This poster created by a pest control company claims to show dangerous American spiders. It is full of bad information. Half of the species on this chart don’t even occur in the USA. Please, don’t share it anymore!
Please don’t rely on this chart for meaningful information about American spiders. This chart is the result of a clever company re-purposing something they put together for Australia. Seriously; the Australian spider chart is exactly the same! And, frankly, the info isn’t all that accurate for Australians, either.
This post will address the parts of this poster that are wrong (pretty much all of it), and then suggest some resources for accurate information about American spiders.
Info that is completely wrong on the poster:
- Mouse spider: does not occur in the US. Mouse spiders are not aggressive, and often “dry bite” when disturbed. In other words, most of the time they don’t even inject venom!
- Black House Spider: does not occur in the US. Also, known to be timid and not dangerous.
- St. Andrew’s Cross Spider: Does not occur in the US. Harmless.
Info that is mostly wrong on the poster:
- Hobo spider: the species pictured does not occur in the US. We have some spiders called hobo spiders, but they are not the same species as the Australian one with a scary bite. Introduced hobo spiders in the US don’t seem to have venom as toxic as the rumors. In fact, a recent study of the introduced hobo species found they were fairly harmless.
- Brown Recluse: This is actually a complex of up to 6 different species of spider, and they do not occur in all areas of the US. There is a complex mythology about the bite of the brown recluse. Research suggests that the bite, while not pleasant, is not a pathway to nasty necrosis. A lot of other things cause necrosis of the skin, which is often blamed on a hapless spider.
- Wolf spiders: Lots of wolf spiders occur in the US, but they are of minimal medical importance. No serious medical consequences of a wolf spider bite has been reported, and their bite is not painful or toxic.
Information that is slightly right on the poster:
- Garden orb-weaving spiders do occur in the US, and are beneficial and harmless.
- Huntsman spiders: the species in the photo does not occur in the US. We have some huntsman spiders, but they are much more modestly sized than the Australian and tropical versions. Harmless unless provoked, and even then pretty harmless.
- Trap Door spiders do occur in the US, although not the species pictured. They are harmless and fascinating!
- Black Widow Spiders do have a toxic bite, and do occur in the US, but that’s about as far as the correctness goes. There are 5 different Widow species in the US, and Black Widow bites are not lethal to humans. In fact, as of 2011, there are no known reported deaths from black widow bites in the US. Black widow spider bites can cause muscle cramping and abdominal pain in some people; pregnant women and children are most at risk.
To sum up: This poster is unhelpful and mostly filled with bullshit with regards to US spiders. Don’t rely on it, and don’t share it.
How can you know what information online about spiders is good information?
Easy! Go to your local Extension website. In the United States, every single state has an Extension service (or did until state budget cuts a few years ago, anyway).
“Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in communities of all sizes.”
The Extension Service is charged by the USDA and each state government with producing factual, well-researched information for consumer use. You can tell you are on an Extension website because it will be affiliated with a land-grant university, and have a .edu web address. So, for example, searching for “Nebraska fact sheet spiders” gives me this information specific to that state (and also some tips about keeping a wolf spider as a pet!).
There are amazing, free resources available to you. Use them! And look for that .edu web address. Don’t listen to stories of a friend who knows a friend who lost their Aunt Gertie to a giant toxic banana spider that was in a pack of underpants. Seek out reliable information.
Some actual helpful, authoritative resources about American spiders:
- Spiders do not bite. Some common sense about spiders from an expert. A Must Read!
- Real, peer-reviewed info about American Spiders
- Common spiders of the East Coast
- Seriously, you weren’t bitten by a brown recluse
- How to identify a Hobo spider (PDF)
- Sac spiders don’t really make webs in your scrotum.
A personal note:
I just finished a move across country. As part of this move, I had to clean out the space behind my washing machine. I was hunkered over shelves, trying to wipe things off, and when I stood up I’m fairly sure that my entire head was covered in cobwebs. I…may have let out a sound of a frequency last produced by Little Richard hitting one of his high notes.
I mention this to let you know that even bug people get the heebie jeebies around spiders sometimes. It’s ok to not like spiders as long as you remember the vast majority of spiders are your friends. You don’t have to kill them! They are valuable (and free!) pest control for your yard and garden. Unless there is something seriously wrong with your personal hygiene, spiders have no interest in living on you or in you. Try to live and let live.
