Note: All links leave to external sites. Howdy, BugFans, As usual, the BugLady’s “Bugs in the News” folder runneth over, so here’s a collection of articles to chew on. Many come from the wonderful Smithsonian Daily Newsletter, which not only… Read more
The BugLady was working on this week’s episode about a lovely little spider, but then she took a walk at the north end of the Bog and encountered a mob of springtails. She searched for a collective noun for springtails and found a few on-line discussions about it. “Mass aggregation” is the science-y choice, but other suggestions were cluster, swarm, sprinkle (for a small swarm), furcula (in honor of the springtail’s jumping appendage – teachable moment), and sproing.
Springtails are found on all seven continents, in moist places with leaf litter or soil (a few species have adapted to deserts, others to forest canopies, and still others prefer caves). They probably evolved in cooler climes, which explains their fondness for spring and fall, and they will migrate to damper microhabitats if theirs loses humidity.
There are lots of generic Springtails leaping around—more than 8,200 species worldwide (700+ in North America). Most kinds of springtail are found on land, leading invisible lives in leaf litter and soil, anyplace that has a little moisture, even Antarctica.
With apologies to Olde English Folk Songs everywhere, here is the Second Annual Twelve Bugs of Christmas, featuring a Baker’s Dozen that were photographed this year but that did/will not appear in BOTWs. These pictures are a tribute to the joy of stumbling into the right place at the right time.
The BugLady has been out with her camera, walking non-aerobically and peering into plants. The “peering” has resulted in some interesting (if blurred) sightings (her macro lens is getting a bit cranky). Amazing things have been happening on milkweed, probably spurred by a banner crop of aphids on the leaves.
The BugLady has been stalking invertebrates that hang out on the east wall of the Field Station lab. The wall is painted cinderblock that warms up in the morning and probably keeps some heat as it gets shaded in the afternoon. Grass grows right up to the edge of the building. The BugLady hypothesizes that bugs can enjoy the residual warmth without getting fried by the sun, because she sees some small critters on the north wall but very few on the bright south wall. She found some familiar faces and some new ones—plant-eaters and an array of carnivores that come to collect the herbivores.
Springtails come in both Aquatic and Terrestrial. Aquatic springtails mill around on the surface film of quiet waters (including vernal ponds) in rafts made up of thousands of individuals. Unwettable, they may dive and spend some time under water. The terrestrial species stick to moist habitats, wingless, 3-millimeter-short critters moving through the damp litter of the forest floor. They are vegetarians—eaters of algae and decaying plant and animal material, pollen and leaf mold.