Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

A New Lady Brownie!

November 28, 2010

I have now had the pleasure of having a pet female praying mantis for about three weeks now!

I have been praying to find an adult female praying mantis for years now, and on a recent cold and rainy day I found one at a Krystal Drive Thru on the curb outside of the building when I want to pay for and pick up my order. I rarely go there because of the salt in their sandwiches, but I did it on a spur of the moment action and there she was! She was so hunkered down to the curb that for a moment I thought she might be dead.

I stopped instantly, jumped out and picked her up, and she ruffled her wings at me and tried to pinch me- a good sign-which showed she was still feisty!

I drove up to the window to pay them, and the women there jerked back from my hand and shrieked “Oh my God, is it a moth?” I told them what she was, and they took my money hurriedly, as I told them how we used to bring in mantises every year before the first and put one on each set of curtains around the house. I took care of them and fed and watered each one daily, and they learned to drink water from spoons… and I have my late father, Philip Bergh’s,  slides to prove this. And, often they would last well into December before they finally died of old age.

Meanwhile, as she sat calmly on my left hand, and was warming up, the ladies asked me if I’d name her, and I told them , “Yes, Lady Brownie”, for that was what we named all of our lovely brown praying mantises with the green stripe down their lateral wings. Well, I got my food, and just sat there eating it with a very happy heart and a big smile on my face!

I called my friend Jan and asked her to get me a gerbil cage for Lady Brownie, and she said that she hadn’t heard me this happy in a long time! Then, I called her back a few minutes later and asked her to also get me some mealworms, as I had to feed he, and this was met with gales of laughter and, “Where will I find them?” I told her WalMart’s pet section or a pet store, and several hours later, there she was with a small mammal cage and a container of mealworms. She greeted me by asking me if I appreciated all of the trouble she went to because of my love of insects? I replies, that I had been thinking just of this and how all of my friends at some point had assisted me some way when I was raising caterpillars or other insects just for the fun of it! She then and cut off a branch for her cage, and held her while I fitted the branch to the cage, and she agreed that mantises were really cool and fascinating insects!

And now, every day I water her either with drops on my fingertip or from a spoon, and give her a mealworm or more/day and sometimes some yogurt too. She has now laid two egg cases in her cage, and her abdomen is still huge, so she will probably lay at least one more egg case soon. Right now she is resting under my lamp on my sleeve, and is watching me as I type, and I feel so very lucky, to once again, after nearly 45 years, to have a pet praying mantis again!

An Entomologist’s Childhood Memories.

October 25, 2009

I grew up in a New York City suburb in Queens County.  Our house was on a quarter of an acre of property, which in NYC was a fairly large yard.  One half of our yard was all gardens, and where we had lots of daylilies, a cactus area, and ferns in the shade of  a cluster of birch trees, 13 dogwood trees, two apple trees and a beautiful crabapple tree.  We also had a large Austrian pine, a gardenia, an ailanthus and a ginkgo tree that gave us additional shade.  And, we had flower pots of begonias, fuchsia and coleus scattered around the yard, which added to the beauty.

Our yard was always filled with birds and other animals, who were attracted to the flowers and plants at our place. Every year, we collected praying mantis egg cases from a nearby marsh and several large weed lots and placed them on the shingles outside my bedroom window.  I would watch them every day as it grew warmer, for I loved to watch the ¼ inch praying mantises hatch from the egg cases.  We would distribute them all around the yard where there were flowering plants, and watch them grow during the summer.  I also would bring praying mantises that I found in the neighborhood, and put them on a thorn hedge on outside of the side yard, and watch them  hunt each year.  In the Fall, before the first frost occurred, I would bring these praying mantises into my house, and place one mantis per set of curtains in the dining room, living room and mine and my parents bedrooms.  I loved handling, feeding, watering and watching them every day, and some lived almost until Thanksgiving each year.  My father would take close-ups of the praying mantises as they hunted, ate, molted, all summer, and later would photograph them mating, and take close-ups as the females made their egg cases in our yard and house.

