Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Spider Has…A Sticky Lasso in Her Fishing Tackle Box

1903. Hutchinson, C.E. A bolas-throwing spider. Sci. Amer., vol.89,no.10,p.172,figs.

Well, I am home on the couch, still sick and running fever.  It was a miserable night.  I don’t really feel much like reading or watching TV or anything.  If I lie down to try and sleep, my nose gets so stuffy I can’t breathe.  If you have a few minutes, I will share something fascinating about one of the cool spiders I’m reading about in Chapter 1 of my book, The Spider by John Crompton.  

John admits in his book that taxonomy isn’t really his thing.  His focus is on behaviors.  The behaviors of invertebrates is truly intriguing to me. I will forever be curious about these creatures, how they live, what their lives are like, and such.  I’m having to work a bit, googling as I read, as the scientific names of many of these spiders have changed over the years – with reclassifications and updates that will sort of make you crazy trying to figure out what they might be called NOW. 

The spider I want to share about is an Australian Orb Weaver spider, formerly called Dicrostichus magnificus, now re-named Ordgarius magnificus. The common name for this spider is the Magnificent spider or Bolas spider, a very suitable common name indeed.   Keep reading and you’ll see why! 

During the daytime, this spider hangs out in cryptic retreats.  Usually these are little tents constructed from silk-tied leaves of eucalyptus trees.  At night, the spider will come out to hunt and this is where things become fascinating. 

At dusk, the Bolas spider sits on a twig and gathers her tools or perhaps more appropriately, her tackle.  She spins a short silk threat about 2 inches long and at the end of this “line” attaches a sticky globule.  The name Bolas actually comes from a South American throwing weapon with a weight on the end.  

When everything is ready, Ms. Bolas sits with this line dangling from one of her front legs and waits.  Amazingly, she also has coated the “lure” of her line with a pheromone mimicking her intended prey.  The pheromone is said to replicate the scent of a certain female moth in the Noctuid group, attracting unsuspecting males of the species into range.  

Ms. Bolas is triggered into action when she senses the wing beats of unwary moths nearing her line. According to Crompton, she actually lifts her weighted line and whirls it around her head.  As the moth comes closer, into lassooing distance, she casts her line.  If luck has it, the lure (globule) sticks to the target.    

Even more incredible is the discovery of yet another spider species) Cladomelea akermaini, an African species of Orbweaver who also hunts using a bolas.  Crompton states that this species is able to cut off her lure and replace it with a fresh one when, during a fishing expedition similar to the Australian Ordgarius magnificus, the lure dries out.  

I will leave you to read more of Crompton’s account of these spiders on your own.  It is truly fascinating – the idea of spiders creating and using tools.  We underestimate what we cannot see.  For in observing these creatures, our eyes are opened and we are amazed.  

References

Bolas. The Miriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bola

Crompton, J. 1950. The Spider. Nick Lyons Books. New York, NY https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-life-of-the-spider_john-crompton/1083347/item/3090892/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgribBhDkARIsAASA5btRoz_KVLeu3mpSXWq-9UNK_-UgB3V1Hmcyy5Pa3-p_FIeEXTqoV7gaAgwMEALw_wcB#idiq=3090892&edition=4180835

Haslam, M. 2022. Bolas spider (family Araneidae) web slinging. 1903 California USA. Twig Technology. https://twig.technology/blog/bolas-spider-web-slinging

1903. Hutchinson, C.E. A bolas-throwing spider. Sci. Amer., vol.89,no.10,p.172,figs.

Magnificent spider (Ordgarius magnificus). Australian Museum. https://australian.museum/learn/animals/spiders/magnificent-spider/

Observation.org. Cladomelea akermani.  https://observation.org/species/562419/

So You/Your Kid Wants a Bearded Dragon for a Pet

Here’s what I have compiled for anyone contemplating acquiring a bearded dragon. These are not inexpensive animals to own or keep and many are impulse purchases. My Drago came to us as a re-home, after another re-home. To the best of my knowledge, I am his 3rd owner, though I don’t really think of “owning” him, rather being his caregiver and advocate. Please do NOT buy your child a pet to teach responsibility or as a “REWARD” or “BRIBE.” If you have kids you need to bribe, get them a therapist and fix that problem when they are young. Animals should not be sold or traded to make a child happy. Children are not mature enough to care for a Bearded Dragon. Parents end up taking over and the animal suffers when families are too busy. Please don’t buy a bearded dragon to impress your friends. Before you walk out of the Pet Store with a 10 gallon tank, a lizard, and a bunch of stinking crickets, read through this! If you proceed with getting your bearded dragon, please adopt from a rescue group.

