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Showing posts with label : insects

October 20, 2011

Flesh Flies and CSI!

Since it's October I decided to focus the rest of this month's posts on Halloween inspired themes. Wracking my brains for topics, I realized something I saw last week in the basement would fit the bill nicely. Flesh flies!

Generally the Live Animal Program doesn't keep flesh flies but Shawna Joplin, Coordinator of Animal Care and Education, brought them in as a new food source for our spiders in the Spider Pavilion (open through November 6). The species we are keeping are grey flesh flies, Sarcaphaga bullata, which get shipped to us a pupa. After about a week and a half the adult flies emerge from the puparium and are ready for us to release into the pavilion.

Grey flesh fly pupae

...

October 13, 2011

North Campus Monarchs

Yesterday afternoon myself and number of other staff members braved the heat to continue our survey of North Campus insects. On the heels of last week's Gulf Fritillary discovery, I found the site's first Monarch butterfly caterpillar, Danaus plexippus!
 
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
 
As soon as I saw the caterpillar I knew it was a Monarch: There isn't another caterpillar in our area with such yellow, black, and white banding. Also, the caterpillar was found on a narrow-leaved milkweed plant, Asclepias fascicularis, which is one of the food plants of this well-known species.
 
Based on its size, this caterpillar is in the second to last caterpillar stage (4th instar). Over the coming weeks it will molt to the last and...

October 5, 2011

First Caterpillar Record for North Campus!

The last few weeks I have been spoiled with bloggable stories, but this week I needed inspiration. I took a stroll out to the North Campus to see what I could find, and was excited to happen upon the first North Campus caterpillar.
 
The caterpillar I found was in the last and final "J stage" of its larval lifecycle, just about to pupate. 
 
Easily recognizable, Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are striped and spiny.
 
24 hours later the caterpillar had metamorphosed into the pupal stage, aka chrysalis.
 
If you look close, you can see the developing wings.
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September 12, 2011

Paper Wasps Sting Museum Taxidermist!

When Tim Bovard, the Museum's taxidermist, told me about getting stung by wasps on the fourth floor patio, I had to investigate, especially since I sometimes eat lunch up there. During a much needed afternoon break from my computer, I went in search of the offenders.

What I found on my afternoon foray were some large and impressive nests, definitely worthy of a blog entry. So of course I asked Sam if he would take pictures for me, and I went to work identifying them. 

Common paper wasp nest, Polistes exclamans

The species living on our patio are Common Paper Wasps, Polistes exclamans, which have a widespread distribution through much of the southern United States. These insects construct a papery nest from fibers they gather off dead wood or plant stems. Next time...

August 5, 2011

Waiter There's a Wasp in my Fig!

A couple weeks ago we had the second round of our North Campus insect survey. Fifteen Museum staff tromped around the North Campus to see what insectuous wonders we could collect. Although we found some notably large specimens, the largest being a 3-inch bird grasshopper (Schistocerca sp.), the most interesting find was actually something a lot smaller. Much, much smaller in fact: a minute fig wasp about 2 millimeters in length!
 

Female Fig Wasp, Pleistodontes sp.
 
Fig wasps belong to the wasp family Agaonidae and as their name implies, they have a life history intricately linked with fig trees, family Moraceae. In fact fig trees can not produce figs without the wasps, and the wasps can't reproduce without the figs! The way this mutually beneficial...

June 7, 2011

Bee Hotel California

Bee Hotels
 
We here at the Museum really like bees, so much so that we are building them a hotel! This hotel will contain over 200 deluxe suites for native bees. We've specifically designed the hotel to accommodate various solitary bees found in L.A. We'll keep you posted as we see what moves in. Thanks to exhibit fabricator, Jerome Brown, the hotels are nearly ready to be put out in the Butterfly Pavilion yard.
 
Cedar log with pre-drilled bee holes
Swarm!
 
It seems that other bees have heard how luxurious our accommodations are and stopped by to check them out! Last Friday we got reports of a European honey bee, Apis mellifera, mass in one of the Magnolia trees...

May 26, 2011

The Birds, the Bees, and the Fecal Sacs

I know you've seen a lot of still images from the Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, nest, but I just had to share this footage. Honestly, it is too good not to post.

At the beginning of the video you'll see one of the adults (hard to tell if it's the mom or dad, they both help to care for the nestlings) feeding a European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, to one of the young. This in and of itself is pretty awesome to see, but it gets even better! Remember the Bushtit post? I told you all about how some species of birds produce fecal sacs, to make it easier to keep the nest clean and disease free. Well, Black Phoebes also produce fecal sacs, and this video gives you an insight to this behavior. I'll let you judge for yourself whether you think it's gross, cool, or just plain interesting.





April 22, 2011

North Campus Insect Survey

Survey Fun
 
 
As mentioned in an earlier post New Fly for North Campus, we've been trapping insects on the North Campus for a while now. This week however, is a milestone for NHM as we held our first quarterly insect survey. Our aim was to go after the insects that our Malaise trap wasn't sampling, like large flying insects such as crane flies and bumble bees and ground dwelling insects like earwigs and beetles.  Since this was our first time and the site is still an active construction zone, we limited participation to NHM staff and partners. As the specimens get prepared and sorted, I'll keep you all up to date on the species we identify.
 
Brent "the bug guy" Karner demonstrates...

April 5, 2011

New Fly for North Campus

Insect Trapping

To better understand the insect diversity of the North Campus, we've started surveying the insect fauna on the construction site. A few months ago, Dr. Brian Brown, the Museum's Curator of Entomology, set up a Malaise trap. This type of trap is commonly used by entomologists to capture small flying insects, and so far we've collected hundreds! One of the coolest (at least in Brian's opinion, and now mine too) is the Boatman Fly.
  
Dr. Brian Brown setting up a Malaise trap in his backyard
(yes Entomologists take their work home with them too!)

The Boatman Fly, Pogonortalis doclea, is a small (1/4 inch) fly originally from Australia. It was first recorded in California in 1963, and to date has not been recorded in any other state.  These flies are quite...

March 23, 2011

North Campus Interactives

Inter-whats? Interactives are what we at the Museum call cool gizmos and hands-on experiences in exhibits. We are planning to have some really great outdoor interactives in the North Campus. Right now we are getting ready to test prototypes in the Butterfly Pavilion yard. I'll post more about them when the Pavilion goes live on April 8, but as a teaser, check out this article posted on LA County Board of Supervisor, Zev Yaroslavsky's website.


This is the first round prototype of our proposed Butterfly Counter. Stay tuned for the version that visitors will try out in the Butterfly Pavilion.