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Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires

The Field Entomology/Natural History of the Berkshires course starts Tuesday July 5th. Sign up is over BUT we will be night collecting at the Pittsfield State Forest on Wednesday July 6th. This is a free event and open to the public. Get there around dark and be ready to be WOWed! You can find us by following the light.moth collecting

night collecting

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Slug in a Gall

slug in gallThis might be my curse phrase!

What is this slug doing in this gall? Eating it? Eating its inhabitant? Taking refuge? The world may never know.

 

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What is this?

imageCan you name this creature*?

If not stop by Berkshire BioBlitz June 18th and 19th because this year we re planning an extra event “Berkshire Biological Identification Days”.

This is where YOU are invited to bring unidentified, curious, baffling biological specimens or items like feathers, fossils, eggs, seeds, insects and weird curly things from personal collections and our experts will take a look and see if they can identify the specimen. The specialists will be at the Mt. Greylock Visitor’s Center 4:00 to 5:30p.m. Saturday and 9:00-10:30a.m. Sunday. If we can’t identify the specimen we will find someone who can! And its okay to bring a photo on your phone if you don’t have a specimen.

*This lovely multi-legged arthropod is a forest millipede, Sigmoria trimaculata. Not to be confused with a centipede, that has less legs and poison jaws. This little guy is harmless, eats leaf litter and will tickle your arm if you let it!

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
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Berkshire BioBlitz 2016

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Berkshire BioBlitz 2016

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You are cordially invited to

“Berkshire Biological Identification Day”.

This is an event where you are invited to bring any unidentified, curious, baffling biological specimens or items like feathers, fossils, eggs, seeds, insects and weird curly things from your personal collections and our experts will take a look and see if they can identify the specimen.

The specialists will be at the visitor’s center 4:00 to 5:30p.m. If we can’t identify the specimen we will find someone who can!

Scientists and experts will also show off some unusual specimens from their own collections.

Helpful hint: Please bring as much information on your specimen as possible, such as when it was collected and most importantly where you found it!

If its alive, please make sure its in a safe and secure container. If you cannot make it during this time you can bring the specimen to the Visitor Center at anytime during the bioblitz and have it photographed.

 

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The Infant

the infant mothThat early little orange and brown flier found last week has been identified. It is a moth. I first thought it was a butterfly for a few reasons, 1. It was out during the day 2. It flew zig-zag like a butterfly 3. It was orange, white and black and moved too fast to get a good look at it. Yesterday after noticing three flying in the forest, one landed on my hand! What luck. It is called “The Infant” species: Archiearis infans, its a geometer moth, AKA an inchworm moth. These little moths overwinter in the chrysalis and emerge late March to early May and fly during the day. So keep an eye out for these little beauties if you are near a stand of birch trees.

 

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Earwigs

earwigsMy 4 year old niece wanted to know why earwigs have to pinch. I told her they have those big ‘pinchers’ so they HAVE to use them. Right? But really evolution gave them those pincers, which are modified cerci, for catching prey and for fighting over females thus the males have bigger pincers. They are also used by the insects to fold their wings back under the elytra. Yes, wings. Earwigs are their own order made up of over 2,000 species, called Dermaptera. Loosely translated that means “skin-wings”. Their wings are not often seen, but are thin and resemble skin thus the name. These thin wings allow them to fly similar to a rove beetle or June bug. They are night fliers, so most people don’t see them flying. I remember when I was younger I saw a male earwig using its cerci to fold its wings under the hard fore-wings, it was a sight to see. Captivated me for the whole 60 minutes, all the tucking and folding, twisting and turning using those forcep-like cerci at the end of its abdomen.

earwig nestWhat makes earwigs one of my favorite insects, though, is how the mother takes care of the young. She makes a nest in a damp spot such as under a log or rock, and rolls and licks the eggs keeping them free from fungus. She also keeps them safe from predation by moving them if a predator is near. After the young are born they stay with the mother through the first 2 instars (first two molts) when she feeds them regurgitated food. It has been recorded that after these two molts, the mother dies or not, either way the offspring eat her*. This is called Matriphagy and is rare in the insect world. All in all, though, Agatha Christi was right, earwigs make good mothers. (If you don’t know what that means, read Agatha Christi’s books until you do. Then finish reading all the rest if you haven’t yet, then read them again in 10 years. I will do your brain good.)

As an added note, earwigs rarely pinch. You have to put your hand down on them or threaten them in a manner that they will retaliate with a small pinch, but overall they won’t go out of their way to pinch you. Nor do they have any venom or poison in that pinch, so the pain won’t last.

 

*Suzuki, S. Kitamura, M. Matsubayashi, K. (2005). “Matriphagy in the hump earwig, Anechura harmandi (Dermaptera: Forficulidae), increases the survival rates of the offspring”. Journal of Ethology 23 (2): 211–213.

 

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