Author Archives: "BUGGING" YOU FROM San Juan Island

Aphodiine Dung Beetle – October 21, 2020

I found this tiny (approx 4.5mm) Scarab yesterday when I went out to pick the remaining few tomatoes in the garden. It came in with me just long enough to get a few photos so I could attempt an ID. If I’d kept it long enough to realize what I had, I might have tried for better pics. Instead, I returned it to a sunny spot outdoors and let it go about its business in the garden.

After an internet search, I came up with a preliminary ID to subfamily Aphodiinae, but I believe this specimen to be in the tribe Aphodiini and possibly (Agoliinus sigmoideus). This is where my frustration begins as I definitely need my specimen back for further examination in order to confirm. For now, we’ll leave it at Aphodiinae.

The Aphodiinae are dung beetles that feed on detritus and more. Bugguide references the work of Skelley (2008) and states, “many feed on dung, some are detritivores, psammophiles, saprophages, inquilines with ants or termites, or may potentially be predators; adults with reduced mandibles are suspected to feed primarily on bacteria or yeast-rich fluids in dung or decaying materials.”

Reading about dung beetles in general, I came across an interesting publication in Biological Control that examined how some species of coprophagous dung beetles can reduce the contamination of bacteria like Escherichia coli in agricultural systems when flies, livestock, or wildlife are present. Aside from providing other important ecosystem services like feces removal and nutrient recycling, the aspect that they also help with food safety by reducing harmful bacteria is another reason we need to invest in organic agricultural systems that do not rely on harmful pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides which alter the natural biological processes at work. In short, nature does it best!

Aphodiini San Juan Island, WA 10.21.2020
Aphodiini San Juan Island, WA 10.21.2020
Aphodiini San Juan Island, WA 10.21.2020

References

Bugguide.net – https://bugguide.net/node/view/13137

Skelley P.E. (2008) Aphodiinae. In: Generic guide to New World scarab beetles

Key to genera of New World Aphodiini (Scarabaeidae: Aphodiinae) http://unsm-ento.unl.edu/Guide/Scarabaeoidea/Scarabaeidae/Aphodiinae/AphodiinaeTribes/Aphodiini/Key/AphodiiniK.html

SWD – Can You Guess What That Stands For?

I found another “new-to-me” bug on the island the other afternoon. This fly was a surprise. It is really small at about 3mm, with big red eyes, and clear wings with a little black dot on each one . Guess what? It’s a SWD! That’s the abbreviated form of Spotted-Wing-Drosophila or Drosophila suzukii (also sometimes called the Vinegar Fly). I’m attaching an info. sheet here for you to reference http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/fruit/flies/drosophila_suzukii.htm

It’s amazing how quickly the SWD fly can reproduce. I’m curious as to whether they’ve been seen out and about by other folks on San Juan. We have an apple orchard, but honestly, I didn’t check the fruit this year for pests and I wouldn’t use spray anyway because I love our birds. We’ve had lots of chickadees, nuthatches, and juncos in our trees, as well as gorgeous round orb weaver spiders in the garden and around the house, so I’m banking on them keeping these (and other) insects categorized as pests in check.

Drosophila suzukii – Spotted Wing Drosophila or (SWD)

Nicrophorus Burying Beetle Powerpoint – Grave to Cradle

The links here are for a project I worked on in grad school about Burying Beetles. I was having some trouble getting the code to share it on WordPress, so if you have trouble viewing, let me know. Powerpoint link is via OneDrive at https://1drv.ms/b/s!AnuXRWM_ynxHcba_40yxFvTJCgw?e=toCNNE but I also have it on Slideshare.net at https://www.slideshare.net/CyndiBormann/burying-beetles-powerpoint?qid=e930baf4-87e9-4553-a366-0044098db422&v=&b=&from_search=1

Freaky FridAY!

I had a feeling today was going to be one of THOSE days, but really had no idea how bad it would get.   This time of year on the island, we’ve lost our sunshine and are headed into the Time of DARKNESS.  I have no idea who got away with marketing the “Sunny San Juan’s!” They advertise that HERE is the special place where you’ll have a whopping 247 Days of Sunshine, but that is just WRONG! 

