Posts Tagged: Alex Wild
It was Dangerfield (1921-2004), you know, who coined the catchphrase, "I don't get no respect."
Male ants don't either, says myrmecologist (ant reaseacher) Brendon Boudinot, a doctoral student in Phil Ward's Department of Entomology and Nematology lab, University of California, Davis.
Boudinot, who recently won a first-place President's Award for his presentation on “Revising Our Vision of Ant Biodiversity: Male Ants of the New World” at the 2014 Entomological Society of America meeting in Portland, Ore., is passionate about ants, particularly male ants.
Male ants get little respect or attention, said Boudinot, who aims to raise public awareness of their importance and demystify them through his scientific research.
“There are about 12,800 living species of ants described to date,” explained Boudinot, who enrolled in the UC Davis doctoral program after receiving his bachelor's degree at Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash., in 2012. “Males are known for only 27 percent of these species, and no identification resource exists for identifying male ants for most bioregions.”
Addressing this concern, he provided the first male-based identification keys to subfamily and genus level for the New World. The keys cover 13 of the 16 subfamilies and 151 of the 324 genera. This, coupled with a global male-based key to all 16 ant subfamilies he submitted in November, will enable male ants to be identified by genus in the New World---encompassing North, Central, and South America---for the first time.
“This will facilitate the use of male ants in evolutionary, ecological, and taxonomic studies,” Boudinot said. “Moreover, it encourages a shift in the focus of myrmecology, the study of ants, by allowing male-specific collecting methods to be used and will encourage future workers to include males in their research.”
As for telling the difference between a male and a female ant, that's not easy, even for many ant researchers, Boudinot acknowledged. “Males and reproductive females, queens, usually have wings and look different from workers. Males are usually differentiated from females by having slightly different morphology. Besides having complex and strange genitalia, male ants also tend to have one more antennal segment, larger eyes, and in general look more ‘waspy.' "
The genitalia of male ants are fascinating, he said. “Think of a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife which has paired muscular claspers, graspers, and sawblades. Male ants have evolved winglessness and worker-like morphology at least five times in the ants, which has historically led to the accidental description of these wingless males as new species. This is a weird phenomenon which I will be focusing on for a chapter of my dissertation. Why have they evolved winglessness? What are the evolutionary patterns of skeletomuscular reduction? Are there trade-offs for a colony when they lose the ability to produce dispersing males? Anyway, this should be fun.”
Boudinot noted that the inaccurate portrayals of ants in Hollywood movies lead to lifelong misinterpretations. “There is a perception that there are two kinds of ants: red ants and black ants--and sometimes yellow ants--and that the workers of ants include both sexes, as in the Disney movies A Bug's Life and Antz,” Boudinot said. “Really, ants are incredibly diverse---which is why I am fascinated with them in part.”
Reproductory misinformation abounds in “A Bug's Life,” the 1998 American computer-animated comedy adventure film, Boudinot said. All worker ants are female and sterile, but Princess Atta marries a male, Flik. “Flik and Princess Atta wouldn't have married, and if they did, Flik wouldn't be the dad as chances are she, as a worker, would be able to lay only unfertilized eggs which would become clonal males.”
If there's one thing that Boudinot wants youngsters of today to know about ants, it's this: “There are remarkable things to discover everywhere, and unanswered questions abound. Discovery is borne out of observation, and there is so much to observe in any single square meter of Earth's surface. I like ants in this respect because they are everywhere! In tropical rainforests ants and termites (another group of social insects) may make up to one-third of the total animal biomass, dwarfing that of vertebrates such as panthers, birds, and amphibians. There are about 90 species of ants in Sonoma, Napa, Yolo, and Sacramento counties alone, including fungus-cultivating ants!”
Boudinot encourages people to check out AntWeb.org. “This website is a digital database of thousands and thousands of species of ants, many of which look like they are extraterrestrials or are strange beasts out of nightmares,” he said, adding “Okay, and some of which are just fluffy and adorable.”
