Sunday, March 31, 2019

HumBug: Partial Sun, Chance of Butterflies and Bees

Posted By on Sun, Mar 31, 2019 at 11:09 AM

California tortoiseshell populations fluctuate erratically. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • California tortoiseshell populations fluctuate erratically.

Well, at least we had one sunny day. Along with the rest of us, the insects crawled from their hidey holes in bark crevasses, burrows in the ground and old wood.

A couple of days ago I got a brief glimpse of what I suspected was a California tortoiseshell butterfly (Nymphalis californica). Sometimes, for reasons that aren't clear, their population can explode. Some years ago I counted nearly 100 of them apparently migrating upstream along the Van Duzen River. On Thursday a dozen or so flitted about the plum trees in my yard. They were accompanied by nearly as many painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui), purported to be the most widespread butterfly in the world seen on all continents except Antarctica.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

HumBug: Spring May Have Finally Sprung

Posted By on Sun, Mar 24, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Celastrina echo butterfly as we usually see them. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Celastrina echo butterfly as we usually see them.

After a few false starts it feels like spring is finally underway. Days ago, a walk in the woods with my dogs produced a tick. I've said before I do not like ticks but as a community service I try to give a heads up when I see them about.

I also kicked up what I believe was an Echo Azure (Celastrina echo) butterfly. These tiny shiny blue butterflies flit along the damp places of the river bar. Unfortunately, when they land, they usually hold their wings over their back exposing the gray undersides and hiding the bright blue uppers. Only occasionally opening them when perched and displaying to attract a mate.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

HumBug: Going into the Light (Fixture)

Posted By on Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 2:00 PM

About a month's worth of bugs from my kitchen light fixture. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • About a month's worth of bugs from my kitchen light fixture.

In an effort to make one of those yucky housecleaning tasks a tad more interesting, I decided to check out the dead bugs in my kitchen light fixture before feeding them to my goldfish. In the past I've found millipedes and, once upon a time, even a potato bug (Jerusalem cricket). How that got up there is anybody's guess.

It is well known that many insects are phototrophic (attracted to lights) but in the case of the Jerusalem cricket, it is just the opposite. They live under rocks and logs and ordinarily shun the light.

Electric lights can be deadly to insects, especially semi-enclosed ones that get warm. Small as they are, insects are continually fighting a battle to maintain the proper water content in their bodies. That is why insecticidal soaps work. They dissolve a thin layer of waxy material that helps slow the animal's water gain or loss.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

HumBug: Blooming too Early or Bugs too Late?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 9:24 AM

Fungus gnats on fetid adder's tongue. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Fungus gnats on fetid adder's tongue.

Despite the weather lately, spring is happening, at least in the plant world. Last night on a walk, I saw fetid adder's tongue (aka “brownies,” aka Scoliopus bigelovi), and Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) and a patch of naturalized daffodils, all in bloom. Along with brilliant yellow acacia and the pink and white fruit trees along the side of our local roads, the spring blooming season has started, insects or no.


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