Supply List/Price List for Caring for Bearded Dragon

Enclosure/tank with screened top and front open doors (minimum size is 55 gallons, but for an adult bearded dragon, you will need a 4x2x2 (120 gallon) enclosure.  My advice? Just get the 120 Gallon from the start! 

Least expensive I found = Zen Habitats 4x2x2 at $369.99 https://www.zenhabitats.com/products/zen-habitat-w-wood-panels

Oiibo 4x2x2 glass enclosure at $569.99 https://www.amazon.com/Reptile-Terrarium-Sliding-Bearded-Ventilation/dp/B09PT834K2?th=1

Basking Light bulbs (2 100 watt) $25.61 https://www.chewy.com/zoo-med-repti-basking-reptile-spot/dp/126606

Fixture for basking light – I use Fluker’s 8.5” clamp light with dimmer $20.95 https://www.chewy.com/flukers-clamp-lamp-dimmer-85-in/dp/129141

CHE fixture – same as for basking light – Fluker’s 8.5” Clamp lamp with dimmer $20.95 (multiply this x 2 because you need 2 CHE’s for a 120 gallon enclosure) $41.90

https://www.chewy.com/flukers-clamp-lamp-dimmer-85-in/dp/129141

CHE Bulb – CHE (Ceramic heat emitter) Do NOT use red lights!  100 Watt $20.99  https://www.chewy.com/flukers-ceramic-reptile-heat-emitter/dp/129150

CHE Bulb #2 (Ceramic Heat emitter) 150 watt $19.80 https://www.chewy.com/flukers-ceramic-reptile-heat-emitter/dp/129151

UVB tube light – MOST IMPORTANT PIECE of equipment.  Do not get a bearded dragon if you cannot afford to buy and replace these 4 times per year.  Your animal will get metabolic bone disease and suffer greatly as its bones disintegrate.  

Arcadia T5 12% UVB fixture and bulb – It will need to be 36” long to cover ¾ the length of the enclosure -$94.95 for initial start-up kit (light and fixture) https://reptilighting.com/collections/arcadia-uv-b-lights/products/arcadia-prot5-uvb-kit-includes-hood?variant=32852715077691

Accurite thermostat/humidity gauge (x 2) One for the basking side and one for the cool side.  $11.14 or $22.28 total https://www.amazon.com/AcuRite-Humidity-Thermometer-Hygrometer-Indicator/dp/B0013BKDO8/ref=asc_df_B0013BKDO8/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=216551439599&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12724942685993055575&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033538&hvtargid=pla-350117545360&psc=1

Hot hands handwarmers or lap warmers to keep your animal warm when the power goes out.  1 box of 45 pairs handwarmers – $29.99 https://www.amazon.com/Hand-Warmers-90-Count-Activated/dp/B09P4M8DC2/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?keywords=hot+hands+warmers&qid=1668035558&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1

UV sensor to check the function of your UV light – 4 sensors – $8.99 https://www.amazon.com/Sensor-Reptile-Heating-Photochromic-Indicator/dp/B0951Z1WX1/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?crid=2QM7G1IVMJR18&keywords=uv+sensor+reptile&qid=1668035631&sprefix=uv+sensor%2Caps%2C255&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1

Generator (not a bad idea if the power goes out for an extended period) – you are in trouble if outages last more than a couple of days.  Champion 2500 watt duel fuel generator $708.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L45W2V9/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Accessories $100 (food bowls, hides, feeding tongs, décor, etc.)

Food – ALSO IMPORTANT.  Don’t think your bearded dragon will survive its entire life on stinking pellet food, crickets, or mealworms.  