Myrmecologist Brendon Boudinot in the field. This was taken at the Southwest Research Station in the Chiricahua Mountains near Portal, Ariz., by Roberto Keller, National Museum of Natural History and Science, Portugal.
Fact is, bugs bug people. Birds bug bugs. Bugs bug bugs. If you've ever seen a praying mantis lying in wait for a bee or a ladybug snatching an aphid, or a dragonfly grabbing a hover fly, you know they do. Bugs bug bugs.
In the insect world, people seem to love only butterflies, bees, ladybugs and dragonflies, as evidenced by bug-inspired clothing, jewelry or tattooes. They do not like bed bugs, knats and mosquitoes.
When you think about it, there are about a million described species of insects in the world, "more than five times the number of all animals combined," according to emeritus professor Jerry Powell in his book, California Insects. "Estimates of the number remaining to be discovered and named vary from 1.5 to 5 million or more."
We all talk about the good, the bad and the bugly. The good: the honey bee. The bad: the mosquito. The bugly: the praying mantis.
So it was interesting today that Organic Pest Control of New York City named the world's top 50 bug blogs/pest control blogs. You can see the list here. Geographically, they range from California to Singapore to the UK. "These sites were shown to have valuable, fresh and frequently updated content that is helpful in both entomology and the pest control industry," according to the website.
At least two blogs have UC Davis connections. Biologist and noted insect photographer Alex Wild of the University of Illinois, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with major professor/ant specialist Phil Ward, is listed for his Myrmecos (that means ant) blog.
The other blog with the UC Davis connection: yours truly with Bug Squad.
Here's what the website said about about the first 10 on the list:
Bug Girl's Blog (Charismatic Minifauna)
This blogger has a PhD in entomology (insect study) and is not afraid to share her fascination through the blog. Another standout feature of the blog is her knowledge of how to control insect populations without the use of pesticides. Top posts include “How to Inspect Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs” and “Ask an Entomologist.” (Note: this is by Gwen Pearson, who for a long time, never revealed her true identity, not even at an Entomological Society of America meeting.)
Visit here for a blog by Illinois-based biologist and photographer Alex Wild. The blog's name is derived from the Greek word for ant and contains Alex's musings on the little creatures that share our planet. The galleries are a must see given Alex's love of both insects and his talent with a camera.
Insects in the City
Mike Merchant has served as entomology specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension since 1989. His areas of specialty involve research on the insects that effect people including spiders, scorpions, fire ants, termites, and others. Get pest control from an academic point of view by stopping at his blog.
This blog is named after a quote from Joseph Krutch on the human standpoint on insects. Alison also fills her blog with other discoveries on insects and closer looks at them. Everything from ants to wolf spiders are featured.
Butterflies of Singapore
Because some bugs can be downright beautiful, there is this blog. Get a look at “nature's flying jewels” without ever leaving your home. With entries dating back to 2007, there are loads of butterflies to see.
Living With Insects Blog
Jonathan Neal also has a Ph.D in entomology and teaches at Purdue University. His blog is devoted to the intersection of people and insects. Subjects such as fire ants, bees, and many more are often discussed.
Beetles In The Bush
Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. With entries on loads of common and uncommon household pests, his focus is of course the beetle. However, you can also find entries on items such as spiders, reptiles, and most recently, Bichos Argentinos.
Urban Dragon Hunters
These bloggers standout for targeting their insect research and blog towards the largely ignored urban areas. Located in Wayne County, Michigan, they have recorded 50 new species of odonata, or dragonflies. Stop by to see which and learn more about them.
Bug Squad is the blog of Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. This blog, launched in 2008, is part of the University of California's Agricultural and Natural Resources website. Check for the latest research and other information.
What's That Bug?
Also known as The Bugman, Daniel Marlos is the author of “The Curious World of Bugs.” With a healthy pest-free garden in Los Angeles, he is free to explore his love of bugs, as well as share useful pest control tips. Be sure not to miss specialty posts on just about every insect in the U.S.
