Friday, February 11, 2011

The Adventures of Bug Girl

Last spring, Nicole and I took Ecology Lab (BIEB 121-- now being offered Spring, Summer, and Fall 2011!) with Dr. Heather Henter. Part of the course involved creating an insect collection with different orders of insects that we can find locally. At first, I was a bit squeamish about the whole process-- chasing, catching, terminating, preserving and pinning BUGS... not my idea of a good time spent in Sunny San Diego. But by the end of the quarter, I really began to appreciate the complexities of such tiny organisms that we swat away idly every day. This last summer I had the opportunity to go to the Sonoran Desert in Mexico with Dr. Therese Markow for an advanced field ecology lab and was further wowed by the biodiversity that exists in the insect world.

Finally, in the fall, I took Insect Ecology with Dr. David Holway. More insects, more cool and fascinating life histories, more insect collecting-- but this time it was all in digital. Here I present to you my findings from fall quarter-- all found around UCSD.

Grasshopper (Nymph)
Order: Orthoptera
Common name: Grasshopper (top), Katydid (bottom)
How do I know if something I find is an orthoptera?
  • Large, strong hindlegs for jumping
  • Acoustic communication
This order is often nocturnal and are known for their "singing" as a way to attract mates and establish territory. Other well-known members of this order are locusts and crickets.
Order: Hemiptera
Common name: Harlequin Bug
How do I know if something I find is a hemiptera?
  • Piercing, needle-like mouthparts
  • Wings create an X-shape when folded across the back
This order has an exceptionally diverse number of individual species. Other well-known members of this order are also aphids, mealy bugs, cochineal, and cicadas.
Order: Lepidoptera
Common name: Moth
How do I know that something I find is a lepidoptera?
  • Scale-like setae on the wings (looks kind of like dust or fine glitter)
  • Long, curled mouth part called a proboscis
This order is comprised only of butterflies and moths, who are often either diurnal (butterflies) or nocturnal (moths).
Order: Blattodea termitoidae
Common name: Termite
How do I know that something I find is a blattodea?

  • Hard, sclerotrized plate extending from abdomen past the base of the head
The order was recently created as a combination of the previous isoptera and blattodea orders after researchers found that termites were very closely related to wood-eating cockroaches. Other well-known members of this order are cockroaches.

Order: Phthriaptera
Common name: Thrip
How do I know that something I find is a phthriptera?

  • 3-component mouthparts designed for biting and sucking
Almost every flower contains thrips. Just gently shake a flower over a piece of paper to dislodge the thrips and watch carefully. :)

There are many, many, MANY more insects to be found around the UCSD campus and its natural reserves-- this is just a small sampling of some particularly common orders and individuals. Happy Hunting!

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