Links to share (distracted version)

Okay, so the process of moving to my new location is less organized than I would like and I’m still trying to get myself sorted (finding a place to live, getting an office key, things like that), but here are some links for you to read in the meantime!

Bumblebees can smell who visited a flower last:

More amazing science images:

A battle inside a solitary bee nest (also awesome citizen science documenting a bee parasite):

Your typical SOIMF* reminder that Earth is a pretty special place:

A pretty and interesting map of the universe:



Heinlein Links to Share

I am a-traveling again! I’ll post when I land as a stranger in a strange new land where I will make my next home (hint: it’s not Mars). Until then, please enjoy these links to share…

I already knew bees were smart…after all, I’ve seen them respond quickly and rationally to short term experimental treatments! But bumblebees playing fetch?

NASA’s Dawn mission discovered organic material on Ceres:

I think I’ve shared links on this beetle that pretends to be an ant’s butt before…but just in case:

Sad, but true…pollution has worked its way down to literally the farther corners of the Earth and the deepest depths of the ocean:

Honeybees whoop when they run into each other apparently:
And here’s the open access sciencey article:

A pretty documentary on European wild bees (no English translation, but still pretty):

Ideas for reducing plastic consumption…I always aim to reduce, though it doesn’t always happen.  Always good to try:

A very interesting (but nerdy!) article on host-switching in oligolectic bees and its relationship with pollen nutrition (as a bonus these bees both live where I’m moving, so maybe I’ll see them in action):

Even earwigs have hitchhikers*??

I feel like this some days:


Did you know…that it took almost until the invention of the steam engine for us to realize that insects mediate plant pollination?  (may not be open access)

I used to love reading stories of exploration like this:

More animals destroying drones! I don’t know why this makes me happy but it does:

Female adventure photographers:

*That’s a very very old post, haha

Ruddy Duck, by Jack Collom

Yer a ruddy duck! (You know who you are, ya ruddy duck)



or dumpling duck, daub duck, deaf duck,

fool duck, sleepy duck,

butter duck, brown diving teal, widgeon coot,

creek coot, sleepy coot, sleepy brother,

butter-ball, batter-scoot, blatherskite, bumble coot,

quill-tailed coot, heavy-tailed coot, stiff-tail,

pin-tail, bristle-tail, sprig-tail, stick-tail, spine-tail, dip-tail,

diver, dun-bird, dumb-gird, mud-dipper,

spoon-billed butter-ball, spoonbill, broad-billed dipper,

dipper, dapper, dopper, broad-bill, blue-bill,

sleepy-head, tough-head, hickory-head,

steel-head, hard-headed broad-bill, bull-neck,

leather-back, paddy-whack, stub-and-twist,

lightwood-knot, shot-pouch, water-partridge,

dinky, dickey, paddy, noddy, booby, rook, roody,

stiff-tailed widgeon, gray teal, salt-water teal

– Jack Collom

Some gorgeous Kenyan cards

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago, and last year my family made the difficult decision to move him to a care facility.  He had been wandering out of the house in the middle of the night on freezing winter nights, and we were worried about his safety.  In some ways, he loves living in the care facility…he’s very social and has a lot of friends there.  He plays bingo and dances.  But in other ways, he just wants to go home.

There isn’t much I can do to make him happier, but since he moved in I’ve been sending him cards.  I mean A LOT of cards…almost every other day.  When I traveled to Kenya, knowing I’d be gone and unable to write for a month, I wrote a stack of 25 cards, addressed and stamped them, and gave them to my mom to send for the duration of my trip.

When we visit my grandfather, the cards are everywhere…they’re all over his room, in all his clothes’ pockets, in his dresser, under the bed.  I don’t know whether he can read them or not (likely not), but everyone likes getting mail, right?

Anyway, when I was in Kenya, I thought I would get some special cards to send to my grandpa. I found these in the gift shop at the National Museum in Nairobi, and I had to resist buying all of them.  They are clearly hand painted, but there is no artist or brand listed anywhere on any of the cards.  But aren’t they gorgeous??  I wish I could paint like this!

I walked up to the cashier with a giant stack of these cards, each one unique.  She said, “You know these are 200 shillings (about 2 dollars US) each, right?” And I said, “Oh.”  And then I painstakingly picked out three.

I wish I could acknowledge the artist!


A sad puppy story

WARNING: THIS STORY IS VERY SAD (and a little gruesome)…please read no further if you aren’t prepared for a sad, but true story about how bad things can happen to innocent puppies.

Here’s an adorable gif of a snow leopard (this is your opportunity to escape)

We had three station dogs at our research camp…their names were Winkie, Tsavo, and Socks. They each had their own personality for sure…Winkie was a total ham, sweet and loving and attention-seeking. Tsavo was partially blind, and maybe a little mentally disabled…he was often confused and frightened (poor thing), but he loved love too. Socks was a sweetie, but he wasn’t neutered and every night he would run out and meet his lady friends all around the farms. A couple of other dogs that did not belong to us would show up around breakfast time and learned to recognize me quickly because I’m a pushover. Frequently, I would leave camp with 3-5 dogs trailing me (a fact which annoyed me because dogs are not great to have around when you are sampling bees or watching birds).