And, be sure to check out the other winning blogs on the company's site.
Back to the ladybug. It's not really a bug. It's a beetle. That's why scientists want us to call it "lady beetle." You can read all about the lady beetle in UC IPM's Natural Enemies Gallery. UC IPM defines natural enemies as "organisms that kill, decrease the reproductive potential of, or otherwise reduce the numbers of another organism. Natural enemies that limit pests are key components of integrated pest management programs. Important natural enemies of insect and mite pests include predators, parasites, and pathogens."
Sometimes it's good to have an enemy, a natural enemy.
Ladybug drying its wings after falling into a swimming pool. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fly away, little ladybug! (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug resting on a leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Goodbye, 2013. Hello, 2014.
If you're a beginning driver--or you remember being a beginning driver--your instructor may have admonished: "Look where you're going; not where you've been."
But sometimes, especially at the end of a year, it's good to know where you've been.
Or, in the case of arthropod photography, where the insects and spiders hung out.
If you're like me, you like to prowl their habitats. Sometimes I walk softly and carry a big stick (tripod) but most of the time, I just walk softly.
I focus on their eyes. Their eyes. Their eyes look back at me. Predator or prey? Ignore or confront? Fight or flee?
Not to worry. I am a visitor in their home. I don't poke 'em, prod 'em or pin 'em.
Thankfully, our bee friendly garden in our backyard is not only friendly to bees, but flies, such as robber flies, bee flies and syrphids. The bees? Honey bees, carpenter bees, leafcutting bees, blue orchard bees, sweat bees and European wool carder bees. We see scores of other insects, too, including lady beetles, butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantids, lacewings, and the like. We also welcome arachnids, such as crab spiders, cellar spiders and jumping spiders. We all live together, sometimes not so peacefully. Sometimes not at all. Nature is what it is. And we are what we are. (See some of Bug Squad's favorite images of 2013.)
If you love insect photography, you'll love entomologist/insect photographer Alex Wild's blog, Compound Eye, on scientificamerican.com. (Every time I think of Scientific American, my mind fades back to my high school science project selected for the Pacific Northwest Science Fair at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It won a year's subscription to the magazine. Memories...)
We at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology know Alex Wild as not only an amazing photographer, specializing in ants, but an alumnus. He received his doctorate here, studying with Professor Phil Ward, a noted ant specialist.
The Compound Eye blog describes him this way: "Alex Wild is an Illinois-based biologist who studies insect evolution. He picked up photography a decade ago to better illustrate his technical presentations, and shortly thereafter found himself running a business supplying books, magazines, and museum exhibits with close-up images of insects and other micro-wildlife. Alex holds a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California at Davis and currently teaches and conducts research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His scientific work includes descriptions of new insect species, annotations of insect genomes, and monographs on the evolution of various groups of wasps, beetles, and ants. Compound Eye is Alex's exploration of science photography's challenges and the role images play in science communication. Alex's galleries are available at http://www.alexanderwild.com." (He also writes the Myrmecos blog and co-teaches the BugShot photography workshops.)
Wild's Compound Eye blog today (Dec. 31) showcases some of the work of noted nature and science photographers. He asked them for links to their "best Nature & Science images from the past year, and wow--you did not disappoint!"
While you're toasting the New Year, offer a toast to these images!
You will be awestruck! Best of all, maybe you'll pick up a camera and start photographing insects, too...
Up close and personal with a robber fly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee fly mimicking a helicopter--or does a helicopter mimic a bee fly? (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jumping spider, a floral visitor. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male Valley carpenter bee is really a teddy bear. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, to have the waist of a mud dauber wasp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A pollen-covered honey bee ready for take-off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Rachel Graham, a master's student in entomology at the University of California, Davis who loves photographing insects, recently submitted an image of a blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, for the Entomological Society of America's 2014 World of Insects calendar.