Babies and juvenile dragons need 80% of their diet to be high quality feeder bugs.  Dubia roaches and Black Soldier Fly larvae are good staples.  Your little dragon will be hungry and EAT at least 25 roaches or fly larvae per day.  You can buy 25 medium dubia roaches online for about $7.25, then add shipping to that.  If you are feeding your pet 25 per day, get a lottery ticket and pray you win.  Soldier fly larva are cheaper and you can get about 100 for $3, but again, add shipping.  Also pray the weather cooperates and they arrive alive.  Your animal is hungry and can starve if you don’t feed it.  The secret remedy for all of this is to start your own colony of Dubia roaches.  I can write a “how to” for that if you’re interested. My feeder bug price checks come from Dubia.com.  I don’t care what Petco or Petland or any other stupid pet store tells you, you should not feed crickets as a staple.  They are dirty.  Don’t dump them into your reptile enclosure either.  They will chew on your pet.  

 Supplements – Calcium powder – 3 oz $3.99 – https://dubiaroaches.com/products/zoo-med-repti-calcium-with-d3-3oz?_pos=1&_psq=calcium&_ss=e&_v=1.0

Substrate – this is what goes on the floor of your enclosure.  If you have a baby dragon, use paper towels (NO FRAGRANCES).  They are sensitive to fragrances and the chemicals in things like air fresheners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets are extremely toxic to their respiratory system.  Use of paper towels will allow you to see their poo and urate and remind you to CLEAN UP after them so they don’t get a nasty respiratory infection when ammonia from their urate builds up in the tank.  It’s gross.  You also need to learn how to look at their poo and urate so you can tell if they are healthy or not.  As you become more experienced, you can change to something else.  If you use repticarpet, plan to change it daily, launder in hot water – NO FRAGRANCE OR DRYER SHEETS – and replace it DAILY.  

Cleaners – Use white vinegar and hot water.  $5 for a jug at Marketplace.  No bleach.  No alcohol.  No scented cleaners. 

Time and attention.  Think about how YOU would feel stuck in an enclosure 24 hours a day where you are dependent on someone else to feed you, clean up after you, entertain you at least a bit, etc.).  If you are working full time and/or you have children in school all day, this is NOT a good pet.  In reality, they shouldn’t be pets at all.  Please do not get your child one of these animals as a pet because they HAVE to have one or to teach them responsibility.  Teach your child to be responsible about making their bed, folding cloths, sweeping the porch, doing homework.  Don’t use an animal to teach responsibility.  You will be doing the work and they have a normal lifespan of 15 years in captivity.  If they live a shorter life, it may be from owner neglect and that will be on you.  If you work from home or have a set up where you can take your dragon with you back and forth to work and home (think of all the expenses times 2), then maybe you can give an animal like this a decent quality of life.  

 Veterinary care.  We do not have any experienced reptile vets in the islands.  You will have to travel off island to find an experienced and capable vet.  I have names, but again, this is not cheap or easy given our reliance on ferries.

Pet sitting.  Going rate is about $60 per day.  You will have to train someone to care for your animal.  Good luck.  

Estimate – not including the animal = Approximately $763.45 start up and plan on at least $196 monthly for food (25 roaches per day for a growing baby or juvenile dragon) – not including shipping charges.

Thank you – Drago

Our 4x2x2 set up

Bugging You From Texas, Part deux

I’ve been home on San Juan Island, WA for 4 days now and clearly I picked up a bug traveling home. Not exactly the sort of bug I wanted, but it was inevitable given the crowded airplane and traveling stress. My husband came down with the BUG first. Then it hopped over to a new host – ME.

So, I’ve spent the afternoon on the couch labeling and sorting photos from one of our nature walks in Texas. This was the first of two hikes we took at the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area Nature Preserve https://www.llela.org/about-llela/mission-and-vision. This area (approximately 2000 acres, I believe) has been conserved in conjunction with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the University of North Texas, the City of Lewisville, Lewisville ISD, the University of Texas in Arlington, and Texas A & M Agrilife Extension. It is a true jewel in the madness of the DFW metropolis where over 6.7 million people are displacing wildlife and native ecosystems are lost in the process. The BEST part of these hikes for me is the fact they do not allow dogs. NOT ANY! I am thrilled that the focus is on wildlife and habitat conservation and preservation instead of human recreation. I could actually be outdoors, enjoying nature AND viewing wildlife.

We’ve been to this preserve in prior trips to Texas. This year, we focused on hiking some trails we hadn’t been on before. Here is the gallery of some of the bugs I photographed, along with a few wonderful landscape scenes we viewed on the Redbud Trail – map here: https://www.llela.org/home/showdocument?id=9417

Please support environmental conservation wherever you are. This habitat may seem large at 2000 acres, but the former Blackland Prairie once covered 12 MILLION acres in the state of Texas. We need to set aside more if we are to weather the changes coming ahead.

