biologe

Blog and online journal with editorial content about science, art and nature.

Kategorie: Berlin

Teaching: Ich als Naturalist – Me as a naturalist

Bumble bee Bombus sp. in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth 2021/2022
Honey bee Apis mellifera in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth 2021/2022
Deutonymphs of the microscopically tiny mite Schwiebea cf. eurynymphae (Acaridae, Astigmata) formally attached to beetle Phosphuga atrata under the bark of felled tree trunk of Tilia platyphyllos in urban park Rehberge in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2021/2022
Larvae of beetle Oryctes nasicornis from Italy with associated gamasid mites under studio light conditions, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin 2016/2022
Land crab Metasesarma obesum under studio conditions, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin 2017/2022

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Ich biete Unterricht, Förderkurse, Vorträge und Fortbildungskurse zu den Themen Naturkunde, Naturschutz, Artenvielfalt, Ökologie, Klimaschutz und Evolution an sowie Unterricht oder Vorträge zur Naturfotografie oder der Naturfilmerei. All dies entweder auf Honarbasis oder via Anstellung. Bitte entnehmen Sie weitere Informationen meinem Menüpunkt zum Thema Unterricht und Lehre. Selbstverständlich verfüge ich über Qualifikationsnachweise zu meinen diversen bisherigen Lehrtätigkeiten sowie meine fachliche Kompetenz. Bitte beachten Sie hierzu auch meinen Menüpunkt Curriculum Vitae.

Doch was sind eigentlich meine Themengebiete? Im Folgenden finden Sie interessante Fragestellungen aus meinen Kompetenzbereichen.

Was ist ein Ökosystem? Welche Ökosysteme sind gut untersucht, welche eher nicht? Wie gut kennt man die Artenvielfalt von Mikro-Lebensstätten in Deutschland, und was ist über deren biologische (ökologische) Zusammenhänge bekannt? Was ist denn eigentlich eine Art, was sind denn dann Zwillingsarten, und was versteht man gar unter einem Artenkomplex (kryptische Artengruppe)? Ist das Aussterben von Arten ein normaler Bestandteil der Evolution oder ist das Aussterben einer Art immer zwingend ein alamierender Hinweis auf eine (evtl. menschengemachte) Naturkatastrophe? Wieviele Arten aus allen Organismengruppen weltweit kennen wir, und wieviele in etwa kennen wir noch nicht? Warum kennen wir viele Arten, sogar in Deutschland, noch immer nicht? Wie erkennt man neue Arten, und wie ist eine sogenannte Artbeschreibung aufgebaut? Ist der Mensch eine Tierart, und wo im Stammbaum der Tiere ist er dann anzusiedeln?

Warum sind ein Wald, ein Teich oder eine Wiese Orte für interessante Entdeckungen, und zwar insbesondere auch für Kinder? Was lebt denn da, und wie ist es an seinen Lebensraum angepasst? Was haben unterschiedliche Arten in solchen Lebensräumen eigentlich miteinander zu tun? Und wie beobachtet man Tierverhalten am besten? Wie dokumentiert man es aussagekräftig, um sein Wissen später mit Freunden oder über soziale Netzwerke teilen zu können?

Wie kommt es zum sogenannten Global Warming, der globalen Klimaerwärmung? Wie können wir sie nachweisen? Warum ist sie zu einem beträchtlichen Teil menschengemacht? Und welche Auswirkungen haben Klimaerwärmung und die Ausbeutung natürlicher Ressourcen (Energiespeicher, Rohstoffe, wie zum Beispiel Tropenholz) für die Zukunft der Menschheit und die Artenvielfalt auf unserer Erde. Welche Auswege erhofft man sich? Woran wird derzeit gearbeitet?

Was benötigt man zur Naturfotografie, was, wenn man zusätzlich oder alternativ auch noch auf gutem Niveau filmen möchte? Was ist grundsätzlich wichtiger: Das Equipment oder das Bild, das zuvor im Kopf des Fotografen oder Filmers entsteht? Muss taugliches Equipment immer ultra-teuer sein? Welche Software eignet sich am besten zum Editieren? Was genügt dabei den Ansprüchen von Anfängern, was benötigen Fortgeschrittene und Profis? Wie filme oder fotografiere ich draußen in der Natur? Wie hole ich stattdessen die Natur in mein Fotostudio und inszeniere sie dort so, dass es aussieht, als habe man im Freien gearbeitet?

Dies sind alles mögliche Themen, die in meinem Unterricht, meinen Kursen oder Vorträgen vertieft werden können. Beliebige weitere Fragestellungen aus den Bereichen Naturkunde, Biologie, Ökologie und Evolution arbeite ich gerne für Sie aus.

I offer lessons, remedial courses, lectures and advanced training courses on the subjects of natural history, nature conservation, biodiversity, ecology, climate protection and evolution, as well as lessons or lectures on nature photography or nature filming. All this either on a fee basis or via employment. Please see my menu item on the subject of teaching for further information. Of course, I have proofs of qualifications for my various previous teaching activities as well as my professional competence. Please also note my menu item Curriculum Vitae. 

But what are my topics? In the following you will find interesting questions from my areas of competence:

What is an ecosystem? Which ecosystems have been well studied and which not? How well do you know the biodiversity of micro habitats in Germany and what is known about their biological (ecological) relationships? What is actually a species, what are sibling species, and what is meant by a species complex (cryptic species group)? Is the extinction of species a normal part of evolution or is the extinction of a species always an alarming indicator of a (possibly human-made) natural disaster? How many species from all groups of organisms worldwide do we know, and roughly how many do we not yet know? Why do we still not know many species, even in Germany? How do we recognize new species and how is a so-called species description structured? Are humans an animal species, and if so, where do they belong in the animal tree?

