Millipede season


It’s millipede season again here in Boca, although down in the Keys, it started back in August. Don’t worry, though; they’re no threat to your health or safety. From the UF/IFAS factsheet ENY-221/IG093 (available on their website):

Centipedes and millipedes are commonly seen in yards and occasionally enter homes. Neither centipedes nor millipedes damage furnishings, homes, or food. Their only importance is that of annoying or frightening individuals.

That may be true, but they are certainly good at annoying me this time of year. And this year in particular we seem to be experiencing a bumper crop of them. Here’s […]

Happy Leap Day 2012!

Today is the day that, according to our modern (Gregorian) calendar, we insert an extra day in every year evenly divisible by four, except for centennial years unless divisible by 400. We do this because the earth’s revolution around the sun and its rotation on its axis are independent (the solar system didn’t require that they be linked so that when we’ve reached the end of x number of axial rotations we would simultaneously have completed one orbital revolution. That would be coincidence indeed.); in fact, they’re slightly out of sync.

That is, when we’ve completed one orbit around the […]

More action on the passionvine: Zebra heliconian


Florida’s state butterfly is supposed to be the Zebra Longwing:

So designated by the 1996 Florida Legislature, it was written into the Florida statutes under the Executive Branch (Title IV), Secretary of State section (Section 15) as follows:

15.0382 Official state butterfly.—The Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) is designated the official state butterfly. History.—s. 1, ch. 96-153.

Section 15 also designates other key state symbols established over the years, including the state pie (Key Lime, of course), state soil (Myakka fine sand), and state beverage (“The juice obtained from mature oranges of the species Citrus sinensis and hybrids thereof […]

You say you want a revolution?

If your New Year’s Resolution had anything to do with precision in language, and you have any interest in astronomy, please try to remember the difference between the terms revolution and rotation.

The Earth revolves around the Sun:

Revolution around the Sun

It takes a year to do this. In fact, the Copernican Revolution made famous by historian of science Thomas Kuhn, was a well-reasoned and mathematically coherent description of this astronomical fact. The seasons are caused by the 23.5° tilt of its axis. When we’re on one side of our orbit, one hemisphere is tilted closer to the […]

Another darner from a couple of years ago

Going through my old photo files has been fun for me; last night I found a slightly better photo of Coryphaeschna ingens, the Regal Darner [UPDATE:Gynacantha nervosa, Twilight Darner] who visited us during Tropical Storm Fay. I also ran across a couple of untagged photos of other species that I knew I’d seen, but couldn’t find in my files (lesson: ALWAYS apply photo tags). One of the untagged photos that I found is this Common Green Darner (Anax junius) that I saw on one of my lunchtime walks at Fern Forest: I knew I’d seen these guys before, but I’d […]

Florida Word of the Day: Ligule

In writing the post on hastula, I found out that a hastula is like a ligule. Which I guess is fine, as far as that goes, but really, it doesn’t go very far with me. I, after all, am neither agrostologist nor graminologist, so I had no idea what a ligule might be. According to MW, ligule, or tongue, is from New Latin ligula, from Latin for small tongue or strap, fr. lingere, to lick. They define it as “a thin appendage of a foliage leaf and esp. of the sheath of a blade of grass.”

By coincidence, I just […]

Florida word of the day: psammophyte

Psammophyte. This seems to be a fancy way of saying seaweed. Since this word is too hifalutin’ for the American Heritage or even Merriam-Webster teams to take on, here’s a definition of the term from Dawes and Mathieson (Seaweeds of Florida, U of Florida P 2008):

A plant that grows in unconsolidated sediments or on rocky subtrata that is impacted by sand scouring; these plants show specialized morphological and/or reproductive adaptations.

“Unconsolidated sediments” sounds to me like sand; not sure what else it could be (gravel or crushed shells, I suppose). And since psammo is Greek for sand, I’m going […]

Word of the Day: Fomite

The word of the day is fo·mite \ˈfō-ˌmīt\ n, pl fo·mites \-ˌmīts; ˈfäm-ə-ˌtēz, ˈfōm-\, which, according to Merriam-Webster’s online medical dictionary, is

an inanimate object (as a dish, toy, book, doorknob, or clothing) that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission <the much maligned toilet seat is a remarkably ineffective fomite—M. F. Rein> <what are the most common fomites for rotavirus in day-care settings—Pediatric Report’s Child Health Newsletter>

My trusty MW Collegiate provides some interesting etymology: “back-formation fr. fomites, fr. NL [that’s New Latin], pl. of fomit-, fomes, fr. L., kindling wood; akin to L fovēre […]

Day 20 moon

The last week of the lunation is turning into a test of endurance. Waking at 3 a.m. to get moon shots is not ideal for those of us who have day jobs. On the plus side, though, I have upgraded to CS4 and am able to annotate the photos; I’m working on the backlog and will post updates as time permits.

This morning’s moon turned out fairly well, despite the vibrations from the passing train and the clouds I had to dodge now and then (fortunately it wasn’t the other way around; dodging trains is one thing, but vibrating clouds […]

Word of the day: irrupt

Today’s word is irrupt. It’s not just an alternative spelling of “erupt”; it has a specific meaning in ecology. Merriam-Webster’s 11 team defines it as follows:

ir•rupt vi [L irruptus, pp. of irrumpere, fr. in- + rumpere to break — more at REAVE] of a natural population : to undergo a sudden upsurge in numbers esp. when the natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed.

While the etymology seems sound (to break into, basically), this is an unsatisfying definition on several levels. For one, it implies that the word applies especially or more strongly when there has been an ecological […]