Theological disproof of evolution? Hornworms and braconid wasps

November 7, 2011

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” the poet Tennyson said.

Darwin thought these critters a clear disproof of creationism — no god would make such creatures intentionally!

Mark reports at The Divine Afflatus:

Hornworm Hosts its Destruction

While admiring some ground cherries outside my front door, I noticed a number of leaves had been stripped off. Not grazed on by the deer that frequent the area, more like eaten by caterpillars. After a brief search I spotted a hornworm munching away. I didn’t bother killing the hornworm because, after all, the ground cherries are weeds growing amongst the black-eyed susans, and it’s less work for me if they take care of the weeds.

I looked again a few days later, and saw that the hornworm had sprouted numerous white appendages. These are the cocoons of pupating braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are parasitoids that inject their eggs beneath the skin of the host (hornworms are favored by the braconid wasp Contesia congregatus). After feeding on the convenient meal surrounding them, the wasp larvae emerge and spin their coccons, attached to the body of the unfortunate hornworm. In a few days, adult wasps emerge from their cocoons, leaving a dead caterpillar.

I later spotted a second hornworm, which suffered the same fate as the first.

Ewwwwwwww!


Glories of Glacier N.P.

November 6, 2011

Seven-plus minutes of good reason to get your tail to Glacier National Park as soon as you can.

Produced and shot by Joshua Thompson, this is part of an award-winning film made to promote the park and get money for the research that the park hosts.

Grizzly Bears, Bighorn Sheep, spectacular sunsets and more…..

Part 3 of the recently shot Glacier DVD. This 20 min. film recently was nominated for best new nature documentary in the music category as well received an award for photography from the Wildlife Film Festival held in May of 2008. All funds for this project are being donated to the Glacier National Park Fund. For more info: http://www.glaciernationalparkfund.org/cart.php?page=glacier_national_park_fu…

I’ve been there only once.  A wise American would get there before turning 35, and return several times.


“Out of Yellowstone,” Nature Conservancy film on surviving the winter, and surviving the future

September 19, 2011

It seems like just a few months ago that Kathryn the Trophy Wife™ and I honeymooned in Yellowstone National Park, for a glorious January week.  On more than one occasion we had Old Faithful all to ourselves — it seemed like such an indulgence.

Seems just a few months ago, but that was before the 1988 fires, before our 1989 vacation there, before our 2004 ceremony casting the ashes of brother Jerry and his wife Barbara to the Yellowstone winds.

Will Yellowstone be there for our children, and for our grandchildren, as it has been for my lifetime?  The Nature Conservancy produced a 16-minute film showing much of the glory of winter of the place, and talking about the problems.

For the deer, elk and pronghorn in and around Yellowstone National Park, surviving the winter means finding adequate food and areas with low snow accumulation. But this critical winter range is increasingly threatened by energy and residential development. At stake is the very future of the Greater Yellowstone region’s iconic wildlife. This film highlights the voices of those working together to save these magnificent herds: ranchers, conservationists, scientists and others. http://www.nature.org/yellowstone

Growing up in the Mountain West, I learned to appreciate the stark beauty of the cold northern desert — but seldom is that beauty captured on film so well as it is here.  Phlogiston Media, LLC, made a remarkable, beautiful film, about a remarkable, beautiful land threatened by gritty, banal and mundane development.

This movie has been viewed only 542 times when I posted it.  Spread the word, will you?


Sky islands in Yosemite National Park

September 19, 2011

Nature Notes #16 from the good people at Yosemite National Park:  Sky Islands.

Throughout the Sierra Nevada, high flat plateaus are found at elevations around twelve and thirteen thousand feet. These isolated sky islands are the home to unique plant communities that are found nowhere else.


Yosemite Nature Notes extra: Time lapse of people visiting

September 4, 2011

Among other things one might observe from this film, one might note that Yosemite National Park’s beauty is so great that it looks good from almost any angle, even with tourists plastered all over it.

This was released between Yosemite Nature Notes #14 and #15, and I find no other description.  This remains a wonderful series showing off the geography and natural phenomena of Yosemite.  I wish there were similar programs for Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, and for the Adirondack State Park in New York, among many others.


Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

August 9, 2011

Dragon flies are not my area of expertise:  Can anyone identify this beauty?

Red Dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas (photo by Ed Darrell)

Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas - photo by Ed Darrell

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Kate wrote in to say it’s probably Libella saturata.  From other photos I’ve found, that seems a good, accurate identification.  Citizens of Arizona have been urged to help identify dragon flies, odonates,  in their state, and this site explains how to do it with a camera and a notepad — with a fine picture of a Libella saturata for illustration.  And, as a reward to Kate and yourself, you may want to hop over to her blog, The Radula, and see what she’s got to look at.


Fresh from the garden: Bat faced cuphea

July 10, 2011

Bat-faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden

On a pedestal? Kathryn's potted bat-faced cuphea stands out when the mid-morning sun bathes it, but the yard in back still hovers in the shade of the live oak. Horticultural design by Kathryn Knowles; photo by Ed Darrell

Kathryn’s bat faced cuphea (Cuphea llavea) has graced our garden for several years with this particular plant, or its seedlings.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with regularity.

It gets its name because each blossom resembles the face of a tiny bat.

Bat faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden, IMGP5294

Each blossom of bat faced cuphea resembles the face of a bat.


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