Why are a forest, a pond or a meadow places for interesting discoveries, especially for children? What lives there and how is it adapted to its habitat? What do different species actually have to do with each other in such habitats? And what is the best way to observe animal behavior? How can you document it meaningfully so that you can later share your knowledge with friends or via social networks? 

How does the global warming come about? How can we prove its existence? Why is it largely human-made? And what are the effects of global warming and the exploitation of natural resources (energy stores, raw materials such as tropical wood) on the future of humanity and biodiversity on our planet? What exits to avoid emergency situations are we hoping for? What are scientists currently working on to ensure a healthy human future? 

What do we need for nature photography, what if we also want to film at a good level in addition or as an alternative? What is fundamentally more important: the equipment or the image that is created in the head of the photographer or filmmaker? Does suitable equipment always have to be ultra-expensive? Which software is best for editing? What meets the requirements of beginners, what do advanced and professionals need? How do we film or take photos outdoors in nature? Instead, how do we bring nature into our photo studio and stage it there in such a way that it looks as if we were working outdoors? 

These are all possible topics that can be deepened in my teaching, courses or lectures. I would be happy to work out any other questions from the fields of natural history, biology, ecology and evolution for you. 



all copyrights Stefan F. Wirth Berlin 2022

Mate guarding of a juvenile female in mites of the Histiostomatidae (Astigmata, Acariformes)

Male of Histiostoma sp. guards a female tritonymph, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth 2005-2022

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A strategy to avoid male competition for females

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Some mites of the Histiostomatidae practice so-called mate guarding of subadult females in order to have an advantage in the intraspecific competition between males for adult females. My SEM image shows a male on top of a female, which is still inside its tritonymphal cuticle. Inside the tritonymphal cuticle, the adult female is already developed and shortly before hatching. Before hatching, the legs of the new instar are folded under the body side. The new second leg on the right side is visible in the SEM, because the weak cuticle of the old leg broke off. This strategy to avoid sexual competition is quite common with Histiostomatidae. Due to insufficient mite material and not longer available clear ecological data, I determine the long haired adults of my old SEM series with caution as Histiostoma sp., it seemingly was found around sap flux on a tree trunk in Berlin. The species is not identical with Seliea pulchrum (= Histiostoma pulchrum), typically known from sap flux. The distance between the male legs 1 and 2 in the photo is about 0.1 mm. These SEM objects were seemingly chemically dried for the scanning electron microscopic procedure. The photos were taken around 2005 with an older SEM at FU Berlin. © Stefan F. Wirth Berlin 2022

Berliner Jobcenter: eine düstere Mauer, gegen die man sich verrennt, anstelle sinnvolle Unterstützung zu erhalten? Bürger hoffen auf das Bürgergeld

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Hochqualifizierte Alg-II-Empfänger

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Forschungsgelder in der Grundlagenforschung, zum Beispiel der Biologie im Bereich Systematik und Taxonomie, sind in der Merkel-Ära geschrumpft. Ellbogenmentalität und Bevorzugung des eigenen Nachwuchses durch Forschungsinstitute konnten dadurch nur wachsen. Einer der möglichen Gründe dafür, dass Hochqualifizierte sich als Freiberufler durchschlagen und gegebenenfalls aufgrund zu niedrigen Einkommens sogar durch Alg-II aufgestockt werden müssen.

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Abteilung für Selbstständige

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Für Selbstständige gibt es in Berlin eine eigenständige Abteilung. Das Procedere verlangt, dass der bedürftige Selbstständige mit der Antragstellung eine besondere Anlage, die Anlage EKS, mit einreicht. In Form einer Prognose müssen darin betriebliche Einnahmen und Ausgaben für den kommenden Bewilligungszeitraum eingeschätzt werden. Auf dieser Basis wird die vorläufige monatliche Alg-II-Zahlung für die folgenden sechs Monate festgelegt. Am Ende des Bewilligungszeitraums muss erneut eine Anlage EKS vorgelegt werden, die dieses Mal die tatsächlichen Einnahmen und Ausgaben aufführt. Daraufhin wird der engültig zugestandene Leistungsbetrag errechnet. Die Vorgehensweise kann zu Nachforderungen durch das Jobcenter führen.

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Hohe Nachforderungen durch Negieren notwendiger betrieblicher Ausgaben

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Wer glaubt, es sei ja wohl selbstverständlich, dass ein Naturfotograf und -Filmer Kamera-Equipment absetzen und damit Einkommen, die höher als zuvor geschätzt ausgefallen waren, relativieren könne, der irrt. Die Jobcenter möchten nämlich Geld zurück. Also heißt es: Das war aus betrieblichen Gründen nicht notwendig. Glauben Sie, liebe Leser, ja nicht, dass es Ihnen dann hilft, das letzte Profi-Unternehmen, mit dem Sie zusammengearbeitet haben, um eine schriftliche Bescheinigung zur Notwendigkeit technischer Anschaffungen zu bitten. Das Jobcenter kann dann nämlich meiner Erfahrung gemäß zwar die Argumentation für die Ablehnung der Ausgabe ändern, ersetzt sie in der Folge aber wacker und furchtlos durch ein scheinbar beliebiges anderes Argument und bleibt bei der Ablehnung. Betriebliche Ausgaben sind nicht gerne gesehen, da sie die Summe einer Nachforderung beträchtlich schmälern können. Da scheint der Behörde jedes Mittel recht.