Dashing news! It won a well-deserved spot in the calendar. It's the June "bug." The worldwide competition drew more than 400 photos from 84 photographers. Each attendee at ESA's 61st annual meeting, held Nov. 10-13 in Austin, Texas, received a calendar. (More calendars are available.)
Graham studies with integrated pest management (IPM) specialist Frank Zalom, newly inducted president of the nearly 7000-member ESA. (Zalom is only the second-ever ESA president from UC Davis.)
Graham captured the image at the Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Fla., in August 2010 when she was participating in a BugShot photography workshop organized by noted insect photographer/entomologist Alex Wild of Illinois. Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from ant specialist Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology, writes the popular Myrmecos blog and the Compound Eye blog for Scientific American.
Graham recalled that she photographed the blue dasher "on the very first day of the workshop" with her Canon 60D and a 100mm macro lens, shooting at an ISO of 200, f-stop of 6.3 and a shutter speed of 1/40. No flash. No tripod.
The dragonfly species is widespread throughout North America. It's common, but Rachel Graham's photo isn't!
This isn't Rachel Graham's first major photography honor, either. One of her images made the Cornell Ornithology Celebrate Urban Birds 2011 calendar. And earlier this year, she won the People’s Choice Award at the 6th annual UC Davis Graduate Student Symposium in Ecology. Her winning photo depicted a jumping spider eating a hover fly.
Graham, an IPM specialist who plans a career in science education and outreach, recalled that she "began photographing insects for a class assignment at UC San Diego in 2010, and have not been able to stop."
Let's hope she never does!
The image of a blue dasher, captured by Rachel Graham of UC Davis, appears in the Entomological Society of America's 2014 World of Insects Calendar.
Honey bees love it.
We watched a honey bee foraging on lavender blossoms last weekend, when an ant appeared on the scene. The ant? A worker of Liometopum occidentale (velvety tree ant), according to ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
If you don't know much about ants, but have always admired them, then "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants," is for you.
It's the collaborative work of two entomologists: biologist/science writer Eleanor Spicer Rice, who received her doctorate in entomology from North Carolina State University, and biologist/insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Ward.
In a recent Myrmecos blog, Wild describes the book as "an entry-level ebook written for the general naturalist curious about ants. Dr. Eleanor recounts stories of the most common species seen in the southeastern United States, interspersed with photographs from my galleries."
"It’s the kind of book you give to the young naturalist who wonders about the ants on the sidewalk," Wild says, "or perhaps to that grumpy uncle who never quite seems to get what it is you are doing in graduate school studying the little creatures."
And, guess what? The Dr. Eleanor/Dr. Alex book is free to download. One way to receive it is to access the Myrmecos blog and click on the I-Tunes and/or PDF links.
Rice relates that she's always been fascinated by ants. So is Andrea Lucky, who, like Wild, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with Phil Ward. Lucky heads the widely acclaimed citizen-scientist project, "The School of Ants." (The School of Ants project is based in the Lucky lab at the University of Florida's Department of Entomology and Nematology and the lab of Rob Dunn in Biology at North Carolina State University. (Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know more.)
But back to "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants." It's fascinating. It's riveting. It's superb. The easy-to-read text and the amazing photos draw you in. You can literally feel the excitement, enthusiasm and passion when Dr. Eleanor asks "What's the big deal about ants?"
"We might not notice them, but ants surround us, occupying nearly every type of habitable nook and cranny across the glove," she writes. "Right now, ants snuggle up to your house, lay out their doormats in front of the trees in your yard, and snooze under your park benches. Some even nest inside the acorns littering the ground."
"We might not notice them, but they're there, and they shape, literally shape, our world," she points out.
And if you look closely in your own back yard, you just might see an ant and a bee sharing a lavender blossom.
A honey bee encounters a velvety tree ant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Velvety tree ant touches the antennae of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)