Stay tuned for Bugging You From Texas, Part 3. I have more wonderful photos to share with you.

Bugging You From Texas! (Part 1)

On October 26, 2022, hubby and I left the island to venture to Texas for ten days. I always leave the island with great trepidation because I do not like being separated from my fur and scale babies (two cats and one dragon). They always have a babysitter to care for them, but it’s not “momma,” and no one else I know is going to do things exactly like me. If I could clone myself, it would be easier to depart. Or, I could stay with them and send the clone with my husband. Seriously, I’m joking…or maybe not. Depends on how I’m feeling when you ask me.

The trip was in reality, an essential one. After waiting three years, I have not been able to get into a specialty neurology clinic here in the PNW area. I have some “wiring” issues that are complicated and need further evaluation. I’m sure my family and my husband will nod their heads about me having the “wiring” issues. Nonetheless, I have been suffering without answers, so maybe we will have some after seeing Dr. Ansari in Frisco, TX. The other part of our trip is an annual family visit. We stayed with my parents in the Dallas area and visited with them and some of my former friends and neighbors. It would have been nice to drive south and see my brother in the Austin area too, but scheduling just didn’t work out. Some of our trip overlapped with my daughter flying down to visit as well. She coordinated a nice evening outing to Cafe Madrid in Dallas to hear her former guitar instructor and his group play Flameno music while we also enjoyed a fantastic meal at the restaurant.

Check out the slideshow of our Cafe Madrid experience below.

  • With Amanda and Lincoln at Cafe Madrid, Dallas, TX

Since it was pouring right after we arrived, we managed some fun outings in spite of the rain. Out of sheer boredom and needing some exercise, we spent part of the second day mall-walking. If you have absolutely no idea what that is, good. This means you’ve had other options for exercise. Mall-walking is one of the few exercise options (outside of going to a gym) that most people in these suburban-y-sprawl-y areas have. There are few outside nature preserve options like we have out here and even when it isn’t pouring rain, it can be difficult to get outdoors because it is either way too hot or way too cold. This happens when you change the climate – driving giant suburbans, escalades, or behemoth trucks and living in McMansion-style houses on zero lot lines with lawns. When I say that the DFW area is a “sea of roofs” or ‘rooves’ if you’re particular about your grammar, is frankly, an understatement. There are a few homes with stately live oaks, but more than half with ZERO trees in the front or back micro yard. Perhaps if there were trees, the need to cool these homes wouldn’t require 4-5 giant a/c units (per home). It’s no wonder there are power outages and rolling blackouts in summertime, and don’t even get me started on the “necessity” of fertilizing those golf course lawns and all the wasted water applied so homeowners satisfy the HOA’s regulations to keep things green. Hmmm. What if these people adopted another interpretation of “green?” Could we re-wild our urban landscapes? Would anyone be accepting of transforming their green lawn into a treasure of native vegetation?

Mall-walking photos here.

After walking the mall for a few hours that afternoon, we met up with some long time friends of ours (Marlin and Chanel). These are two of my dearest friends in the world. We all met around 22 years ago at the local 24 Hour Fitness gym in Lewisville, TX. Every year, we’ve made a point of trying to get together to catch up and enjoy a meal. I think having Amanda around makes it all the more fun. They have enjoyed teasing her since she was about 7.

Here’s a few of the bugs that I found around my parents’ home. I think I saw more spiders than insects, but that works for me. Even though there weren’t many, we hit the jackpot over the next few days at the two local nature areas we visited.

I also viewed an amazing aggregation of colonial solitary bees in my parents backyard. These were swarming by the hundreds, low to the ground and going in and out of little ant-like sand castles. As best as I am able to tell, these are Blood bees (Sphecodes sp.). In the 2nd video below, you can see I got so excited, I was down on the ground filming the action as one little bee worked to pack the walls of the entrance and played peek-a-boo with me.

Blood bees (Sphecodes sp.)
Blood Bee (Sphecodes sp.) works on “sand castle” home.

