Termites

several subterranean termites on wood
  • Common Name:Termites
  • Order Name: Isoptera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are blind, eat your home from the inside out causing $5 billion in damage per year in the United States alone, and since they need shelter to stay moist, you hardly ever see them. These are the termites. There are many types of termites but the ones causing most of the damage are the subterranean termites. In nature, they live in the ground as they need carefully measured amounts of moisture to survive, but when they invade our homes, they build their own conduits or shelter tubes to get the moisture that they need.

In some parts of the world, such as Australia, subterranean termites can build mounds taller than a human. All termites species live in social colonies meaning that they have a queen and a hierarchy with each type of termite, or caste. Each caste is responsible for specific work such as tending young, defending the colony, or reproducing. Termite colonies encountered by homeowners typically have multiple queens which can lay eggs.

Termites are some of the most fascinating insects in nature. A colony works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They communicate through scents called pheromones, and by their droppings. Not all termites are subterranean, however. Drywood termites live above ground in structures and eat the wood. Termites, both subterranean and non-subterranean, consume wood as they have special microbes in their guts which help digest the cellulose found in wood. They will consume anything made of cellulose including wood in houses, drywall backing, books, cardboard boxes, cabinets, floors, and anything else which contains cellulose.

Termites are responsible for more damage than any other household pest. In nature, they play an important role, breaking down waste cellulose such as fallen trees. There are documented cases where termites have caused up to a million dollars in damage in homes. The information contained in the following pages will give you a great insight into this incredible insect.

Genus Speyeria Fritillary Butterfly Wing Posters

The genus Speyeria belong to a group of butterflies known as Fritillaries. Some species exhibit sexual dimorphism where female and male adults have strikingly different coloration. The patterns in this poster are from the dorsal (upper) wing surfaces and illustrate how a pattern element is repeated but varied from wing cell to wing cell.

Genus Speyeria Fritillary Butterfly Wing Posters

If we take a closer look at the individual scale cells, we notice they vary considerably in size, shape and structure. Scale cells are generally held at a 45 degree angle to the wing membrane. The exposed top surface of these scale cells have an elaborate extra cellular structural architecture known as fenestration. These micro structures play an important roll in the iridescent color characteristics of various butterflies. The tiny structures interfere with light wavelengths and usually result in brilliant shimmering blues and greens. The multitude of other colors found on the scales of butterflies and moths comes from pigmentation. Each scale cell holds a single color pigment that include melanins, ommochromes, pterins, and flavonoids derived from plants.
Observing patterns as a whole, we notice that the left and right wing designs are generally symmetrically along the axis of the body. The dorsal (top) forewing, dorsal hindwing, ventral (underside) forewing and ventral hindwing represent the four wing surfaces that carry a unique pattern on each butterfly species. The dorsal wing surfaces typically display bold, simple and colorful designs, whereas the ventral surfaces are notably more detailed. This phenomenon corresponds with the fact that the dorsal surfaces are generally visible during the rapid undulating wing beats of flight compared to the detailed and often cryptic ventral surfaces which are encountered in plain view as the stationary butterfly assumes a resting position. (continued…)

Genus Lycaena Copper Butterfly Wing Posters

Members of the beautiful genus, Lycaena, belong to the group of butterflies known as Coppers. Although many of them are generally copper-like in color, some species exhibit convergent evolution towards the related Blue Lycaenid butterflies. This genus exhibits seasonal polyphenism where short day (Spring) forms have different patternation from their long-day Summer forms.

