Tag Archives: beetles

Weekly Puzzler Answer #152

Hello and happy Saturday! Did you know last week’s insect?

It is a Click Beetle. Click beetles get their name from the slight clicking noise they make when righting themselves.

Check out this video of another kind of click beetle in Kansas, “righting itself.”

Did you know that BEETLES are the largest group of animals in the world? Or that their are MORE species of beetles on Earth than their are species of plants?? Scientists estimate that there are more than 400,000 named species of beetles (with millions more yet to be discovered!)

Beetles are different than other insects in that their first pair of wings is hardened and thickened to protect their fragile second pair of flying wings, which is folded beneath the hard covering. Their latin name, Coleoptera, means, “folded wing.”

Check out some of these beetles–when the light hits some of them just right, they look as beautiful as jewels!

Stag beetlePotato beetleJune bugFireflyFlower beetleWater beetlesGoldenrod soldier beetleSexton beetleOrnate checkered beetleMilkweed beetles matingDung beetleUnidentified beetleTiger-spotted flower lepturineJapanese beetleHercules beetleLadybird beetlesTiger beetleEyed click beetleBeetle on milkweedFireflyCommon eastern fireflyBlister beetleBeetle on milkweedLadybird beetleBeetleLadybird beetle

Here’s the next puzzler…have a great weekend! And Happy Father’s day to all of our Dad’s out there!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #84

When I was seeing this critter, I felt strongly that it was the larva of some kind of beetle, but didn’t know which one. It was so common that it seemed like it had to be one I had seen–and photographed before. When I looked it up, I learned that this is the larva of a Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, a beetle you often can see on flowers. Here’s a picture of an adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy. Have you ever seen this insect?

Adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy.

Adult Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a daisy.

 

Soldier beetles are beneficial and harmless insects so if you see one in your garden, you should let it be. As larva, they are fierce predators, feeding on the eggs and larva of other insects, including ones that may do damage to your plants. They live as larvae for 1 to 3 years before becoming winged adults. As adults, they feed mainly on pollen and nectar, though many online sources suggest they are also predators.

Soldier beetles got their names from their cloth-like wing covers that resemble uniforms of soldiers. There are many kinds of soldier beetles. Even though the adults can secrete a defensive chemical that makes they less tasty, they are eaten by many other creatures, including spiders, other insects, and birds. Check out this photo of a Soldier Beetle being devoured by an Assassin Bug. Yikes! You never know when your time on Earth is up–especially if you are an insect. Here’s a post about assassin bugs, if you are interested.

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You may know (especially if you’ve been a subscriber here very long!) that there are A LOT of beetles in the world!

In fact, there are MORE species of beetles than there are kinds of plants on the entire earth!

Biologists have identified more than 300,000 different species, though they suspect that number is much, much higher. New species are being discovered all of the time.

A ladybug is another kind of beetle, as is a firefly. Both are misnamed! As they are neither bugs nor flies, but beetles!

Click HERE for the next puzzler! It’s about THE most famous creature of Halloween.

Have a fabulous day and weekend! Happy Halloween!

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10 Things That Might Surprise you About Ladybugs

lbug-Ladybugs are one of the most recognizable insects and one that doesn’t usually provoke fear. Some states even have a ladybug species as their state insect. Do you know everything there is to know about ladybugs? Let’s see as we explore some facts about the red and black insect we call a ladybug.

1. 7 states have chosen a species of ladybug as their state insect, including Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. Interestingly, the species chosen by NY–the 9 spotted ladybug–has become rare if not extinct in parts of its range, replaced by other species like the multicolored Asian ladybug.

2.Ladybugs are a type of beetle. Beetles are the most plentiful animal group on earth. There are 500 different ladybug species in North America and over 5000! species worldwide. Some are yellow, pink, red, orange, and some don’t have any spots! lbug--2

3. Ladybugs eat aphids, and lots of them! One ladybug can eat more than 50 aphids in one day and more than 5000 in their lifetime. For gardeners, this is wonderful news and the reason some actually buy ladybugs to put into their gardens. This is a natural way to control pest insects like aphids. Ladybugs also eat other soft-bodied insects like mealy bugs, white flies, and mites. lbug-8395

4. Ladybugs practice cannibalism–eating others of their kind. They will eat their soft-bodied siblings that have newly molted or emerged from their pupal case. They will also eat ladybug eggs. Of course ladybugs get eaten by a lot of other creatures, such as swallows, martins and other birds, assassin bugs, dragonflies, parasitic wasps, ants, frogs, lizards, and others.