The one thing that made me sad when I visited Texas was meeting some folks who literally asked me to explain to them what a nature preserve was. I kid you not. The phlebotomist was one. She had an 18 year career drawing blood for Quest Diagnostics and she was awesome at her job. I gave about 8 vials of blood and I didn’t faint or even feel a prick. She said she had never been to a nature preserve. Not once. Not ever. When I explained what we have on San Juan, she said, ” she imagined that would be wonderful.” I left pondering how many more people are out there like her. I also contemplated why some people in the San Juan Islands are so against nature preserves. Do we take these places for granted? We shouldn’t. If we don’t care and value them, and protect them from the greed of developers, we will lose them forever. Also, development drives up taxes for residents. If you don’t believe me, look it up. My parents’ 1200 square foot home has a tax bill of about 7K per year for Denton County, TX. They have a senior exemption that cuts this in half. The take away message is more people and more homes = more services needed, more upgrades and maintenance to utility infrastructures, roads, etc. On the other hand, when you include many nature preserves, trails, and wildlife corridors throughout neighborhoods, people are generally more inclined to get outdoors, exercise, and physical and mental health improves. Nature reduces healthcare costs. Think about that.

Keep reading and you’ll see some of the cool bugs I found at the nature areas we visited.

My husband and I visited the two nature areas within a 20 min. driving distance from my parents’ home. The first, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, TX, is about 200 acres. It is overused and that has driven away most of the wildlife. Once, you could see road runners, bobcats, coyotes, and many more species. While I am happy it hasn’t been bulldozed for apartments and McMansions (there is actually a giant subdivision nearby called CASTLE HILLS), it is a mostly a giant urban dog park. Don’t get me wrong. Dogs can be wonderful companion animals. I’m not a dog hater at all, but when I see the slog of dog poo along trails or discarded poo bags in a creek, I want to cry. It would be one thing if you saw a dog on occasion, but since everyone seems to have a dog now, it displaces almost anything else that is trying to survive in the wild. So do outdoor cats. If I ruled the world, folks would keep their cats indoors or in catios. They would also be responsible about picking up and appropriately discarding pet waste! Don’t be too critical of my opinion. Companion animals are a huge part of climate change for the simple reason they eat meat. A lot of it. Ranching, and the demand for beef is one reason we will likely lose the Amazon rainforest – and every wild thing in it. It’s also the reason for wolf packs being culled in the West. Ranchers want the land for their cows – even Federal lands. Don’t believe me though. Look it up. If we are going to own pets, we need to make sure we save spaces for wildlife to live too. We need more nature preserves!

While most of the wildlife has gone missing in Arbor Hills “nature preserve turned dog park,” I did find some pretty cool bugs, including the sweetest jumping spider. I also saw a snake and my husband spotted a turtle swimming in the creek. I’m going to feature the jumping spider first here, then that sweet little turtle swimming in the creek, but all the rest of our sightings and my photos of the preserve can be viewed in the slideshow below.

High Eyelashed Jumping Spider (Phidippus mystaceus)

Pond Slider Turtle ( Trachemys scripta) in Arbor Hills Nature Preserve Creek

Slide show of Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, Plano, TX 2022

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more in Bugging You From Texas (Part deux). YEE HAW! 🤠

A Diurnal Firefly (and some of my thoughts about the declines of fireflies in general)

Winter Firefly (Ellychnia sp.)

Here’s my “Bug of the day” (for Saturday, October 15, 2022).  I spied it on our wood table outside.  It’s a Diurnal Firefly in the genus Ellychnia.  The Latin name, Ellychnia, comes from Greek, lychnos, translating into ‘lamp’ or ‘lamp wick.’ Obviously, lamps are something associated with the nighttime or darkness.  However, the common name of this genus, diurnal, means “day.”   It’s only a bit confusing, right?  Also, this is a beetle in the family Lampyridae and not a fly at all.  The adults of this genus don’t light up at night or in the day either.  However, they are closely related to the fireflies that DO light up, or luminesce, at night found on the East Coast.  Since this genus, the Ellychnia, don’t have nighttime blinkers, they find their mates by detecting each other’s pheromones.   Lloyd (2002), notes however that all species of Lampyrid beetle larvae have an organ at the end of their abdominal segment 8 that bioluminesces. I’ve never found an Ellychnia larva myself, but these are referred to colloquially as “glow worms.”