Genus Lycaena Copper Butterfly Wing Posters

Another interesting observation about wing patterns is referred to as Oudemans’ principle. As you study the ventral wing pattern of a resting butterfly, you’ll notice the pattern often smoothly translates from the hindwing to the visible tip portion of the forewing. In contrast, the covered portion of the forewing lacks the patternation and is often more brightly colored making for a disorienting flash of color as the butterfly launches into flight. Oudemans’ principle can also be observed on the forewing patterns where design element align between the fore and hind wings when the butterfly is displaying its dorsal surfaces.
A fair volume of research has been conducted into the analysis of pattern element along with exploration into the developmental mechanisms of pattern formation. A good portion of this article was inspired by H. Frederik Nijhout’s book, “The Development and Evolution of Butterfly Wing Patterns.” Studying the commonality between the bewildering diversity of patternation found on the wings of butterflies and moths resulted in a generalize model of pattern elements and symmetries known as the Nymphalid ground plan. Although no single butterfly species exactly manifests all the pattern elements established in this model, it forms a useful reference framework to discuss the specific elements of any particular design. This model was initiated back in the 1920’s by B.N. Schwanwitsch and F. Seffert. The model identifies regional bands of symmetry that radiate out into the wing plane from the root where the wing attaches to the thorax. Reviewing the pattern elements of the model from the root out to the wing tips we find a wing root band, a basal symmetry system, a central symmetry system, a discal spot, border ocelli complex, parafocal elements and marginal bands. The model is enhanced with the recognition of venous strips as a major pattern element. (continued…)

Genus Danaus Monarch Butterfly Wing Posters

This very familiar Danaus plexippus species is also known as the Monarch Butterfly. Notice the striking venous stripes represented by a darkened region on either side of each wing vein. This bold pattern is the model for other species to mimic as predators are well aware of the distasteful glycosides this species stored up from eating poisonous Milkweed plants as a caterpillar.

Genus Danaus Monarch Butterfly Wing Posters

Characteristic patterns on a wing are the result of the wing shape, the mapping of the wing venation, and the actual shape size and coloration of pattern elements formed by the scale cells. There are several studied processes that are responsible for modifying the generic pattern elements found in the Nymphalid ground plan into the spectacular diversity we have come to expect from these inspirational insect designers. Each individual wing cell (the space between the wing veins) are capable of customizing the pattern elements found within. This kind of cell-by-cell customization gives the freedom to resize, shape and color individual elements. An additional mechanism worth noting is known as pierellization where pattern elements become so dislocated from their expected neighboring wing cell element that they align to other elements. This freedom of pattern manipulation has allowed species like the Indian Leaf Butterfly to simulate a very convincing leaf pattern on the ventral wing surfaces, complete with venation that mimics a leaf rather that a butterfly wing. (continued…)

Genus Cynthia Painted Lady Butterfly Wing Posters

Represented by three Cynthia species in this poster, you see the American Painted Lady, the Painted Lady and the West Coast Lady. Cynthia species are quite varied and clearly demonstrate the norm towards ornately detailed ventral wing surfaces versus the simpler and bolder designs (not shown) of the upper dorsal wing surfaces.

Genus Cynthia Painted Lady Butterfly Wing Posters

Many adaptational and morphological observations can be made from the study of butterfly wing patterns including mimicry, polymorphism, polyphenism, and dimorphism. A couple of mimicry systems are observed in butterfly wing designs. Batesian mimicry is defined by a tasty butterfly resembling a well know distasteful species. In this case, a few butterflies gain the associative protection of mimicking the Monarch butterfly’s orange and black striped pattern. Mullerian mimicry is where a group of distasteful butterfly species have evolved to all look alike thus increasing the chances of recognition that a particular design and coloration scheme represents bad meal. Polymorphism the genetic code of a single species is capable of a couple of distinctly different looking adults. This characteristic is typically found in tropical butterflies. Polyphenism is defined by genetically identical caterpillars producing pattern variations in the adults due to environmental triggers such as the length of the day (season), temperature, or the relative availability of water. Dimorphism is where genetic differences between males and females result in differing color patterns for each gender. (continued…)

Genus Colias Sulphur Butterfly Wing Posters

The Colias genus utilizes waste products to generate the yellow and orange coloration characteristic of this group. Males and females of the California Dogface butterfly look rather different with the male dorsal forewing design resemble the profile of a poodle and reflecting light in the ultra violet range. Coilas eurytheme has a melanized (more black scales) spring forms that allows this butterfly to warm up more efficiently in cooler Spring conditions.

