Wild Side

Wild Side

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What’s this spotted bug?

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In nature, no niche goes unoccupied for long: even nothing is something, for the right creature.

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Black widows generally are famous as the most venomous spiders in North America, one of very few arthropods on the continent that is capable of killing a human being. Being small spiders, they can inject only a tiny quantity of venom. But the venom is incredibly potent...

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Better still, I began to get a sense for the entire family: what conditions its members like, what characteristics mark the family itself or help you sort out its members. In short, I learned something! I find this fun.

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It is now widely established — so widely, in fact, that it may be out-competing many of our native ladybugs, such as the two-spotted ladybug that is the official state insect of Massachusetts. (I bet you didn’t even know we had a state insect!)

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I could go on for weeks about the various approaches plants take to make adversity less adverse. Here are just a few examples to illustrate how creative evolution has been.

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To be sure, there are a few species of each that are irritable enough to make awkward neighbors. The so-called social bees and wasps, that is, the species that live in large colonies and build elaborate nests, certainly will sting in defense of their homes. (Wouldn’t you?)

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Why do moths come to lights?

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The Vineyard supports good numbers of bog coppers, but this unique butterfly depends on keeping local bogs healthy.

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Which is pretty remarkable when you think about it: to form a gall, an insect species must develop the ability to hijack the biochemical processes that govern tissue production in a plant, producing a structure that perfectly suits the insect’s needs.