The round “ball” that is often present on the stem of goldenrod plants contains the overwintering larva of a fly (Eurosta solidaginis). A year ago an adult female fly laid an egg in the stem of the goldenrod plant. The egg hatched and the larva proceeded to eat the interior of the stem. As it did so, the larva excreted chemicals which caused the plant to grow abnormally, creating a ball-shaped “gall.” If you were to open a goldenrod ball gall today, you would probably find an overwintering larva (if a downy woodpecker or parasitic wasp hadn’t gotten there before you). Within the next few weeks the larva will pupate, and as early as April the adult fly will emerge from the gall, having crawled out the passageway that it chewed last fall. An inflatable “balloon” on its forehead allows the fly to burst through the remaining outermost layer of tissue at the end of the passageway. The adult fly lives about two weeks, just long enough to mate and begin the process all over again.
March 22, 2013 | Categories: Adaptations, Animal Architecture, Arthropods, Diptera, Flies, Insect Signs, Insects, Insects Active in Winter, Invertebrates, Larvae, March, Metamorphosis, Pupae, Woodpeckers | Tags: Eurosta solidaginis, Goldenrod Ball Gall, Goldenrod Gall Fly | 8 Comments »
If you’re looking for a present for someone that will be used year round, year after year, Naturally Curious may just fit the bill. A relative, a friend, your child’s school teacher – it’s the gift that keeps on giving to both young and old!
One reader wrote, “This is a unique book as far as I know. I have several naturalists’ books covering Vermont and the Northeast, and have seen nothing of this breadth, covered to this depth. So much interesting information about birds, amphibians, mammals, insects, plants. This would be useful to those in the mid-Atlantic, New York, and even wider geographic regions. The author gives a month-by-month look at what’s going on in the natural world, and so much of the information would simply be moved forward or back a month in other regions, but would still be relevant because of the wide overlap of species. Very readable. Couldn’t put it down. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the natural world, but there was much that was new to me in this book. I would have loved to have this to use as a text when I was teaching. Suitable for a wide range of ages.”
In a recent email to me a parent wrote, “Naturally Curious is our five year old’s unqualified f-a-v-o-r-I-t-e book. He spends hours regularly returning to it to study it’s vivid pictures and have us read to him about all the different creatures. It is a ‘must have’ for any family with children living in New England…or for anyone that simply shares a love of the outdoors.”
I am a firm believer in fostering a love of nature in young children – the younger the better — but I admit that when I wrote Naturally Curious, I was writing it with adults in mind. It delights me no end to know that children don’t even need a grown-up middleman to enjoy it!
November 23, 2012 | Categories: A Closer Look at New England, Adaptations, Amphibians, Animal Adaptations, Animal Architecture, Animal Communication, Animal Diets, Animal Eyes, Animal Signs, Animal Tracks, Anti-predatory Device, Ants, April, Arachnids, Arthropods, August, Bark, Bats, Beavers, Beetles, Bird Diets, Bird Nests, Bird Songs, Birds, Birds of Prey, Black Bears, Bogs, Bugs, Bumblebees, Butterflies, camouflage, Carnivores, Carnivorous Plants, Caterpillars, Cervids, Chrysalises, Cocoons, Conifers, Courtship, Crickets, Crustaceans, Damselflies, December, Deciduous Trees, Decomposition, Deer, Defense Mechanisms, Diets, Diptera, Dragonflies, Ducks, Earwigs, Egg laying, Ephemerals, Evergreen Plants, Falcons, Feathers, February, Fishers, Fledging, Fledglings, Flies, Flowering Plants, Flying Squirrels, Food Chain, Foxes, Frogs, Fruits, Fungus, Galls, Gastropods, Gills, Grasshoppers, Gray Foxes, Herbivores, Herons, Hibernation, Honeybees, Hornets, Hymenoptera, Insect Eggs, Insect Signs, Insects, Insects Active in Winter, Invertebrates, January, July, June, Lady's Slippers, Larvae, Leaves, Lepidoptera, Lichens, Mammals, March, Metamorphosis, Micorrhiza, Migration, Millipedes, Mimicry, Molts, Moose, Moths, Mushrooms, Muskrats, Mutualism, Nests, Nocturnal