Genus Colias Sulphur Butterfly Wing Poster

In a few cases, specific butterfly patterns are more readily associated with functional advantages. The dorsal patternation of butterflies function as gender signals, allowing mates to recognize one another. Advertising your unpalatable nature through bold aposematic (warning) coloration, successfully establishes a learned avoidance response from predators. Camouflage and cryptic coloration have the obvious advantage of rendering the butterfly harder to find. Eyespots (ocelli) flashed as an otherwise cryptic butterfly makes a hasty retreat, can confuse an attacker or at least help to focus the attack towards non-critical regions of the body. Melanization is a useful device employed by some butterflies and moths. Forms that have extra black (melanized) scales are better equipped to absorb heat from the sun and thus thermoregulate themselves to activity in cooler climates. Many other design and wing structure advantages have been studied but his sampling should give you an idea that many designs amount to considerably more than an aesthetically pleasing set of wings.
(continued…)

Genus Caligo Owl Butterfly Wing Posters

The Caligo genus are tropical butterflies belonging to the Brassolidae Family. They possess huge eyespots on their ventral hindwings and often have iridescent forewings. The eyespots startle or disorient predators while the ripple pattern helps to break up the edge of the wing as the butterfly rests. Notably, this ripple pattern is applied in a random pattern that differs from the left and right wing surfaces.

Genus Caligo Owl Butterfly Wing Poster

From a developmental perspective, the formation of a butterfly wing pattern is the result of a complex coordination of processes, timing and genetics. The mechanics that determine the ground scales (background), pigmentation, pattern element size, shape, position, and symmetry, ultimately determine the pattern. Experiments have revealed pattern determination is established and finalized within the first few days after the caterpillar enters its pupal stage. At this time, the wing views, the wing shape, the epidermal membrane, pattern elements and coloration are determined. At the root of the pattern development mechanism is the diffusion of a morphogenic substance through the epidermal layers. These diffusions, controlled by activating and inhibiting enzymes, result in gradients of the morphogenic substance. Reaction thresholds based on the concentration of the morphogen determine the contours of the actual pattern elements. Some pattern elements are formed from the source position of the morphogen while others are initiated by the absence of the morphogen (concentration sink). The exact pattern shapes are usually formed from the contours generated from the addition of multiple morphogen gradient sources or inhibitions. Controlled by genetic and environmental factors, the final pattern might best be described as a developmental freeze-frame at the beginning of pupal stage when the pattern finalized.
Whether you focus on the micro architecture of an individual scale cell, or prefer to sit back and enjoy the ethereal beauty of form and design in motion as a butterfly skirts the thermals, it is easy to see why this order of insects have become so revered.
(continued…)

Ants, Bees and Wasps on Stamps

Click on a stamp to enlarge:


Bear and Honey

North Borneo, 1902 – 10c

Bear and Honey

North Borneo, 1902 – 10c

Pangolin with Ants

Indonesia, 1956 – 35s

Carpenter Bee
Xylocopa flavonigrescens
Indonesia, 1970 – 20+2rp

Carpenter Bee
Xylocopa violacea
Yugoslavia, 1978 – 4.9

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Spain, 1962 – 1p

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Spain, 1962 – 5p

Honeybees
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1963 – 60b

Honeybees
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1963 – 1.2L

Honeybees
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1963 – 1.35L

Honeybees
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1963 – 1.6L

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Guinea, 1973 – 40f

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Switzerland, 1950 – 30+10c

Honey Bee
apis melifera
Korea, 1966 – 10w

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Hungary, 1958 – 1ft

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Italy, 1953 – 25L

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Czechoslovakia, 1963 – 1k

Honeybee
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1965 – 55b

Honeybee Stylized
Apis mellifera
Romania, 1965 – 1.60L

Army Ants

army ants in the amazon
  • Common Name:Army Ants
  • Order Name: Hymenoptera
  • Family Name: Formicidae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Army ant is a name that people use for ants that move in a line killing every insect and small animal in their path. People use other names for these ants, including Driver Ants, Legionary Ants, and even Visiting Ants.

Scientists describe army ants as ants that have two characteristics: migration or nomadic lifestyle and group predation. There are actually several different species of ants that behave this way. Some live in Africa and some live in South and Central America.

Army ants live in temporary nests. They seldom make underground burrows like other ants. The temporary nests, or bivouacs, are places where the ants rest between their hunting raids. The bivouac might be inside a hollow log, or it might be out in the open.

The ants often make the bivouac hanging from a tree limb. Thousands of workers will link their legs and their mandibles (jaws) and make an enclosed hammock for the queen. Sometimes the workers enclose the immature ants inside the hammock as well.