Dr. Doug Yanega is the Senior Museum Scientist at the University of California, Riverside, and an acting Commissioner of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. His undergraduate and graduate degrees were under the tutelage of George Eickwort (Cornell University) and Charles D. Michener (University of Kansas), respectively, two of the world’s foremost bee authorities. Dr. Yanega has a broad background, and many of his publications deal with the natural history, pollination ecology, and taxonomy of bees.
Doug published this on Facebook, and I wanted this to get a broader audience, so invited him here for a guest post.
Back in 2006, a team of bee researchers put out a report regarding a phenomenon affecting honey bees commonly called “Fall Dwindle Disease”, in which they decided that this name was misleading, and suggested a new name for this syndrome – the name they suggested as a replacement was “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). It’s worth reading it (at http://www.beekeeping.com/articles/us/ccd.pdf), not only to get some perspective on things, but because – amazingly enough – even though this is the document that first used and defined the term, virtually no one who has published on CCD has ever cited this document… not even the people who wrote it.
To anyone acquainted with scientific research or journalism, the idea of using a term that was recently defined and NOT citing (or at least reading) the original definition goes completely against what anyone would consider to be proper research. Basically, not doing one’s homework. Yet, this is precisely what has happened with this document. It can’t even be retrieved from the website on which it originally appeared, but if you’ve read it, you’re now better educated on the history of CCD than many of the scientists and journalists and beekeepers who have published on CCD in the past 7 years.
Why do I stress this so much? It’s quite straightforward: most of the scientists and journalists and beekeepers who have published on CCD in the past 7 years have either stated or implied that CCD is something that had never existed prior to 2006. And yet, the original paper defining CCD spelled out that it was an existing condition that they were simply coining a new name for, in the hope that the new name would be less misleading. Oh, the irony. Even more baffling is that it’s not like this information was totally lost or hidden – it’s been visible in the Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder), with a citation, for all this time, so anyone in the world who simply Googled “Colony Collapse Disorder” could find this reference, since the WikiP article is the first link shown.
It gets even better: in both 2007 and 2009 another paper pointed out that there were at least 18 historical episodes of similar large-scale losses of honey bees dating back to 1869, at least several of which had symptoms similar enough that they cannot be ruled out as being the exact same ailment. Yet, how often have you seen any of the scientists and journalists and beekeepers acknowledging that any theories about the cause of CCD need to accommodate the evidence for similar bee crashes that pre-date neonicotinoid pesticides, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), migratory beekeeping, cell phones, genetically modified crops, or any of the other human-made “causes” that have been run up the proverbial flagpole?
Once again, there are an awful lot of people who are not doing their homework (admittedly, it is a big body of literature, but we’re talking about papers *central* to the issue). That 2009 paper also included the following statement, and I’ll quote it because it’s so important:
“Of the more than 200 variables we quantified in this study, 61 were found with enough frequency to permit meaningful comparisons between populations. None of these measures on its own could distinguish CCD from control colonies.”
Of the 61 variables quantified (including adult bee physiology, pathogen loads, and pesticide levels), no single factor was found with enough consistency to suggest one causal agent. Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with more pathogens than control populations, suggesting either greater pathogen exposure or reduced defenses in CCD bees.” Yes, this study did actually look for connections to pesticides, Varroa mites, beekeeping practices, and other things, and no such connections held up to scientific scrutiny.
Here’s the thing about this: if you look at a lot of what you see these days, be it in the scientific literature or in the media, people are running around looking for things that kill honey bees, and when they find something that does so, they often make this GARGANTUAN leap to claim that since X kills honey bees, and since CCD kills honey bees, then X must cause CCD. Logic fail, anyone?
Does anyone seriously dispute that neonicotinoid pesticides are capable of killing honey bees? No. Does anyone dispute that Varroa mites can kill honey bees? No. Does anyone dispute that Nosema (a microsporidian fungus) kills honey bees? No. Sure, there are some ridiculous claims that no one in the scientific community WOULD stand behind (e.g., cell phones or chemtrails), but, by and large, most of the things that any one team of researchers or another puts forward as THE cause of CCD are things that, in and of themselves, are perfectly plausible as significant sources of bee mortality. But that DOES NOT mean that any of them is causally linked to CCD.
