Category Archives: Science

Insects from Gambier, Ohio

I spent a few hours over the weekend taking photographs at Kenyon College’s Brown Family Environmental Center in Gambier, Ohio. It was fun to be back in the area — I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Granville, Ohio, about 45 minutes away.

1. Robber fly (Asilidae; probably Dioctria hyalipennis). I watched it for awhile but didn’t see it take prey. Menacing little guy. Love the forked antennae.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Robber fly (Dioctria hyalipennis)

2. Small flies on a milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) flower. It was quite the hangout.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Small flies on milkweed flower

3. Milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca), with a monarch butterfly caterpillar (it’s there). It was the only monarch I could find in the whole field. It didn’t seem to be eating, and I for the life of me I couldn’t find any evidence that it had been eating anywhere on the two milkweeds in the frame. Odd.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Milkweed with monarch caterpillar

4. Helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator), I think, on a milkweed leaf. This is a nymph, of course — adults grow up to look completely different.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Helmeted squash bug (Euthochtha galeator) nymph

5. Wooly aphid caught on a spider web. These were flying all around, so it was nice to have one that was relatively stationary because I didn’t have a tripod with me.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Wooly aphid stuck on spider web

6. Goldenrod gall caused by the midge, Rhopalomyia solidaginis (diptera).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Goldenrod gall midge (Rhopalomyia solidaginis)

7. Goldenrod gall (with Eurosta solidaginus):

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Goldenrod gall (with Eurosta solidaginus)

8. Grape filbert gall (Schizomyia coryloides) growing on a grape vine (Vitis sp.). The namers of this species thought the gall looked like clusters of filberts (hazelnuts). I found a photograph of filbert fruit if you are curious, like I was. Coryloides is apparently a genus of extinct filbert, by the way. I’ve never seen one of these galls before, so this was a real treat.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Grape filbert gall (schizomyia coryloides)

Posted in Biology, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Golden-backed snipe fly

This golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) landed in one of my bird baths and drifted around for a few minutes on the surface tension. I’m not positive, but I think I’ve seen them do this in past years, too. I wonder whether they are looking for mosquito larvae, or perhaps adults. These flies have predaceous mouthparts, so they clearly hunt something. Sure wish somebody would PCR the gut contents of these things and let me know. Anyone ever seen them take something down?

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus)

Here’s another one, albeit one with a damaged eye:

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) with dented eye

Posted in Biology, Education, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Complimentary fumigation during flight to Galápagos Islands

Before arriving in the Galápagos Islands, you get to watch the cabin being fumigated with insecticide. Because the plane is full of Prius owners who listen to NPR, it was fun to watch peoples’ faces as they slowly realized what’s going on. The audio couldn’t pick up everyone’s conversations, but trust me, it was funny. They don’t ask, “Would anyone mind if we sprayed a little insectide right now?” They just start doing it.

I think the prior to the spraying the captain should have cued up a short video on what introduced insects can do to the islands. For example, showing the devastation of Philornis downsi. Then again, people might be eating …

By the way, when you step off the tarmac after the flight you walk over a spongy mat that has even more chemicals, suspended in a soapy liquid, to kill the things that might be hiding in your treads. Pro tip: watch your step after coming off the sponge mat … it’s incredibly slippery, and will make you wonder whether the airport planners have a firm grasp of basic safety protocols.

Posted in Biology, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Minor victory in my war against yam labeling fraud

In my futile quest to convince people that sweet potatoes shouldn’t be called yams (which are unrelated plants), I discovered that one can actually report vendors who label sweet potatoes as yams. So, for giggles, I reported Giant Foods to the USDA’s Misbranding and Misrepresentation Office. Below is a photograph I took in November of their organic sweet potatoes:

giant-sweet-potato-05 (1)

And now in all of their stores (that I’ve checked), they sell sweet potatoes labeled as sweet potatoes:

Nature's Promise sweet potato at Giant

It might be a small victory, but Giant Foods is giant, so I’m pleased. If you want to know more about my futile war, please see my page on Yams versus Sweet Potatoes. If you want to make your own report, just visit the above USDA site and send the contact person a photograph of the label along with store contact information. They’ll do the rest, and apparently in a persuasive way.

Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments