Predation in Action!

Last week, I led a group of students and postdocs from the Entomology Department at NC State on an expedition to collect bees at the nearby JC Raulston Arboretum. We’re working on a project to investigate how urbanization affects the native bee community and their health.

The Arboretum was a bee paradise! We saw over 20 different species of native bees in the course of an hour. Then a tussle happening mid-air caught our attention. At first we thought we had observed a pair of bumblebees mating in mid-air. Only later, when these insects landed on a nearby leaf […]

By | July 29th, 2014|Nature in Your Backyard, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

Squirrel Sketch

If you live on the East Coast, I bet you encountered at least one eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) during your regular comings and goings today. Perhaps you saw one doing elaborate acrobatics on your bird feeder. Maybe you swerved to avoid one darting across the road. Or perhaps you caught one red-handed taking tiny nibbles out of your newly ripened tomatoes…

Although native to the woodlands of eastern North America, the eastern gray squirrel has adapted quite well to urban and suburban living. It also seems to thrive in far-off habitats. In Europe, particularly the UK, where the eastern […]

The Effects of Urbanization on Biodiversity: Interview with Myla Aronson

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 […]

By | July 24th, 2014|Global Change, Q & A, Urban Ecology|0 Comments


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 […]

By | July 23rd, 2014|Explainer, Global Change, Urban Ecology|3 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 […]

Hot in the ‘Hood

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 […]

By | June 26th, 2014|Global Change, Urban Ecology|2 Comments

I Am Mouse, Hear Me Roar

When Paul showed up at work with that coffee can full of mice babies, I knew I was perched on the zenith of the best day of my life. Okay, sure, it’s pretty sad that he’d accidentally killed their mother and found the orphaned pups living in his air conditioning unit a day or so later. But we’re talking mouse babies here. White-footed mouse babies at that! In a coffee can nest. I took one look at the heartbreakingly tiny, hungry, pink, blind, creatures with those impossibly teensy handfeet and confiscated the coffee can for my keeping.

I rehydrated them and […]

Breakthrough: The Relationship Between Urbanization, Lifestyle, the Microbiome(s) and Autoimmune and Allergic Problems is Complex

Recently, the news has been awash with stories of the links between the biodiversity outside of peoples’ homes, the diversity of bacteria and other microbes inside peoples’ homes and autoimmune disorders (Crohn’s, IBD, autism, you name it). The general idea is less biodiversity outside = less inside = a dysfunctional immune system. Personally, the existence of such links seems likely. I have written about them lovingly elsewhere. But given the flurry of recent news stories about microbe biodiversity studies, it seems worth calling attention to something that seems to be getting missed. We are ignorant.

I don’t mean this […]

By | June 19th, 2014|Homes, Urban Ecology, Wild Life of Our Home|2 Comments

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 […]

The Birth of a Zombie Wasp

Graduate student Emily Meineke had one of those ‘OH S&^%!’ moments while in the lab the other day. Best part is she caught it on film.

Emily studies scale insects, small bugs that spend most of their lives sucking the juices from willow oaks. She’s also interested in the insects that attack scales. You can imagine that a scale insect stuck on a branch sucking plant juice is an easy target for a predator.

Scales are particularly vulnerable to attack by parasitoid wasps. Female wasps lay their eggs inside the scale. The scale essentially acts as a womb for […]

Where Does Our Trash Go?

Each day we throw away our trash, but once it leaves our hands, where does it go?

Last semester, Rob Dunn’s Community Ecology of Humans class tackled this question and a number of other questions about the waste generated by humans and the process by which it breaks down (called decomposition). Graduate students Ryann Rossi and Shannon Brown were particularly interested in the transport of waste to the final location where it decomposes. They led the in-class research team that generated the figure above. Here’s what they had to say about the figure:

We know trash is moved around, and yet we […]

By | May 21st, 2014|Student Features, Urban Ecology|1 Comment

CSI: New York, Lead

Sometimes we discover things that we don’t yet understand. We like to share those findings with you, even before we make sense of them. Here is one.


This map shows the concentrations of lead in the soil at about 60 sampling sites across Manhattan, including the medians of Broadway and Central Park. Our team, led by Amy Savage and Elsa Youngsteadt, took soil cores and worked with microbial ecologist Krista McGuire at Barnard College to analyze the soils’ nutrients and contaminants. Here we’re highlighting the lead results.

At first glance, it […]

By | May 12th, 2014|Urban Ecology|3 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 […]

Fifth Avenue and the Entangled Bank: Fashion in Field Biology

For his 1918 field season, ornithologist Edgar Chance made a gentleman’s bet. Like many scientists before him, Chance was, in fact, a gentleman. His family founded one of the largest glass companies in Britain. The same company that put the glass in Big Ben’s clock and the crystal in London’s Crystal Palace. But Chance was also an avid egg collector, and he bet that in one season he could collect more eggs from a single cuckoo than anyone had before.

The science behind the bet, though, is not what drew me to Chance’s story. I’ll get to that later. What drew […]

By | March 11th, 2014|ants, Urban Ecology, Your Wild Life Team|2 Comments

Big City Social Life

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!


By | February 25th, 2014|ants, Explainer, Global Change, Urban Ecology, Video|0 Comments