Päiväkirja-arkisto kohteelle heinäkuu 2017

heinäkuu 15, 2017

iNaturalist and Rearing Data

Since late April, almost all of my free time (and a large portion of my not-so-free time) has been consumed by rearing. It all started innocently, when I found two sets of eggs: a cluster of tawny emperor eggs, and mystery stink bug eggs. I thought it would be fun to hatch them, document the various life stages, and provide data to link immature forms to the adults (since that information is sadly lacking for hemiptera, especially stink bugs), and record how long each life stage lasted.

Of course, I am completely incapable of moderation, so not only did I have these two sets of eggs, but I also brought in every single stink bug nymph I found in my yard, every single caterpillar, every single cluster of eggs. When I started finding stick insects... yeah, things got a little out of hand. Since May, my kitchen has been converted into an insectarium, and my counters are covered in tanks full of bugs, exuviae, dead specimens, caterpillar head capsules. And I have collected a truly massive amount of data. I keep a "lab notebook" of sorts, documenting the physiological changes and behaviors of each species. I have a catalog of each cocoon/chrysalis tracking formation date and emergence dates. My 64 gb phone is constantly running out of storage space, prompting me to delete basically every single app, because these bug pictures are important.

The six hours a night I had to spend cleaning caterpillar tanks (I'm not exaggerating) gave me a lot of time to think. Two things ran through my head the most often: (1) why am I doing this I just want to sleep it's 2 am and I have to get up for work in four hours whyyy (2) what am I going to do with all this data? Initially I was planning to add it all to bugguide, since it's such a great resource, especially for life series data. I know when I'm trying to look things up, bugguide is the first place I go because it has more than 10 years worth of data and expert curation. I am planning to submit my photos to bugguide, but with the recent changes to iNaturalist, I realized that really, this is the best place to host my data.

I know it hasn't been formally released yet, but the new observation page is The Best Thing Ever. Most of what I have been raising is caterpillars. Caterpillars eat everything you own, go hide in a pupa, then come out and pee on you before flying away. Problem is, when you have HUNDREDS of caterpillars, how do you know when they will pupate, or when they will emerge? My cocoons are currently hanging out in piles, but I need to put them in emergence chambers before they come out, so they have space to hang and dry their wings out. I know Texas has multiple generations, because bugguide says so... but how many? and WHEN?

In comes the new official iNaturalist life stage annotation. Complete with a handy graph showing life stage data. When the life stage of an observation is included, it goes onto this graph, providing a super easy way of seeing when to expect your moths to crawl out. One shortcoming is the data isn't automatic, and I haven't found an easy way to enter life stage data while making an observation (there are just too many annotations available and the "insect life state" annotation I have been religiously filling out is apparently not the "official" iNat one). But there is a super easy way to manually enter in this information from the "identify" area of the site. So last week, when I first learned about this, I manually entered in the life stage data for every single io moth and flannel moth observed in Texas. And the life stage graphs are beautiful:

The act of adding life stage data to all these observations made me rethink how I was going to use iNat to record my rearing observations. Instead of having one observation that I add each life stage photo to, it makes more sense to add a new observation for every instar, every pupa, every eclosure. I was worried about clogging up my observations with a bunch of the same thing, but that data is actually useful. While rearing, I've discovered a few things (or maybe it's just never been reported in the places I've looked), and I really want to share this information! So, if you follow me, my advance apologies for the thousands of tawny emperor caterpillars you're about to see in your feed.

My plan: I add a new observation for broods/individuals as they change (either getting bigger, molting, pupating, etc.). I will create a unique tag for each brood so they can be searched for easily, but I will also associate each observation for a brood in a single journal post dedicated to that species. I plan to transfer my notes to this journal entry, which will link to the observation tag. And I'll summarize important findings, including how difficult/easy rearing that particular species was (glares at 3-month old 3rd instar tawny emperor caterpillars).

I don't know when exactly I'll start, since I still have a month-long photo backlog for regular, non-rearing observations (I've been blaming City Nature Challenge, but really, I should be blaming the tawny emperors...) But, hopefully soon!

Julkaistu heinäkuu 15, 2017 08:05 IP. käyttäjältä nanofishology nanofishology | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

heinäkuu 17, 2017

Rhynchomitra and You!

These cute little green friends have been hopping up both into my yard and onto my iNat feed. Surprisingly, I was the first person to observe Rhynchomitra recurva, and I have been seeing them all over. I have noticed when people observe a member of the Rhynchomitra genus, they default to ID it as R. microrhina--probably because it was already in the iNat database. All the ones I have seen so far match R. recurva much better!

Instead of making comments explaining what seems to be the distinguishing feature (to me, a random internet person who is not a planthopper expert) on every observation page, it made more sense to write this thing, throw in the bugguide photos I have been linking to, but side-by-side where the different is hopefully a little more apparent.

