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Don’t Mess with Oil Beetles

Among all the crazy life stories of all the crazy insects in the world, the oil beetle ranks as an elite. The oil beetle is a plant-feeding insect in the blister beetle family. As with other blister beetles, the oil beetle produces a toxic compound called cantharidin that is used to protect its eggs from predation. In addition, when an oil beetle feels threatened, it secretes a yellow substance from its leg joints (of all places) that contains enough cantharidin …

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Dodder: A Parasitic Plant

Plants are green. In school, we all learned about photosynthesis, the ability of plants to convert sunlight to food using green chlorophyll in their leaves. It’s one of those foundational ideas upon which we’ve built our understanding of the world. Well, as it turns out, the world is a pretty complicated place, and there are some plants that aren’t green and that don’t even photosynthesize. One of those is a crazy-looking plant called dodder that grows across much of Nebraska. …

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An Ice Storm Feast

Photographs after an ice storm. I woke up on the morning of January 17 with a clear plan of attack. The biggest ice storm in a decade had ended the previous evening, and the forecast had correctly predicted clear skies and calm winds for the post-storm sunrise. Road crews had worked through the night, allowing me to slowly and carefully make my way across Aurora to a series of restored prairies along Lincoln Creek. It was going to be an …

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10 Tips for Insect Photography

Insects like this katydid nymph can be very satisfying to photograph – as long as they don’t fly, jump, or crawl away first.

Photos and story by Chris Helzer Have you ever wanted to take better photos of insects? Of course you have; insect photography tops every self-respecting outdoor enthusiast’s list of aspirations. It’s hard to hold your head high among your peers when they’re showing off spectacular photos of leafhoppers and damselflies and all you have is a blurry shot of something that might have been a bee. Worry no more, my friend. Here are 10 tips that will make you a better …

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