Why not? Go back and read the papers I linked; (1) there’s a list of symptoms that characterize CCD, which are not universally present in these various “smoking gun” studies, and (2) they’re talking about something dating back to the 1800s. Did they have neonicotinoids or HFCS back in 1869? In 1969? If not, then those studies fail to do what ANY genuinely scientific hypothesis needs to do: offer an explanation consistent with ALL of the evidence (Occam’s Razor, anyone?).
In effect, what is happening is that researchers are studying one possible factor at a time, and seeing only a tiny part of the whole picture. It’s the parable of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, where each one describes only that which is in their range of perception, instead of examining ALL of the evidence (including reading ALL of the literature) and coming up with a theory which explains all of it. We’ve got a pile of incomplete theories all competing for the media spotlight, each with its own proponents, and sometimes with a non-scientific agenda.
They’re using a single name, CCD, but may be using it to describe a pile of entirely different ailments. Even worse, there are fringe theories and fuzzy thinking and red herrings abounding, and the public can get easily confused – for example, not realizing that there are some 20,000 species of bees in the world, and only ONE of them is affected by CCD (yes, some other species of bees are dying off, but it’s a different set of things that are responsible).
What may well be a complete and sensible theory is out there, however, and it is referred to above, and hinted at elsewhere (mostly by folks who were involved with the original CCD work) though it has not yet been fully explored or elucidated to everyone’s satisfaction; I’ll highlight again the phrase “reduced defenses in CCD bees.” Way back when this whole thing came to everyone’s attention, Diana Cox-Foster and the other researchers made observations suggesting that CCD might be the result of bees with a compromised immune system.
For those of us who remember when AIDS first came to public attention, there are some striking parallels, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to ultimately find out that CCD is something that works in much the same way. That is, if you have bees with a compromised immune system, then they could become vulnerable in such a way that a whole range of things that normally might NOT be lethal, are suddenly lethal.
Honey bees are exposed to all sorts of pathogens, chemicals (including not just pesticides, but HFCS, and mite-killing agents used by beekeepers), and other stress-inducing factors on a routine basis, and the levels of exposure to these factors are normally not enough to kill off healthy colonies. But if they are NOT actually healthy, and instead are immuno-compromised, then those same levels of exposure might trigger something catastrophic. Recall that the HIV virus does not itself kill people; the causes of death in AIDS victims are a variety of other diseases that would ordinarily have been fought off by the immune system. If no one had ever discovered the HIV virus, we would be seeing evidence of people dying from all sorts of other things, and likely pointing blame at each factor independently, while missing that there was something connecting them all.
Sound familiar? There is (and has been, all along) evidence that CCD is contagious, yet how often is that discussed? That evidence needs to be accounted for, along with all of the other patterns we’re seeing. There are people looking for viruses and other pathogens that could be at the root of CCD, and some tantalizing results have appeared – though such announcements haven’t been definitive, and (perhaps more importantly) haven’t gotten more attention than the incomplete (but more sensational) theories have gotten.
Not only would it be nice if more of the people who reviewed papers trying to link various things to CCD asked pointed questions like “How well can this theory explain similar bee dieoffs in the previous century?” or “How well can this theory explain the patterns of contagious pathology seen in CCD-affected apiaries?”, but it would also be far more professional and appropriate to do so, given that the scientific method is not based on cherry-picking of evidence, or sensationalism. I’m prepared to find out that I’m wrong, but I want to see some real evidence, for which there is an unambiguous and coherent explanation.
A reasonable question you could ask is “Well, even if we accept the idea that there’s an underlying pathogen, why is this all happening now, and to this degree, and over this length of time? If this is the same disease we’ve seen outbreaks of spanning several decades, why does this seem so much worse this time around?” I can offer two observations: (1) the way the modern news media network seeks out and reports on stories is VERY different, as is the level of environmental concern among the general public, and even if the exact same thing DID happen in the 1960s, it would not have made international news headlines; and (2) there are, quite simply, MORE potentially harmful things that honey bees are exposed to now than they were in the past – meaning that if the diefoffs are more widespread, more severe, and more prolonged, it should not be all that surprising.
