Apple oak gall (Amphibolips confluenta or Amphibolips quercusinanis), backlit to show leaf-like venation. Second photograph is a cross section showing where the wasp larva develops. I’d love to know what the spotting does, if anything.
Cynipid wasps love oaks for some reason — over 3/4 of the 1300 species use Quercus as host. People argue about why that’s the case (e.g., Ronquist et al. 2015). Even Alfred Kinsey the sexologist weighed in, back in the days when he was obsessed with gall wasps.
Posted in Photography, Science
Tagged Amphibolips confluenta, Amphibolips quercusinanis, apple oak gall, coevolution, cynipid, cynipidae, defense, development, gallwasp, glands, hymenoptera, insect, leaf, meristematic stimulation, plant, quercus, Quercus bicolor, round, secretion, spots, wasp, yellow
Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar with stemmata peeking out from behind the anterior tufts. The second photograph shows the barbed setae, which will eventually be detached and rewoven into the cocoon.
Posted in Biology, Photography
Tagged banded tussock moth, black, caterpillar, Erebidae, hairs, Halysidota tessellaris, insect, lepidoptera, Lymantriidae, moth, ocelli, pale tiger moth, poisonous, setae, stemmata, tessellated halisidota, toxic, tussock moth, white, yellow
This is a newly-molted variable oakleaf caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo), with old head capsule still attached. I initially thought the capsule was the head and that the thorax had eyespots, but John and Jane Balaban on Bugguide.net pointed out the obvious to me.
This species sprays formic acid, apparently.
FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.
Posted in Biology, Photography, Science
Tagged caterpillar, crimson, entomology, eye, formic acid, green, lepidoptera, Lochmaeus manteo, moth, red, stripes, thorax, variable oakleaf moth, white, yellow
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?
Here’s another one, albeit one with a damaged eye:
Posted in Biology, Education, Photography, Science
Tagged Chrysopilus thoracicus, diptera, fly, Golden-backed snipe fly, hair, hairs, hydrostatic pressure, insect, male, orange, patches, predaceous, predator, Rhagionidae, surface, tarsi, tarsus, thorax, water, yellow
So I have a silly, futile goal of reducing the confusion over sweet potatoes and yams in the United States. If you are a grocery store manager and are on board with this silly, futile goal, please consider displaying the flesh inside the different sweet potato varieties you sell. Doing that will reduce reliance on the strange habit of calling orange-fleshed sweet potatoes “yams.” You can easily show the insides of your sweet potatoes by chopping one in half and wrapping the cut end in plastic wrap, then placing back into the display shelf — you can even use a Sharpie to write stuff on the plastic (I’ve never seen this done … but I’m sure it would work). Or you can make signage that has a photograph of flesh. If you also add some thoughts on how to use them in cooking, even better. Below are two examples of ‘Nancy Hall’ and ‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes that I cooked over the weekend.
Note that the word “yam” does not appear on the sign. If you are the type that says, “What?? You idiot. That sure looks like a yam to me!” … please have look over my “Yams versus sweet potatoes” page. It probably won’t change your opinion, but you’ll at least know what a yam looks like.
On a side note, my ‘Nancy Hall’ sweet potatoes turned out great. I partially cooked them in the oven (coat with bacon fat first) and then sauteed the diced flesh with butter and hickory bark syrup. I used the ‘Beauregard’ to make biscuits. It turns out that biscuits are good with Chessmen cookie butter. Just saying.
Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Gardening, Graphic design, Photography, Science
Tagged color, cooking, cultivar, difference, distinguishing, flesh, orange, plant, recipe, signage, skin, species, sweet potato, sweet potatoes, variety, vines, yam, yams, yellow