iNaturalist and Rearing Data

Since late April, almost all of my free time (and a large portion of my not-so-free time) has been consumed by rearing. It all started innocently, when I found two sets of eggs: a cluster of tawny emperor eggs, and mystery stink bug eggs. I thought it would be fun to hatch them, document the various life stages, and provide data to link immature forms to the adults (since that information is sadly lacking for hemiptera, especially stink bugs), and record how long each life stage lasted.

Of course, I am completely incapable of moderation, so not only did I have these two sets of eggs, but I also brought in every single stink bug nymph I found in my yard, every single caterpillar, every single cluster of eggs. When I started finding stick insects... yeah, things got a little out of hand. Since May, my kitchen has been converted into an insectarium, and my counters are covered in tanks full of bugs, exuviae, dead specimens, caterpillar head capsules. And I have collected a truly massive amount of data. I keep a "lab notebook" of sorts, documenting the physiological changes and behaviors of each species. I have a catalog of each cocoon/chrysalis tracking formation date and emergence dates. My 64 gb phone is constantly running out of storage space, prompting me to delete basically every single app, because these bug pictures are important.

The six hours a night I had to spend cleaning caterpillar tanks (I'm not exaggerating) gave me a lot of time to think. Two things ran through my head the most often: (1) why am I doing this I just want to sleep it's 2 am and I have to get up for work in four hours whyyy (2) what am I going to do with all this data? Initially I was planning to add it all to bugguide, since it's such a great resource, especially for life series data. I know when I'm trying to look things up, bugguide is the first place I go because it has more than 10 years worth of data and expert curation. I am planning to submit my photos to bugguide, but with the recent changes to iNaturalist, I realized that really, this is the best place to host my data.

I know it hasn't been formally released yet, but the new observation page is The Best Thing Ever. Most of what I have been raising is caterpillars. Caterpillars eat everything you own, go hide in a pupa, then come out and pee on you before flying away. Problem is, when you have HUNDREDS of caterpillars, how do you know when they will pupate, or when they will emerge? My cocoons are currently hanging out in piles, but I need to put them in emergence chambers before they come out, so they have space to hang and dry their wings out. I know Texas has multiple generations, because bugguide says so... but how many? and WHEN?

In comes the new official iNaturalist life stage annotation. Complete with a handy graph showing life stage data. When the life stage of an observation is included, it goes onto this graph, providing a super easy way of seeing when to expect your moths to crawl out. One shortcoming is the data isn't automatic, and I haven't found an easy way to enter life stage data while making an observation (there are just too many annotations available and the "insect life state" annotation I have been religiously filling out is apparently not the "official" iNat one). But there is a super easy way to manually enter in this information from the "identify" area of the site. So last week, when I first learned about this, I manually entered in the life stage data for every single io moth and flannel moth observed in Texas. And the life stage graphs are beautiful:

The act of adding life stage data to all these observations made me rethink how I was going to use iNat to record my rearing observations. Instead of having one observation that I add each life stage photo to, it makes more sense to add a new observation for every instar, every pupa, every eclosure. I was worried about clogging up my observations with a bunch of the same thing, but that data is actually useful. While rearing, I've discovered a few things (or maybe it's just never been reported in the places I've looked), and I really want to share this information! So, if you follow me, my advance apologies for the thousands of tawny emperor caterpillars you're about to see in your feed.

My plan: I add a new observation for broods/individuals as they change (either getting bigger, molting, pupating, etc.). I will create a unique tag for each brood so they can be searched for easily, but I will also associate each observation for a brood in a single journal post dedicated to that species. I plan to transfer my notes to this journal entry, which will link to the observation tag. And I'll summarize important findings, including how difficult/easy rearing that particular species was (glares at 3-month old 3rd instar tawny emperor caterpillars).

I don't know when exactly I'll start, since I still have a month-long photo backlog for regular, non-rearing observations (I've been blaming City Nature Challenge, but really, I should be blaming the tawny emperors...) But, hopefully soon!

הועלה ב-יולי 15, 2017 08:05 אחה"צ על ידי nanofishology nanofishology


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