hernandez. All photos below by Kelsey Bailey.

Standing at 450 feet, L.A.’s City Hall is a structural...

November 12, 2014

The Real L.A. Noir: The True-life Insect Cannibals and Murderers in our Midst

The coffin fly. Image courtesy of Kelsey Bailey.

As you get into your car in the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake in Los Angeles, you might just be within arm’s reach of cannibals. Not the human kind – but the insect variety.

Inside a wasp that is buzzing around a nearby bush dwells a bug known as the twisted wing parasite. These tiny insects are genetically close to flies and resemble nothing so much as a small black speck. But placing that speck under a microscope reveals huge, orb-like eyes that, as entomologist Emily Hartop puts it, look like sinister purple boysenberries.

Although the twisted wing parasite’s name comes from the seemingly malformed wings of the male of the species, the female has no wings. In fact, she has no legs, not even functional mouthparts – she is literally...

September 9, 2013

Nature's Tiniest Potters

Did you know there are small wasps here in Los Angeles that are potters? No, I don't mean some sort of weird waspish Harry Potter fan club—although that sounds like something I'd be totally into—I mean wasps that use mud to make miniature pots. Take a look at the craftsmanship, the sharply narrowed neck and that wide fluted rim, exquisite!

Photo taken by NHM Head Gardener Richard Hayden, with my fingertip for some perspective!

This "pot" was constructed by a small wasp (one of those solitary wasps that are not prone to stinging us humans), which entomologists call potter wasps. However, this wasp wasn't just being artistic, she constructed this pot for a purely utilitarian function—it is actually a nest for an egg!

A few weeks ago during a California Naturalist training, I spotted this...

May 2, 2013

Do you have Museum Malaise?

You better not! However, just in case you do I have a line of curative agents perfect for any and all afflicted with such exhibit ennui. The elixirs I speak of are our new L.A. nature exhibits, Nature Lab and Nature Gardens, and they're about to open on June 9!

I've written loads of posts about both exhibits, so I thought it might be interesting to have a guest writer this week (I swear it's not because I'm too busy)! Dean Pentcheff from our Research and Collections staff is going to answer the question that everyone will be asking when the Nature Gardens open, who's camping in that tent out there?

"Peek between the bushes in the Nature Garden and you’ll see what looks like someone’s overnight camping spot. We do host overnight sleepovers at NHM but we don’t do it in the garden (at least not yet). What’s going on here?


June 15, 2012

I Have a Cockroach in My Office!

Last week, Tania Perez, who is on our Museum education staff, found a cockroach crawling on our office wall! Said roach was quickly trapped and contained and was waiting for me when I got back to my office. 

Here in North America we have 55 species of cockroach (there are 3500 total in the world)! Of these 55 species, six in California are considered pests. The American Cockroach is the largest of these six roaches, with individuals reaching a maximum of 2 inches in length. Surprisingly, this roach isn't from America at all. It actually native to Africa. The species is also known as the ship cockroach and has hitched rides on ships traveling from Africa to the U.S. A likely apocryphal story,  it paints the picture in such a way as to imply it was slave ships during the 1600s that inadvertently transported these insects to our shores.

Although this roach is sometimes found in...

May 17, 2012

Pond Babies: Dragonflies and Diving Beetles

Two weeks ago I told you I'd fill you in when I found dragonfly nymphs in our pond. I wasn't expecting to be able to give you this update so quickly, but SURPRISE, nature moves fast, people! In the last few weeks, I've found more than 50 dragonfly exuviae (the papery exoskeletons shed between molts) attached to the rocks of the pond. Of course, this prompted me to take out my dip net and look for nymphs in the water.

Here's a picture of one I found:

Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum, nymph
Found May 5, 2012

While I was dipping for the dragonfly nymphs, I found a lot of other macro-invertebrates. The list isn't very long, yet, but includes immature mosquitoes, chironomid midges, mayflies, and predacious diving beetles!


March 9, 2012

Thorny Devils in the Garden

I was recently out and about in the garden and found some fascinating insects, Keelbacked Treehoppers, Antianthe expansa. They were on some of our celery plants and are, according to Vanessa Vobis Master Gardener and Museum Gallery Interpreter, "a very annoying pest on our tomatoes."

Adult Keelbacked Treehopper on celery
(Approximately ¼ inch or 7 mm long)

When I found the Keelbacked Treehoppers, all but one were in the nymphal (immature) stage. As nymphs, these insects do not have wings (this is true for all insectsjust look at caterpillars, grubs, and maggots), and are bound to the area in which they were deposited as eggs by their mother. The nymphs are often attended by ants, which feed on their sugary excreta and provide a level of defense against the treehopper's predators....

February 24, 2012

First Clouded Sulphur Butterfly Pupa in North Campus

Last week, Jany Alvarez, one of the Museum's Guest Relations staff, was sitting at the bus stop adjacent to the North Campus. While she was waiting for her bus, she saw an interesting sighta caterpillar crawling along the sidewalk! Thinking that the caterpillar would be better off on a plant than on the cement, she picked the caterpillar up and placed it carefully on a Dudleya plant on the Living Wall.

Later that day, another Guest Relations staffer watched the caterpillar pupate! By the time word travelled to me, the pupa looked like this:

Yellow pupa on Dudleya

When I came into work on Tuesday morning, the pupa had changed color! I took more pictures and went back to my office to identify it.


January 20, 2012

Aphid Eating Flower Fly Found in North Campus

There are over 150,000 species of flies in the world! Most visitors who come to the Museum can name only a few of these flies (house fly, horse fly, or mosquito for examples) and many hold the belief that we would be better off without flies in our world. On Wednesday, January 18, we found a fly that I am sure will help you realize that all flies can't be cast as "bad" characters I introduce the humble aphid eating flower fly, Eupeodes volucris.

Female Eupeodes volucris
Photo taken by Jerry Friedman

Why do people like these flies and not others? This isn't an easy question to answer, but I'll have a go... First of all, these flies eat aphids and as any gardener will tell you, aphids are a serious garden pest....