This statistic has been creatively manipulated and someone got away counting an entire day of sunshine when the sun maybe, just MAYBE peeks out for a whole 5 minutes.  Yep, two bits of advice I received when I moved here was 1) if the sun is out at all anytime between October and April, go outside and, 2) get a raincoat.  

But I digress from the events of the day!  So, being under the umbrella of COVID, I hardly ever, go to town anymore.  There is the likelihood that I might venture out only once during the week for a grocery/mail run.  Well, that was today.  

I stopped first at the post office.  There was the now normal line winding down the hall.  I waited my turn patiently.  It’s an island and I’ve learned to be on island time.  There’s always someone who hasn’t yet learned this yet, and that was the guy in line ahead of me.  

He was complaining loudly.  He went into the office even though the sign clearly states “only THREE people at a time.”  Poor postal staff had to point this out.  His reaction?  Well, you might ask that.  He was even louder about having to WAIT and HE had MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO!  

“J” whispered to me when it was my turn at the counter, “Did you HEAR that guy?”   I nodded my head, commenting “there’s always one!”  Little did I know there was one more someone who would be breaking the RULES.  

My next stop was to grab a spider left for me at my husband’s office.  A pumpkin-colored Orb Weaver.  I love spiders!!!   After collecting my 8-legged friend, I made my next stop at the Market.  

At this point, I’m feeling a bit scattered.  I have my purse, keys in hand, my “list” of things I need to pick up for the next few nights of dinners, and I walk across the parking lot and into the store.  The next thing I hear is “MA’am, Ma’am!”  I looked towards the voice and all of a sudden the sound is ringing in my ears as I realize the “Ma’am” is meant for ME. 

 “You forgot your mask,” the store employee is saying as she walks in my direction!  I feel my face, groping for my mask, that I JUST HAD ON at the post office, which seemingly has disintegrated, leaving feeling the equivalent of walking into the store NAKED.  

I was MORTIFIED!!!  Thankfully she handed me a mask as I pretty much just stood there, unable to move.  “Don’t worry,” says another clerk.   “People all over the island are pretty much losing it.  You’re not the first!”  I feel marginally better, but not much.  

Somehow I managed to finish my shopping, check out, and make it back to my vehicle.  I called my daughter on the way home.  Hands free.  She tried to make me feel better and we had a good laugh about it.  

“It’s getting to everyone! ”she says.  Then, “I am starting to feel like there’s no point in figuring out what I want to do with my life, because I really wonder if we are going to have a LIFE after all of this.”  I want to tell her it will be fine, but even though we joke about it, there is really nothing funny about the state of the world…OUR world.  I find myself wanting to tell her to take up retail therapy to make herself feel better.  Exactly how much is the limit on that credit card? 

My daughter asked if I got my ballot at the post office.  Then, she laughed and told me her friend, who says he ISN’T voting because he hates both parties wrote in FIDEL CASTRO and dropped his ballot in the box.  Yes, I do believe folks are losing it!  Big time.  

Oh, and here are some photos of that lovely Orb Weaver I brought home (and released). This spider is Araneus diadematus, one commonly seen about in early fall. Now that I’m back in my “safe” zone, I can focus on Bugs that don’t require me to wear a mask!

Araneus diadematus Cross Orb Weaver
Professor Drago and the Orb Weaver Spider

Wanna feel my palps? Said the HE to the SHE. This is a Spider Sex Story 😱

Wanna feel my palps?  Said the HE to the SHE.  

My husband said this title was far to risque’ but I’m going with it anyway.  I would tell you to “get your mind out of the gutter,” but this is a SPIDER sex story.  Sex education is not a bad thing and it’s good to know how it all works, right?

So male spiders have these fuzzy, enlarged “paws” that sort of hang down in front of their face.  People who study spiders call them palps.  They are sort of like a 5th pair of legs, but used by the spider to manipulate food and “smell” things.  These palps are also where the sex organs are housed in adult male.  The hairs on the palps have chemoreceptors that help the fellas follow the pheromone trails of SHE spiders.   This is the mating season for one of our commonly seen spiders in the San Juans…the Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica) who happens to be harmless, just horny.

