Nature in L.A.

Showing posts with label : Blog

April 26, 2013

Sink Bugs, Bathtub Bugs, Eyelash Bugs, or House Centipedes?

Ever seen a weird creature stranded in your bathtub, that could easily be mistaken for a discarded fake eyelash? Two of my friends, Matt and Kristi, have (p.s. they're Museum members too). In fact, they often find them in their bathroom. However, this week they had an unusual sighting. Matt was sleepily making breakfast and pulled out a package of oatmeallo and behold an eyelash bug darted out from the cupboard! Seriously, these bugs are FAST, so it's not surprising that it startled him. Quick to recover, he grabbed the nearest empty jar (only a bit of pickle juice was left), and captured the bug. Kristi kindly brought the bug to the Museum, so it could pose for a photo shoot and I could write this blog.

Thanks guys!

Captive Eyelash Bug

Love the gloves Kristi! 

So what is it? This bug is a House Centipede...

April 18, 2013

Glowworms in LA

On Monday night, I found a glowworm while I was up in Griffith Park! That's right people, glowworms really do exist, and they're right here in our city.

No it wasn't a discarded 80s toy, like these (though I might have been equally excited if it was):

Photo taken by Astronit

It was like this:

Check out those sexy pectinate antennae!

This beauty of a specimen is a male Western Banded Glowworm, Zarhipis integripennis. I know it's a male because it doesn't glow and it isn't wormy. That's right, only...

April 3, 2013

LA 2050: Vote for NHM

Hey Angelenos, did you know you live in a biodiversity hotspot? That's right, our city is home to a MASSIVE amount of awesome, and sometimes rare, life. Life that is under threat and needs to be studied.

We here at the Museum have been studying the life in our hotspot for a hundred years. To continue this tradition and to take it to the next level, we are inviting you to join us. Today we are launching a new initiative that will do this, NHM Urban Safari.

We are going to map the wildlife that lives all over our city. From places like Griffith Park and the L.A. River, to your backyards and school yards. To help us do this we have applied for a $100,000 grant through the LA 2050 competition. This is a huge project that involves all of us, and you can start helping today by voting for NHM.

Take a moment to imagine what L.A. could be like in 2050 if everyone in our city helped to study the AMAZING and AWESOME wildlife that lives here! School children...

March 29, 2013

Baby Mantis Explosion

Lately, I've been so busy working on our new Nature Lab exhibit (OPENING THIS JUNE PEOPLE) that I rarely make it into my office anymore. Earlier this week, I popped in to check some e-mails (fun I know) and what do you think I found?

An explosion of praying mantids!

They were on my #2 pencils:

They were on my scissors:


 They hatched out of this ootheca (nerdy word for egg case):

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, do not fret! All you need to do, is collect them in a jar and release them into the closest garden!

March 19, 2013

Scoliid Wasp Seeks Scarab

Scolidae_1 Photo credit: Phyllis Sun

By Lisa Gonzalez As much as I am an ardent enthusiast for the microscopic, mostly unseen insects that make up the vast majority of what we collect in our Malaise traps (most are only a few millimeters in size!), I can not help but become awestruck by specimens that are as large as these wasps that were collected from our Nature Garden. Scoliid wasps can reach up to 6 centimeters, a relatively large size for an insect that becomes even more noticeable when you see them land on a flower in search of nectar, the stem bowing under their weight as they feed. I had the pleasure of observing them feeding one nice warm day last year, a wonderful reminder that insect pollinators come in many varieties beyond bees and butterflies (see the recent article in the journal Science: Garibaldi, L. A., et al....

February 28, 2013

Fungus feeding, “flat-footed” flies

Grossoseta pacifica. Photo credit: Inna-Marie Strazhnik

By Lisa Gonzalez Few might suspect that Los Angeles, a city of millions of people, is a hotbed of the dowdy-sounding “flat-footed flies” in the family Platypezidae. Compared to  eastern Northern America, where these flies are relatively rarely encountered, backyards in L.A. have at least 3 species of these strange flies. In the past few months alone, individuals in the species Grossoseta pacifica (shown above) and Protoclythia californica have been collected from the Museum’s Nature Garden and a backyard site. The flat-footed flies were given this odd moniker from the flattened hind tarsi, the segments that make up the “foot” on the...

February 23, 2013

Ant Love From an Ant Nerd

A few weeks ago, this ant nerd traveled to the wilds of Arizona to pick up two ant colonies. Yes, myself and Leslie Gordon (the Museum's live animal queen), drove over 1000 miles in under two days to bring a few hundred ants back to the Museum. Why?

Our new harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex rugosus,
taking down a wax worm!

Well, these ants are for display in the Museum's new Nature Lab exhibit, which is opening this June. That's right, we're going to have a live colony of harvester ants, a.k.a. Pogos (the ultra cool, ant nerd way to refer to this ant genus), inside the Museum!


Since the exhibit isn't opening for another four months, we're keeping the ants in our super secret insect quarantine space. Here's a photo...

January 28, 2013

The Conopid's Clutch

By Lisa Gonzalez Last fall, right before the temperature began to plummet to the mid 60s marking the beginning of a true Southern California winter, we witnessed a flurry of activity in the Nature Garden revolving around the blooming of the female Baccharis “coyote” bush.  Several of the museum staff members rushed outside to witness the impressive array of beetles, bees, wasps, and flies feeding enthusiastically at the Baccharis banquet, and while most of us stood in awe of the sheer number of insects we saw crawling, hovering, and buzzing around, Brian advantageously captured images of several of the visitors. One of my favorites of his spectacular photos is of the so-called “...

January 18, 2013

Ladybugs Make Me Smile

A few weeks ago, I was having a terrible day at work. The next day, my friend and colleague, Kristina Lockaby,  brought me a card that said, "Ladybugs make me smile." This is so true.

A recent ladybug that made me smile REALLY big, was one that our Head Gardener, Richard Hayden, found. He was out in the urban wilderness and stopped a moment to take a closer look at one of the willow shrubs. He noticed lots of aphids and a few ladybugs too. One in particular stood out to him. It was all black with two red spots on it, something he had never seen before on a ladybug.

He put the little beetle in a snap top jar and brought it up to our shared office. "Lila, I have a present for you!" he exclaimed as he came in. I immediately stopped staring blankly at my computer screen and turned to see what booty he was bringing in from the garden. He silently handed me the jar, I took a look, and I smiled.

Richard had...

January 7, 2013

Peculiar Puliciphora, the Wingless Wonder

Photo credit: Inna-Marie Strazhnik Photo credit: Inna-Marie Strazhnik

By Lisa Gonzalez As the BioSCAN team gears up for more established sampling sites across the LA Basin, we are continuing to sort through the insects we have been collecting in the Nature Garden for the past year. Kelsey, one of our dedicated work-study students, was looking through a sample collected last spring when she called me over to look at a specimen that she thought looked very unusual. As soon as I peered through the microscope my heart took a small leap: I knew right away from having spent years sorting through Malaise trap catches for Dr. Brian Brown (samples that mainly came from Latin America and Southeast Asia) that this was a special kind of phorid fly, a female that matures into adulthood without ever developing wings! Aptery (a lack of wings...