Circus of the Spineless – Edition #19

Welcome to the 19th edition of Circus of the Spineless!

This month’s theme has to do with discovery.

Almost everything to do with invertebrates involves one or another form of discovery — whether it’s searching for a creature, trying to identify it, or figuring out what it’s doing. After several years of studying and photography invertebrates, barely a day goes by that I don’t learn at least one or two new things — and some days, it’s more like a dozen. I now know just enough to realize that I know virtually no more than a fraction of all there is to learn. Even the most seasoned of entomologists and arachnologists will tell you that there’s plenty of room for exploration and discovery, even right outside in our own backyards. Which brings me around to a couple of items I’d like to mention before sending you on your way to the carnival.

In case you haven’t already heard, Jeremy Bruno at The Voltage Gate has been hard at work organizing the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz. As of March 30th, there were 32 bloggers signed up to bioblitz at least one site in their area. For those unfamiliar with the term, a bioblitz is a species survey of a chosen area over a specified period of time. The area can be as small as a plot in your own backyard surveyed by one or two people, to a tract of land surveyed by a group of avid naturalists. The focus of the blitz can be as wide or narrow as you wish. If you’re a blogger and want to get involved, you can read more about it here. By the way, you *do not* have to be a biologist to bioblitz a chosen area. Anyone equipped with a couple of field guides should be able to conduct at least a simple species survey. Also, there are online guides which can be used for species identification. I’ve begun putting together a collection of Links for IDs, so keep that in mind as one source (it’s small now, but watch for many new entries over the weekend). I believe a few other bloggers will be putting together similar collections over the next couple of weeks.

Another item which should be of particular interest to many of you is Spider WebWatch, a brand new citizen science program. The site has been designed by David Shorthouse, of the Univ. of Alberta, who has also put together the terrific Nearctic Spider Database, and the Canadian Arachnologist sites. If you’re interested in spiders, please do familiarize yourself with all of these sites. David has put an incredible amount of work into all of them and it really shows. This summer, I’ll be posting my observations to the 9 species being tracked on Spider WebWatch, and I hope some of you will do so too. All of the target species are easily identified and found throughout most of North America.

Now, on to the carnival!

The following posts were either submitted by their authors, or were rounded up during recent visits favourite blogs over the past couple of weeks.

* First up, Aydin at Snail’s Tales turned a few rocks in his backyard to uncover a huddle of Slugs ‘n Isopods. I did a little prospecting of my own at Aydin’s blog and turned up another interesting piece on slugs, as well as this post on Leeches and Frogs.

* Romunov has sent a link to a page where he has been keeping a photographic journal of his Snail Project. When you get to the page, be sure to scroll down to the bottom to the “beginning” of the project. Fascinating and the photos are terrific. Great work, Romunov!

* The Neurophilospher describes the recent revelation that some caterpillars click and vomit to fend off predators.

* Susannah at Wanderin’ Weeta has written a super three-part piece on identifying the nebalia that she discovered near her home in B.C. Here are links to all three parts: One, Two, and Three.

* In 2 Years and Finally Identified, Cindy Mead of WoodSong describes a moth that has finally got a name.

* Never one to disappoint when it comes to invertebrates, The Annotated Budak reveals a couple of interesting denizens of his part of the world through his incredible macro photography. Meet a Squash Bug, and the working side of a Cyclosa spider

* At Living the Scientific Life, GrrlScientist reports on the recent capture of a colossal squid in the Antarctic, and of the logistics of preserving this specimen. As well, she has sent along this interesting piece on how Lice provide clues to the evolution of humans.

* Duncan at his Ben Cruachan blog from Australia, takes a day off and sets out to go birding, but plans soon change after an encounter with some handsome odonates.

