Monday, May 20, 2013

Content Highlights - May Bug (Melolontha melolontha)

Did you know that the May Bug is related to Scarabaeus, the sacred beetle of the ancient Egypt? Or that the beetle is used in gastronomy?

Once an abundant beetle in temperate Europe, Northern Asia and continental USA, the May Bug is nowadays quite a rare visitor to our gardens. However, after pesticide controls were implemented in last decades, its numbers have started to grow again.

Melolontha melolontha from EoL - image is under CC BY-NC.

The May Bug is 20 - 30 mm long beetle belonging to family Scarabaeidae. Female beetles lay 15-30 eggs three times during late spring. The larvae hatch after 4-6 weeks. They live in the soil feeding on roots of grasses and cereals and might be serious pests.

Melolontha solitaria from Europeana - image is under CC BY-ND of National Museum, Prague.

The larvae live for about 3-4 years. Pupate adult beetles stay hidden underground hibernating over winter and then fly out collectively. This corresponds to the development of the larvae and thus, adult beetles appear every 3-4 years in large numbers. This happens usually in April or May, which is where the name "May Bug" came from. The adult beetles feed on leaves and flowers of deciduous trees, plants and shrubs but do not tend to be serious pests. They are most likely to be seen in the evenings, often crashing into windows after being atracted by artifical light of human buildings. The beetle produces an alarming loud buzzing noise as it flies, but it is harmless to humans.

The genus Melolontha is also known to palaeontologists as it has been found fosilised. Pictured is a specimen of the Miocene age from the collection of the National Museum, Prague.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Content Highlights - House Mouse (Mus musculus)

Meet the house mouse, a mammal that is not only a pest but also a model organism. Did you know that male mice can produce ultrasound whistles, by which they react to female pheromones?

Mus musculus from EoL, image is under CC BY-SA.

Mice are small rodents, active primarily at night. They have very sensitive hearing, sense of smell and sight. They eat almost everything they come across, food scraps, various insects, grain and even soap. Mice are found in nature as well as human dwellings, and move often. Besides the damage to food stocks, mice are unpleasant in that they leave their urine and droppings everywhere. They are also dangerous carriers of disease and parasites.

Listen mice sounds at Europeana, these items are under CC BY-NC-ND of Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Mice build nests under floors or in attics, and line them with paper, rags, leaves and similar materials. They breed very quickly; females can have up to twelve young, five to ten times per year. Gestation is approximately 20 days. The young are ready to leave the nest in another 20 days, and become sexually mature within their first year. In captivity they can live up to four years. They have many natural predators, like carnivores, snakes and birds.

Mus musculus from BHL.

Meet more animals which live in human dwellings at Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic called "Nature at your home". Stay tuned!

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic – Nature at your home

Today, we would like to introduce a new BLE topic called „Nature at your home“, which will give you an insight on what organisms may be found living near or directly inside your house.

Nature at your home
„Nature at your home“ presents more than 20 different species of plants or animals, that have learnt to exploit the benefits of living close to human settlements. You can find them in your garden, as well as directly within your house or flat, sometimes being much closer than you have ever thought. Our new topic, however, also shows that these organisms are also fascinating creatures of the nature. Have you, for example, known that Oriental Cockroach (Blatta orientalis) is able to survive several weeks without its head until it starves to death? Or that the Human Flea (Pulex irritans) posseses the most complex reproductive organs among the animals? If not, then all you need to do is to go through our new topic at the BLE website!

All of the information, pictures and paintings in „Nature at you home“ are linked to their original sources at BHL, EoL or Europeana. Stay tuned!