A ladybug getting eaten by an assassin bug.

A ladybug getting eaten by an assassin bug.

5. The larvae of ladybugs resemble tiny alligators, with their long bodies and bumpy skin. Ladybugs spend 7-21 days in the first three stages of their lives before becoming adults. (These stages are egg-larvae-pupa) They will molt 5-7 times before metamorphosing into adults.lbug-0123

6. Ladybugs smell with their feet and their antennae.

7. Ladybugs chew side to side rather than up and down like us.

8. Some people think you can determine the age of a ladybug by counting its spots, but this is a myth. The number of spots have nothing to do with how old the insect is. Sometimes the spot pattern can help identify the species of ladybug. If you want to help scientists, you can look for ladybugs and send in your data–learn more at the Lost Ladybug project.lbug-8187

9. Females are larger than males and can lay up to 1000 eggs in her lifetime and interestingly, entomologists believe she lays some fertile eggs and some infertile eggs. They seem to do this so the hatching larvae will have nourishment immediately–able to eat the infertile eggs. Of course, they might also eat the fertile eggs before the larvae have a chance to hatch out!

The male is smaller than the female.

The male is smaller than the female.

10. Ladybugs bleed from their knees when they are threatened. The foul-smelling fluid that seeps from their leg joints may deter a potential predator. You may have encountered this when the insects entered your house, especially in the fall before hibernation and you were left with yellow stains when you tried to kill or remove them.  As an other defense, their bright red color warns predators of their distasteful nature. This is called aposematic coloration and is common in nature–can you think of other animals who use this strategy? (Monarch butterflies, yellow jackets, etc.)

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #64

lady-8289 The creature pictured in last week’s puzzler is the larva of a LADYBUG! Also called Ladybird Beetles, these insects are common and probably everyone has heard of and can recognize a ladybug! I bet you didn’t know it looked like that before it became an adult!

lbug-3693Their name is deceiving because they are not bugs at all. As I mentioned in a previous post about lightning bugs, All bugs are insects but all insects are not bugs. A bug is simply a kind of insect in the same way a dragonfly or wasp or ant are other kinds of insects. We tend to just call all small creatures with 6 or 8 or more legs, bugs but this is technically incorrect. Ladybugs are actually a kind of beetle and in the United States there are over 300 different kinds of ladybugs! Some don’t even have spots and others are not red.

lbug-3707Just like the adults of each species look different, so do the babies, or larvae. Ladybird beetles go through complete metamorphosis meaning they have 4 stages: egg-larva-pupa-adult. They will spend 7-21 days in the first three stages and then 3-9 months as adults. Do you know what their bright red colors “say” to potential predators?

lbug-0123Do you know how many eggs a female might lay in her lifetime or why gardeners love to see them in their gardens? What do they eat and why do they gather in your house in the fall? Click HERE to read about them in the Creature Feature for the week.

Until then, Happy Weekend! If you want, test your knowledge on the next puzzler.

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Can There be a Soundless Music?

fflies-Webster’s Dictionary defines music as ” vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” What if I remove the first part of the definition? Can there be a soundless music? Something that is combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression?I know some may find this challenging to understand, but I think this is a perfect description of Synchronous Fireflies.

It’s a symphony of light!

Have you heard of Synchronous Fireflies? They are special species of fireflies that can only be seen in a few places in the world. Amazingly, one of them is right here in western North Carolina–at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are tiny–the females barely the size of a grain of rice and not able to fly, the winged males only slightly larger.

Every June, for about the first two weeks of the month, this firefly lights up the night in spectacular fashion. Like Christmas lights that blink on, blink off, blink on, blink off, so that the blackness is pierced by hundreds of tiny yellow lights for several seconds and then all at once, they all turn off. Complete blackness. Perfect Synchronicity. Absolutely amazing…. and to me, a person who feels a deep intimacy with the natural world–a soundless music that fills my heart and makes my soul smile–in the same way music can. It is truly unlike anything in the world, and just about impossible to photograph. Sure, I have some shots of the tiny yellow lights, but this falls incredibly short of the emotions and sense of awe I feel when I am present to see the show.