Camp dogs…Winkie and Socks behind her on the left, Tamu lying in the middle (not one of our dogs, but one who frequently begged for food), and Tsavo staring into nothing on the right
Winkie bravely survived a baboon attack…you can see her leg is still bandaged

Our camp dogs were healthy, and, well, fat compared to the dogs at the surrounding farms, which were often skin and bones.

A nearby farm dog, Ricky…I periodically sneaked biscuits to him

The farmers had no desire to neuter or spay their dogs, because the puppies could be sold at 50 shillings (about 50 cents) a piece…if they survived. The main problem was that this was not a healthy environment for puppies and most of them died horrible parasite-infested deaths. Their main enemy was a horrible maggot called a Mango worm (Cordylobia anthropophaga). Mango worms are a type of blowfly, the adults lay eggs in feces contaminated soil and the larvae crawl across the sand until they encounter a mammalian host. They crawl under the skin and develop there, feeding off the host until they become large enough to leave…they drop to the ground and pupate out. I’ll leave you to look up photos for yourself if you so desire.

We also had a vet in camp at the time I was there. She hated to see animals suffering so when she saw three puppies with particularly bad infestations, she borrowed them from their owners for a few days to try and help. These three came from a litter of nine puppies, and they were the worst off, although all of the puppies were infested with parasites.

These puppies stank horribly, so we washed them first
With medicated soap
Filthy puppies
You can see how dirty the water is on the second rinse
Second washing with shampoo
Parasite inspections
I love the suspicious look on this puppy’s face
Some cuddle time post-washing
Parasite removal process
We tried to feed them, but they couldn’t eat much
Exhausted puppies

All told, we removed over three hundred mango worms from these three puppies…that’s a hundred parasites from each puppy (our camp chicken, Matilda, devoured all of these tasty parasites, then wiped her beak in satisfaction in the sand…I’ve never seen a chicken eat that much that fast before). And that’s just the ones we could remove.

I wish I could tell you that this story ended in a happy way…but every one of those puppies died, despite our efforts. Not just the three we tended too, which were the worst off, but the entire litter of nine puppies.

It is a brutal world for a puppy when not even the humans can find enough to eat or drink. My Kenyan friend said the dead puppies are not even buried (of course not, when you think about it), but their bodies are just tossed into the bush.

The vet at our camp later neutered Socks…and I helped her, believe it or not! I never thought I’d be helping to neuter a dog in the African bush, but the girl who was supposed to help passed out, so my help was suddenly necessary. Thank goodness I’m not squeamish (I’ve watched them stitch my own knee before).

It made me think back to how well-treated dogs are in the United States. They are tended and cherished and cared for every day of their lives (well, most of them are). Even the dogs at our camp were babied. We spend so much on our pets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that there’s a fat, happy Rascal waiting to see me when I visit New York…but of course it is hard for people to value the life of a puppy when their own children are hungry.

The lovely Carmine Bee-eater

I’ve loved bee-eaters since I saw my first Australian Rainbow Bee-eater (gorgeous, also beautiful). I love them in spite of the name that implies that they eat a lot of bees (which I also love), because this is nature and bees are eaten by lots of different types of attractive birds.

There are a lot of gorgeous bee-eaters in Africa, but there was one that particularly caught my fancy: the Carmine Bee-eater.

The first time I saw one, I spent almost an hour trying to get a good photo, cautiously tracking it through the bush until it landed on a powerline, then sneaking up through the brambles below it to secure this mediocre photo (which at the time I was delighted by):

Carmine Bee Eater

The next day, I went into Tsavo National Park and discovered…
Carmine Bee-eaters
Thousands of Carmine Bee-eaters! (Not that I’m complaining)
Carmine Bee-eaters
And they’re not shy!
Carmine Bee-eaters
Carmine Bee-eaters
Carmine Bee-eaters
Carmine Bee-eaters
Carmine Bee-eaters

They were so common that you could find them riding zebras…
Carmine Bee-eaters
and flocking around elephants

(I even saw them riding around on other, larger birds)

Enemy, thy name is Vervet Monkey

I expect a lot of readers will find these little jerks cute, but I know the truth, which is that primates in general and monkeys in particular, are total jerks.  I learned this from my experiences working at a zoo, where the primates tortured me on a daily basis, knocking off my glasses, tugging on my hair, and pulling my trousers down.  Jerks.

Since then I’ve had a checkered history with wild primates. I think the howler monkeys of the Neotropics are obnoxious, I regard the spider monkeys with extreme suspicion, and I’m terrified of baboons.  In Kenya, the vervet monkeys were my enemies.  Somehow I think they could smell my distaste of primates and they chased me or ran at me with every opportunity.

This is especially funny because there are few animals in the animal world that I don’t like.  Spiders?  Adorable!  Snakes?  So awesome!  Monkeys?  Get them away from me!!!

Anyway. Enjoy your “cute” monkey photos.  I hope they bring you pleasure.*

Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
I’ve seen the babies ride on top of or below the mamas
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Baby jumping
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
He’s sitting up and then…
Vervet Monkey
FLOP, he’s down
Vervet Monkey
The thinking monkey
Vervet Monkey
This is the look he gave me right before he attacked me
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Vervet Monkey
Rough housing for fun
Vervet Monkey

*Just monkeying around 😉