How do spiders DO it?  Well, an adult male spider will weave a small silken sheet called a sperm web.  He deposits a drop of semen on the sheet and then dips the tips of his palps into the semen, drawing it up into what is called the emboli.  The emboli act like a syringe, drawing the fluid up to be held in the palp for transfer to a SHE spider.  With his palps “charged and loaded,” he gleefully wanders off to woo all the ladies. 

Some of these male spiders really go all out to impress a gal.  They will drum (with their palps), dance, and display all sorts of postures to show how great they are.  They better do EVERYTHING they can to impress her too since SHE might eat them if it’s not good enough. Watch a jumping spider perform his quirky courtship ritual here –

https://www.scientificamerican.com/video/spiders-perform-a-spooky-seduction-dance/?fbclid=IwAR16qMBBajQ7UVnZAZHepFCuHToEch2LCtUETkKlSFB6r31qZKMgN2zygqc

If mating is successful, the male usually makes his exit…quite literally.  He’s at the end.  

And THAT, my friends, is the end of this spider sex story.  

Thanks for reading!  

SPIDER SLEUTHING IN THE SAN JUANS – DAY 14 – Arach-no-phobia

Let’s break down this fear you have about spiders! Take the word ARACHNOPHOBIA here. If you break it into parts Arach -NO-phobia, it will be easier. Just focus on the NO PHOBIA part, and watch the short clip below of my jumping spider friend who came out daily to “play” in our sunroom for over a week. Yes…every day at 3 o’clock, it would peek out from behind our door trim and hop onto my finger.

Spiders don’t want to bite you. They are our friends! Sweet little souls who provide wonderful (free) pest control services in and around our homes.

Salticus scenicus jumping spider wants to play

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 13 – She has an umbrella!

Come in out of the rain children

Meet Scarlette! She is my sweet little resident Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus). Scarlette has a web, but she knew it was going to rain and sought shelter in this leaf stuck to the screen door. I just went and checked on her and she is securely tucked into her little leaf hidey, safe from the wind and rain in the San Juan’s today.

If you’re an observant person, you may have the good fortune to see one of Scarlette’s relatives at your house. Orb Weavers are very common and often found hanging out near your doorway, under an eave, or on shrubs near your home or in your garden.

If you are actually reading this, you’re likely already a spider lover or at least someone who appreciates the natural world. Sadly, many folks are extremely fearful and reactive around spiders. Before I go today, I have a request. Will you share with this with your friends who may be arachnophobes?

Maybe we can work together to dispel some of those unfounded rumors about spiders biting folks. It just doesn’t (or very rarely) ever happen! Spiders don’t go around biting people. They need to conserve their energy for hunting and catching their own food, and for spiders that means little invertebrates like flies and occasionally other spiders. They don’t want to eat people. Also, their fangs aren’t designed to penetrate tough human skin. It’s way more likely for a human to harm a spider than the other way around.

So, show your friends this link https://arthropodecology.com/2012/02/15/spiders-do-not-bite/?fbclid=IwAR3Lg36-1Fc7VK_oBdc1ctpTbcUMr81AXZSnQV9lRFUeye-wZ5KhEP4AThM – and share my post with them. Let’s be nice to SPIDERS! They are our friends.

Scarlette, the Orb Weaver
San Juan Island, WA 09.18.2020
Scarlette the Cross Orbweaver
Scarlette is sheltering under her leaf
Scarlette’s web
Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus)

For more about Cross Orbweavers, take a look at the link below:

https://bugguide.net/node/view/3376

Thanks for reading!

Be Nice To Spiders!

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 12

Here’s my collection of spiders from the weekend roaming around our home and yard. None of these are spiders you should fear, nor would a bite to you be medically significant. The ones most at risk are the poor little spiders who just want to avoid you. Be kind!

Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus)

San Juan Island, WA

09.18.2020

Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus)

San Juan Island, WA

09.18.2020

Gnaphosid sp. (maybe Zelotes sp.)

