Nature at your Home: Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)

Do you smell ammonia in your house? It may be the presence of woodlice! They do not excrete urine, but give off ammonia gas through their exoskeleton instead, which is why places where they live in large numbers smell bad.

Common Rough Woodlouse from BHL.

Woodlice are one of the few crustaceans (crayfishes or shrimps) that live permanently on dry land. They are usually small, reaching 1.5 cm in length. For respiration, they use a system of thin tubes in their abdomen. They prefer moist environments, like basements and building walls. During the day, they normally hide under rocks, wood or fallen leaves. They live on dead plant material. Unless they multiply to very large numbers, they are practically harmless. The original home of these animals is Europe, from where they have spread throughout the world.

Various Woodlice from BHL.

After mating, females carry about twenty fertilized eggs on the underside of their bodies, until the young hatch. While adults have seven pairs of legs, freshly hatched young bears only six pairs. When woodlice molt, they first discard the rear part of their exoskeleton, then two to three days later, the front part is discarded. They can live up to two and a half years.

Woodlouse from EoL. Image is under CC BY of Stanislav Krejčík.

For more information about Common Rough Woodlouse visit Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

Nature at your Home: Beech Marten (Martes foina)

Have you spotted beech martens in your area? If so, be careful, they love to gnaw automobile wires in half! They are, however, also useful and important distributors of seeds of fruiting plants!

Beech marten from BHL.

Typical beech marten is around 60 cm long, gray-brown in color and with a white ruff. They belong to the family Mustelidae, like Badgers, Otters or Weasels for instance. Martens are mainly nocturnal, living in places with plenty of cover, like edges of forests, rocky terrain, quarries and near human dwellings. They move in short jumps and are excellent climbers. In high mountain ranges during summer months, martens may be found up to 4000 meters elevation. They are often found in attics or old structures, where they hunt for rodents, birds, eggs, small invertebrates and various remnants of food. Martens mate in the summer. Geographically, martens occur in Europe and Asia, and were transported to USA.

Combat between otter and marten from Brehm's Life of animals.

The females give birth in February or March, after a six-week long gestation period. Average litter size is three cubs. They are blind for the first five weeks, and leave the mother at around two months of age. In captivity, martens live up to seventeen years. In nature, where they have many enemies, they usually live for only three years. In captivity, young martens may be readily tamed, and with proper care, remain tame even after maturing.

Skull of marten from EoL.

One recommendation at the end, martens may be chased out of a home by distributing dropping of large wild cats where they reside. For more information visit Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)

Did you know that silverfish belongs to an ancient order of insects (Zygentoma), which appeared on the Earth in the Carboniferous period (360-300 million years ago)? Or that silverfish do not need to drink, because they absorb water from moist air through a specially adapted anus?

Silverfish from BHL.

Silverfish are miniscule wingless insects, whose body is covered with silvery scales. They are mostly  nocturnal, when they seek out humid areas (bathrooms, toilets, basements), or places where there is plenty of food and shelter (bakeries, pastry-shops). Don't worry, the presence of silverfish in your home does not indicate lack of cleanliness, but more likely abundant hiding places. In small numbers they are essentially harmless, but they can cause problems when they multiply.

Silverfish by Miroslav Deml from EOL.

Silverfish avoid light and can often be spotted trying to hide in a corner after the lights are turned on in a room. They live on substances containing protein and saccharides, like paper, books, tapestries, cotton, leather, silk, flour, sugar, cereals and glue. Silverfish also live in nature, usually dwelling under rocks, fallen leaves, bark and such. They lay up the three eggs at a time in tiny cracks and can live up to six years.

Learn more about silverfish on Nature at your Home. Stay tuned!

Spotlight: Hudson's expedition

Did you know that members of Henry Hudson's expedition were the first Europeans to have reached the famous Manhattan Island on September 12th, 1609? They met friendly Indian tribes Algonquin and Lenape.

In 1610, on the ship named Discovery, Henry Hudson set out on the fourth of his attempts to find the Northwest Passage. He sailed from the southern tip of Greenland to Labrador, and then turned to the north. He encountered a wide channel and assumed that this was the way to China. From that day on, the bay had been called Hudson's Bay. Then, he sailed into the bay, which he assumed to be part of the Pacific Ocean, then travelled further to the south into what is known today as James' Bay. 

Henry Hudson.

In June of 1611, he set out to continue the expedition. Several days after leaving the bay, his crew mutinied. They had had enough of exploring and wanted to go home. The captain refused to consider their demands. When the crew was unable to persuade him, they set him, his son John and seven crew members loyal to Hudson adrift in a small boat and left them to their fate in a stormy and freezing sea, with no prospects of rescue. Nothing further is known of their fate.

Hudson Bay.

Locating the Northwest Passage eluded Henry Hudson, but his enthusiastic description of the area near the mouth of the Hudson River led to Dutch to colonize the area and found New Amsterdam, later New York. At the time of these discoveries, Henry was in the service of the Dutch. Learn more about Hudson's expedition in Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

Humboldt Expedition to America

Did you know that Alexander von Humboldt was one of the first to voice the opinion that the continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once a joined land mass?

Alexander von Humboldt from BHL.

Alexander von Humboldt was a German scientist and traveler with a cosmopolitan education and a wide range of interests. Together with a French botanist Bonpland, von Humboldt arrived at Cuman, Venezuela on June 4th, 1799. They travelled along the Orinoco River to its confluence with the Atabapo River. In November 1800, they sailed to Havana and explored all over Cuba. In March 1801, they continued to Cartagena, Colombia. Along the Rio Magdalena River, they travelled to Honda and Bogota in Colombia and further to Quito, Eduador. They investigated the western slopes of the Peruvian Andes and travelled all the way to the Pacific Ocean. After a stay in Lima, Peru, they journeyed from Calla to Acapulco in Mexico, where they arrived in March 1803. They spent an entire year exploring Mexico, travelling mainly through volcanic mountain ranges. In 1804, they returned to Cuba. In 1804, they returned to Europe via the United States.

Humboldt from Europeana - image is under CC BY-NC-ND of The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library.

Humboldt became the founder of volcanology; the science of terrestrial magnetism, geobotany and climatology as part of which he first proposed the concept of isotherms. He devoted himself to the study of volcanic peaks. During one expedition, Humboldt (together with Bonpland) climbed Chimborazo to over 5,000 meters. Several places are named in honour of Humboldt including two bays in California and New Guinea, two mountain ranges in central Asia and Nevada, a lake and river in Nevada, a glacier in northwest Greenland, a current in the Pacific Ocean and many cities in America.

Learn more about Humboldt and other expeditions in Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!