Another tradition in our household was to raise around100 American wild silkworms and moths each year.  What got my parents interested in raising the silk moths was that my mother wanted to spin fabric using the silk moths cocoons in the future.  And so, when I was about four, my parents bought some Cecropia, Polyphemus and Ailanthus moth cocoons, and raised eggs from the moths that hatched in our house that year.  When I got older, I helped my parents continue to raise Cecropia caterpillars for the next twenty years.  We also raised Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and Black Swallowtail caterpillars, and  my father photographed all of their life cycles in great detail.   I was also fortunate that my parents encouraged my love of insects, and allowed me to bring home and raise insects that I found in the neighborhood, and my father photographed them too.

It has been many years since my parents died, and I am now the owner of my father’s 2000 insect and spider photographs.  I am cataloging them, and cleaning the slides with Adobe Photoshop.  So far I have identified about 1700 and cleaned about 300 of these slides.  I many months of pleasurable work ahead of me before I am finished.   I have used Dad’s slides in an unpublished children’s book that I have written, and I plan to use more to illustrate articles on insects I am writing for magazines.  And, every time that I look at Dad’s slides, I marvel at his patience and skill as he took beautiful picture after picture, of these marvelous and fascinating little animals.

Greetings From An Entomologist!

September 29, 2009

I am an entomologist who fell in love with butterflies when they started landing on me when I was three years old.  By the time I was five years old, my parents said that I was telling everyone that I wanted to be an entomologist.  I took my first entomology classes at SUNY Farmingdale in 1969 [now Farmingdale State University, Farmingdale, NY] and was fascinated with them.  I then  transferred to the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, and earned my B.S.A. in Entomology in 1975.

I have been doing my “A Look Into The Insect World” lecture and  slide show to libraries, schools and interested groups for 30 years now.  I use my late father, Philip Bergh’s, best slides in a short talk about the growth and development of commonly seen insects.   I also talk about my general collection [mostly collected between New York and Georgia] and my Augusta area insect collection.

Over the years I have shortened the slide show and added a short talk about and my venomous insects and arthropods collection to my lecture.   I have also drawn handouts about medically important and venomous arthropods and insects found in my area to my talks, so that the families attending will have a reference sheet about what to do should they encounter any of these potentially dangerous animals.

Lately, I have been developing a Pre-K version of my talk for my youngest students.  I have been enlarging and printing slides by the topics used in Pre-K classes.  I can now show groups of insects by their colors and shapes and can show how insects camouflage themselves and how insects in various stages of their lives can look like totally different and inanimate objects.

I am very fortunate that at age 59, I have lost none of my love for insects, and each year have a new group of children that are interested in them.   It is a wonderful experience to be able to share my knowledge and enthusiasm about insects with new and returning folks each year!

The Beginnings of an Entomologist!

September 20, 2009

I am an entomologist who fell in love with butterflies when they started landing on me when I was three years old.  By the time I was five years old, my parents said that I was telling everyone that I wanted to be an entomologist.  I took my first entomology classes at SUNY Farmingdale in 1969 [now Farmingdale State University, Farmingdale, NY] and was fascinated with them.  I then  transferred to the University of Georgia, Athens, GA, and earned my B.S.A. in Entomology in 1975.

I have been doing my “A Look Into The Insect World” lecture and  slide show to libraries, schools and interested groups for 30 years now.  I use my late father, Philip Bergh’s, best slides in a short talk about the growth and development of commonly seen insects.   I also talk about my general collection [mostly collected between New York and Georgia] and my Augusta area insect collection.

Over the years I have shortened the slide show and added a short talk about and my venomous insects and arthropods collection to my lecture.   I have also drawn handouts about medically important and venomous arthropods and insects found in my area to my talks, so that the families attending will have a reference sheet about what to do should they encounter any of these potentially dangerous animals.

Lately, I have been developing a Pre-K version of my talk for my youngest students.  I have been enlarging and printing slides by the topics used in Pre-K classes.  I can now show groups of insects by their colors and shapes and can show how insects camouflage themselves and how insects in various stages of their lives can look like totally different and inanimate objects.

I am very fortunate that at age 59, I have lost none of my love for insects, and each year have a new group of children that are interested in them.   It is a wonderful experience to be able to share my knowledge and enthusiasm about insects with new and returning folks each year!