Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hello! My name is Andrea and I'm an Applied Science major at UNL. I first decided to take the course after I bought an insect ID book. I began taking that, along with my plant, mammal, and bird ID books when I went camping or hiking. I've always kind of gotten the hibbie jibbies with some creepy crawlers, so I thought Insect Ecology course offered at UNL would help me become more familiar and comfortable with insects. In fact, I'm also currently enrolled in Insect Biology and have the opportunity to keep a couple of insects as 'pets.'

Although spiders still sometimes make me jump, I've grown a different kind of appreciation for what insects do for us and Earth. I hope to one day be able to work in a national park or doing research toward environmental awareness.

-Andrea Lopez

Friday, October 20, 2017

Praying mantis Winter by Sarah Zuehlke

Praying Mantis winter

By Sarah Zuehlke

It is that time of the year again when it gets quite cold at night and cooler in the day and the trees start to change to beautiful fall colors of orange, red and yellow. The insects know it is getting cold as well and are now preparing for the winter. Some insects sleep through the winter while others prepare their eggs to survive the winter. Praying mantises have quite an interesting way of preparing their young for the winter. A plump female praying mantis is full of eggs and when the time is right she will lay her egg case which is called an ootheca. Praying mantises protect their eggs in this foamy tan colored ootheca which is like a thick blanket around the little precious eggs. Hundreds of little baby mantises can be inside just one ootheca, and the little ones will be dormant throughout the winter, they are in diapause, and will wake up in the spring when the temperatures get warmer. Watching a female mantis tenderly create her egg case is quite amazing. She uses the end of her abdomen and cerci to create the egg case and watching how much effort and detail she puts into it is fascinating. Chinese mantises create large inch long egg cases that are roundish but Carolina mantises create long thin egg cases. Praying mantises like to lay their egg cases in bramble and grasses near where they are living. They also like to lay egg cases in your garden. A female mantis will angle the egg case just right as she is laying it so the little nymphs can hatch correctly. So if you were ever wondering how praying mantises survive the winter, it is through their offspring in well protected egg cases.  Pictured here is Amber the female Chinese mantis laying her egg case a few days ago. Now her little ones are all ready for the winter. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hello, my name is Kassidy Kruger! I am currently majoring in Pre-Physician Assistant Biology and will be pursuing my master’s degree after graduating in the spring. My interest in entomology stems from being an outdoorsy kid who loved digging in the dirt. I had a peculiar (and messy) habit of bringing inside uncovered creatures from my backyard in attempt to add to my “biosphere” contained in a gallon aquarium. It wasn’t until after my aquarium had burst from the seams that I was forced to take a more virtual and book orientated path to learning about bugs.

I find that, more times than not, people place an unneeded stigma on insects by calling them “pests”, destroying any educational or moral potential it had once embodied. By learning the importance of bugs within our environment’s complex network from the get-go, I feel that I am one step ahead. I am eager to continue learning about insects and can’t wait to see the full scope of what this class has to offer.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Insect Ecology

   Hello everybody, my name is Jeff Olson and I am a biological sciences major at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. I'm from the Black Hills in  Rapid City, South Dakota. The outdoors and the environment have always been important to me because it is vital to many of my main interests, but I also come from a conservationist background. I also firmly believe that the state of the global environment is a major problem that that we will have to face.
   As far as entomology goes, my interest peaks at its importance to ecology in many areas, my interest declines with any mention or involvement of ticks. Phobias aside, insects are an extremely diverse group with ranging specializations to find intriguing. If you don't think so, I might suggest a David Attenborough commentated documentary on any insect. Overall, I know that insects have major world impacts on other organisms like animals and the food that we eat. That is enough for me to want to know more about the world of entomology.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Beware of ticks!

We are right in the middle of the summer, which means ticks are very active! Here in Nebraska we have two species, the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick. Both spread a number of diseases, and I am one of the latest victims!

I discovered a tick bite about a week ago after being in a tick infested area about a week or so prior to that. The tick was no longer in the bite, which means it had had plenty of time to feed and spread infection. I found a red, expanding rash on the back of my neck, and had enlarged and sore lymph nodes and a headache. We do not have the black-legged tick, which is the vector for Lyme disease, here in Nebraska, but the Lone Star tick spreads a similar disease.

The treatment for any tick-borne illness is antibiotics (doxycycline or amoxicillin), and the sooner you notice symptoms and get the medication, the less complications you may experience. Many of you may be in Lyme country (such as Northern states like MN and WI), so it's very important that you keep an eye out for an expanding red rash (called a erythema migrans), especially if it shows a bulls-eye pattern, and see your doctor.

Also, use repellent (such as DEET) before entering tick-infested areas and be sure to do a thorough "tick check" afterwards. Ticks wander around the body a bit before they attach, so many times you can get rid of them before they bite you. If you see one attached, use a tweezers to remove it. Ticks usually need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can spread a disease.

See the following good resources for more information about ticks and tick-borne disease:

Ticks (Nebraska Extension)  

Ticks and Tickborne Diseases (CDC) 

                      Lone star tick (female), which spreads a Lyme-like disease here in Nebraska called STARI.
In mid-July, UNL and Nebraska Extension held the second annual Bugmasters training camp. This training was geared towards preparing volunteers to teach youth and adult insect programs. It included presentations about basic insect biology and specific pests, and also a hands-on component where we visited the backyard farmer garden, pollinator garden, and beehives.

Read more about it, here:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring has sprung, although here in Nebraska we've had a lot of cold, wet weather. But temperatures are getting better and the insects are starting to emerge.

Last spring, I raised some Cecropia (Hylephora cecropia) caterpillars. One of my colleagues found a female and she laid eggs, so he took some to raise in his lab and I raised about 10 of them in my office. This is the largest moth in North America, but they start out as tiny black caterpillars:

Throughout the summer, I fed them (they eat a number of plants, including ash, box elder, lilac, cran- apple, and maple), and they progressed through several stages, or instars.

They become vibrant green with pretty yellow and orange/red "knobs." In their final instar, they are several inches long!

Once they are this big,  it's time to pupate! They spin a cocoon among the branches/leaves of their food source, then pupate within it.

Out of my 10 caterpillars, 4 of them lived to pupate. Their growth and development occurred from about May through July. This species only has one generation per year, so the moths will not emerge until the following Spring.

I put the cocoons in the refrigerator all through the winter, as this emulates the cold months when they are in diapause. This April, I removed them and 3 weeks later, the first of the four emerged. It was a male I named Titus.

Unfortunately, I could not release him as we've had a few cold, rainy days, and it would have been certain death. The adults do not feed and only live about a week, so their main purpose is to find mates and lay eggs. I was hoping a female would emerge, and one did a couple days later. Here is Athena. She is much larger than Titus, and he was large enough!

Sadly, when I got back from the weekend, Titus had banged his wings up all around the cage, and did not have a lot of time left. I am not sure that he and Athena actually mated. I released both of them yesterday when it was warmer. I wanted to give Titus some time outside before dying, but Athena I am hoping found a chance to mate.

I still have two cocoons left and hopefully these moths will emerge as well. It was an amazing experience being able raise this insect from caterpillar to moth!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Think twice before killing that little spider you see in your house!! He's eating a lot of pest insects you don't want around! (Photo: UNL)