Archive for April, 2009

More FUN with Swamps

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You know you have a problem when half of the photos on your memory card are of teeny tiny black beetles. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tell the difference between Tomicus minor and Tomicus Piniperda.

I do know that a swamp is a great place to find lots of insects, including those that bite yours truly like mosquitoes and ticks. I learned that the latter starts coming out to bite at 5 C.

These birch were in the swamp we were studying. Birch don’t grow in swamps naturally, but these got the death sentence from park managers. Most of Sweden’s forests are so well managed for wood production that there isn’t enough dead wood, which is an important habitat for insects. So the park managers built a dam and flooded this area, which killed the birch by depriving their roots of water.

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Monochamus Sutor

We had an adult monochamus sutor in my class today, which was a treat because the adults only live two months. Most of their lives are spent as larvae, chowing down on wood. Most wood-eating insects eat dead wood, but they are one of the few insects that are hardy enough to pray on live wood. Their mandibles are made of the hardest organic substance known to man. They were our guest in the forest pests class because they make lots of giant holes in perfectly nice wood.

Pretty scary, except they are quite small and you can pick them up quite easily because they aren’t flexible enough to turn around and bite you. However, they do emit a squeaky chirping sound that must be the universal language for “You are a jerk and you should leave me alone.”

Which we don’t, because these beetles really are quite small and not much of a threat. However, their cousins in the same family that live in South America, Titanus giganteus, are a little more intimidating. They are six inches long and have the same super-powerful mandibles.

I wouldn’t want to put my finger any where near it.

(I didn’t take this picture, but I’m impressed there is a Flickr group for longhorn beetles)

Glad Påsk/Happy Easter

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Finally, winter has abruptly left Sweden. And when I say abruptly, I mean it. One day it’s dark and snowing and the next it’s warm and sunny until 8 PM.

The sticks with feathers have something to do with Easter here. I have no idea what, but they look pretty.