Hatching Stink Bugs

Husni Che Ngah photographed newly hatched stink bug nymphs around their empty egg shells. (Credit: Husni Che Ngah/Biosphoto)

They’re creepy when they buzz loudly past you towards light sources and produce an extremely pungent odor when disturbed, but stink bugs live their lives content to feed on plants and would rather not encounter you.

There are more than 200 species of stink bugs in North America. Adults are usually some shade of green, tan, or gray-brown.

After mating, the female lays batches of 20 to 30 eggs, depositing them on the underside of plant leaves. Her eggs look like tiny barrels and are light green in color to blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators. Sometimes the eggs are pearly white at first, turning pink later. On top of each egg is a circle of white projections.

A single female can lay up to 300 eggs in a single season.

Stink bug nymphs and their eggs on underside of citrus leaf Photo credit: Project
Stink bug nymphs and their eggs Credit: pinimg.com
Macrophoto of hatching stink bug by Adolf Abi-Aad/Flickr.com

The eggs hatch in four to five days, marking the beginning of the nymph stage. A small triangle on each egg shell is used by the nymph as a knife to cut the shell open. Stink bug nymphs usually remain gregarious for a short period of time after hatching, as they begin to feed and molt.

The time lapse video below shows live bugs in their egg shells © 2012 by Tim Doyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NASA Superstar Peggy Whitson

Peggy Whitson at a press conference in Kazakhstan in November 2016 Credit: Getty Images

Peggy Whitson was born on February 9th, 1960 in Mount Ayr, Iowa. In 1981 she graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Then, in 1985, she graduated from Rice University with a doctorate degree in biochemistry. After her graduation, she continued on at Rice as a post-doctoral fellow for another year.

Peggy Whitson spent a number of years working at NASA before she first went to space. In 1989, Whitson joined NASA as a research biochemist. She served in this role for three years before she became a technical monitor, a job she held from 1991 through 1992. Then, in 1992, she became the project scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program. Whitson subsequently worked in NASA’s Medical Sciences Division and then became the co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group.

It was in August 1996 when Peggy Whitson began training to become an astronaut. This took two years, and her first mission was in 2002.

Whitson was a crew member on Expedition 5, which launched on June 5th, 2002. She was one of two flight engineers.  She subsequently spent 184 days in space, also completing a 4 hour and 25 minute spacewalk. Then, in 2007, Whitson was a crew member on Expedition 16, and this time she spent 192 days in space.


Astronaut Peggy Whitson during her 7th space walk January , 2017 Credit: NASA Photo

Whitson shows how dreams become reality, becoming the first female commander of the International Space Station and serving a record 665 days in space. She served as commander twice and also holds the record for most space walks by a woman (10), most hours outside the vehicle (60) and oldest woman in space (57). She was supposed to return to Earth in June 2017 but happily accepted the opportunity to stay on another three months when Russia’s space organization Roscosmos pulled its crew back from participation in a mission to the ISS earlier that year.

Expedition 50 NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson smiles as she listens to a reporter’s question ahead of the final qualification exams with fellow crew mates Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, on October 25, 2016 at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)
Commander Whitson inside Unity module on ISS Credit: NASA photo
Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson conducting a cardiac stem cell experiment in Microgravity Science Glovebox Credit: NASA photo
Peggy Whitson conducting spacewalk training at NASA Johnson Space Center Credit: NASA Photo

Truly a NASA superstar Whitson encourages aspiring astronauts to get education in science, math and engineering.

Want more information?  Watch this interview with Commander Whitson on Connections to Science from Iowa Public Television:

 

A Rare Find in Tasmania

The spotted handfish is one of the world’s most endangered marine fish, having undergone a massive decline in recent decades.

Handfish grow up to 5” long, and have skin covered with tooth-like scakes, giving them the alternate name warty anglers. They get their name from the way they used their pectoral (side) fins like hands to grip the bottom. They rarely swim – they prefer to walk along the bottom on their fins feeding on small invertebrates.

Once relatively common, red handfish have become scarce in recent years, probably due to habitat loss and changing sea conditions.

Divers in Tasmania have discovered a new population of red handfish. The newly discovered colony could double their total population to 80 individuals.

This very rare red handfish has two color morphs – one a brilliant red with bluish and white fin margins, the other mottled pink with reddish spots and patches on the body and fins.

Photo by Rick Stuart/Reef Live Survey

Threats to red handfish include poaching for use as pets.  Also its low reproductive rate and low dispersal rate have raised fears of extinction.

Hopefully, the discovery of this second population means the red handfish has an alternative destiny ahead of it.

Here’s a short video by Michael Baron of two red handfish on the move:

A Tribute to Audubon

Nineteenth-century naturalist, ornithologist, and artist John James Audubon lived the later years of his life in northern Manhattan, in what is now the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. Audubon is best known for his comprehensive book, The Birds of America, which was accompanied by beautiful, detailed illustrations of many of the birds.

Illustrated page from John James Audubon’s The Birds of America. Photo by Susie Cushner

Today, visitors to Hamilton Heights will discover a series of amazing murals that honor Audubon while bringing attention to the effects of climate change on North America’s bird populations. Known as the Audubon Mural Project, the murals are a collaborative effort of the National Audubon Society and Gitler & ______Gallery (yes, that’s the gallery’s actual name – there is an underlined blank space).