Ellychnia sp. firefly

In our area, the genus Ellychnia are also known as winter fireflies.  This is because they spend the winter as adults, and are equipped to tolerate cold temperatures.  You might even see them on days when we have snow.  Larvae of this beetle genus hatch in early summer and live in leaf litter or under bark in decaying trees.  They are carnivorous predators of organisms like snails, slugs, earthworms, and soft-bodied insects.  

Winter Firefly (Ellychnia sp.)

Do we have any blinking species of fireflies in the PNW?  That’s an interesting question.  I found some literature that says we do, but I’m not certain this applies to the San Juan Islands, although a few sparse (and unsubstantiated) records from Vancouver Island, BC exist.  However, western records for flashing fireflies are known from interior B.C. (Cannings et al., 2010) and throughout the western U.S. as reported by Larry Buschman (2016).  

While fireflies that flash or bioluminesce are well known on the eastern side of the U.S. and North America, it is not exactly known how they moved all the way over to the western side.  There is an interesting commentary in the paper by Cannings et al. 2010, with the thought that perhaps at least one of the species of flashing fireflies reported in B.C., (Photinus obscurellus), may have arrived via the railways. 

Because luminescing fireflies are associated with wetlands, it would have been difficult for them to have crossed over the dry Rocky Mountain system without help. Cannings et al. (2010) report sightings across B.C. in association with railways, in fact, with most of these sightings falling within a 30 km distance from a railway.  The thought is that even going across the mountains in drier areas, most railways wound through low lying valleys where the topography is more likely to cross through wetlands.  Even the presence of railroad berms can create areas of new wetland habitat which may also have attributed to the westward distribution of these fireflies.  

Sadly, we have, and continue to degrade, pollute, drain, and lose wetlands in our continued (horrific) adherence to the destructive and entitled ideology of Manifest Destiny.  Development, ranching, hobby farms, and suburban sprawl have eliminated more than 50% of wetlands that previously existed in North America (Fallon et al., 2021).  The remainder have been seriously impacted by chemical pollutants, light pollution, and overall climate change, contributing to further declines to remaining populations.  We may lose all of the species of these iconic and charismatic summertime blinking lanterns without taking special steps to conserve and protect their habitat.   We will have no one to blame but ourselves either.  

Please support environmental conservation and protection in your community – wherever you live.  It is important to reduce our human footprint in order to preserve the natural world, its beauty, and our life support system to perpetuate for future generations.  

How can you help?  Live minimally.  Turn off outdoor lights at night.  Plant native vegetation.  Switch to use of non-toxic household products.  Don’t use lawn fertilizers or chemicals.  Better yet, get rid of your lawn and landscape with native plants.  Eat less meat.  It all adds up.  💡

References

Buschman, L. 2016. Field Guide to Western North American Fireflies. https://cynthiabrast.files.wordpress.com/2022/10/ab7ca-westernfirefliesmarch2016a.pdf

Cannings, Robert & Branham, Marc & McVickar, R.H. 2010. The fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) of British Columbia, with special emphasis on the light-flashing species and their distribution, status and biology. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia. 107. 33-41.

Fallon CE, Walker AC, Lewis S, Cicero J, Faust L, Heckscher CM, et al. 2021. Evaluating firefly extinction risk: Initial red list assessments for North America. PLoS ONE 16(11): e0259379. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259379

Fender, K.M. 1970. Ellychnia of western North America. (Coleoptera-Lampyridae). Northwest Science 44: 31-43.

Lloyd, J.E. 2002. Lampyridae Latreille 1817. Pp 187-196 in R.H. Arnett, Jr., M.C. Thomas, P.E. Skelly and. J.H. Frank (Eds.). American Beetles. Volume 2.

Bug Diary for October 6, 2022 ~ Metellina Spiders Share a Lunch Wrap, an Unusual Fly, Two Wandering Caterpillars, and “One- Eyed Wanda” Gets Rescued By a Seeing-Eye 👀Human.

I was eating my lunch outdoors yesterday (October 6, 2022), and considering the end of season, depauperate community of bugs. There are fewer and fewer buzzing about the lingering tiny blossoms on my mint plants, which have been well-visited this season. Many of the winged flyers die out on their own accord. Lives spent – an ending synchronized with leaves falling from the trees. They’ve lived a season, maybe longer depending on the species. As adults, they’ve mated and sewn seeds for a new generation to emerge in spring. Some though, are captured and eaten by other organisms that are fueling stores for their own reproductive event – like these Long-jawed orb weaver spiders (Metallina segmentata) I witnessed, working together to wrap up their “lunch,” a Thick-legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens).

