Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Brake For Dung Beetles...

I Brake for Dung Beetles! from The WILD Foundation on Vimeo.

I found this video at Beetles In The Bush There is also a picture of a great bumper sticker, (probably a fund raiser) from The Wild Foundation
[Here at The WILD Foundation, we realize that it is not just those large, charismatic animals that inspire conservation - it is often the small, typically unnoticed and vastly under-appreciated ones that inspire us the most….and that are an indispensible part of the ecosystem!]

A few years ago on a camping trip in the Appalachian mountains the Mr and I came across a couple of dung beetles trying to roll bear dung off the gravel road with the same results as in this video. It was so funny. Had I been carrying a camera with video options we would have a north american version.

Discover Life

The sacred scarab of the ancient Egyptians, Scarabaeus sacer, which inhabits North Africa, southern Europe and Asia, is often the only species of dung beetle that many people know about. We too often overlook the sizeable dung beetle faunas that inhabits our own continents. Indeed, a little observation in the natural habitats of almost any region of the world will reveal several intriguing species of diverse appearances and behaviors .
The Scarabaeinae, one of the two subfamilies of dung-rolling beetles (the other being the Aphodiinae), comprises about 4500 known species of worldwide distribution, occurring wherever excrement or nutrient-rich substrates are available.
About 75 species of Scarabaeinae occur in North America (Borror et al., 422; Ratcliffe 95).
Scarabaeine diversity is concentrated in the tropics: for example, while the most scarab-rich site in New York State might have close to 10 species, single sites in the tropics can have nearly 100 species. Most species feed on mammal dung, while smaller proportions feed on carrion or vegetable matter, or are even carnivorous.
Dung beetles, together with their saprophagous (decay-feeding) relatives, are ecologically important degraders and re-distributors of nutrients pdf
The study examined the fate of dung beetles, which collect dung, bury it,snack on it, and lay their eggs in it. Burying the seed-laden dung also enriches the soil and helps plants regenerate. Trond Larsen, a graduate student at Princeton University, found that the beetle species best at burying dung were the first to disappear from forest fragments. Alarmingly, related species did not become more abundant. Much dung then went unburied.
Larsen says: “Even the loss of just one or two species may have a much greater impact than we previously thought.” Like top carnivores, the large dung beetles appear to be the most sensitive to extinction and extremely important for ecosystem integrity,he adds. Moreover, it’s surprisingly hard for others to fill their shoes, Ostfeld says: “I wouldn’t have expected to see this effect with a dung beetle.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April Bumble Bees In The Backyard - Chicago

The flowering abundance and sunny warm temperatures had bees buzzing about.

Look at the size of these bumbles! Fat queens ready to lay a colony.

Do they have an urban tough look or what?

This one has me puzzled. A bald spot? Seemed very aggressive as well. Chased me and the camera inside.

Later the bees were covered in pollen but I must have been put off by the earlier aggression because none of the pictures were

ID of the bald spotted bee from UIUC Bee Spotter
Bombus bimaculatus - Twospotted Bumble Bee
Answer to question about bald spot...
Hello Gloria,
Thanks for your message. The hairs that cover a bee's body are subject to wear, and when a bee gets older, it is not unusual for the thorax to get a bit bald dorsally. Plus remember, bumble bees that we are seeing now have been around since back in late summer 2008; the one that you photographed might have had something of a rough winter.
Best regards,Terry Harrison

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wild flower in a garden

Virginia Bluebells/mertensia virginiana
Very important in my garden as early pollen and nectar source.

The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees, Mason bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, and Miner bees; these insects seek nectar and collect pollen.
Other visitors of the flowers include hummingbirds, bee flies, butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths, including hummingbird moths seeking nectar from the flowers.

Rurality blog hummingbird-clearwing-moth picture feeding at bluebell
Flicker picture bee at bluebell

Eastern Redbud/Cercis canadensis next to garage.

The periodical cicada, Magicicada septendecim, lays its eggs in more than 70 species of trees and other plants, including redbud.

It is a host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly

Leaf cutter bees use redbud leaves for nest lining.

Seeds have been consumed by game birds such as ring-necked pheasants,

rose-breasted grosbeaks,cardinals and bobwhites.