A reasonable course of action, to my mind, is acknowledging that we aren’t likely to find that any man-made factors are the true cause of CCD, devoting energy to looking for contagious pathogenic agents, and taking a closer look at genetic diversity in honey bees themselves (e.g., are there strains that are resistant to CCD?), while at the same time working towards reducing the exposure and impacts of man-made factors that are capable of harming bees (but without BLAMING them in the process, or overreacting). Does every potentially harmful thing need to be banned outright, or just used more prudently? Is there a level of exposure to neonicotinoids that is not harmful? Can beekeepers simply use less HFCS, or less or different acaricides, or make other changes to their practices that will result in fewer bee deaths? Answers may not be simple, nor black-and-white, but real science rarely is.
[P.S. from Doug - the day after I first posted this on Facebook, the USDA released this PDF, in which the pre-2006 existence of CCD is once again not mentioned, despite having nearly all of the original co-authors among the 175 conference attendees. This is remarkable, and makes me wonder if people are intentionally trying to distance themselves from the original definition of CCD. It’s almost like someone publishing a paper coining the term “lung cancer” and then other people coming along and using that same term for every other known form of cancer, to the point where the original concept has been forgotten entirely.
The report states explicitly that honey bees are suffering from multiple different things, which I can’t dispute, and “CCD” is (at this point) being used as a blanket term for things that may have genuinely separate causes – but this is a practice I don’t like. If we KNOW there are multiple causes and multiple effects, then it confuses the issue to lump them all under a single name, and you’re going to have serious problems coming to solid conclusions about treatment, prevention, and epidemiology, not to mention communicating with the public. I’ll give just one example to make my point: several studies show that parasitic Varroa mites are strongly linked to CCD, and several other perfectly valid studies show that CCD can kill bees that have no Varroa mites. The net effect is that all we can say is “Beekeepers should prevent their bees from getting Varroa mites” – which is something everyone has known for decades. But if it turns out that some of the chemicals used to kill Varroa mites also weaken the bees, then by failing to tease apart the different contributing factors, we’ve made a vague recommendation that might have negative consequences. I’m not saying teasing these things apart is easy – experimental research on honey bee pathology is incredibly difficult, because it’s nearly impossible to get large numbers of replicates, or establish proper controls for all variables – but I still think that we should TRY to keep the different causes separate, and maybe we can some day figure out what the original CCD was.
It’s Spring! I’ve seen a few queen bumble bees out and buzzing around in my yard. Bumbles are one of the first pollinators out in the spring, and the fuzzy adorableness of their bodies does help retain heat.
(Pro Tip: From the shocked looks I’m getting, I guess not everyone stops to talk to foraging bumblebees. Huh. You may wish to learn from my fail on this one.)
Bumble bees are some of the first bees to fly in spring; they will fly in cooler temperatures and at lower light levels than many other bees. Cold, grey morning? Not a problem for a bumble! This makes them invaluable native pollinators.
Bumble bees have a slightly different life cycle than other native bees. While most native bees overwinter as pupae and emerge as adults in the spring, Bumble bee queens emerge as adults in the fall and search for overwintering sites, burrowing into leaf litter or loose soil to hide for the winter. Don’t rake your yard bare! That’s good winter shelter.
I love Rusty’s description of a queen bumble as analogous to a chicken. Because she builds her nest very early in spring when temperatures are still quite low, she incubates her eggs!
While the bumble bee queen hibernates she is neither eating nor working. Her depressed rate of metabolism allows her to live for long periods while burning very little fuel. In the spring, she must work hard. She begins by finding a suitable nesting spot. Next she builds a “honey pot” from wax and will use it to hold a small store of honey. She will also collect pollen, and make a pile of pollen mixed with honey called “bee bread.”
Here is where it gets weird. Much like a chicken, the queen bumble bee will lay her eggs on the pollen and then sit on them to keep them warm. During the development of the young bumble bees, the queen will eat the honey she stored in her pot. The first batch of young bees will be mostly workers—bees who can take over the household chores and foraging while the queen continues to lay eggs. Later in the season, she will lay some eggs that become queens and drones. These bees will be the ones that are responsible for the next generation.
This video about bumble bees has the feel of a school info film, but lots of great images of how a queen bumble bee creates her nest in the spring.
There is a handy guide to identifying your bumble at Xerces as well.
Other Bumble reads and videos:
- Thermal imaging of a queen bumble!
- Bumble bees at risk
- Want more tips to promote these gentle giants among bees? You can download a FREE guide to conserving bumble bees from Xerces!