* Jennifer Forman Orth from the Invasive Species Weblog sent along some good news and some bad news. The good news is that her photograph of a stonefly was recently used to illustrate a newspaper story on Delaware’s new state macroinvertebrate. The bad news is that the Asian Longhorn Beetle has been discovered on Prall’s Island, just off the coast of New York. Xris of Flatbush Gardener followed up with a new report and more bad news of the discovery of Asian Longhorn Beetles on Staten Island.

* At Pharyngula, PZ Myers introduces the lovely and amazing stalk-eyed fly.

* Vicki from A Mark on My Wall provides an illustrated demonstration of how the food chain operates around her place, along with lesson in patience.

* At Creek Running North, Chris Clarke investigates the contents of a pitcher plant and discovers a survivor among the decomposing dead.

* Here at Burning Silo there was plenty of invertebrate activity over the past month. I wrote a piece on Finding Caterpillars, and another on Aquatic Invertebrates. I also presented A Crayfish Primer. Picking up the thread on crayfish, Wayne at Niches followed up with a couple of crayfish posts of his own, here and here.

Reviews – We have a couple of nice ones!

* At 10,000 Birds, Mike Bergin puts his new copy of the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies to the test. Check out his review to see how things worked out.

* Meanwhile, Cindy Mead at WoodSong provides a review of Sir David Attenborough’s Life in the Undergrowth. Sounds like a movie I’d like to see.

And last but not least, some Photos!

* At the The Behavioral Ecology Blog, Matt gives us a great view of a Black Widow, and a Scorpion found right around his place. I like your house guests, Matt!

* KeesKennis sends along a series of photos of one great millipede from Zambia.

* And to wrap up this carnival, Rick from Coral Notes From the Field sent along a couple of photos of a colorful hitchhiker found on a colleague’s shirt while in Papua New Guinea. Apparently, the beetle was masquerading as a decorative pin. However, it blew it’s cover when it began to move (click on image for larger view).

That’s it for this edition of Circus of the Spineless. If you meant to send something in but forgot, it’s never too late. Send me a link and I’ll see if I can work it in. Our APRIL host is Tony at Milk River Blog – this was a last minute arrangement. Tony has had some technical difficulties (bad net connection) this week, so there have been further delays. I’ll post a notice on my blog once COTS is up at Tony’s blog. In the meantime, COTS could use some hosts for the coming months. If you’re interested in hosting an edition, please contact Tony.

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16 Responses to “Circus of the Spineless – Edition #19”

  1. Cindy Says:

    great presentation Bev! thanks for including me despite me forgetting to send in a submission ;)

  2. Jeremy Bruno Says:

    Thanks for the plug, Bev. We’re up to 34 bloggers as of noon today…

  3. Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) Says:

    Great circus, Bev. I’ve added a few more sites to my blogroll.

    I love the theme, “discovery”. That’s what it is, every day. Keeping our eyes (and ears) open to the astounding variety of lives sharing our journey.

    And thanks for including my posts.

  4. Duncan Says:

    Lots of interesting reading Bev, I’ll have to pull my socks up and try to contribute in future.

  5. budak Says:

    forgot all about CotS this month! Thanks for the hard trawling!

  6. burning silo Says:

    Cindy – Some posts are just too good to miss, so it’s a pleasure to include them!

    Jeremy – That’s terrific! I hope we pick up a few more before bioblitz week.

    Susannah – Your three posts on the nebalia were excellent and added so much to COTS.

    Duncan – I know you see lots of interesting invertebrates in your part of the world and I love to see and hear about them, so yes, do contribute!

    budak – Yes, it was a bit of hard trawling, but I landed a few nice ones for my trouble. (-:

  7. Laura Says:

    You’re busy hosting lately! Great collection – will have to peruse them during the week.

    If you have a minute, could you stop by my Saturday post and offer some insight on a strange bee thing? There’s a lot of photos, so be sure to have a bit of time with your dial-up.

