Updating the Species Scape

This post was written by Clint Penick & Magdalena Sorger

As the world’s entomologists gather in Orlando this week for the International Conference of Entomology (ICE), we thought it a good time to revisit the famous Species Scape—the illustration showing that insects make up the largest portion of life on Earth. We scoured textbooks, scientific papers, and online databases to find the most current numbers for all species that have been described. There are new winners and new losers, but insects still make up nearly half of all species.

The history of the Species Scape began when biologist Quentin […]

By | September 25th, 2016|Arthropods, Education, Explainer, Science Art|0 Comments

The Wild Life of Columbus

The untold story of the species that stowed away on Columbus’s ship and how they have since changed the world.

Columbus sailed to the Caribbean in 1492. On that landmark voyage, and in subsequent trips, he was not alone. On his small ships, he was with other sailors, as well as a wilderness of other species quietly stowed away. We don’t usually think of the ships as wilderness. In fact, the travels of some of the species Columbus and later conquistadors brought with them from Europe to the Americas, are well studied. They brought, we know, terrible pathogens to which […]

By | February 2nd, 2016|Arthropods, Feature, Homes, Stories of Your Wild Life|1 Comment

The Arthropods of San Francisco (and beyond)

What’s that crawling under your bed… sitting in your light fixture… lurking in your cabinets? Perhaps it’s a new insect species! The Arthropods of Our Homes project has expanded beyond Raleigh — to San Francisco, and from there all seven continents will be sampled for the common arthropods in homes. Watch the video to see more about the arthropods found in San Francisco homes as well as some familiar faces (Matt Bertone and Michelle Trautwein).

“Other than a few pest species, we know very little. There’s still a lot to discover… You don’t have to be an […]

Evolution of the Indoor Biome

There is something living in the north-facing wall of our apartment. My partner and I have narrowed it down to an organism in the phylum Chordata; though we have not seen the thing, we are fairly certain it has a backbone. It likes to make squeaking or cawing noises at 4 a.m. Sometimes the noises make it seem very small, like a house mouse, and sometimes the noises make it seem very large, like a well-nourished raccoon. Or perhaps it is a bird. Perhaps it is a new, awesome bird species.

We know so little about the organisms that live with […]

By | March 16th, 2015|Arthropods, Homes, Indoor Evolution, News, Urban Ecology|0 Comments

Spooky Spider

I love Halloween. It’s the time of year when I can leave all the spider webs up around the front stoop and call them decorations.

This harmless garden spider, the Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) is not long for the world. She’ll die soon as the nights grow colder. But I’ll keep an eye on her wee ones in the egg sac she left by the railing. In the spring the baby spiders will hatch out, spin a little silk parachute to catch the breeze and sail away to a new home!

Learn more about the garden spider by revisiting

Buzz Kill

cicada killer screen shotOne of the joys of being the resident entomologist in my family and circle of friends is that I frequently receive “What’s this bug?” texts and emails.

Recently, the texts came fast and furious with questions about a giant, strikingly marked wasp. I relished in replying to these queries as this species has a most fascinating biology, the stuff that would make good fodder for a horror movie. Meet the cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus)!

Cicada killers are large solitary, ground-nesting wasps that specialize on hunting – you guessed it – […]

By | September 18th, 2014|Arthropods, Nature in Your Backyard, Urban Buzz|0 Comments

7 cool facts about drain flies and their kin

Over the last few days, we’ve received a few notes and photos (see above) from folks describing fuzzy, moth-like flies flitting about their kitchen or bathroom. So we turned to our favorite bug guru, Matt Bertone, for the inside scoop:

1. Flies in the family Psychodidae (particularly the subfamily Psychodinae) are often called moth flies or drain flies. The former name comes from the covering of hairs and scale-like hairs that give these flies the appearance of a fuzzy little moth (which can be confusing to non-entomologists). The latter name comes from one of their most familiar habitats […]

By | September 10th, 2014|Arthropods, Indoor Evolution, Nature in Your Backyard|0 Comments

Celebrating Native Bees

As you were enjoying celebrations this July 4th weekend, you may have noticed many bees flying around your yard or neighborhood park, pollinating flowers and vegetables. As I earlier shared here on the Your Wild Life blog, I am researching many of these native bees in urban areas. Specifically, I am studying how temperature influences the native bee community in Raleigh. In some areas, I put up bundles of bamboo to sample which bees will nest there. Most bees are solitary, unlike honey bees or yellow jackets, so they are mild tempered. You can even put up bundles […]

Relax, This Is NOT a Mosquito

You’re standing in the shower and one of the most gigantic mosquitoes you’ve ever seen flies over the shower curtain. Take a deep breath … it’s not a mosquito.

Meet the crane fly (Diptera: Tipulidae).

I grew up calling these Mosquito Killers. Given that name, I tried to save as many of these insects as possible. Unfortunately, they’re delicate. My compassionate attempts usually resulted in a 3-legged insect.

Despite its monstrous size, there’s no need to fear the crane fly. Adults do not bite — in fact, they don’t even eat.

Crane flies spend most of their lives as larvae feeding on decomposing […]

By | June 16th, 2014|Arthropods, Nature in Your Backyard, Science Art|1 Comment

Buttercup Oil Beetle Goes on Odyssey, Lands in My Apartment

I saw a weird beetle bumbling across the carpet in my bedroom the other day. As entomologists do, I scooped in a jar, popped it in the freezer, and forgot about it until my spouse reminded me that beetles are not food (In much of the world, beetles are food, but it didn’t feel like the moment to bring that up.) So I brought the beetle to school, pinned it, and left it on the lab bench. I totally forgot about the beetle until a friend of mine sent me a photo of the exact same beetle, wondering what it […]

Your House is Full of Flies

Today we have a guest post from Dr. Michelle Trautwein, the investigator-in-chief for the Arthropods of Our Homes project. Two years have gone by since our team of entomologists poked around the light fixtures and floorboards of 50 homes in the greater Raleigh area, but we think it’s been worth the wait. Below Michelle reveals some of the findings, now that we have (FINALLY) finished identifying all of the arthropod specimens collected.

In my bathroom right now there is a spider under a glass jar. He is one of the lucky ones. I operate a spider relocation program, […]

By | May 13th, 2014|Arthropods|1 Comment

The Wild Life of Chimpanzee Nests

We share a lot with you, dear readers. Some might say too much (ahem, the plight of our own armpit bacteria, for example). Yet believe it or not, we don’t share quite everything. Sometimes we’re working behind the scenes, out of the public eye, cooking up a new project, developing a nugget of an idea or cultivating a collaboration. Sometimes it takes awhile to get these new things organized, to gather all the ingredients, to slowly bring the collaboration or project to a boil, to get an idea to a stage where it’s ready for public consumption. It may […]

By | April 15th, 2014|Arthropods, Homes, Projects, Wild Life of Our Home|0 Comments

Backyard Bees

**Entomology graduate student April Hamblin will be studying bees in backyards across Raleigh this summer, and she’s looking for folks to volunteer their yards as field sites. Read on to learn about her study and how you can get involved!**

One of my happiest childhood memories is sitting on the back porch at my grandmother’s house, enjoying a fresh slice of watermelon, slopping the seeds down my shirt, watching the birds pick blackberries from the bushes across the street. I didn’t know then that the birds and I relied on pollination for much of our food, but I did know that […]

Quiz Time!

Everyone loves a good quiz – even the Buzzfeed variety, you know the kind that you see on Facebook ALL. THE. TIME. The kind of quiz that helps you determine what actor would play you in a movie of your life or what literary couple best represents you and your significant other.

Recently, we’ve seen a couple of quizzes that are not only FUN but, GASP, might provide an opportunity for you to learn something interesting about the biodiversity in your daily life.

Last week, the NY Times Well blog ran a story (written by former post doc and YWL […]

Delayed Gratification, Citizen Science and Why You Might Not Have Received an Email about Your Sample Yet

But, If You Are So Willing, You’ll Receive Emails and Updates for the Next 10 Years. Also, Did I Tell You about the Cats?

I do not have any particular predilection for delayed gratification. I can’t watch YouTube videos because I don’t like not being able to control the pace and see where I am going. I don’t like departmental seminars because almost inevitably one can read the paper faster (and get to the good parts) than one can listen to the talk. Actually, this is too meek of a statement. I actually hate departmental seminars. My wife is patient. My […]