Photo From You: Insect Identification

 A Mole Cricket
photo provided by Rachel Drew

Hello again, dear readers and bug lovers! I was very pleased to discover this week that we recieved a photo all the way from Virginia Beach, Virginia. This one can be a real head-scratcher for those of you who have never seen one before, which is probably most of you!

I first happened upon this insect in college while collecting insects in a huge parking lot at night. I saw some sort of large insect jumping and flying for several feet at a time. When I finally caught up to it, I was honestly taken aback by what I saw. It was a mole cricket; an insect that spends nearly its entire life underground, only coming to the surface to forage at night. So, Rachel Drew from Virginia Beach – that is what you found on your livingroom floor! Now, let me tell you a little bit about these odd – looking creatures.

Mole crickets make up the family of orthopterans (grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets) called Gryllotalpidae. These crickets are made for digging, and if you look at them closely, their head, thorax, and front legs really do make them look just like a mole! The rest of their body looks more like a normal cricket. Their front legs are equipped with little claws which help them dig and construct their tunnels. These claws are called dactyls and their number and arrangement help scientists differentiate between certain species.

Most species have well developed wings which can carry them for about 5 miles during their mating season. They are also very good swimmers. Mole crickets are omnivores, and they will will feast on worms, insect larvae, and roots underground as well as grasses at the surface. I’m not sure which species is pictured here, but more than likely the Southern mole cricket or the tawny mole cricket. It looks as if it may be immature due to the lack of well developed wings. These two species are most common in the southern part of the country. Unfortunately, they are both introduced species and can be considered pests in some areas. These little guys are harmless, however, and for those who are lucky enough to spot one, a really great photo opportunity!

Well, thank you so much for sending in the great photo Rachel, and for reading about us in Virginia! This insect will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the weirdest looking things I’ve seen! As always, Happy bug watching!

Want to learn more about insects? Keep reading.
Check out an insect that spends the summer singing.
Costa Rica: bug geek paradise.
Mantis maaaaadness!

Science Doesn’t Sleep (8.21.08)

LED
What does this sound like?
Creative Commons License photo credit: yuri_koval

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

A new population of a species of rare leopards has been discovered in the forest in Borneo – providing new hope for this endangered species.

By analyzing Oetzi the Iceman’s clothing, scientists have discovered that the famous Neolithic man favored fashions made from sheep and cattle – indicating he was a herdsman. Their technique could have an impact on today’s fashion industry.

Can you hear light? New research thinks you can do anything you put your mind to.

Couldn’t afford a satellite for Christmas last year? Not to worry – they’re getting smaller – and cheaper.

Proof that you never know what you’ll find on eBay: a scientists bought a fossilized bug online and it turned out to be a previously unknown species of aphid.

Science Doesn’t Sleep (7.22.08)

batfog
Creative Commons License photo credit: igKnition.

So here’s what went down after you logged off.

More than 100 species of bat have been found in only 5 acres of Ecuadorian jungle.

Getting your teeth cleaned gives you a panic attack? No worries – the pick-and-mirror routine might soon be replaced by light.

The latest unintended consequence of global warming: kidney stones. That’s right – and you can read more about our thinner, hotter, smoggier future in Popular Science.

Before CERN’s Large Hadron Collider can start colliding, it’s got to get really, really cold.

When you suddenly fall into the category of “might cure cancer,” sometimes you really deserve a new name. Researchers are currently looking at pond scum as a possible source of new cancer therapies.

The presence of a mirror makes people less likely to cheat. Scientists are using mirrors in a surprising number of ways to test brain function with often surprising results.

The Houston Zoo has a new resident: Vincent, a rare St. Vincent Amazon Parrot.  

If you’ve been following Chris Linder‘s posts from the Greenland Ice Sheet, check out KUHF’s story on the WHOI science team’s live-from-Greenland call to our summer campers yesterday.

Insect Insight: Grecian Shoemaker

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The Grecian Shoemaker
Catonephele Numilia

Each month, Erin and I are going to give you an upclose look at one of the bugs we have on display – an Insect Insight.

For the first, I thought I would share one of my absolute favorite butterflies with you.  I chose this one because it coincides with the recent blog “Buggin’ around in Costa Rica.”  The butterfly farm that we visited, El Bosque Nuevo, raises these butterflies.   

Catonephele numilia is native to Central and South America.  The common name is the Grecian Shoemaker or Blue-frosted Catone.  Adult males and females of this species exhibit sexual dimorphism by looking totally different.  Males are black with six orange dots on the dorsal surface of the wings whereas females are black with a light yellow band across the center of the fore wings

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The Grecian Shoemaker exhibits
sexual dimorphism

Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
Feisty caterpillar

When the wings are closed, both male and females look alike (as you can see in the first photo) and can often be seen feeding on rotten fruit.  In their natural habitat of wet lowland forests, the males tend to stay higher in the canopy while the female searches for host plants and nectar sources closer to the ground. 

The caterpillars of this species are rather aggressive when encounters occur with others of their kind.  A disturbed caterpillar will violently swing its spiky head back and forth to try to keep its enemies at bay. 

I had read about this crazy behavior and was so excited to actually see it at the butterfly farm.  Next time you are visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center, keep an eye out for this butterfly taking in rays on a plant or sipping juice from fruit! And be sure to check back next month for more info about one of our six-legged friends!