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.