Flowers are another important early pollen and nectar source.

Virginia Creeper/Parthenocissus quinquefolia growing on a trellis

Berries eaten by mice, chipmunks and skunks.

Foliage and twigs browsed by white-tailed deer.

Yellow-Shafted Flicker
Fox Sparrow
Crested Flycatcher
Wood Thrush
Red-Eyed Vireo
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-Breasted Sapsucker

Nectar and pollen of the flowers occasionally attract various bees, including Leaf-Cutting bees (Megachile spp.),andLeaf-Cutting bees may use the leaflets of Virginia Creeper as construction material for their nests.

Several species of Sphinx moths rely on Virginia Creeper as a host plant.

Virginia creeper after the berries turn blue and the foliage begins to show touches of its fall color.

The photo contest this month at Gardening Gone Wild ask for A photo of any native plant(in a garden setting), either a close up or in the landscape, that you think merits attention to qualify.

Hard decision that.

Can you help me decide?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Building Beetle Mounds and a bit about Rove Beetles

Today while catching up on posting at Cheryl's My Wildlife Sanctuary Blog, I came across what is a rather nice idea. Creating habitat for beetles in a nice suburban garden. It can takes years for the accumulation of decaying materials so a little help from a habitat gardener should speed things up.
Click here to read how Cheryl came to build a beetle mound

In this picture,on the right center, you can see how the beetle mound relates to the rest of the garden.

Thanks for allowing me to use the pictures Cheryl.

Why would anyone want to encourage more beetles?

Most of the thousands of beetle species are beneficial insects,helping to control many pest insects,including biting flies,mosquitoes and fleas. In agricultural settings they (depending on species) consume root maggot eggs and larvae, mites, small soil insects, insect eggs and small insects on foliage. So everyone benefits from a variety of beetles being about.

Non-flying crawling beetles tend to move slow and are of most use very near their food supply.

But the average garden does not accumulate the decaying mounds of organic matter found in natural areas where beetles may lay eggs and overwinter. So Cheryl took it upon herself to give aid.

Good idea! (She lives in the UK)

The rove beetles (Staphylinidae) constitute the largest and most diverse group of beetles in North America, accounting for roughly 4000 named species.
There is a great article about rove beetles at this

Florida University Website that is relevant to all of north america.

Staphylinidae occupy almost all moist environments throughout the world. Because none of them is truly aquatic, they do not live in open waters; although winged adults may be skimmed from the sea surface far from land, their presence is due to misadventure but attests to their dispersive ability.

They live in leaf litter of woodland and forest floors and grasslands. They concentrate in fallen decomposing fruits, the space under loose bark of fallen, decaying trees, drifted plant materials on banks of rivers and lakes, and dung, carrion, and nests of vertebrate animals.

Several hundred species live only on seashores. Many are specialized to existence in nests of social insects.

Many inhabit caves, underground burrows of vertebrate animals, and smaller soil cavities, even of burrows that they (a few of them) excavate.

Many live in mushrooms.

Adults and even larvae of a few are associated with living flowers.

Others climb on plants, especially at night, and hunt for prey.

A few seem to live with terrestrial snails.

Their distribution in arid environments is restricted to moist microhabitats.


many Tachyporinae, most Aleocharinae, Pselaphinae, Euaesthetinae, Steninae, Paederinae, and Staphylininae), representing the bulk of species in the family, so that it may be said that most Staphylinidae -- tens of thousands of species -- are facultative predators. Some have specialized, for example Oligota (Aleocharinae) as predators of mites, Erichsonius (Staphylininae) as predators of soil-inhabiting nematodes, Odontolinus (Staphylininae) on mosquito larvae in water-filled flower bracts of Heliconia (Heliconiaceae), and Eulissus (Staphylininae) on adult dung-inhabiting scarab beetles. Aleochara (Aleocharinae) has evolved to become parasitoidal in fly puparia.

