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Biodiversity Blog

 

History of UT Entomology, Part 2: The Fly Years

PattersonJohn T. Patterson. “Sandy-haired and short of stature, he had a ready wit, a love of repartee, and the ebullient temperament we traditionally associate with the Irish people.” -  Theophilus Painter in a 1965 memoir about him Part 1 explored the formative years for UT entomology and the focus on ants, with William Morton Wheeler and his stu...

History of UT Entomology, Part 1: It Begins with Ants

Ants their structure development and behavior 1910 14781912494 From Ants: Their Structure, Development, and Behavior (1910) When UT opened its doors in 1883, biology was not part of the curriculum, despite that faculty at the time pushed for representation of botany and physiology. “The new State University organized in 1883 had more ambitions than resources,” wrote Geneticist and UT professor Clarenc...

UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

mapThe prestigious journal BioScience just released "Natural History Collections: Advancing the Frontiers of Science," a compilation of recent natural history collection-related papers that sheds light on the importance of digitizing and publishing collections data, and the substantial obstacles confronting collections staff working on that. This come...

The Challenge of 1%

dungbettle web Dung beetle (Photo: Alex Wild) Natural History collections hold material going back centuries, but the digital revolution means their holdings are now open to everyone, pending the process of digitization. Properly digitizing specimens consumes enormous resources, particularly the one we all have so little of: time. But the Entomology Coll...

BACKYARD BIODIVERSITY: Grasshoppers!

Aidemona1 X2This colorful insect that looks like it’s about to go to a carnival is actually the nymph of Aidemona azteca. The adults of this species are drab in appearance. (Photo: Alex Wild) Grasshoppers are one of the oldest living group of chewing herbivorous insects, dating back to the early Triassic around 250 million years ago. In Central Texas, we ha...

BACK YARD BIODIVERSITY: Fireflies

FF1   Photo: Alex Wild Austin sits at the far southwestern corner of the range of the Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis), the species that gives eastern landscapes the characteristic dusk light show in early summer. This insect is common in neighborhoods around Austin, with large flights in April, May, and June and a smaller emergence w...

Austin’s Other Orange Butterfly: the Gulf Fritillary

adult1by Dr. Alex Wild (Curator of Entomology, Biodiversity Collections) and Nicole Elmer (Biodiversity Center)    Adult Gulf Fritillary (Photo: Alex Wild) Austin is a butterfly town. About 150 kinds are known to occur in our area, a mix of temperate and tropical, desert and deciduous forest species. Although many people know the famous...

Austin Spring Insects: Crane Flies

Picture1   A female Tipula crane fly in an Austin garden Spring continues to roll through Austin, paying no heed to our human worries of viruses and lockdowns. Rains fall, trees leaf out, bluebonnets speckle the roadsides, and crane flies flutter clumsily across our lawns. Crane flies? Few insects are as strongly evocative of the Texan sprin...
Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

Moth Threatens Prickly Pear Cactus

   Moth damage to Prickly Pear (Photo: Larry Gilbert) Despite its iconic association with the Southwest, many people may not love Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia). However, various species of Opuntia are extremely important plants to most ecosystems in Texas and Mexico. They produce a huge quantity of fruits that are a critica...

New wasp species named after UT Entomologist

alexwildiGlyptapanteles alexwildi is one of 136 new tropical wasp species that have been recently discovered. This species is named after Entomologist Alex Wild, curator of Entomology in the Biodiversity Center. Glyptapanteles is a genus of small, often inconspicuous parasitoid wasps containing hundreds of species found worldwide. The genus is&nbs...

Creatures of Halloween: Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis)

Panorpa nuptialis P1330899a   By xpda - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64833118 Donning the colors of Halloween, this is the Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis). It’s a common insect in Texas in wooded areas and ravines with dense vegetation. They are up to an inch long. Their wings are orange with defined angulate black ba...

Insects and Art

IMG 0395 red  Pencils in hand, erasers in reach, students huddle over cases of butterflies and beetles. The room is quiet, save for the “scratch scratch” of the pencil lead, the occasional rub of an eraser on paper. This is a scene from “Core II: Drawing,” a class in the First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History. On September 12t...

What's In a Name? Tummy Toads, Gastrophryne olivacea

Gastrophryne olivacea02   Photo: Stanley Trauth 2007 (wikipedia) A few years ago, I built several ponds near my house at the Double Helix Ranch, hoping that frogs would colonize them and I could enjoy the sound of frog calls outside my window. Several different species have come and bred there including Strecker's Chorus frogs (Pseudacris streckeri), Grey ...

A Rodeo of Insects

Rodeo 1By Jen Schlauch, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Senior    Freshman Research Initiative students A large steel barn lay hidden from the February cold, framed in a banner of painted bluebonnets and the words, “Texas Wildlife Expo.” Within, javelinas, porcupines, and longhorn cattle shuffled in front of curious children and their ...

Insects Unlocked Video Wins an Emmy

ThreeAlexesA promotional video the College of Natural Science completed about the Insects Unlocked project recently won a Lone Star emmy. The Lone Star EMMY Chapter is chartered by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and recognizes excellence in the television broadcasting industry. Insects Unlocked is a public domain project from the Biod...

CAMPUS BIODIVERSITY: Oak Gall Wasps

Oak Gall  You might have seen them. Pink or dry grey spheres hanging on a branch of a live oak tree. Curious, you might have picked at the thing, thought it was just some strange tree growth, then tossed it aside. But this little sphere is the larval stage home to an insect that has an amazing and complex life cycle: the Oak Gall Wasp, or Disholcas...

The Robb Butterfly Collection

R11 web  Stacks of thin wood display cases fill an overflow room in the Biodiversity Center’s Entomology Collection. The cases contain 10,000 specimens of butterflies gathered from all over the world, starting in the 1970s. They are the Robb butterfly collection UT acquired in the winter of 2017, now being reorganized and queued for incorporation ...
The Daily Species: Bumble Bee Fly (Laphria macquarti)

The Daily Species: Bumble Bee Fly (Laphria macquarti)

On the left is a bumble bee. On the right is... not a bumble bee. Laphria macquarti is one of the larger and more spectacular mimics of common bumble bees in the southeastern United States. These agile predatory insects are in the robber fly family Asilidae, and like most robber flies, they catch prey in mid-air. Their beelike appearance likely det...
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The Daily Species: Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Daily Species: Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

One of North America's most abundant butterflies, the pipevine swallowtail develops on the leaves of Aristolochia pipevine, sequestering the plant's potent toxins so as to remain poisonous to their own predators. The photographs of the hatching eggs (above) and adult butterfly (below) are public domain images created at UT ...
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A new microsporidian is the first described pathogen of tawny crazy ants

A new microsporidian is the first described pathogen of tawny crazy ants

A new study describing the first pathogen to be found in tawny crazy ants has been published by the Invasive Species Research group at BFL and is co-authored by USDA scientists. This is an important discovery given the national prominence and attention of these invasive ants. The pathogen is a new genus of microsporidian parasites that infects the ...