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Verzichtserklärung

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Wenn man bereits die Erfahrung gemacht hat, dass das Jobcenter rigoros auf hohen Nachforderungen besteht, warum nicht einfach den Leistungsbezug vollständig beenden, wenn sich ein entsprechendes längerfristiges Einkommen durch Honorare angekündigt hat? So bliebe man schließlich nichts schuldig, sofern man auch für seine sozialen Kosten (wie der Krankenversicherung) selbst aufkommt. Oder? Nein, so einfach ist die Rechnung nicht! Es ist nämlich einem Selbstständigen nicht gestattet, vorzeitig aus dem bereits bewilligten Leistungszeitraum von sechs Monaten auszutreten. Er kann lediglich eine Verzichtserklärung einreichen. Obwohl er in der Folge keinerlei Zahlungen mehr erhält, bedeutet dies dennoch, dass Einnahmen nach der Verzichtserklärung mit denjenigen Monaten des Bewilligungszeitraums verrechnet werden, die vor dem Verzicht lagen. Theoretisch müssen jedoch zumindest weiterhin auch Betriebsausgaben und zum Beispiel die selbst übernommene Krankenversicherung absetzbar sein. In der Realität kann das jedoch zum Nachteil des Selbstständigen ganz anders aussehen, wie ich zu meinem Entsetzen selbst erleben musste.

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Beschwerdewege

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Wie wehrt man sich denn, wenn man das Gefühl hat, dass das Jobcenter zu Unrecht in Form von hohen Nachforderungen ordentlich zuschlägt, so sehr, dass man sich geradezu in existenzieller Gefahr wähnen muss? Mir liegen schriftliche Ausführungen sowohl der (theoretisch) zuständigen Berliner Senatsverwaltung wie auch des (theoretisch) zuständigen Bundesministeriums vor, aus denen hervorgeht, dass beide Organe nicht für die Überprüfung von Einzelfällen zuständig seien. Beschwerdewege seien innerhalb der Hierarchien von Jobcenter und Bundesagentur für Arbeit zu beschreiten. Als von der Bundesagentur unabhängige Organe, die angerufen werden können, wurden lediglich ein Petitionsausschuss (ich war mit meiner Petition vom Petitionsausschuss des Berliner Abgeordnetenhauses zum Petitionsausschuss des Deutschen Bundestages weitergeleitet worden) und/oder das Sozialgericht benannt.

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Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerden

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Beschwerden innerhalb des Jobcenters oder der Bundesagentur seien zum Beispiel in Form von Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerden an vorgesetzte Stellen einzureichen, so wurde mir mitgeteilt. Tatsächlich, so meine Erfahrung, ist die übliche Beantwortung einer Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde folgende: Zur Einleitung eines Dienstaufsichtsverfahrens ist ein persönliches Fehlverhalten eines Mitarbeiters notwendig… Nun gut, so denke ich mir, der Mitarbeiter hat ja zum Beispiel nachweislich zu Unrecht eine Aufforderung zur Mitwirkung verschickt, das wurde ja sogar zugegeben und mir eine Entschuldigung ausgespochen (die ich selbstverständlich nicht angenommen habe); also wende ich mich gleich an die Zentrale der Bundesagentur, wiederhole dort meine Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde und verweise darauf, dass sich derlei Vergehen in meinem Falle so auffällig aneinanderreiht, dass ich nicht mehr von einem Zufall, sondern von Schikane ausgehen muss. Die Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde wird dennoch abgeschmettert mit dem Argument, meine Ausführungen seien unsachlich.

Warum ist eine Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde wichtig? Sie kann nicht als juristisch gültiges Rechtsmittel für das Opfer von Behördenwillkür eingesetzt werden, das heißt sie hat keine aufschiebende Wirkung, sollte es sich bei dem monierten Akt durch einen Behördenmitarbeiter beispielsweise um eine Aufforderung mit Fristsetzung, etwas beizubringen, handeln. Das Dienstaufsichtsverfahren richtet sich stattdesssen ausschließlich gegen den Mitarbeiter der Behörde, der sich fehlverhalten hat. Ist das Fehlverhalten nachgewiesen, muss der Mitarbeiter gegebenenfalls mit Sanktionen rechnen, bei denen es sich um personalrechtliche Konsequenzen handeln kann. Solche Karriere-relevanten Folgen können eine abschreckende Wirkung auf den betreffenden Mitarbeiter und seine Kollegen haben, was idealer Weise dazu führt, dass sich das gerügte Fehlverhalten nicht wiederholt.

Vor Jahren hat die Argentur für Arbeit ihre Mitarbeiterpforten auch für Bewerber mit niedrigeren Schulabschlüssen geöffnet. Es gilt gemäß meiner Lebenserfahrung, dass ein kurzer Bildungsweg den Zugang zu Erkenntnistheorien und ethischem Verantwortungsbewußtsein erheblich schlechter bereitstellt, als ein ein Abitur mit anschließender komplexer Ausbildung, wie zum Beispiel einem akademischen Studium. Daher muss es generell Maßnahmen geben, die verhindern, dass Mitarbeiter in Behörden, vor allem solche mit eher begrenzterem Bildungshorizont, glauben, ihre berufliche Position sei ein Freischein für eine willkürliche psychische oder indirekt sogar physische Mißhandlung und/oder Erniedrigung anderer Bürger. Es darf nicht geschehen, dass Personen, die mit sich selbst und/oder ihrem privaten Umfeld unzufrieden sind, ihre Fristration und ihre Wut ungefiltert auf den Kundenkreis der Behörde kanalisieren können, nur weil sie aufgrund ihrer Anstellung mit entsprechend weitreichenden Befugnissen ausgestattet wurden.

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Einstellung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit gegenüber den unabhängigen Organen Petitionsausschuss und Sozialgericht

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Die Jobcenter legen es meiner Erfahrung gemäß darauf an, dass der Leistungsbezieher, der klagen will, möglichst Fristen versäumt, was dazu führt, dass Klagen unzulässig sind. Die Jobcenter wissen, dass beispielsweise ihre willkürliche Ablehung von absetzungsfähigen Posten einem seriösen Gerichtsverfahren nicht standhalten würde. Bestreben der Behörde ist es daher, dass es aus formellen Gründen möglichst gar nicht erst zu einem Verfahren kommt. Gerne heisst es dann: Sie müssen trotz Ihres Klage-Wegs zahlen, da Ihre Klage offensichtlich unzulässig ist. Allerdings erfordert diese Strategie, dass entweder Sie selbst, lieber bedürftiger und selbstständiger Leser, oder das Gericht (im Vorfeld einer Verhandlung) dem zustimmen. Ist beides nicht der Fall, entscheidet alleine das Sozialgericht im Rahmen einer Verhandlung, ob die Klage zulässig ist oder nicht. So zumindest die Ausführungen eines Rechtsberaters, den ich konsultiert habe.

