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Posts Tagged: Jerry Powell

Plume Moth Fit to a 'T'

In some respects, the pterophorid plume moth is fit to a 'T.'

"The T-square shape is classic," says butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.

"They always sit with their wings stuck out to the side like that," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.

At rest, the plume moth (famlly Pterophoridae) holds its slender wings at right angles to body, giving it a T-shaped profile.

In his book, California Insect, UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell explains why they're called plume moths..."because the forewings are deeply notched and the hindwings are divided into three linear parts, each with long scale fringes. When perched, the insects roll the forewings around the folded hindwing plumes, resulting in peculiar sticklike or craneflylike appearance, unlike any other moth."

Most are noctural and are attracted to lights, Powell adds.

Scientists report some 159 described species in North America alone and more than 30 in California.

In their larval stages, some plume moths are beneficial as biological control agents. And some are pests, such as the artichoke plume moth,  the geranium plume moth and the snapdragon plume moth.

When you see them resting on a plant, however, the adults look a little like those wind turbines that stretch out in the hills of Rio Vista, Solano County.

The plume moth is tiny. It's shown here on the finger of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The plume moth is tiny. It's shown here on the finger of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The plume moth is tiny. It's shown here on the finger of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The plume moth at rest resembles a wind turbine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The plume moth at rest resembles a wind turbine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The plume moth at rest resembles a wind turbine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 9:11 PM

Luck Be a Lady

Photographers never tire of capturing images of ladybugs, aka lady beetles.

First of all, they're beneficial insects. You know when you photograph them that they're about to scoot, crawl or fly off to grab a tasty lunch--an all-you-can-eat aphid buffet.

Second, they're colorful. They brighten a garden, standing out like red Corvettes on a freeway. 

Third, they're among the most recognizable of insects. Halloween costume companies relish in creating polka-dotted attire for the 5-and-under set. Nobody will ask "What are you supposed to be?" 

Fourth, they're quite common. California alone has some 125 species of Coccinellids.
Worldwide, there are some 5000 described species.

Not too many people know, however, that many species in the family Coccinellidae secrete a nasty fluid. As UC Berkeley retired entomologist Jerry Powell writes in his book, California Insects, "...when disturbed, many species secrete a bitter, amber-colored fluid that is believed to have poisonous effects on vertebrates..."

Indeed, their red and black coloring warns "Leave me alone!"

Ladybug, aka lady beetle, searching for aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug, aka lady beetle, searching for aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Ladybug, aka lady beetle, searching for aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The ladybug's coloring warns
The ladybug's coloring warns "Leave me alone!" (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The ladybug's coloring warns "Leave me alone!" (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A ladybug on the prowl. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A ladybug on the prowl. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A ladybug on the prowl. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, October 21, 2011 at 9:15 PM

Collembola!

Collembola! Watch the springtails spring!

Over the last several days, Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of Caifornia, Davis, has patrolled a UC Davis sidewalk checking out a huge volume of springtails.

"Literally millions of little buff-colored springtails," he related Monday, "have been swarming for the past three days on the sidewalk and adjacent strip under the oak trees on the east side of Howard Way, about halfway between the parking garage and Russell Boulevard, mostly around 7 to 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. I've never seen such numbers, except for the snow springtails in winter in upstate New York."

I trekked over to Howard Way at 7 a.m. today and it took awhile to find these little buff-colored organisms. That's because they're oh, so tiny! They're less than six millimeters long--that's 0.24 inches in length. And they move fast.

Obviously, Art Shapiro has the eyes of an eagle. I don't.

Springtails (order Collembola) are those primitive, wingless six-legged critters you find in soil, leaf litter, decaying wood and other damp places.  Basically, they're known for working the soil. However, some springtails, such as Sminthurus viridis, are agricultural crop pests.

Why are they called springtails? Retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell writes in California Insects (a University of California Press book co-authored by entomologist Charles Hogue): "Most springtails are readily recognizable by a forked, tail-like appendage (furcula) which arises toward the rear of the abdomen and which the insect snaps against the substratum, springing itself into the air."

California has about 130 species that spring themselves into the air.

Frankly, it's a wonder anyone can see them, springing or not springing.

A springtail (look to the right of
A springtail (look to the right of "of") next to a penny. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A springtail (look to the right of "of the") next to a penny. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The springtail is less than 6 millimeters long. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Site of the springtail sightings on Howard Way, looking toward Russell Boulevard on UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 7:56 PM

Forceps, Please

Forceps, please!

Have you ever stopped to admire a blossom and seen forceps protruding?

Earwig!

We were walking near Mrak Hall, UC Davis, on a hot summery afternoon and spotted a tell-tale sign: abdominal forceps, aka pinchers or pincers.

Earwig!

We unfolded the blossom and an earwig crawled out. "Female earwig," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "Young female earwig."

In a male earwig, the forceps are more widely spaced.

The most abundant earwig in California is the European eartwig, Forficula auricularia (family Forficulidae), according to entomologists Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue in their book, California Insects. However, it was not known in the state until 1923. 

They describe the adult as about 12 to 22mm long, mostly brown with pale forewings and antennae. "The immatures and adults feed on a wide variety of substances, from flowers and green foliage near the ground to living and dead insects, including aphids."

This one seemed to be escaping from the heat.

Tell-tale sign of an earwig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Tell-tale sign of an earwig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Tell-tale sign of an earwig. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Earwig exposed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Earwig exposed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Earwig exposed. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, June 27, 2011 at 8:34 PM
Tags: Charles Hogue (1), earwig (1), Jerry Powell (7), Lynn Kimsey (3)

The Leather Wings

Some call them "soldier beetles."

Some call them "leather-winged beetles."

Some call them "Cantharids" (family Cantharidae).

Whatever you call them, be sure to welcome them to your garden. They eat aphids, lots of aphids. Like the good soldiers they are, they're ready to do battle.

We spotted five or six of them munching on aphids on our year-old plum tree.

Soldier beetles have a large thoracic shield, long threadlike antennae and beady little eyes.

According to retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley, there are about 100 species of them in California.

Most of them, according to the Jerry Powell-Charles Hogue book, California Insects, are "similar in appearance, red or orange with gray, black or brown wing covers."

Soldier Beetle
Soldier Beetle

SOLDIER BEETLE, perched on a plum tree leaf, checks it surroundings. It's an avid aphid-eater. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Ready for Flight
Ready for Flight

SOLDIER BEETLE opens its wings, ready to take flight. This insect is also called a "leather-winged beetle" or a Cantharid (from family Cantharidae).(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 5:59 PM

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