- Tons more native bee infosheets and downloads at Xerces
Hi Everybody! Some quick updates:
- I am moving! I’m moving back to the Midwest the first week of May, so will be out of touch for most of that week.
- I have a contract to do some work for a company I’m quite geeked about. I won’t know until June if it will become full-time with benefits, so I’m going to be really focusing a lot of energy on that. Keep your fingers crossed that works out and I can come back to blogging this summer. They know who Bug Girl is, and are totally OK with that. That’s a first!
- This Happened. I’m in the Library of Congress!!
That’s all for now–here’s some awesome buggy stuff to read while I’m trying to get my life sorted:
- Can we make stabby leaves to kill stabby bed bugs?
- The Daily Show covers pubic lice, with an awesome cameo from John Waters. And yeah, not really endangered. But very funny.
- You might not think there would be money in pretending to be an Entomology Society to rip off scientists. You would be wrong.
- A Monster Manticore from Mozambique! Sorta.
In Bug Grad School I learned about a crazy group of flies called Hippoboscidae, or louse flies. These flies have adopted an ectoparasitic lifestyle, which means they live on other animals much like a tick or a louse. Most have lost their wings in the evolutionary scrabble to live on fur or feathers.
Having only ever seen these preserved in jars, or from engravings, I was very excited to find a video of one of these alive! Even better, it was a bat ked, which are really cool.
Things I learned today:
- You collect bat parasites by blowing gently on the bat’s fur.
- Carl Dick at Western Kentucky University is a master at blowing on bats, and specializes in Hippoboscids, which has to be pretty darn fascinating work.
- Bats do not enjoy being blown upon.
Here you go: Blowing on Bats For Science.
Here’s a view of a ked on the fluffy part of a bat. Warning: the squeamish may be creeped by this, because there is scurrying about. But it is AWESOME scurrying about, IMHO.
Standard disclaimers: Only professionals should blow on bats. Do not blow on bats without training and proper equipment. Do not taunt bats.
Thanks so much to BioInFocus for finding these videos!
I’m on the radio! Skeptically Speaking asked me to talk a little bit about insect conservation, in order to round out an interview with the author of Rat Island. (I haven’t read the book yet, but it looks pretty fascinating.)
I mostly discussed the 2012 report “Spineless”, published by IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature). You might recognize IUCN as author of the Red List, the definitive international list of species that are at risk of extinction.
Why should we care about a bunch of squishy boneless animals?
Because invertebrates make up EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL MULTICELLULAR SPECIES ON EARTH. They truly are the “little things that run the world.” The IUCN report suggests that 20% of those species are at risk. That is a big deal.
The report itself is fairly accessible to the lay reader, and includes lots of data, citations, and lovely photos of what we will be missing if we don’t start paying attention.
The topic I discussed was ecosystem services–the stuff we get for free simply by living on earth:
“The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – a four-year United Nations assessment of the condition and trends of the world’s ecosystems – categorizes ecosystem services as:
- Provisioning Services or the provision of food, fresh water, fuel, fiber, and other goods;
- Regulating Services such as climate, water, and disease regulation as well as pollination;
- Supporting Services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling; and
- Cultural Services such as educational, aesthetic, and cultural heritage values as well as recreation and tourism.”
For some reason, I ended up talking about poop and waste removal more than other ecosystem services, but insects also make up a major part of food chains all over the world. Birds and fish eat them. People eat them. They pollinate our crops and feed the world. Bugs are damn important.
We also talked a little bit about pest control services that intact ecosystems provide. For example, a 2009 study found that low-diversity cropping systems–think thousands of acres of corn and soybeans and nothing else–had 24% fewer predators.
We lose ecosystem services when we lose biodiversity.
To give you a sense of just how big the problem of species loss is, check out this diagram about terrestrial invertebrates from the IUCN report. This includes insects, spiders, and all the other spineless things that live on land.
You can see from this that 38% of the species in the IUCN database are already extinct or endangered. Thirty. Eight. Percent.
An additional 20% of species are listed as vulnerable to extinction.
OVER HALF of the species that are in the terrestrial invertebrate IUCN database are at risk of extinction or already gone!
What’s that grey category labeled “DD”? “Data Deficient.” Species are classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List if there is inadequate information to evaluate their extinction risk. Of the species with a listing for IUCN, we don’t know enough about 17% of them to assign a conservation status.