This year I donned my backpack and hiked in 2 and a half miles to a campsite along the same river where all the people gather.  I wondered what I would see–whether or not the firefly show would be as impressive as in Elkmont. Well guess what? It was even better! Mostly because there were not 300 people –some with flashlights and loud voices and disrespectful attitudes.

I stood in the silence of the forest and was surrounded by this magic that brings tears to my eyes…. a soundless music that fills me up and leaves me with an incredible sense of awe. How do these insects do this? How do they communicate so perfectly? In utter blackness? In their presence I feel small.

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One species of firefly

I highly recommend adding this to your Bucket List and then, more importantly, making time to actually GO. You need to plan in advance as the campground fills up and you are not allowed to drive as the road closes to all traffic except the trolleys. You can ride one from the Sugarlands Visitor Center for a small fee, but these too fill up quickly. To learn more, Click HERE, or to read more about magic in the night, click HERE or HERE. 

Check back tomorrow to read about 10 Things you Might Not Know about Fireflies.

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Magic Comes to a Backyard Near You

fireflies-0875Have you ever gone outside on a dark spring or summer night, away from lights of nearby houses and streets, maybe to some park or unnamed spot of wild land where it is possible, if you’re feeling brave enough, to switch off your flashlight and stand cloaked in a cape of total blackness?  As you stared into the nothingness, have you ever watched with awe the silent, twinkling lights of tiny insects called fireflies? On and off and on and off, tiny sparks that seem to dance in the black space between earth and sky? As you stood cuddled by the blackness, have you felt like you were being serenaded by a kind of silent music that made you glow on the inside, like the fireflies were glowing on the outside?

Right now in western North Carolina, the fireflies are becoming active, decorating the blackness with the magic of their dancing lights. Did you know fireflies are really not a fly at all, but rather a kind of beetle? fireflies-And that there are more than 300 thousand species of beetle in the world? That the beetle population numbers higher than the ALL the kinds of plants on the entire earth? Let me repeat that: there are more kinds of beetles on earth than there  are kinds of plants! Our planet is truly AMAZING!

Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, these fascinating creatures are easy to observe. Though the display will be more impactful if the surrounding area is dark, it is not completely necessary. Your backyard might be a fine place to go watch the show. Or you can venture to a nearby park. I highly suggest scheduling a date with Mother Nature one night soon for one of the most magical shows on earth.

If you live close enough to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there is a two week period at the beginning of June where a special kind of firefly lights up the night. Called a synchronous firefly, this species attracts thousands of people each night, some from all over the world. The display can be fabulous, if all details conspire to make it so. I have been to see it twice, once which was among the most amazing natural things I have ever witnessed (read about it HERE) and once that was lackluster. It is not like a full moon or high tide that is easily predicted. Instead, this phenomenon is highly variable depending on the temperature and weather of the exact place. The park staff can tell you when it usually happens but they cannot guarantee it will be spectacular on any given night during the two week period the beetles are searching for mates.

My advice to you is to just plan a night to spend some time outside. In the dark. Without a flashlight! 

It’s not something most people ever do, but in my opinion, it is one of the most magical and amazing things you can do, truly a bit of medicine for your soul.

Try it. Then let me know how you liked it!

 

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Magic for your Soul: Fireflies and Bioluminescence

amoon-Several summers ago, I witnessed two of the most amazing natural phenomena that I have ever seen, though sadly, I must report that I have pictures from neither.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, but both events were a bit on the magical side and perhaps better left to be witnessed firsthand.

The first took place in Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is located in Tennessee and North Carolina. Seeing the display of a particular firefly there–called Synchronous fireflies– has been on my “bucket list” for a long time and when I relocated from New York to North Carolina in March of 2010, my proximity to GSMNP could not be ignored.

