April 26, 2013
Ever seen a weird creature stranded in your bathtub, that could easily be mistaken for a discarded fake eyelash? Two of my friends, Matt and Kristi, have (p.s. they're Museum members too). In fact, they often find them in their bathroom. However, this week they had an unusual sighting. Matt was sleepily making breakfast and pulled out a package of oatmeal–lo and behold an eyelash bug darted out from the cupboard! Seriously, these bugs are FAST, so it's not surprising that it startled him. Quick to recover, he grabbed the nearest empty jar (only a bit of pickle juice was left), and captured the bug. Kristi kindly brought the bug to the Museum, so it could pose for a photo shoot and I could write this blog. Thanks guys!
Captive Eyelash Bug Love the gloves Kristi! So what is it? This bug is a House Centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata. It is another one of those creatures that calls our homes their homes. However, unlike some of the other arthropods that live with us, this guy is a predator that eats other household pests. Case in point–after we received Matt and Kristi's eyelash bug, we made it a little habitat and gave it some food. We popped a dermestid beetle larva in with it and it made quick business devouring it. You can see the remains of the beetle in the lower left of the picture below. FYI–dermestid beetles are pests that can eat wool, silk, leather, fur, pet hair, feathers and sometimes spices and grains too!
Seriously, this centipede knows how to work the camera! Here's what Insects of the L.A. Basin has to say about them: "This centipede is about an inch (25mm) long and distinctive because of its very long slender legs; there are only fifteen pairs of legs in adults, and the last pair is much longer than the rest (in the female they are twice as long as the body). The entire body is exceedingly frail and pale translucent-bluish in general color. The species is very active and moves rapidly in attempts to escape capture and to snatch the small insects it requires as food. Individuals are commonly found indoors, darting across the floor or clinging to a wall. They are particularly attracted to bathtubs, washbasins, and damp basements. Outdoors they are active in the summer and fall; most summer evenings, a certain House Centipede visits my porch light to catch insects that it attracts. It is doubtful that this species of centipede can even inflict a wound to human skin, so it should not be considered dangerous. It is actually beneficial in that it preys on many insect housepests, such as silverfish."
August 11, 2012
Lots of people in the L.A. area have been complaining about the heat. Over the last week, cities in our region have been experiencing temperatures well into the 90s. On Monday, Woodland Hills reached 108 degrees!Whenever the temperature rises like this, I start to notice ants indoors. Only this morning during our Nature Lab meeting, I found a trail of ants leading to the sink, and another leading to the snack shelf.The ants I found are Argentine Ants, Linepithema humile. They are an introduced species from South America (Argentina and Brazil) and are now considered the most common ant in our area. According to the Insects of the Los Angeles Basin book, these ants were "introduced to New Orleans before 1891 in coffee shipments from Brazil, and it has since spread rapidly over much of the United States."This is what the same book has to say about their pest status:"The species is one of the most persistent and troublesome of all our house-infesting ants. Argentine Ant workers seek out and feed on almost every type of food, although they are especially fond of sweets. Making themselves most objectionable, the ants invade the house through minute crevices and cracks—filing along baseboards, across sinks, and over walls and tables in endless trails."How do you feel about ants in your home? While writing this blog, I've found it interesting to ponder this question. As you may have noticed I am a nature lover, however I am definitely not a fan of ants in my house and will go to great lengths to remove them. Many times this feels like a losing battle, especially because I'm not one for spraying pesticides all over the place I live.
Argentine Ant about to take drink of water in our Nature Lab trailer(It is one eighth of an inch long)The Argies, as we "fondly" refer to them, have also been found throughout the North Campus. This isn't surprising as it is well documented that this ant species has displaced many of our native ants. According to Alex Wild, author of the Myrmecos ant blog, Argentine Ants, "can drive native arthropods to extinction, instigating changes that ripple through ecosystems. In California, horned lizard populations plummet. In South Africa, plant reproduction is disrupted. Worldwide, the Argentine Ant is a persistent house and crop pest. This is not a good ant." Here are some pictures of their activities on the North Campus:
Argentine Ants killed all the paper wasps in this nest
Argentine Ants tending citrus scales in our orange treesWhen I found the ants had killed all the paper wasps in the nest pictured above, I have to admit I was disappointed. I know many would be cheering for the ants, as paper wasps are viewed as a pest themselves. However, I had already become invested in the livelihood of that particular wasp nest and would check up on it every time I was out in the gardens. I find it infinitely interesting to ponder our notion of pest. What is acceptable in some circumstances is unacceptable in others. However, I still haven't come across anyone who is a fan of Argentine Ants!Need tips of managing ants in your home? Check out the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website.