Doch die Inkasso-Abteilung der Bundesagentur schickt mir wacker Mahnungen, ich solle trotz laufender und meiner Einschätzung nach fristgerecht eingeleiteter und berechtigter Gerichtsverfahren zahlen. So beschwere ich mich bei der Zentrale der Bundesagentur, wo mir im Namen des Leiters der Bundesagentur mitgeteilt wird, meine beiden derzeit (in einem Fall schon deutlich mehr als über ein Jahr) ansässigen und sehr ausführlich begründeten Klagen seien offensichtlich unzulässig, des Weiteren wird im Schreiben der Sachbearbeiterin wild darüber spekuliert, welche gerichtlichen Hinweise das Gericht mir geschickt oder nicht geschickt haben könnte, dabei ganz ungeachtet der Tatsache, dass gerichtliche Hinweise nur für eine Partei bestimmt sind. Von einer offensichtlichen Unzulässigkeit meiner Klagen weiß ich jedoch nichts. Ich muss daher an dieser Stelle deutlich sagen, dass diese Reaktionsweise der Bundesagentur bei mir nichts anderes als den Eindruck erweckt, als halte sie nicht allzuviel von der Unabhängigkeit des Sozialgerichts. Was auf der anderen Seite verständlich ist, schließlich sind die Sozialgerichte insbesondere in Folge der Corona-Pandemie überlastet, Verfahren ziehen sich daher ewig in die Länge. Und wen benachteiligt dies? Natürlich die Bundesagenur mit ihren Jobcentern, denn die wollen und brauchen Geld, und zwar jetzt, sofort, und nicht etwa erst nächstes Jahr.

Und wie ist die Einstellung der Bundesagentur gegenüber dem Petitionsausschuss des Deutschen Bundestags? Nun, auch der ist überlastet, auch hier zieht sich das Verfahren in die Länge. Und so darf es mich offenbar nicht verwundern, dass eine Jobcenter-Sachbearbeiterin der Beschwerdestelle für den Bereich Berlin/Brandenburg mein schon länger ansässiges Petitionsverfahren ohne jede geringste Form der Befugnis (über ein eindeutig externes und unabhängiges Organ zu entscheiden) in einem postalischen Schreiben an mich ein für allemal für beendet erklärt. Na, offenkundiger kann ein Fehlverhalten ja gar nicht sein, so denke ich mir und reiche eine Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde bei der Zentrale der Bundesagentur ein, gerichtet an die Leitung persönlich. In deren Namen teilt mir die zuständige Sachbearbeiterin mit, dass sie mir zustimme, die Beendigung eines Petitionsverfahrens obliege allein dem Petitionsausschuss. Meine Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde allerdings nimmt sie nicht an. Ein nachvollziehbarer menschlicher Fehler wird angedeutet, schließlich sei die Behörde schon lange nicht mehr durch den Petitionsausschuss kontaktiert worden. Daraus könne man ja schon fälschlich schlussfolgern, dass es das Verfahren gar nicht mehr gäbe. Mein anschließender Verweis darauf, dass die betreffende Mitarbeiterin ja auf mein Schreiben reagiert hatte, in dem ich deutlich auf das noch laufende Petitionsverfahren verwies, und dass ich daher eher den Eindruck gewonnen habe, als solle mir die Allmacht und Unangreifbarkeit der Bundesagentur vorgeführt werden (was ein eindeutiges und unverzeihliches Fehlverhalten sei), führte zu einer Antwort, die der Leser wahrscheinlich bereits erraten hat: Meine Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde sei unsachlich. Abgelehnt.

Selbst Berliner Häuser runzeln erstaunt die Stirn, erst recht, wenn sie das DDR-Unrechtssystem persönlich miterlebt haben.

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Bürgergeld

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Die Bundesregierung hat die Einführung eines sogenannten Bürgergelds angekündigt. Dies solle höhere Leistungen, bessere Möglichkeiten hinzuzuverdienen und eine Begegnung der Behörde auf Augenhöhe mit den Kunden beeinhalten. Böse Zungen haben bereits spekuliert, dass sich schlimmstenfalls unterm Strich gar nichts ändere, es sich also um eine bloße Umetikettierung handle.

Ich erhoffe mir vor allem, dass Arbeits-und Verdienstbestreben künftig nicht wie bislang bestraft, sondern gefördert werden. Der durch die Regierung öffentlich gemachte Entwurf zum Bürgergeld widmet sich allerdings oft dem Personenkreis, der aus einem Anstellungsverhältnis zunächst im Arbeitslosengeld I landet und mangels neuer Anstellung dann zu Alg-II abrutscht. Ich jedoch bin der Ansicht, dass vor allem Selbstständige eine bessere Behandlung erfahren müssen. So sollte es meiner Ansicht nach möglich sein, den Leistungsbezug jederzeit freiwillig vollständig zu beenden, also auch inmitten eines Leistungszeitraums. Es sind mehr unabhängige Kontrollgremien notwendig, ausserdem muss es der Bundesagentur und den Jobcentern erheblich erschwert werden, mit Hilfe von Fristsetzungen und ähnlich bürokratischen Vorgehensweisen verhindern zu wollen, dass Gerichtsverfahren sich mit Inhalten befassen. Nachweisliche Willkürhandlungen von Behördenmitarbeitern müssen zudem umgehend scharf sanktioniert werden, um die Rechtsstaatlichkeit dieser Sozialbehörden für die Zukunft zu gewährleisten.