I am very much a spur-of-the-moment kind of girl and so headed north in my car one June afternoon, not knowing exactly what I would do about sleeping arrangements. An hour later I arrived in the park, beneath an overcast sky that threw a few raindrops on my windshield in a non-committal way. I made a bee-line for Elkmont Campground, knowing from research that this was the best base camp for seeing the fireflies. I also knew it was almost always full in the summer and reservations were definitely required. Even so, I stepped into the small room beside the road with my fingers crossed and smiled my best smile, asking if there has been any (miracle) cancellations for the evening. To my delight, the woman said that yes, there was one tent site available. Whoo hoo! Another example of things falling into place despite complete lack of thought and worry.

After setting up my tent and eating dinner, I packed my camera into a backpack and headed out towards the trailhead, aware that there was a steady stream of people heading in the same direction. I took a narrow path up through the woods to the main road and followed the crowd. The firefly display has become so popular in recent years that the park actually closes the road for two weeks at the peak of the firefly cycle which is usually around the middle of June. People who want to see the display and are not camped at Elkmont must ride one of the free shuttles from nearby parking lots.

At the end of the road, there was a crowd resembling that at a fourth of July fireworks display. People of all ages and from all walks of life were on the trail, beside the trail, ten feet off the trail. Some were comfortably resting on blankets, others lounged in lawn chairs, some had coolers and picnic baskets, radios and toys for the children. All were there to see the fireflies! Imagine! Such attention bestowed on an insect. (Perhaps there IS hope after all)

I quietly started down the trail, wanting to find my own spot of peace where I could sit with my book until dark. Wide and devoid of obstacles, the trail hugged a river decorated generously with rounded rocks and bubbling cascades. Soon I was alone, walking off trail to choose a flat rock near the edge of the river where I could sit until “the show.”

It was a long time until it was pitch dark but I can’t remember a time that I been so rewarded. The flashing of the fireflies is a bit like those Christmas lights that all flash on, then flash off, flash on… In one moment I was engulfed in utter blackness, not able to see anything, blanketed by dark. The sound of the river flowing was constant, soothing in the background. Then! All at once, the darkness was pierced in thousands of places by the tiny white lights of creatures we call fireflies. On! and then Off! On and then off!

It brought to mind music–a soundless music that gave me goosebumps and left me feeling like I was witnessing a most magical event. Perhaps the definition of music needs to be altered.

I stood rooted to the ground that night for a long time, not wanting to do anything but BE in the moment. On and then off! On and then off! Dark and then not, dark and then not. The flashes were in perfect synchronicity… on and then off! On and then off!  But how could it be? It truly boggles the mind, wondering how those tiny beetles barely the side of a dime can possibly know when is the right time.

I eventually used my tripod and camera to take some time exposures, but when I looked later, there was nothing in the frames but black. Only a square of black. I am disappointed, but there is a part of me that thinks perhaps it is just as well. Perhaps the magic is meant to be experienced firsthand.

The second phenomena I witnessed from a kayak in the San Juan Islands. Again, it was night. Pitch black and not a time most people venture outside, much less outside in a kayak on water! But for me, the thought of this was as thrilling as telling me I’d just won an all-expense paid trip to the destination of my choice. Kayaking at night? Where do I sign up!

Before the kayak trip I had heard of bioluminescence in the ocean. I had listened to a description from a friend who had seen it while in Costa Rica. It sounded a bit far-fetched–that the water “lights up” when you touch it or when you drag a hand or paddle through it. I had to see for myself!

West, my kayak guide, assured me that it was real, caused by millions of microscopic zooplankton in the water that emit light when disturbed. West assured me that I would see it. So while many from our group slept soundly in nearby tents, West, Joe and I stealthily moved through the darkness, carrying the kayaks down to the beach. In silence, we got in and headed out into the bay.

And immediately, it was obvious all of the hype WAS indeed true! It was pure magic! As the paddle moved through the black water, a swath of light followed. Dipping my hand in the cool water, I spread my fingers and watched in awe as five matching paths of light sped through the water. I arched my hand up and watched as the light followed. I curved back toward the boat and again, watched the light follow.

Exclaiming in total wonder, I scooped some water and tossed it, watching as pinpricks of light danced across the surface, like fireflies in the night.

Magic. I know it exists for I have seen it with my own eyes.

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in the magic will never find it. “ 

                                                                            -Roald Dahl, from the Minpins

What magical things have you witnessed lately?

 

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