Thursday, July 28, 2011


Photo courtesy of Katie Bradshaw (SCB Citizen).
The past couple weeks I have received numerous calls and inquiries about dragonflies. It is common for adult dragonflies to make an appearance this time of year. The last couple years, there has been more rain than the 10-year average in the panhandle of Nebraska. Due to an increase in habitat and food, dragonflies have done well. In fact, they have done so well that some people are actually concerned about their large numbers. However, what some people do not realize is that dragonflies are predacious. Fortunately, they feed on pest insects that also benefit from all of the rain that we have had, such as, mosquitoes and biting flies. They scoop them out of the air with the long setae that coat their legs. So, you see, it's a natural phenomenon and could be considered a balanced ecosystem process that benefits us greatly through the reduction of disease vectors -- dragonflies provide ecosystem services.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sometimes entomology can be a little herpetological...

Johan on the "Panhandle R&E Entomology Field Machine".
I have a graduate student doing some pretty cool work with root aphids and sugar beets. We were engaged in a round of aphid infestation in his sugar beet field plots today. However, earlier this week, we collected pitfall trap samples and noticed that they catch vertebrates as well -- tiger salamanders (n = 1) and toads (n = 2) so far. Yes, I too was surprised to find amphibians in a sugar beet field in western Nebraska. I wouldn't exactly describe the climate here as humid.

Sarah, with her awesome bullsnake handling skills.
An annoyed bullsnake.
Anyway, the amphibians seemed to almost force themselves through the funnels and into the cups of the traps. This is surprising considering that the funnel holes are about 1-inch in diameter and are supposed to keep larger vertebrates out. I have assumed that they are somehow after a short-term cool-off in the killing solution in the trap cups. However, maybe they are on the run from bullsnakes. So far, just one. But, kudos to my helpful student worker, Sarah, who bravely handled our reptilian loiterer. Johan, on the other hand, is not a big fan of snakes (and that isn't actually the reason he is on top of the "field machine"). I was just glad that it wasn't a rattlesnake.