Back to School: Undergraduates and Ants move in this week!

Clint Penick collects Odorous House Ants from the mulch. Clint Penick collects Odorous House Ants from the mulch.

It’s move-in week at NC State and undergraduates toting laundry baskets full of lamps and bedding aren’t the only thing moving into campus; the ants are getting pretty comfortable too! Standing and staring at the ground I noticed ants carrying brood (eggs, larvae and pupae) in a long thick line across the mulch next to our building and up a tree – it was incredible to see them in such high numbers busily going about […]

How Many Ants Live in New York City?

by Rob Dunn

Every so often for the last ten years, one of my collaborators, students or I could be seen standing in a median on Broadway, bending over, looking at ants. We looked at the ants, and the people of New York, as is the custom, tried hard to avoid looking at us.  Every so often someone, perhaps an immigrant new to the city and unfamiliar with the rules about eye contact, would give in to temptation and ask, “What are you doing?” We would usually say, “studying ants,” though I will confess that sometimes it was just easier to […]

By | August 7th, 2013|ants, Feature, Stories of Your Wild Life|4 Comments

Nature in Your Backyard: Five-lined skinks!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the nature that we observe in our basements, backyards, and neighborhoods.

It started with a poem from Anna Zuiker, a local middle school student, who so kindly let us share her poem about the ecology of her backyard on the blog.

Then a couple weeks ago I posted a short video that I shot while strolling my neighborhood one evening: a beetle (and cockroach) feeding frenzy at an oozing oak tree!

And yesterday, my colleague Jenny Weston in the NC State College of Engineering emailed me a fun series of photos her fiancé took in their […]

The Day My Cat Went Home

Photo credit: Megan Halpern

Recently, my friend Roland Kays, the Director of the Biodiversity Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences approached me with a proposition. As part of a new project at the museum, he wanted to put a GPS unit on my cat.  I, of course, said yes and then my wife and I spent the evening speculating about how ridiculous an idea this was. The debate revolved around whether or not the cat actually went anywhere. I thought she might go to the neighbor’s […]

A Beetle Buffet

On Sunday evening, I was taking a stroll around my Raleigh neighborhood, enjoying the entomological sounds (Katydids! Crickets!) and sights (Fireflies!) of summer.

Along the walk, I noticed an occasional wood roach or two cross my path on the sidewalk. And then I rounded the corner. Oh boy, there were a lot of big roaches milling about. My eyes instinctively followed a few scurrying across the pavement towards a nearby white oak tree. Up the scaly bark, they climbed to an oozing wound on the tree’s trunk — and then my eyes beheld THIS:

When I told

There is Ecology in My Backyard!

Today we have a very special guest post by Anna Zuiker, a middle school student and daughter of a friend to Your Wild Life, Anton Zuiker. Anton recently shared Anna’s poem — an assignment for her science class — on his blog, and we enjoyed it so much that we are re-posting it here, with their permission, for your enjoyment. Thanks, Anna!

When you finish reading, drop us a note in the comments and tell us something cool about the ecology in your own […]

Not All the Bugs in Your Home Are Bad

Today we have another in our series of guest posts by participants in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Corrie Moreau, an Assistant Curator at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, studies the evolution and diversification of ants (as well as the special relationships they have with gut bacteria).

Turtle ant

When people find out that I am an evolutionary biologist working with ants (and the bacteria that live in their guts) they […]

Dogs Make Me (and You) Wild: Ten Effects of Dogs on Dog People

Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain

and now there’s no chain.–Jim Harrison (from “Barking”)

This won’t be big news to you, but some people have dogs, in their houses. Dogs are domesticated wolves. They are wolves capable of spending long days inside on designer pillows, wolves often dressed in ridiculous outfits, wolves in civilization’s trampy clothing. They are no longer wild, yet capable, as anyone knows, of wildness. If I walk around my neighborhood, I see these wolves dragging their people to the park, around the block, […]

Genomics of the Ratopolis

Today we have another in our series of guest posts by participants in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Jason Munshi-South, currently an assistant professor of biology at Baruch College, studies the evolution and ecology of vertebrates in New York City.

Every New Yorker has a rat story.  Narrative elements of these tales often include municipal garbage cans or deserted subway platforms, and in the worst cases pant legs or toilets. NYC’s rats are Rattus norvegicus, the Norway or […]

Tiny Tourists Invade the Big City

Today we have a guest post from Mary Jane Epps, post-doc and chief beetle wrangler at Your Wild Life.  Recently, Mary Jane has begun investigating the associations between beetles and humans, particularly within human dwellings, including the remains of homes in ancient Egypt.

Back in March I accompanied our urban ecology team on a trip to New York City to study the effects of Superstorm Sandy on urban arthropods. Admittedly as a natural historian who feels more at home in the hills of Appalachia than in the urban jungle, I did not anticipate that New York City would be […]

The Unresolved Mysteries of the Mold in Your House

Today we have another in our series of guest posts by participants in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Rachel Adams is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who studies the dispersal of fungal spores into homes.

In the early 1940s, the promise of the drug penicillin far exceeded its production. Scientists were on a quest to find a strain of the penicillin producing fungus, Penicillium, that would produce more of the “mold juice.” In the most rotten citizen science project ever to be staged, […]

Carpe Cicada!

As a kid, I never could sleep well on Christmas Eve. The anticipation of Santa’s visit  (and the pile of wrapped presents he would leave behind) always had me so giddy that I could only doze off for a few minutes (or maybe an hour or so) at a time. I’d awake heart racing, eyes popped open wide, and check the clock. 2:23am. 3:42am. 4:15am. 5:08am. The hands of time seemed to click forward so slowly. FINALLY. 6:30a. I roused my siblings and bounded down the steps to […]

How teaching high school prepared me for NYC

In a former life I was a math teacher at a public high school in rural Mississippi. One day I put up a math problem about how to calculate the probability that you’d have to wait for a certain amount of time at a crosswalk. Now, there was always push-back on any new concept I introduced (math classes aren’t exactly winning the popular vote for “favorite class” in high school), but this particular problem had an interesting response:

“Ma’am,” the student said as he raised his hand, “we ain’t goin’ to New […]

Top 10 ways an ant’s house is similar to your house

When the region of Cappadocia found itself divided between hostile nations, rather than flee, the people decided to dig in. The landscape was composed of soft volcanic rock carved by erosion over millions of years into odd towers and pockmarked cliffs. Taking a cue from the landscape itself, the people of Cappadocia dug fortresses into the rock to escape persecution from the early Romans, and later, hostile Arabs. In some places, these fortresses grew into underground cities that could house thousands of people. Some reached ten levels deep, and they featured kitchens, sleeping quarters, chapels, storage chambers, and vast defense […]

The secret (and ancient) lives of houseplants

Today we have a guest post by Laura Jane Martin, a participant in the upcoming meeting on indoor evolution at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in June. Laura is a writer and PhD candidate at Cornell University, where she researches the ecology and conservation of wetland plants. Follow her new blog:

My local coffee shop is populated with potted plants. The four closest to my favorite table are Zanzibar gem, bamboo palm, jade, and pothos – species from eastern Africa, Madagascar, South Africa, and China.

People have grown plants in pots for centuries, but it’s only recently […]