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Stinking Stink Bugs

Wednesday December 12, 2018
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Stinking Stinkbugs

brown marmorated stinkbug

The brown marmorated stinkbug has ruined many an apple.

The Brown Marmorated Stinkbug

Invasive Stinkbugs

Here in America, we have our own native stinkbugs: of which, as kids, I'm sure there isn't a one of us that hasn't harassed a stink bug long enough into rearing its hindquarters – just for the fun of watching it do so. But, there’s a new bug in town – the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug.

This particular stinkbug is believed to have arrived in the country by accident via cargo ships from Asia. The Asian stink bug originated in China, Japan, and Korea; it was first discovered in Pennsylvania and is now established in 41 states (including California).

Map of origins of the brown marmolated stink bug

The Brown Marmolated Stink Bug´s Native Land is Asia.

The brown marmorated stinkbug is only about the size of a dime but it sure has cost a “boatload” of money in crop damage since it “sailed” into our ports.

Stinking Stinkbug Invasion

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Department, the brown marmorated stinkbug is a “winged invader from Asia that is eating our crops and infesting U.S. homes . . .”

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Bumblebee Robber Flies – Mimics

Monday September 23, 2013
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Robber Flies – The Great Pretenders

This morning I stood in the doorway of Gerry´s office and declared:

“Gerry, I am very disappointed in the animal kingdom, specifically insects!” “Why? What´s going on?” “Well…..remember that picture I took of what I thought was a furry, sweet-looking mimic Bumblebee fly? Turns out it´s a garden monster!!!” “Why, what does it do?” “It lurks on the leaves of plants watching for innocent honey bees (all the while pretending to be a bee itself), then catches the bee with its strong forelegs, paralyzes it and sucks all the juices out – leaving nothing but an empty bee shell!” “Well, that´s how nature is….” “I know, I know….don´t even get me started on Tarantula Hawks!”

Then I went back to my office and started writing about this “Garden Monster” or as my Park Ranger friend Jeff calls them, “the Arnold Schwarzenegger of insects.”

Bumblebee Mimic

Bumblebee Robber Fly (Laphria astur) – The Great Pretender

Bumblebee Mimics

Mimics are great pretenders. This particular mimic above is trying very hard to look like a Bumblebee, not only to deceive unsuspecting honeybees and wasps, which it feeds on, but other would-be predators into thinking it is a real live, Bumblebee – capable of stinging. In actuality, it´s just a fly……a robber fly robbing the life right out of its prey.

Close-up of Bumblebee Robber Fly

Don´t mess with robber flies – “They´ll be back!”

Robber flies are of the family Asilidae (true flies); they have just two wings (and no stinger), whereas wasps and bees have four wings. These mimics are also called “assassin flies”  because they lie in wait until an unsuspecting wasp, bee, butterfly, or beetle passes by, then the bumblebee mimic attacks.  It uses its dagger-like proboscis to cut into the victim´s skeleton and then injects a combination of venom and digestive enzymes.  This enables the robber fly to both paralyze and liquefy the innards of its victim – and then suck them dry. Read more


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Spiders in Culture and History

Friday April 19, 2013
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Spiders Depicted in Various Cultures

In many cultures worldwide, spiders are considered benevolent creatures that bring happiness, good luck and/or money.  Chinese have a high regard for spiders and call them “good luck” or “happiness spiders” because they descend from heaven above.  In India, it is said that spiders are spread like confetti at weddings!  In Ancient Egypt, the goddess Neith was associated with the spider as the “spinner” and “weaver” of destiny.

Egyptian Goddess Neith - Goddess of Weaving and War

Egyptian Goddess Neith – Goddess of Weaving and War

As a deity, the goddess Neith wove the entire world into being with her loom.  It is said she reweaves the world daily much like a spider that consumes and reweaves its own web.  Arachnida, the spider class in taxonomy, originates from the Greek word Arachne, meaning “spider.”  Arachne, according to Greek myths, was a human very adept at weaving who thought she was a better weaver than the goddess Athena. Read more


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The Island of Sardinia

Sardinia, Italy, is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. The island terrain resembles a quilt of sandy beaches, forested mountain peaks, valleys of citrus groves, and pastures of happily grazing sheep.

Sheep grazing on the hills of Sardinia, Italy Sheep near Lula, Sardinia, Italy. Casu marzu cheese is made with ewe´s milk.

Thousands of stone buildings called “Nuraghes” dot the landscape as testimony to an ancient past. Traditionally, Sardinian men worked as farmers and shepherds; some families today continue to raise sheep as a means of income. Sheep are milked twice a day to create Pecorino, a cheese used for Sardinia´s Casu marzu.

Old Map of Sardina, Italy Sardinia, Italy is the 2nd largest island in the Mediterranean.

Sardinia´s Casu Marzu

Casu marzu is a specialty cheese that was outlawed for a period of time by the EU (European Union). During this period, die-hard fans had to purchase Casu marzu from the black market. Sardinian sheep farmers relying on Casu marzu as a family business, fought to have the ban lifted. Read more


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Cheese Mites

Thursday January 24, 2013
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Cheese Mites – France’s Mimolette

The next time you´re eating out, you may think twice about ordering “extra cheese.”  Did you know that some cheeses have mites?  And there are other cheeses that have maggots?  What´s gross to some of us is but a delicacy to others….  personally, I love cheese and like trying different varieties but after researching cheese mites, I´ve decided a part-time job as a cheese connoisseur is not for me!

Mimolette Cheese French Mimolette Cheese: The textured crust is caused by cheese mites. Doesn’t look too unusual, right? Keep reading! Read more


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True Bugs

The Red-shouldered Bug

Red-shouldered bugs actually have red shoulders!

An afternoon walk usually involves having my “nose to the ground” checking for any interesting insect activity.

This particular bug was very lucky I was looking down or it may have been stepped on…it´s little life cut short by a size 8 sneaker!

The first thing I noticed was its beautiful coloring of bluish-black wings with red markings and red eyes.

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Honey Bee on Apple Ice Plant

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt

The earliest methods of beekeeping (apiculture) are recorded on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. Sugar was unknown in the region and Egyptians had to rely on honey to sweeten their breads, cakes, beer, and wine. Egyptians captured wild bees and created hives out of baskets made from reeds. The reliefs from Egyptian tombs show hives stacked on top of one another, similar to today´s beekeeping practices. Beekeeping was a migratory occupation; Egyptian Beekeepers loaded the basket hives onto small boats that sailed along the Nile in search of blooming flowers. Read more


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