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Stinging Caterpillars of the United States

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Caterpillars – the shapes and sizes that they come in and for many the urge to touch, pick up and hold is almost irresistible. Yet although most butterfly and moth larvae are quite harmless, preferring to curl up in a ball when threatened, some will make it quite plain that they do not like to be touched. They will sting: here is a selection of the stinging caterpillars of the United States.

The saddleback moth caterpillar, Sibine stimuli, pictured above has a 'face' that scares off many a potential predator. Yet it will also send you a definite message that it is unhappy with your sticky fingers on it. In a purely defensive tactic it will give you a sting that will dissuade you from picking up another. You can see the ‘horns’ that the caterpillar has on each end of its body – these are barbed spines which are also known as urticating setae.

The Ocelot – Really Back From the Brink?

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Do you hear a lot about the Ocelot? Hunted for its pelt for hundreds of years, the Ocelot was classified as a vulnerable endangered species until 1996. One look at this still rare animal and the attraction is undeniable but why is it no longer considered endangered?

7 Questions Kids Always Ask About Animals

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Kids and animals – they go together so well!  However, kids are curious about all sorts of concepts and animals are no exception! Children will never stop bothering us with their thought-provoking and annoying questions. Here are eight of them about animals, and how to answer them - starting with two of the more frequently asked and then some of the lesser (but still amusing) answers. Oh and don't worry about the little girl above - she does not have cruel and irresponsible parents. It's a statue.

Becoming - Watch a Single Cell become a Complete Organism

Sunday, 24 February 2019


This is just amazing – one cell becomes two, two becomes four – and so on until a complete organism is there in front of your eyes. In this case it is a newt tadpole that emerges but is the process that is fascinating. It may sound like a long time to wait to see a tadpole swim off but believe me, you will be entranced by this little creature’s process of becoming.

A film by Jan van IJken, Becoming just became the one thing that made my day. Enjoy!

Avian Architecture – the Precarious Nests of the Stork

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Storks make their nests high. To us they look remarkably precarious structures, not exactly a desirable residence – the ‘des res’ of your dreams. The stork, however, thrives at height most of us would avoid like the plague. Take a look at some amazing nests of the stork.

Although many Europeans encourage storks to nest on the roof of their home – it is supposed to increase the fecundity of the householders – many would gasp at the inherent danger that lies in building one’s home on top of a deadly current of electricity. In Denmark, however, the stork is not a welcome guest and so this would be considered appropriate alternative housing. The Danish believe that if a stork builds a nest on top of your house then someone who lives there will die before the year ends. These parent storks, however, will not be on the nest for great periods of time. This stork in Hungary is flying back to the nest to feed its offspring. The visit will need to be fairly quick though – stork chicks can eat anything up to sixty percent of their body weight each day. That is quite a few fish and frogs.

Prehistoric Landscape Returns to Europe

Saturday, 26 January 2019

If you take a short train journey north from Amsterdam you really should choose to sit on your left.  When you have passed the small town of Almere you will come across something that has not been seen in Europe for thousands of years.  Beasties, big beasties.  Herds and herds of them.  Welcome to the Oostvaardersplassen.

It looks to the observer as if they have suddenly been transported back in time.  Herds of deer, wild cattle and horses roam around – it is like a vast prehistoric landscape.  Strangely enough this place did not exist before 1968. It is a polder, a low lying tract of land that is enclosed by barriers called dikes.   The Oostvaardersplassen has become in forty years one of the most important nature reserves in Europe.

The Strange Elegance of the Giraffe-Necked Antelope

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Found in Eastern Africa ranging from Somalia to Kenya there is a slightly odd looking long-necked creature that is reminiscent of a giraffe but that is one thing it most certainly is not.

The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl

Sunday, 13 January 2019


We don’t usually stray away from live action on Ark in Space, but this is really something rather wonderful.  Mike Roush, an animator living in California, has created this animated record of the life and loves of the Burrowing Owl.  Although it does veer in to the anthropomorphic it also faithfully records many of the details of how burrowing owls survive in the wild.  If this wets your appetite for the real thing then why not take a look at our feature article on the burrowing owl.

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index: How Much Could You Take?

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Have you ever been stung by a bee? Want to know how much you have suffered on a scale of one to four? Then take a look at the Schmidt Sting Pain Index which rates the relative pain caused by the sting of hymenoptera. That would be sawflies, wasps, bees and ants to most of us.


The Sweat Bee

Schmidt describes the sting of the Sweat Bee as “Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.” Sweat bees are a large family of bees and they are hugely attracted to humans. Specifically, it is the salt in our sweat that they like.

The Meerkat - Sun Angel of Africa

Saturday, 5 January 2019

The Meerkat – if any species of animal had a right to be a little irritated by the name we have gifted them, this is one. Of course, they are blithely unaware of any names we might choose to call them, but this small mammal from the heart of Africa is anything but a mere cat.


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