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin 7.Mai 2022

RAW Berlin as a cultural center in Germany’s capital

The RAW

An inspiring composition of terrace, window, gate, trashcan and graffiti, copyrights for photo Stefan F. Wirth, June 2021

The RAW (Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk) extends between Warschauer Strasse, Revaler Strasse and Modersonstrasse in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. The former railway area, which was closed in 1995, is considered to be the largest contiguous and culturally used fallow area in Germany.

Graffiti art giving the old architecture an own kind of dynamics, copyrights for photo Stefan F. Wirth, June 2021

Today the ruins are used culturally in a variety of ways. In addition to several clubs and art galleries, there are sports facilities, art studios and various take-out stands.

Self-government and graffiti art

The area is under grassroots self-government.

Atmosphere during a summer day, copyrights of photo Stefan F. Wirth, June 2021

You can already see art without having to enter galleries, namely in the form of graffiti art, which blends harmoniously and inspiringly into the partly crumbling terrain.

Skate hall and mosaic of architecture, daily life remnants and graffiti

Sports activities are also revealed to the visitor very quickly when entering the area. For example, the skate hall, which opened in 2004/2005, is the only indoor skating facility in Berlin and is internationally well known in that sports scene.

But during my short visit on a summer day afternoon in end of June 2021, I was most impressed by the mosaic of architecture elements, Graffiti and signs of daily life.

A corner close to the entrance from Revaler Straße, copyrights of photo Stefan F. Wirth, June 2021.

All copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 27 June 2021

The details about snow

Misty

In former times, when people lived in a mystic world, where elves, dwarfs, leprechauns and talking wolves did their dreadful state of affairs in the midst of dark and impenetrable huge forests, people thought that even the old trees in the woods had their own thoughts.

Park Rehberge in Berlin

Uncontrollable, sounds, the snorting of the deer, a mysterious hidden, permanently changing shades in a cold and misty twilight.

Biology

A forest is only then a forest, when a high concentration of trees is given. Woods bear a great number of species, produce a majority of oxygen in our world; they are huge reservoirs of water and stabilize the ground with their tangles of roots.

Snow

Snow consists of ice crystals. Their formation within clouds depends on the presence of ice nucleating particles and temperatures lower – 12°C.

Crystals possess a hexagonal symmetry, being prism-shaped at lower temperatures and dendrite-shaped at higher temperatures.

Temperate deciduous forests hibernate without functional leaves. Most trees throw off all leaves already in autumn to be protected from desiccation in winter frost periods.

Layers of snow are excellent thermal conductors and additionally protect all life underneath from frost damages in the cold season.

Waiting for the spring time

Most life forms hibernate together with their leafless trees. Especially accumulations of deadwood contain remarkable numbers of species, such as insects, spiders, mites or nematodes. Some already begin under their snow cover to prepare themselves for the warmer season.

When all snow is gone, winter colors in red, yellow, brown and some green reappear. Early blossoming plants are already germinating.

Fox and Witch – a fable – Part I

A fable about competition, hate and bullying

Once a fox and a witch had a competition about who of them would be the fastest runner over a distance of thousand meters through the wild forest. The fox won the competition with a big head start, but the witch was fully unwilling to accept this result, complaining she was in a disadvantage, because he was a fox and she a witch, who could fly like a bird, but had only two legs to run. The fox agreed without any opposition. But the witch could never forget her great failure nor could she ever forgive the fox his success.

Only two weeks later, the fox woke up in his earth-hole in a late afternoon. With narrowed eyes he lifted his snout in the air and smelled a hot summer day, knowing that it very soon would find its end, when a black cover of veil would swallow the red-glowing sun. The fragrance of wild roses and even lavender from the garden beyond the rotten big wall twirled with a slight gust around his head. Then the hissing beat of two heron wings, very close to his hole, which slowly disappeared flap by flap in the depth of the big forest with the huge swamplands at its opposite end.

The fox left his day’s lodging, and when he reached the top of the adjacent green hill, the cumbersome whirring of slowly tiring carder bees accentuated the magnificent final act of the passing day like a fainted opera orchestra . The sky pulsed in a deep bloody red, while streaks in purple and orange, billowing around the glowing horizon, were mercilessly drowning the setting sun. The entrance to the forest was close, and the fox already saw the two oaks, which since more than five hundred years guarded the bumpy path into the woods , and heard their continuous quiet creaking in that mild summer breeze.

When the fox was in order to enter the forest, the witch suddenly appeared. „Where are you going to?“ she asked. He answered: “ to the forest, my world, my habitat, the place, where I live.“

The witch laughed and informed him with a nasty laughter that the council of the forest had excluded him from the forest community of the old beech grove behind the green hills. „Excluded? Council?“ the fox responded surprised. „There is no council, the forest is a natural system, all regulation happens by itself.“ The witch, standing in the air and flying with her mysterious black robe, consisting of thousands of tiny black whirlwinds, laughed again, trying to make it sound compassionately: „I founded that council, because new times require new and much more efficient ways of organisation. All forest animals agreed, some of them representing the executive board members. The wise owl is the president, the tiny mushroom man its deputy. Our decision was democratic, not against you personally, it’s all about the safety of our woods. If you wouldn’t be a loner, if you only had a vixen, she would groom you at positions, which you cannot reach by your own, believe me, you miss something. The new pest of ticks in the woods can only be explained with you as their major vector. We reconstructed that very carefully. Different species of ticks, one even imported from Africa, by migrating birds. These bastards are so big. Once one of them followed me in my cottage and attached itself to my left butt cheek. …“. „I never had ticks in my life, never leave the human trails, didn’t you know that the ticks lie in wait in the grasslands and are dispersed by all their different hosts?“

 

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Witch and fox, oilpainting on canvas, Berlin 11 June 2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

„My dear friend, oh poor fox, loners never control their parasites, wait…“, and the witch swished down towards the fox’s head, intending to embrace him consolingly, but she flew so fast that her body accidentally overturned. She scraped with her enormous dentition over the fox’s forehead, her incisors densely covered with trumpet lichens, what she thought was the latest craze in fashion, and faster than the blink of an eye her left canine tooth, angular like a lump of rock, reached the Fox’s right ear and cut it off. The fox howled stridently. Instead of his hairy upright earlobe,only a black amorphic hole remained, filled up with viscous whirling blood. His whole body trembled, the control of his legs failed, and he fell to the ground. His voice didn’t want to obey him any more. His eyes stared into an impermeable black haze. „For all the heaven’s ghosts sake, what a mishap, what an incredible misfortune, a tragedy. If only we witches were able to conjure, I would heal you immediately, but we witches can only fly. Oh fox, the next time, when someone approaches you, don’t move unexpectedly, the consequences may harm you forever…“ . And with a short hiss only the witch disappeared without any other word.