Animals, Non-flowering plants, North American River Otter, November, October, Odonata, Omnivores, Orchids, Owls, Parasites, Parasitic Plants, Passerines, Plants, Plumage, Poisonous Plants, Pollination, Porcupines, Predator-Prey, Pupae, Raptors, Red Foxes, Red Squirrel, Reptiles, Rodents, Scat, Scent Marking, Seed Dispersal, Seeds, Senses, September, Sexual Dimorphism, Shorebirds, Shrubs, Slugs, Snails, Snakes, Snowfleas, Social Insects, Spiders, Spores, Spring Wildflowers, Squirrels, Striped Skunks, Toads, Tracks, Tree Buds, Tree Flowers, Tree Identification, Trees, Trees and Shrubs, turtles, Vernal Pools, Vertebrates, Vines, Wading Birds, Warblers, Wasps, Waterfowl, Weasel Family, White-tailed Deer, Winter Adaptations, Woodpeckers, Woody Plants, Yellowjackets, Young Animals | Tags: Christmas Gifts, Naturally Curious, Naturally Curious by Mary Holland | 2 Comments »
Galls are abnormal plant growths that can be caused by insects, fungi, bacteria, nematode worms and mites. Insects cause the greatest number of galls and induce the greatest variety of structures. Galls provide both food and shelter for the organisms living within them. Galls develop during the growing season, often in buds and on leaves. Pine Cone Willow Galls, named for their resemblance to small pine cones, are found on willows, typically in terminal buds. A gall midge (Rhabdophaga strobiloides) is responsible for the willow bud going haywire and developing abnormally. (No-one has determined exactly how insects cause galls, whether it’s the act of laying eggs in or on the plant, or if it’s somehow connected to the chewing of the larvae into the plant.) Each gall-making insect has a specific host plant, or small group of related plant. The galls that each insect species induces and lives in while developing into an adult has a recognizable shape and size. When you think you’re seeing pines cones on willow trees, you’re not hallucinating, you’ve just discovered the temporary home and food supply of a tiny fly, known as a midge.
August 21, 2012 | Categories: Adaptations, Arthropods, August, Buds, Diptera, Flies, Flowering Plants, Galls, Insect Signs, Insects, Parasites | Tags: Galls, Pine Cone Willow Gall, Rhabdophaga strobiloides, Salix, Willows | Leave A Comment »
Congratulations on some very creative guesses! Yesterday’s post was a botfly puparium – a hard case made from an insect’s larval exoskeleton (skin) that covers and protects the pupa. Most insects that go through complete metamorphosis (egg, larva, pupa, adult) don’t have this added protection for their pupal stage, but certain flies, including botflies, do. Botflies are fairly large, hairy flies that resemble bumblebees and are internal parasites of many species of mammals, including humans. Depending on the species, the botfly deposits its eggs on or near the host animal, or on another insect, such as a mosquitoe or housefly, which carries them to their host. The eggs of some species of botflies are ingested or inhaled; those of other species hatch and the larvae bore into their host. After entering and crawling around inside of the host animal for a week or so, most species of botfly larvae settle in a spot just under the host’s skin and remain there for three to ten weeks, consuming the flesh of its host. The lump, or “warble,” that forms just under the host’s skin where the botfly resides increases in size as the larva grows. A tiny hole chewed in the skin allows the larva to breathe, and eventually it exits through this hole. The larva falls to the ground, where it pupates in the soil and later emerges as an adult botfly. (The two yellow bumps at one end of the puparium are spiracles, through which the pupa breathes.) The whole story of this particular puparium is that Jeannie Killam found it in her old farmhouse’s kitchen cupboard, where it probably popped out of a visiting mouse. (Illustration is of a human botfly.)
July 28, 2012 | Categories: Arthropods, Diptera, Flies, Insect Signs, Insects, Invertebrates, July | Tags: Botfly, Flies, Internal Parasites, Metamorphosis, Myiasis, Ostridae, Parasites, Pupa, Puparium, Spiracles, Warble | 7 Comments »