  8. burning silo Says:

    Laura – Yes, I do seem to have been hosting a lot of stuff lately! I think that was the last for awhile though – which is a good thing as the spider and insect season will be heating up around my place very soon (I hope!). I checked out your photos and I think those must be a species of Adrena “Mining Bees”. I’ve posted some links to photos and text on your blog comments. Nice photos!

  9. Laura Says:

    Thanks, Bev. Will read your links now. So I guess maybe it was sort of a mass-hatching event?

    I wasn’t certain they were even bees – I need to find a good bug guide, the Audubon guide I have isn’t very helpful. Thanks again!

  10. tony g Says:

    great work! thanks so much!

    all my best,
    tony g

  11. burning silo Says:

    Laura – I’m not familiar enough with the life history of those bees to be able to tell you all much about what was taking place. I’m pretty sure that, here in the northeast, the bees would overwinter adults and emerge in the spring to begin gathering pollen from trees. This would be brought back to the underground egg chambers, to the same bees would be coming and going out of the holes in the earth. Apparently, there are other bees that behave like cuckoos and lay their eggs in the chambers of Adrena bees, killing the egg that is already there… and then letting the other bee supply pollen for it. Also, some parasitoids get into the egg cells with the bees when they are carrying the pollen to the egg chambers. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to know about insects, so I just know bits and pieces. I try to remember more, but it’s just too much information! Regarding field guides, the Audubon guide is okay, but kind of basic. I’m going to get a copy of the new Kaufman’s insect guide very soon (some of my photos were used in it — I wasn’t sure if they would be, but apparently they were). I’ve heard it’s quite good for identification (Cindy Mead wrote about it about a week ago on her blog). There’s another really good guide that would probably work okay in your area too — but it’s more of a tome on insects and costs a lot more than a regular field guide, but I’ll mention it anyhow — Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity – with a photographic guide to insects of eastern North America — by Stephen A. Marshall. It’s quite a wonderful book.
    Tony – Thanks! (-:

  12. Laura Says:

    Thanks for the book suggestions. I’ve seen the Kauffman guide and also would like something a bit more in depth, so the other book is a good idea also.

    Regarding the bees, I saw lots of activity in and out of the holes and some *fighting* at the entrances, so what you say makes pefect sense.

    While I’m not frightened of bees, I was rather impressed with myself as there were thousands flying about low to the ground while I was taking pics. Glad they were more immersed in their own doings!

  13. Dave Says:

    Do we have any word yet on where the April edition will be?

  14. burning silo Says:

    Hi Dave — Nope. I’ve emailed Tony a couple of times over the past week or so and have had no reply thus far. I also checked out that carnival submission site — can’t recall the URL right now — and it says “this carnival has been discontinued. I don’t know what that’s all about. I thought there was supposed to be a host lined up for this month, but I can’t get any info on that. I don’t quite know what to do. Should we just go ahead and sort of “hijack” the carnival and do it on one of our blogs as we’re pretty much at the deadline for this month. There seems to be a blog lined up to do the next edition (May), so it seems like we should be going on with this. I sort of hate to just “do it” as far as taking the reins, but maybe that’s the only way to keep things going. I’d hate to see COTS die out at this time of the year, right when we’re getting into invertebrate season. Anyhow, let me know what you think. You mentioned being interested in doing the April edition. Still interested? If so, I”ve had one submission so far and I’m sure we could scare up plenty more, especially with the bioblitz going on right now.

  15. Susannah Says:


    Any news yet on the Circus of the Spineless? I had submitted 2 of my bioblitz posts, but have received no response.

    Who is lined up for May? Do you know?

  16. bev Says:

    Susannah – Here’s what is happening. Tony from Milk River Blog (one of the people who started up COTS) is going to host the April edition, which has now run into May – this was a last-minute thing as the April host was unable to do COTS. Tony is supposed to have this edition up soon, but has had some technical difficulties. As things are delayed, he may still be accepting submissions. The best thing might be to email them to him at hurricanetg(at)