This spray-painted menagerie graces roll-down gates and barren walls with permission of willing property owners. Here are a few examples:

Bay breasted warbler semipalmated plover by Fifty/FFTY Photo by Mike Fernandez/Audubon
Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Western Bluebird at 1614 Amsterdam, NYC Artist: Shawn Bullen Photo: Hillary Eggers/Audubon
Anhinga at 3458 Broadway, NYC Artist: Lexi Bella Photo: Hillary Eggers Audubon
Spotted owl at 3841 Broadway, NYC Artist: Paul Nassar Photo: Hillary Eggers/Audubon
Roseate spoonbill at 3541 Broadway, NYC
Artist: Danielle Mastrion Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

Elsewhere, Audubon himself is rendered in flesh tones and with mutton-chop sideburns, staring curiously at a cerulean warbler on his shoulder with neither his rifle nor palette at hand.

John James Audubon contemplating the Cerulean Warbler at 601 W. 149th NYC Artist: Tom Sanford Photo : Mike Fernandez/Audubon

The National Audubon Society’s website has a map showing the location of each mural. The website also serves as an excellent guide for a tour of the murals, as it gives much more information about each one, including an explanation of how the birds are being affected by climate change and some remarks by each artist about their art.

http://www.audubon.org/amp

Check out this video of Damien Mitchell creating a mural of a peregrine falcon for the Audubon Mural Project:

Planthopper Fiber Optics Display

Leafhoppers, treehoppers and planthoppers have the most aerodynamic-shaped body in the insect world. All of them are strong jumpers that can move with equal ease forwards, backwards, or sideways like a crab. The crab-like motion distinguishes hoppers from most other insects.

They also come in many shapes and colors with over 12,500 varities worldwide.

Photo by Robert Oelman
A Heranice miltoglupta treehopper Robert Oelman
Treehopper Membracis mexicana Robert Oelman

The beautiful insect shown below is a planthopper nymph. During the span of time after it hatches and before it becomes fully mature, the planthopper nymph secretes a waxy substance from its abdomen that gives its tail the look of a colorful fiber optic display. It serves as a defense from predators who are somewhat hypnotized by the effect.

Night photograph by Melvyn Yeo

As the planthopper gets ready to do its favorite thing — hop around — it moves the waxy threads into a sleek line.

Waxy protrusion on a planthopper nymph Photo by Melvyn Yeo
Photo by Frank Canon
Walking planthopper nymph found in Colombia Photo by Robert Oelman

It moves ever so slowly before making a great leap, and it can fan the threads back out for an extra boost while it’s in the air.

Treehopper Credit: chinKC/Shutterstock

The final effect is like a dazzling fiber options display.

Science Winners

Five gorgeous examples of science photography.

Fluid Mechanics Credit: Stuart Hirth/New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography

The amazing photograph above shows splashes formed from single drops landing in puddles. Captured over several months, they were photographed in darkness using a high-speed flash to preserve their colors and shapes and then brought together in one image.

Liquid Lace Credit: Phred Peterson/New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography.

This winning photograph shows drops of glycerin and water impacting a thin film of ethanol.  The difference in surface tension creates holes in the drop’s surface making it look like lace.

Growth of agaric toadstool mushroom Credit: Phred Petersen/ Royal Photographic Society.

Another image created by Phred Petersen.  This is a time lapse image showing the progress of an agaric toadstool mushroom as it grows.

Phred Petersen is a Senior Lecturer and Coordinator Scientific Photography, School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, a global university of technology and design.

Obelia hydroid Credit: Teresa A. Zgoda

This last photo is a confocal image of a marine organism (obelia hydroid) taken with the 10x objective.  It was a winner from the 2016 International Images for Science competition.

Confocal cross section view of a dandelion showing curved stigma with pollen. Credit: Dr. Robert Markus

Just one more – an honorable mention from 2017 Nikon Small World Competition.

 

 

Marine Hydroids

The hydroid Ectopleura larynx is a fouling organism usually found attached to sunken ropes, floating buoys, piers, mussel shells, rocks, seaweed and the undersides of boats in the seas surrounding Great Britain and the Americas.  This organism grows in colonies that can tolerate exposed habitats and strong water currents. Sometimes called Common Flowerheads in the fish farming industry this hydroid can cause problems by reducing water flow and quality.

Hydroid Ectopleura larynx Alexander Semenov/Flickr.com

Ectopleura larynx has two distinct rings of tentacles, one around its mouth and the other at the base of the head. In between these two rings, are the gonophores, or the sexual buds.

Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the hydroid Ectopleura larynx Credit: Jannicke Wilk-Nielsen/Science Photo Library
SEM of sexual buds of hydroid Ectopleura larynx Credit: Jannicke Wilk-Nielsen/Science Photo Library
Ectopleura larynx has tentacles for defense and feeding. The chemically challenged hydroid in this image is using its tentacles to protect the sexual buds, from an external threat.  Credit: Jannicke Wilk-Nielsen/Science Photo Library

The hydroid Tubularia indivisa is also called oaten pipes. This large hydroid is also native to northeastern Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and the English Channel.

Hydroid Tubularia indivisa Photo credit: Derek Haslam/Flickr.com
Hydroid Tubularia indivisa Credit: Buiten-Beeld/Alamy Stock Photo

The solitary polps of Hydroid Tubularia indivisa are found on dull yellow unbranched stems that reach a height of 4-6”.   The pinkish to red polps resemble flowers, having two concentric rings of tentacles, with the outer rings being paler and longer than the inner ring.

Hydroid Tubularia indivisa are preyed upon by nudibranch, another marine animal that looks like a snail without a shell.

Nudibranch feeding on Hydroid Tubularia indivisa Credit: Alexander Semenov/Flickr.com

These flower like hydroids are often considered delicate and soft. But beware. Their delicate looks belie their potent nature. They possess an armament of stinging cells equipped in their tentacles to capture and subdue prey.

(SEM) The harpoon-like nematocyst, darting from hydroid Ectopleura larynx, punctures through the hydroid wall, into the prey and releases a toxin that helps immobilize its prey..
Photo Credit: Jannicke Wilk-Nielsen/Science Photo Library