Laboriously the fox rose his painful body up again. His brain pulsing excruciatingly with each heart beat. He cumbersomely trotted along the forest path, passing the two old oaks, representing since hundreds of years the entrance to a former oak forest, today consisting of beeches in most parts. The night was dark, only diffuse beams of light went astray in the dense crowns of trees, emitted by the almost full moon , still swallowed by the shades of the forest.

A narrow runlet of blood divided his forehead into two asymmetric parts, dropping rhythmically onto his nasal root, while he noted remarkable changes in the woods, unusual noises, the odor of autumn in the midst of summer, an air humidity like in rotten moors, an oppressive misty wall around him, which he never saw before.

The fox passed the clearing with its fern growth, their leaves drooping as if there was a longer drought, silence. Did all birds oversleep the night? He finally reached the red narrow stream, which he always used to cross by passing the huge fallen birch trunk. But the old deadwood was now decayed into many bulky fragments of wood, scattered around an area of several square meters.

There hadn’t been any unusual weather conditions, no drought, no thunderstorm and no temperature drop in the hours and days before, a steady summer time, only rarely some rain droplets. The birch trunk was still stable and elastic, when he saw it the last night. A miracle that it broke into pieces all of a sudden. Silence, only his fast heartbeat that echoed in his seemingly permanently weight gaining skull cavity. He inhaled a glutinous mass through his nostrils, warm with the smell of iron and perspiration.

The tiny stream purporting to be a rushing torrent, a disturbing costuming, as it had obviously happened with the entire forest, which was absolutely familiar to him until only one day ago, but now had become a strange world, with himself as a stranger in the midst of a trascendent otherworldliness.

The weird impetuous water movements whirled well audibly, at least with his uninjured left ear. A misty twilight hid much more than it revealed. But that ebullient barrier still needed to be crossed. The fox carefully tried to adjust his eyes to the darkness, but with only a very moderate success. In the midst of cumbersome dark shades of an unsettling night, he could recognize the arrangement of all single remains of the trunk.

At first, there were two almost similar shaped and sized pieces of dead wood, aligned offset to one another. Thus the foxes balancing act would begin with the left block of wood, whereby he would need to switch to the right, after having left three-quarters of the first piece behind him. The second birch log staggered in the water flow, but the fox was sure to master this task even despite of his meanwhile very restricted sense of balance. After passing both logs, he would even have the choice between a branch on the right with a medium diameter, not much wider than the fox’s snout, running parallel to a much bigger rounded trunk piece on the right. A clear obstacle course to cross a tiny stream, suddenly disguising itself as kooky torrential river.

Blood slowly dropped into his left eye, deafness of his right ear, and he felt anxious about his general ability to hear even with his left side. No croaking of frogs or toads, no chirping of crickets or cicadas. The water noises in front of him sounded far away. It was still dark, and the fox saw the wobbly single components of his bridge mostly as silhouettes.

But he decided not to lose any more time, the rebellious stream needed to be crossed as it was a firm component of a natural daily routine, an essential component for a successful coping of a fox’s future. A careful first step with his left paw, and he crossed the left log until the end of its third quarter, where he with a fluid movement switched to the right.

In the moment the fox had decided for inexplicable reasons to balance along the standing upright edge of the small branch instead of crossing the much bigger rounded trunk, the moon lost its last cover behind the skeleton of a dead pine and all of a sudden illuminating the entire night sky in its full splendor.

The fox, almost blind with viscous droplets of blood in his eyes, tipped slightly sideways to the left, an almost invisible and very subtle movement, when a thin somehow diffuse, but bright light beam was reflected from the seething water on his right side and disabled the fox’s sight completely for about two seconds. Two seconds with remarkable consequences, because his slight weight shift in combination with unpredictable water movements, his short sightlessness and the wounded ear resulted in a total disruption of his entire equilibrium sense.

As if the branch under his feet had perceived the loss of control of the fox’s body and as if this seemingly dead piece of wood suddenly acquired a spiteful liking for even more instability, it followed the left-side motion of the fox and rolled against the big log, which due to this friction in turn got on motion and turned in a clockwise direction against the adjacent branch.

When the two unequally sized remnants of the dead birch had decided to release a brisk impulse of new signs of life, centrifugal forces threw the fox’s body in the air, from where he roughly landed in a 90 degrees angle to the subjacent branch with his head directed towards the waterside. And his head, unfortunately not lighter than the moving crazy water surface, was submersed, while water immediately invaded all his facial cavities, even washing around his right drumhead, which lacked its external auditory canal almost entirely, a cold pain, which the fox tried to ignore. He only cumbersomely could lift up his head, gasping for breath, when his hind legs, pointing towards the big log, all of a sudden were pulled between the two unequally sized, still incessantly grinding against each other. A clearly audible crackling on both sides, followed by several further grating sounds, made the fox remark the smashing of all his leg bones. At the end, courageous natatory movements with his forelegs released him from this awkward situation. He slowly crawled with all his remaining powers to the opposite stream bank. And there, he rested for a felt eternity, being completely exhausted.

