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Not-so-Exotic Wonders: Amazing Arthropods in Our Own Backyards

Zombie Crickets!

Zombie Crickets: Read the comic here!

While many of the creatures in Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders are found in exotic places, the San Diego Natural History Museum has added several surprises from our region.

Jerusalem crickets (Stenopelmatus spp.) are often found by surprised residents of our region while turning their garden. No, they are not giant termites. No, they are not aliens! No, they are not venomous. Jerusalem crickets are mostly found only in southwestern North America, typically eat dead and decaying plant matter, and are not pests. In Baja California, a Jerusalem cricket is referred to as “niño de la tierra,” or child of the Earth.

“Zombie Crickets!?” Jerusalem crickets are the unfortunate prey of parasitic horsehair worms. How do the worms take over the cricket’s brain to do their bidding? What exactly is their insidious bidding? These questions and more are answered in our local additions to Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders!

 

Battle of the Titans

Tarantulas can inspire in many folks great fear and loathing, but here in southern California, our local species are not deadly. Bites by local tarantulas can be painful, and their hairs can be irritating and itchy. Still, our local species are relatively harmless and are a good sign of ecosystem health. As bizarre as it sounds, a rogue tarantula wandering into your yard is a good sign for the environment in your area.

But say you just plain don’t like tarantulas? You might find pleasure in the fact that tarantula hawk wasps (Pepsis spp.) hunt tarantulas for deadly purposes. Find out more about the fatal battle between the tarantula and the wasp in Dr. Entomo’s!

 

Alien Invasion!

When people move around, they often bring other living things with them. Introduced into North America in the early 1800s, Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) have spread throughout the temperate U.S.A. If you get lots of small ants in your house in the summer, they are probably Argentine ants.

So what, right? An ant is an ant, right? Well, there are over 290 species of ants known from California and they are not all the same. The scary thing is that when Argentine ants invade an area, they kill off and out-compete most of the ants native to the area. Who cares? Critters higher up the food chain that like to eat ants do! Check out Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders to find out more.

 

 

Illustration by: Jennifer Zee

 

Wall of "Not-so-Exotic" Wonders!

You don’t have to go to the tropics to find biodiversity! Scientists at theNAT estimate that there are at least 40,000 species of insects that live in our region! Many are undescribed and awaiting intrepid future scientists to discover them. The “Wall of Wonder” contains hundreds of insects and arachnids that you can find in our area. 


 For Further Exploration:

San Diego Natural History Museum’s Department of Entomology

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