Red-nosed Reindeer: The Story of the Reindeer Snot Bot

Maybe it wasn’t light at all, but something far darker, that turned Rudolph’s nose red.

During the peak of summer in the far north of Scandinavia, reindeer have forsaken the snow and lichen of winter and are busy foraging on the soft new plant growth like sedge and cotton grass, fireweed and goldenrod and the leaves of birch and willow trees. With abundant food the reindeer gorge themselves, putting on weight before the return of winter, while the new calves, who were born in the spring, grow alongside their mothers. It is a carefree time of plenty — or it should be, but reindeer aren’t the only animals in the north enjoying the season of abundance.

During a warm sunny day, hovering in front of a reindeer’s face is what looks like a fuzzy, yellow and black bee,…

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Urban Species Profile:: Hover Flies

One of my favorite insects to find in the city, and they’re incredibly easy to see if you know what to look for, are the hover flies. The family Syrphidae contains about 6,000 species (890 in North America). They’re known as Syrphid flies but more commonly they’re called hover flies or flower flies, and can be found around the world in a variety of habitats. You’ve possibly seen them but mistaken them for a bee, as many of them resemble them so convincingly, their images are often wrongly used on articles about bees. Look a little closer and you’ll see these are not bees; they have two wings like all in the Diptera (fly) family, while bees and wasps have four wings. They are identifiable from other flies because they have a ‘false vein’, or a vein between the third and fourth longitudinal veins that ends without attaching to other veins. It’s this false vein,…

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