The fox felt no pain any more, but only indescribable weakness. Surrounded by an unreal silence, he licked his wounds.

END OF PART I

Berlin, 10June 2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Mite Histiostoma piceae

The mite Histiostoma piceae Scheucher, 1957 is a member of the mite family Histiostomatidae (Astigmata, Acariformes). Scheucher discovered the mite based on all instars from spruce, infected by the bark beetle Ips typographus. She collected her samples in Regensburg, Höbing (bei Roth) and Harz. Scheucher reared her specimens on potatoes and bran, but describes that her cultures did grow well only to some degree.

According to her findings,  phoretic carrier (hosts) is the bark beetle species Ips typographus, she also found deutonymphs rarely on some staphylinids. She discovered that free living non-deutonymphal stages develop on fresh detritus, while deutonymphs appear only on old detritus („after it was for a longer time removed from the trees“, „wenn der Mulm einige Zeit aus den Bäumen entfernt ist“). I could like Scheucher culture the mites on potato, but a bit better in their original gallery substrate. Under laboratory conditions, they indeed did not rear very well in both kinds of cultures.

I collected H. piceae between 2000 and 2004 once from a wooden log infested by I. typographus in Berlin, then got access to microscopic slides from Europe in the collection of John C. Moser (Louisiana, USA) in 2007 and 2009, then I collected samples from Ips typographus and I. cembrae in Central Croatia (publication Wirth, Weis and Pernek, 2016) and found out that H. piceae is not restricted to I. typographus, but also to its sibling species I. cembrae. I finally collected the mite from I. typographus galleries between 2015 and 2016 in Western-Siberia near the city Tyumen.

I repeatedly observed deutonymphs of H. piceae under natural conditions (bark samples directly after the excursions) to develop in very high numbers, then attaching to all available arthropods nearby, smaller bark beetle species and numerous bigger mites of different groups, such as for example oribatids.

Published recordings of H. piceae from other bark beetles than I. typographus and I. cembrae are doubtful and need to be named Histiostoma cf. piceae. In some cases with I. typographus additionally present, I interpret the mites to have switched from their regular carrier (host) to an adjacent gallery of e.g. another smaller bark beetle species. In other cases, the existence of similar looking species new to science needs to be tested. In cases of determinations by non specialists from bark beetles other than the above mentioned two beetle species, it needs to be assumed that these people could not differ between similar mite species, such as Histiostoma trichophorum Oudemans, 1912, Histiostoma ulmi Scheucher, 1957 or Histiostoma crypturgi Scheucher, 1957.

 

I never before published the full set of SEM and light microscopic photos from these  times (except of my article about host specificity). In this explicite photo publication here on my homepage, I herewith publish SEM-photographs, objects sputtered with gold, which might be not unique to science, but very rare.

Any subsequent research on this mite in Europe is not happening (a few not too relevant findings are published by a former Russian colleague). Reason is that modern science does not understand, especially not in Germany, that fundamental research in applied fields is worth to be funded. It is for example known that deutonymphs of different mite species on bark beetles regularly carry fungus spores (different fungus species, just sticking on the mite’s cuticle), discovered by John C. Moser and confirmed by several of my own publications. This phenomenon is still not closer studied. Fungus transport into bark beetle galleries can influence the micro climate there.

 

 

Male and female of Histiostoma piceae, A venter of male, B dorsum of male, C mouthparts with Digitus fixus, D dorsum of female, E side-frontal view to female; Berlin 2002-2020, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

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Deutonymph of Histiostoma piceae in ventral view, collected in Western Siberia, 2015 – 2016, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Systematics: Histiostoma piceae is according to my phd thesis from 2004 and according to my more recent research findings a member of a clade (monophylum) within Histiostomatidae with most species associated with bark beetles (Scolytinae) or other bark inhabiting coleopterans; these phylogenetic findings are based on morphological characters.

Mite Histiostoma maritimum

The mite Histiostoma maritimum Oudemans 1914 is a member of the mite family Histiostomatidae (Astigmata, Acariformes). Oudemans discovered the mite based on its deutonymph only from a Dutch island. The German acarologist R. Scheucher found the species in 1957 in mud at the riverside of Regnitz and for the first time could rear H. maritimum and was able to redescribe it by its adult stages, especially females look morphologically conspicuous due to a sclerotized cuticula shield around its copulation opening. She reared her specimens on potatoes, mud and bran, but describes that her cultures did not grow well.

Phoretic carrieres (hosts) are beetles of genus Heterocerus, some carabids and according her findings also rarely some staphylinids.

I discovered H. maritimum between 2000 and 2004 repeatedly in sapropel around ponds in an old gravel pit area in Berlin, forest Grunewald, named „im Jagen 86“. They were mainly attached to the beetles Heterocerus fenestratus and Heterocerus fusculus, but could regularly also be found on the carabids Elaphrus cupreus and Bembidion sp.. I could several times rear the mites, like Scheucher almost unsuccessfully on potatoes, but well on cadavers of their carriers. I thus reconstructed a so called necromenic life-strategy for H. maritium. This means that a phoretic stage ascends a carrier, but never leaves, instead it awaits the carrier’s natural dead to develop on its cadaver (published in my phd thesis, online, 2004).

I will not publish my full set of SEM photos from earlier times here. Some photos will be saved for one of my upcoming paper submissions in scientific and peer-reviewed journals. In this photo publication here on my homepage, I at least publish some interesting SEM-photographs, based on objects sputtered with gold and a subsequent critical-point-drying procedure.

Adults of Histiostoma maritimum: A left male, right female, B, C, copulation opening, D dorsal view to female with mouthparts and copulation opening

Systematics: H. maritimum shares morphological characters of deutonymph (setation, apodemes) and adults (mouthpart details, shape of Digitus fixus) with species like Histiostoma feroniarum, H. insulare, H. litorale, H. palustre, H. polypori, H. myrmicarum. This might indicate a separate clade, but according to the old findings in my phd thesis, also a paraphyletic grouping including these species is thinkable.