Relationships with Higher Plants

Adults of some Omaliinae are attracted to flowers, and some of these have been demonstrated to pollinate the flowers. An example is Pelecomalium testaceum (Mannerheim) (Omaliinae), which pollinates Lysichiton americanum Hultén & St. John (Araceae) in the mountains of the Pacific coast of the USA and Canada. It is conceivable that Polyobus spp. (Aleocharinae) do the same for Espeletia spp. (Asteraceae) in the northern Andes of South America. Charoxus spp. (Aleocharinae) have a different, but yet highly specialized obligate relationship with plants -- the adults are attracted in the Neotropical region to the syconia of Ficus spp. (Moraceae) within which they oviposit, but the adults and larvae feed on pollinating wasps (Agaonidae) of those fig flowers.

Nests of Vertebrates

Some staphylinid species have specialized to live in the nests of vertebrates, especially tortoises, birds, and rodents. Their prey seems to be mainly the larvae of fleas and flies.

In Florida (USA) where populations of the tortoise Gopherus polyphemus (Daudin) (Testudines: Testudinidae) are declining through habitat loss and disease, populations of the staphylinid inhabitants of its nests also must be declining.

Names of species of Staphylinidae found in birds' nests were compiled almost 30 years ago, but there is little information on their behavior.
In central Asia, where sylvatic plague is endemic, some staphylinids are credited with suppressing flea populations, and thus help to suppress transmission of plague.

Adults of Amblyopinus and close relatives (subtribe Amblyopinina of subfamily Staphylininae) occur in the fur of some rodents in Central and South America. For years they were suspected of being parasites of these rodents, and taking blood from them.

Now, however, they are believed to be phoretic on the rodents, thus being transported from nest to nest.

They oviposit in the nests, and larvae feed as predators there of other arthropods.

Causes of Mortality

Natural Enemies

Scattered evidence needing review suggests that spiders, various insects (including Reduviidae, Carabidae, Asilidae, Formicidae, etc.)
amphibia, reptiles, birds, and bats, include Staphylinidae among their diets.
Among the parasites,
fungi play a major role,
and hymenopterous parasitoids, nematodes, and Nemata, a relatively minor role.
In temperate regions of the world,
as contrasted with tropical regions,
( staphylinids may achieve very high population levels at the soil in tropical regions)

at least at lower altitudes,
ants are ubiquitous and staphylinids less numerous in numbers of individuals; this suggests that ants may limit population levels of staphylinids in tropical regions.

Pesticide use

There is a growing literature about non-target effects of chemical pesticides on Staphylinidae in agricultural crops and turf grass, to the point where Aleochara bilineata (Gyllenhal) (a demonstrably beneficial species) has become a favored test animal for the effects of insecticides, herbicides, and plant-growth regulators. Destruction of natural habitat by humans, especially in the tropics, undoubtedly contributes to the rarity of many poorly-known staphylinid species

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Water Filled Tree Cavities

Here are two pictures of just two places in the garden that hold water for much of the year.

In the crotch of the tree is a hollow space that often contains a murky debris filled pool of water.Even the logs lining paths through the woodland garden and in the wood pile have places that will sometimes hold water.
This was a concern of mine for years.
As a wildlife habitat gardener many such water holes exist throughout the garden. So what to do?
I have decided to do nothing and just leave them be.

Water is held in hollow stems,cupped leaves and even in the flowers of some insect eating plants like pitcher plant, so it would be impossible to remove all or keep fresh this abundance of life sustaining vernal pools.These micro habitats often contain the larvae or nymphs of flies(including hover flies),beetles, mites,mosquitoes and even dragonflies. Some tree frogs live and breed in what can be gallons of water in deep decayed tree hollows.Many bees and butterflies seem to prefer taking moisture from the water soaked sponge like decaying debris that always occurs.These creatures,including many micro organisms, eat each other and the decomposing materials.
Nature at work filling all the niches...

The above was written for (by myself) the Wildlife Gardeners Forum . The comments by fellow wildlife gardeners was interesting and encouraging.It fits here on the blog and gives me a chance to introduce a favorite place.
I recently was invited to join in the forum and did so promptly after reading a few entries.
It is a monitored site but civil disagreement is not discouraged.
What a wealth of information.
If you are a wildlife gardener or interested in joining the discussions about recent scientific inquiry concerning gardeners or wildlife gardening practices, then you should take a look.

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