Friday, May 24, 2013

Glow-in-the-dark cockroach

Anyone who has listened to me rattle on about insects for any amount of time knows of my fondness for cockroaches.  I worked with cockroaches for many years while in college and grad school and now have the "pleasure" of being allergic to them.  I still love them and know many of you are disgusted by the mere thought of them.  Maybe this will change your mind.  If not, maybe it will open your mind to the possibility that cockroaches are capable of being beautiful and amazing.

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State has published their list of the Top 10 new species from 2012.  On the list guessed it....a cockroach!  Lucihormetica luckae, also known as the Lightning roach, is known from a single specimen collected over 70 years ago.  The cockroach was collected from Ecuador and it may now be extinct due to eruption and activty of the Tungurahua volcano.

The really cool part of the whole thing- to me at least- is that the cockroach mimics a poisonous click beetle.  Basically when it glows it's pattern is similar to that of a bioluminescent click beetle.  Wow...insects are so cool!

If you want to see pictures of the cockroach, you can click here.  I think it looks like a Jawa (Utini!) from Star Wars when it glows, but that may just be my somewhat warped mind.

On a side note....there is a FREE webinar on Friday, June 7th on bed bugs.  You can find more information on the webinar here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Milkweed and Monarchs- will you help?

Texas is fortunate in that the eastern (east of the Rockies) population of Monarchs passes through Texas on the way to and from their overwintering sites in Mexico.  It is always a glorious site to see the Monarchs in the spring and late summer/ fall.  The butterflies overwinter in areas of mountain tops in Central Mexico.  Many people think that the decline (at least for the Monarchs that come and go through Texas) is because of the decline of the overwintering locations in Mexico.  While habitat loss in Mexico is certainly a factor, there is another factor that I hope, with help from citizens can be reduced.

The second factor of Monarch decline is loss of milkweed plant populations within the United States.  Milkweed is often considered a weed (a weed is a plant that is out of place), especially when it's found in areas where other, more desirable plants are growing.  As a weed, the milkweed is destroyed, decreasing the amount of food available for migrating Monarch populations.  You can hear more about this from Science Friday here.

So how can you help?  By planting milkweed!  If we can get citizens to plant milkweed in their yards, in community gardens, in school gardens or even cooperate with county and city programs to encourage milkweed in parks and other common areas, then maybe the Monarchs will have islands of milkweed to support their life cycle.  While I'm not sure if it will work, I think it's worth a shot.

You can find milkweed at local nurseries or you can buy seeds online.  Monarch Watch actually has a seed kit that can be purchased for $10 on their website that contains three species of milkweed- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa); Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca); Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  All three species are native to Texas so you don't have to worry about bringing in something weird.  The Native Plant Society of Texas has information on milkweed here.   The Xerces Society has information on milkweed and their Project Milkweed here and you can link to sellers of milkweed seeds for specific regions of the country (including Texas).

So, have you bought your plants or seeds yet?  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and get planting. 

Pssssstt....spread the word to everyone you know.  We need all the help we can get!