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 10 June 2020

Systematics and biology of termites and about their phoretic associations

They live in eusocial communities, but are not closer related to ants or bees. Termites belong to the cockroaches.

 

Queen, king and castes

 

Usually one queen and one king are reproductive and act as heads of the nest. The different work fields of a nest are executed by infertile specimens, which can show very different and specialized body shapes. The diversity of different castes is in phylogenetically „primitive“ taxa lower than in „higher developed“ termite groups.

 

As example specimens of a deadwood species from Italy

 

This species was found in deadwood of a small forest in Portici (Gulf of Naples, Italy) and might represent the taxon Kalotermitidae. This taxon branches off rather basically  in the systematic tree of termites. Nest work can be taken over by nymphs of later alates.

 

deadwood-termites from Italy, Youtube: copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, April 2020

 

 

How is wood-eating possible?

 

Wood eating termites bear bacteria and protozoans  in their digestive tracts, which perform the digestion of cellulose.

 

Evolution, sister taxon and endosymbionts

 

Termites (Isoptera) evolved within the cockroaches (Blattodea). According to modern systematics (e.g.  Beccaloni & Eccleton, 2011) the cockroach taxon Cryptocercidae is the sister-clade of the termites. But there are controversial theories existing.

According to such reconstructions, the last common ancestor of cockroach taxon Cryptocercidae and termites possessed bacterial and protozoan endosymbionts. Molecular data proved that endosymbionts in both groups are closely related to each other. The last common ancestor of both groups showed in case of their indeed sister-group-relation a tendency towards social communities. Cryptocercidae live temporarily in bigger groups together with their offspring.

 

Subsocial lifestyle in Cryptocercidae

 

Cockroaches of the Cryptocercidae as putative sister taxon of termites live inside galleries in deadwood and feed on wood fibres. At least one parent and its nymphs live subsocially inside their galleries. Cryptocercidae adults and nymphs groom each other, and parents feed juveniles with wood fragments afer these had passed their anus openings.

 

According to recent systematic/ phylogenetic reconstructions the Kalotermitidae belong to the basically branching termite groups. Such basic groups of termites still show a low diversity of castes only.

 

Associates, commensalism and phoresy

 

Like ants or bees, termites share their nests regularly with associates of other groups of animals,

often mites and nematodes. Some of these organisms use termites as carriers for a transport over bigger distances. details of such associations between insects and mites are not well studied yet. But carrier-passenger-situations with transfer („taxi“-) purposes are called phoresy. Phoresy ist mostly considered as a neutral association between different organisms and is thus interpreted as commensalism. Commensalism is differed from strategies like parasiticm or symbiosis and requires that two organisms in association do not harm or noticeably benefit each other. The term commensalism often includes associations, in which the true context for both organism partners is simply not understood yet.

 

Not yet mites of the Gamasina (Parasitiformes) were reared in greater numbers out of my Italian termite substrate. They might represent phoretic cohabitants of those termites. Other mite species of different mite groups (Parasitiformes and Acariformes) were only found in smaller numbers and died out too quickly for collections and determinations under my culture conditions, unfortunately already before the beginning of my shootings. seemingly microclimatic conditions had become too unfavorable.

 

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin 2019 – 2020, all rights reserved

Wild bee Andrena flavipes and nesting behaviors

The bee Andrena flavipes is also known as the common sand bee, as this species represents the most common of several regularly present sand bee species in Central Europe.

 

Aggregations at suitable nesting sites

 

Bee females create solitary nests, which is unlike to social hymenopterans such as the honey bee Apis mellifera. However huge and from a distance well visible aggregations of nesting A. flavipes specimens can appear. It is said that these aggregations are due to mated females being attracted to similar suitable nesting sites. In fact also a tolerance for conspecifics very close by is required to allow conditions, in which the whole ground seems to consist of bees, flying around and preparing their nests or importing pollen or nectar to feed their larvae. By the way: One nest contains contains about 2-3 brood cells only.

 

Specific conditions, in which specimens of my footage were found

 

The bees of my video were filmed between 4-6 April 2020 in the urban park around lake Plötzensee in Berlin. The site for my recordings was an area with forest edge character, interrupted by dry meadows, all at least in the afternoon exposed by the sun (temperatures between 15-20 °C).

 

 

Females of Andrena flavipes cleaning their nests, youtube: copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, April 2020

 

 

Orientation and nest cleaning behaviors of A. flavipes females, hindlegs as multifunctional organs

 

Contents of my behavioral documentation is the cleaning of nest hole entrance areas and behavior patterns, which seemingly support the orientation and finding their own nests again in midst of a sandy forest ground covered by fallen leaves.

To be enabled to recognize the entrance of the own nest again, bees perform regularly smaller walking tours around their nests to memorize soil structure and other details, being suitable to characterize this specific nesting site.

The bee’s hindlegs represent important multi-functional organs. They walk on them, collect pollen, which adhere to specific structures on legs III, and they are used to clean the areas in front of the nest openings from dirt, such as smaller stones or wooden particles. As nest entrance areas stay opened during the day, a proper cleaning of the soil around is regularly necessary. The bee performs that work mostly while backward-walking using its hindlegs like shovels to sweep dirt some centimeters away. This behavior is well visible in my footage.

 

General and short  information about mite associations

 

Andrena flavipes and other soil breeding wild bees are generally also of acarological interest. As presumably all hymenopterans, they have for example associations with phoretic mites, for example mites of the Scutacaridae (such as Imparipes apicola). I so far did not study mites on these bees, but phoresy means that mite instars use the insect as carrier to reach their final sites, in which they develop and reproduce. In case of Imparipes, adults feed on fungi and waste inside the bees brood cells.

 

 

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin april 2020, as always: all rights reserved