The Gnaphosids are known as the Stealthy Ground Spiders

San Juan Island, WA 09.18.2020

Found inside home on carpet

Gnaphosidae (maybe Zelotes sp.)

San Juan Island, WA 09.18.2020

found inside home on carpeting

Metellina sp. Orb Weaver

San Juan Island, WA 09.18.2020

female

Metellina sp. Orb Weaver

San Juan Island, WA 09.18.2020

Sierra Dome Spider (Neriene litigiosa)

San Juan Island, WA

August 13, 2020 (I believe same individual as photographed 09.18.2020)

female ?

Sierra Dome Spider Web

San Juan Island, WA

This was photographed at San Juan Island NHP’s English Camp (Bell Point Trail) on 08.23.2020

Calymmaria sp.

San Juan Island, WA

outside near rock pile (they make conical webs often suspended beneath ledges or in caves

09.18.2020

Caterpillar Rescue – Dagger in Distress!

Saturday, September 19, 2020. San Juan Island, WA – Caterpillar rescue!

Acronita impleta – Yellow-haired Dagger Moth caterpillar. San Juan Island, WA 09.19.2020


I found one of these several years ago (September 20, 2017 to be exact), so I recognized it immediately when I saw it squirming in the spider webbing along the house this morning. My husband said I should just leave it alone. “Nature is ugly sometimes and you can’t interfere.” Well, when it was still there four hours later, suspended mid air, and still squirming, my tendency to SAVE things kicked in. The spider living above that web was actually dead. I’m not feeling very guilty about stealing food from a dead spider.

Acronita impleta – Yellow-haired Dagger Moth caterpillar. San Juan Island, WA 09.19.2020
Acronita impleta – Yellow-haired Dagger Moth caterpillar. San Juan Island, WA 09.19.2020


I got a cup and gently pulled at the web and began the process of freeing this caterpillar. It took finding my reading glasses and getting some fine-pointed tools to gently ply away the sticky bonds and clean the strands off the caterpillar hairs.

Acronita impleta – Yellow-haired Dagger Moth caterpillar. San Juan Island, WA 09.19.2020
Yellow-haired Dagger Moth (Acronita impleta)


I think it looks pretty good! I even picked it some dinner and we’ll see if I can keep it healthy through pupation and adulthood.

Yellow-haired Dagger Moth (Acronita impleta)

More about Yellow-haired Dagger Moths here:

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 11 – Arachnid Advocates Needed

I had to take the weekend off! Fatigue is setting in from the smoke and the yellow haze cast over the island isn’t helping. I’m weary of viewing responses from folks about how they want to “kill” any poor hapless spider that makes its way into their home. Arachnophobia is tough, but thousands of innocent creatures could escape a horrible death (stomping, squishing, flushing) as a result of human hysteria if only….if ONLY…that human might take a moment to educate themselves about the poor soul they just MURDERED. If you are guilty of this and you’re feeling badly, GOOD! It means there is hope for you to change your ways. Become an arachnid A-D-V-O-C-A-T-E!

A friend of mine shared the article linked below on Facebook today. It’s timely in that it speaks to the over sensationalized media reports that cast a negative light on spiders…and other insects. We need to change how we think of them! Check it out.

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pan3.10143?fbclid=IwAR3UA5nTITpw_x404VtlT-F2-Z-dqG1uVzYko5Tq1mM5kCBIWvW9R64w4qA

For today, please don’t relocate your little (or big) house spider outdoors! Leave it in the corner to do its thing. It’s going to wander a bit, but it isn’t going to bite you or harm your pets. Be curious about it. If you name it, it can become part of your family! If you want an ID for that spider, send me a message or post a photo on my Facebook Page (Bugs of the San Juan Islands).

https://www.facebook.com/buggingyoufromSJI

Thanks for reading!

p.s. Here are some neat spidee links to check out! It’s time to advocate for your eight-legged friends

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-nottinghamshire-49804294

https://www.ranker.com/list/cute-spider-pictures/eric-vega

https://www.facebook.com/RosieTheSpood

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