The army ants stay in the bivouac for a few weeks. Once queen comes out of the resting place and the colony starts to migrate.

Some species of army ants migrate in line. Other species migrate in a fan-shaped wave of ants. Many thousand ants move at once. The soldier ants march at the side of the column to defend the queen.

During the march, some of the workers carry the immature ants. Other workers gather all the food that they can find. As they go, the workers kill every insect, spider, snake, and lizard in their path. Birds and animals hear the ants marching and try to get out of the way.

As they march, the ants can climb trees or shrubs. They have been known to go through houses during the march. The residents of the houses scramble to safety when the column of ants comes in. The people remove their poultry and livestock to a place of safety.

If there is a benefit for the people, it is that when they return home, there are no roaches or other insect pests in their houses! The ants eat everything that does not run or fly away.

Scientists are studying these ants to find out what causes them to migrate as they do. Scientists once thought that the army ants migrated when there was no food left in the area. Now some scientists think that the timing of the migration might be linked with the development of the eggs and the immature ants in the colony. They suspect that there is a connection between the queen’s egg production and the colony’s movements.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito closeup, Picture
  • Common Name:Mosquito
  • Order Name: Diptera
  • Family Name: Culicidae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosquitoes are members of the insect order Diptera along with flies and gnats. In fact, the name mosquito comes from the Spanish word that means small fly.

Most people recognize how bothersome mosquitoes can be when they are buzzing and biting. Many people do not realize that mosquitoes are vectors of several human diseases including malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, and filariasis. Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus from birds to people and horses.

Adult mosquitoes are slender, long-legged insects. They have round heads and long, slender wings. When they are resting, the wings lie flat on the insect’s back.

Both male and female mosquitoes feed on honeydew, nectar, and plant juices. They use the sugar from these liquids for daily life. Female mosquitoes bite people and animals to get a blood meal. The female needs the blood in order to produce eggs. In a laboratory study, a female mosquito experienced a weight gain of 140% after a blood meal.

After a blood meal female mosquitoes deposit their eggs in or near a body of water. Each genus of mosquito has a slightly different process for egg production.

The Anopheles mosquitoes lay the eggs singly on the surface of the water. The eggs hatch in a few days. The Culex mosquitoes lay the eggs in floating rafts containing about 100 eggs. These eggs also hatch in a few days. The Aedes mosquitoes deposit the eggs in moist soil near the water. The eggs do not hatch until the water rises and covers the eggs. These eggs can stay in the soil for several years before they hatch.

Female mosquitoes use almost any standing water as a breeding site. Drainage ditches are the types of mosquito breeding sites that most people recognize. Holes in trees and un-used articles often fill with rain can also be used as breeding site plus planters that have been over-watered can even be mosquito-breeding sites.

When the eggs hatch, the larvae develop in the water. Many people call the larvae “wigglers” because of the way that they move. The larvae of most mosquitoes have a breathing tube that extends out of the water. The larvae shed their skin several times as they grow.

When they have finished growing, the larvae change into adults. This is the pupa stage. During the pupa stage, they float in a shell just under the surface of the water. While they are in this pupal shell, the insects are very active. Many people call them ‘tumblers’ during this stage.

When the mosquitoes have changed into adults, the shell splits and the adult insect comes out. Most adult mosquitoes emerge at night. Scientists think that this is because the water surface is most calm at night so there is less risk of the insect drowning.

Many different species of mosquitoes bite at different times of the day. Many mosquitoes that are important as disease vectors bite at night –from dusk to dawn. Some nocturnal (night-time) mosquitoes include the encephalitis mosquito, Culex tarsalis, and the Aedes vexans. However, some that are disease vectors bite during the day. One that bites during the day is the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, bites during the daytime and also at dawn and dusk.

Mosquito control at home begins with repairing window screens and keeping doors closed. Eliminating standing water will help reduce mosquito-breeding sites. In ponds and fountains, fish are often good for controlling mosquito larvae.

To avoid mosquito bites, many people avoid going outdoors at dusk and again at dawn. Some people find that a fan helps to keep mosquitoes away from their porch or patio.