How to tell these cuties apart? Check the snoot! Compare the width of the "horn" at the eye to its length.

There are three species listed on bugguide. R. lingula, R. recurva, and R. microrhina.

Photo Copyright © 2004 Tony DiTerlizzi
Rhynchomitra lingula
Short snoot! Wider than long!

Photo Copyright © 2017 A. Hendrickson
Rhynchomitra recurva
Medium snoot! About as wide as long!

Photo Copyright © 2010 Jon Hart
Rhynchomitra microrhina
Loooong snoot! Longer than wide!

Both R. recurva and R. microrhina range within Texas (the bugguide page for R. lingula gives Louisiana as the easternmost range), and I will wager they are more common than you give them credit for. Also, those strange brown mystery nymphs you may have seen? These guys?

Photo Copyright © 2015 Robert Lord Zimlich
Rhynchomitra nymphs!

Julkaistu heinäkuu 17, 2017 04:26 AP. käyttäjältä nanofishology nanofishology | 5 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

heinäkuu 19, 2017

Odonata Sleeping Beauties

For some reason, the dragonflies and damselflies of east Travis County have spread the word that my back yard is The Place to Sleep. I recently started going out into the backyard at night, almost every night, and I am finding the most amazing things (just check out what I've seen in a scant 0.10 acre lot). One of these amazing things is dragonflies and damselflies... sleeping.

Typically, it's a struggle to get good dragonfly photos because, believe it or not, almost every single photo I've uploaded has been taken on an iPhone 5S, and dragonflies don't really like to sit still with a human less than 10 feet away. There have been a few notable exceptions:

Eastern Pondhawk

Thornbush Dancer

Cobra Clubtail

But most of my Odonata observations look more like:


But! With flocks of dragonflies and damselflies visiting my backyard to snooze, it allows me to get super close to take their picture. Drawback: my photos are only as good as my lights source, and my replacement headlamp is horrible and I'm going to replace it soon. But it's a lot easier to get better photos when you're closer to your subjects!

I have been seeing so many sleeping Odonates with such frequency for such a long period of time that I started tagging all the sleeping dragonflies and damselflies I find in my yard. Sometimes I accidentally wake somebody up (they camouflage pretty well and I don't see them until they start blindly flying around), and sometimes the sun hasn't quite set when I see them start to settle into their sleeping spots, but for the most part, this tag is Odonates actively catching Z's.

Check it out!
Odonata Sleeping Beauties

Julkaistu heinäkuu 19, 2017 10:59 IP. käyttäjältä nanofishology nanofishology | 5 havaintoa | 0 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

heinäkuu 24, 2017

The Enigma of Larval Lepidopteran Life Stages (prepupal, pre-prepupal, pre-pre-prepupal etc)

I wrote up some observations I've had re: different phases caterpillars will go through in an excellent conversation with @kimberlietx and I wanted to immortalize it here, because I know I'll be coming back to it. Also, I'm joking about the pre-pre-prepupal but not the other one.

Prepupal vs pre-prepupal

(I made that second one up... as far as I know)

Prepupal: an insect in the nonfeeding, inactive stage between the larval period and the pupal period.

Basically, this is what you see when you have a caterpillar hanging in the J or upside down or whatever position they take and freeze in before transforming. Or this is what the caterpillar looks like after the cocoon is all made and they stop spinning silk. Basically, they scrunch up (to half to 1/3 their original length in my observations!), get super fat, stop moving except to roll around and look like they're dying or twitch if their siblings are crawling over them.

Some of my prepupal observations:
io moth: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/7120143
tawny emperor: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/7191156

What I consider to be the pre-prepupal is when you can tell they are a day or so away from pupating. Their heartbeat is visible through their back at the centerline at this point, and they are still eating and more or less active, just slower. I haven't really seen this in the butterfly caterpillars, but the moths definitely have this. They will also start to lose their coloration and they look kinda sick and/or dying. This is the stage they are in while they are laying down their silk pads or starting to think about cocoons.

Some of my "pre-prepupal" observations:
Anicla. This one I have a gif I need to upload showing the heartbeat, and this observation, the middle photo is actually the prepupal one who pupated first. In these their backs turned rosy before going prepupal: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/7154317

Carolina sphinx (my observation comments say it's prepupal, but that was before I knew better): http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/7120083
For comparison, there's a good actual prepupal photo here: http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/field/hornworm.htm

I still have a ton of caterpillar photos to upload, should be getting to those this week and I'm going to get hardcore into tagging with prepupal, pre-prepupal, or whatever. I remember finding a baby, and when it acted sick and wouldn't eat, I released it the next day. When I went through the photos later, I realized I had a pre-prepupal baby that I really should have kept because now I'll never know who it was!

Julkaistu heinäkuu 24, 2017 10:08 IP. käyttäjältä nanofishology nanofishology | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti