You may have noticed a small white butterfly flittering through your garden, bouncing across your path while on your bike or spiraling around the side of the road. Chances are it was a small cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae). It’s probably the most widespread and abundant butterfly on the planet! Over the last 2,000 years it has spread across the world from its natural range in Europe, Asia and North Africa to every continent except Antarctica. How did it become so successful? Well, in part because it eats many of the foods growing in our gardens – particularly, those found […]
Several years ago, we started paying more attention in our lab to what was going on biologically near at hand. This transition would eventually lead us into backyards, then houses, then colons, but it stared with North Carolina State University’s campus.
The campus is at what was once the western edge of the city of Raleigh, a city whose location was chosen by its originators as a function of its nearness to a bar. And yet despite this idiosyncratic origin, Raleigh has proven to be an auspicious ecological locale for a city and a campus, at least […]
No question, our planet is heating up. So what impact will global climate change have on biodiversity and ecosystems?
This BIG question, as you’ve undoubtedly read here on our blog, is near and dear to many Your Wild Life-affiliated researchers. Over the years, they’ve taken several different approaches to studying the consequences of global climate change on organisms and ecosystems.
One approach is to do experiments. Heat something up and see what happens to say, ants living on the forest floor or tiny plant-sucking insects attached to tree branches in a greenhouse.
Another approach is to do comparative […]
Adorable and fuzzy, American pikas (Ochotona princeps) have become the spokes-critter for the consequences of climate change in alpine areas. These little fuzzballs, more closely related to rabbits than rodents, are specialized for living on the rocky slopes of mountains. They’re very sensitive to hot summer temperatures, and so, as temperatures are predicted to rise, pikas face a perilous future.
Researcher Jennifer Wilkening from the University of Colorado is concerned about the future of the pikas. She’s also concerned about the future of water. Towns like Boulder, Colorado, rely on the water that drains down from the highland areas above […]
Our blog and social media feeds have been overcome by urban sprawl this week.
Yesterday, Rob wrote about the rise of a new mega-city: Charlanta. He described new research by Adam Terando and team that predicted the future spread of cities in the South.
Our colleague Steve Frank and his PhD student Adam Dale in Entomology just published two research papers describing what increased warming associated with this urbanization means for street trees and and a common insect pest, the gloomy scale. Turns out gloomy scales are way more abundant on red maple trees in warm, urban […]
Very occasionally, the opportunity arises for a group of people to decide where and how to build a city. In 1792 the legislators of North Carolina confronted such a moment. It had been decided that a new state capital was going to be built and that that state capital should ideally be far from the sea. Without having to worry about the best beachfront property, the legislators found themselves free to prioritize other things. So it was that they decided upon the rule to be used in placing a capital. It should, they concluded after much contemplation, be no […]
When we build our cities with cement and asphalt, they trap heat. This trapped heat warms our cities, as much, in some cases, as global warming is expected to warm them by 2050. It makes them hot. It even changes the patterns of storms. More lightning. Less rain. The hotter, dryer conditions in turn affect animals and plants. Some pests do better. Those pests kill trees. Dead trees lead to more heat island effect. But it isn’t just trees. Even if you hate trees, you should still think about heat islands, because they also kill people. They smother […]
Behind the Science: Sorting out the murky affair between scale insects, ants, red maples and climate change
This week I followed researcher Elsa Youngsteadt and her undergrad assistant Danielle Schmidt, members of Steve Frank’s lab in the NC State Entomology Department, into the field. When I arrived at their field site, I found each holding a leaf and staring at it so intensely that I first thought they were under some sort of spell. As it turns out, they were focused on counting tiny scale insect nymphs.
Elsa and Danielle are studying how scale insects — a common pest on trees — might benefit from climate change. Scale insects may do better under climate change simply […]
This week, armed with hatchets, plastic containers and tweezers, Your Wild Life post docs MJ Epps and De Anna Beasley set out to collect carpenter ant colonies nesting in logs. Ants are susceptible to all kinds of diseases, especially those caused by fungi. MJ and De Anna will use the colonies they collected to study how climate change might affect the ants’ immune response to disease as well as disease transmission within the colonies. You can check out more photos from the field trip and other scenes from around the lab this week in our new
As urbanization spreads and city structures replace many social insect colonies’ natural habitats, these insects still manage to survive—and even thrive. The secret to their success? A fluid colony structure, which guards against big-city dangers. Here’s to social insect longevity!
With unpredictable weather patterns resulting in monsoon-like storms and as warming seas swell, swallowing shorelines, more and more folks find themselves underwater or sinking fast. We’re not the first animals to find ourselves suddenly living the life aquatic. Unlike us, ants have been dealing with flooding for thousands of years, and they’ve evolved a few behaviors to help them stay high and dry. Here are the top five techniques ants use to keep the water out.
Does your living room floor have more in common with a prairie grassland or a desert? Are our basements really just urban versions of caves?
As we explore the life that coexists with us in our houses, we begin to think of our homes as ecosystems. With our thermostats, fans and insulated windows, we are creating a distinct habitat within our homes. But what kind of habitat are we creating, exactly? Are there natural, wild places on Earth that share similar climate conditions to those we are creating inside our houses?
We are currently trying to figure this out! Using data […]
My fiancé Joe and I planted a mushroom garden last year, which is to say, we drilled hundreds of holes in logs, hammered spore plugs in the holes, and waited. I can’t speak for Joe, but I visited the logs every morning, excited for them to sprout. Sometimes I daydreamed about pastas and salads. But after four months, when it should have been producing mushrooms for weeks, our garden was a barren, woody wastelands, and we gave up (queue Charlie Brown theme song).
Lots of people grow mushrooms. All are better at it than I am. But fungus farming is […]
Winter can be deadly for many of our insect friends, yet, rarely for honeybees. How do they survive winter’s perilously cold temperatures? By staying social!