Here’s another way of looking at that. This is how IUCN organizes their categories of extinction risk, from high to low:
How many species is the IUCN diagram of terrestrial invertebrate conservation statuses based on? 3,623 species.
How many species of insects and spiders are there, that we know about? Over a million.
How many species of insects and spiders do we estimate actually exist, that are not included in this diagram? Over 5 million.
They don’t show up; we don’t even know enough to include them as “Not Evaluated.”
Chapter One of the IUCN report has the title “The Unraveling Underworld.” Yes. It is unraveling.
I can’t tell you what the consequences of species loss will be, but I can tell you I am sure it won’t be a good thing.
In the interview I mostly focused on how these changes will affect humans economically. We live in a time when utilitarian value is king; and when people are out of work and having trouble making ends meet, it’s really hard to argue that we should save a bug because it’s pretty.
But the truth is we just don’t know.
We don’t know which insects are the important ones. We don’t know which species is the one that when we lose it, things fall apart.
I think Aldo Leopold said it best:
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
Hurray! The cinematographer extraordinaire of tiny dancing spiders, Jurgen Otto, has posted a new peacock spider video! Remember, these adorable little spiders are usually less than 6mm in size.
I was going to write a post for you about peacock spiders, but it turns out that GrrlScientist already did that–so why not cruise over there and read her full story?
One of the most common phobias in the world is arachnophobia, the irrational fear of spiders. But there is one sort of spider out there that is so cute that even arachnophobes may like them.
I am talking about those diminutive jumping spiders (Family: Salticidae). Not only are these spiders very small, but they are generally colourful and they have keen eyesight — essential for stalking and quickly jumping upon their prey since they do not spin webs to ensnare insects…
But to my eyes, the most remarkable of all jumping spiders are those in the genus Maratus. Although only eight species have been formally described so far, at least 20 species are known, and all of them are found only in Australia.
Mid-March! A time when the US turns its attention to an important event–a type of March Madness, if you will. People stock up on food, buy special t-shirts, and drink alcoholic libations in mass quantities. It’s….
From his website:
“As the legend goes, St. Urho drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, saving the country’s grape harvest – and thus its wine crop. While this may have striking similarities to the story of an Irish saint who shall remain nameless, it’s clearly superior in a few key ways:
- St. Urho’s Day is celebrated on March 16th – before, and therefore superior to, anything that one might celebrate on March 17th.
- St. Urho saved grapes, ensuring abundance of wine. What could be more important to celebrate than wine? I mean really.
- St. Urho’s colors are royal purple and nile green – two colors, not one. Take that.”
To celebrate, Finnish-American towns hold parades, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, cribbage tournaments, and all sorts of other celebrations. Attendees are decked out in purple and green, surrounded by images of grasshoppers and grapes.”
St. Urho (pronounced “oorho”) is a completely made-up saint. Essentially, Finnish Minnesotans were sick of green beer and Irish hoopla in March, and decided they needed their own holiday on March 16th:
“The legend says St. Urho chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (roughly translated: ‘Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!’).”
Urho’s victory over grasshoppers is celebrated by this statue in Menahga, MN. A very amazing chainsaw sculpture! There also is a lovely giant grasshopper sculpture in Kaleva, Michigan. Will I be making a detour to see that soon? Ya, you betcha.
Support this champion of biological control by drinking some purple wine or purple beer March 16th, in honor of St. Urho’s entomological feat. Here’s a list of St. Urho Celebrations you can attend.
Lastly, a this handy educational video about St. Urho:
And a recipe for a traditional Finnish Stew (which contains no grasshoppers, alas).
Finally, signs of spring are beginning to show here in New England. Birds are singing, and hopefully some of our tiny, shiny little migrants will be returning soon.
There is a Citizen Science project you can participate in that will help document the migration of hummingbirds in the spring:
Starting March 15, 2013, the Audubon Society needs citizen scientists to track, report on, and follow the spring hummingbird migration in real time. A free mobile app makes it easy to report sightings, share photos and learn more about these remarkable birds.
Your participation will help scientists understand how hummingbirds are impacted by climate change, flowering patterns, and feeding by people.
Most people think of hummingbirds as nectar feeders, but they do also snack on insects. Here’s an adorable example:
Many hummer species also steal spiderwebs to make their nests. You can see an Anna’s Hummingbird make her nest with spiderwebs here. Much cuteness and stomping to compact the nesting materials.