Metellina segmentata spiders (male and female) with lunch (Syritta pipiens) hoverfly

I didn’t realize it at the time, but depauperate was not to be the theme of my day!

Shortly after observing and filming the spiders, I noted some buzzing around our fruitless cherry tree. I walked over, thinking to myself, “You’re getting too close to that Yellowjacket!” Well, it wasn’t a yellowjacket at all. It was a Robberfly (Laphria ventralis), I believe – and SHE was ovipositing into our tree.

Laphria ventralis Robber Fly – 10.6.22, San Juan Island, WA

Later this evening when I was showing my husband the photos, he asked what the eggs would eat when they hatch. I had to look it up. Well, Robber Fly larvae are known to prey on the eggs, larvae, and pupae of other insects, especially beetle larvae living in decaying trees. Read more about this linked here: https://www.geller-grimm.de/genera07.htm

This Robber fly was an incredible mimic of a Yellowjacket – not only in appearance, but also in the way she flew about the tree. Fascinated, I watched her find a niche under some old bark and begin to oviposit. She did not like my camera or my presence, but tolerated me to a degree. Then she buzzed right into my face with complete confidence her mimicry would chase me away. Guess what? It worked. At least temporarily.

Laphria ventralis Robber fly ovipositing 10.06.22 – San Juan Island, WA
Laphria ventralis 10.6.22 San Juan Island, WA
Buzz Off! Laphria ventralis Robber Fly 10.6.22

The next fun finds in Bug-landia were two caterpillars. I found an Eyed Sphinx Moth caterpillar (Smerinthus opthalmica) making headway down our driveway, undoubtedly wandering off to find a suitable location to pupate.

Smerinthus opthalmica (Eyed Sphinx Moth caterpillar) 10.6.22

The second caterpillar I found is my absolute favorite moth species, the Rosy Aemilia moth (Lophocampa roseata). Since it was navigating down the middle of the road, I did gently relocate it to a safer spot so it wouldn’t get smooshed by the giant gravel trucks that fly up and down our once quiet country road.

Lophocampa roseata, the Rosy Amelia Moth caterpillar

Last, but not least is my new “pet.” I found her on my walk and she needed some help, so she’s come home to stay with us for some R&R, and a bit of end of life care. I’ve named her Wanda… One-Eyed Wanda. Wanda had evidently become an assault victim sometime just before I found her. The thought is that she was attacked and bitten by another female mantis – who evidently fled the scene before I got there. Poor wounded Wanda was not in great shape when I picked her up. She is missing an eye. It was not a pretty sight, but I couldn’t just leave her in the road.

Mantis religiosa (European mantis) and, “One-eyed Wanda”

She’s hanging out in the dining room tonight in a bug habitat/safe room so my indoor cats don’t batter her. I think she’s had enough battering in this life. I’m hoping she will still be able to lay an egg sack for me before she expires. Definitely plan to try and feed her tomorrow. I doctored her eye as best as I could. She can still see with the other one. Poor Wanda. 😦

Next up – Look for my post and forthcoming PowerPoint slide show about What’s Bugging Gary! Even better, check out the event (Garry Oak Conservation Symposium) in person if you’re on San Juan Island. It’s this Sunday at the Grange.


References and More Good Stuff to Check Out

Brast, C.L. 2018. Lophocampa roseata (ROSY AEMILIA). Bugging You From San Juan Island. https://buggingyoufromsanjuanisland.com/2018/10/02/lophocampa-roseata-rosy-aemilia/

Bugguide.net. 2022. Lophocampa roseata. https://bugguide.net/node/view/247272

Bugguide.net. 2022. Metellina segmentata. https://bugguide.net/node/view/153661

Cannings, R. A. 2014. The Robber Flies (Diptera: Asilidae) of Western Canadian Grasslands. Chapter 7.10.3752/9780968932179. http://staff.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Cannings-Asilidae-BSC-003-Vol4-Ch7-2014-.pdf

Cannings, R.A. 2007. Recent range expansion of the Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa Linnaeus (Mantodeaz Mantidae), in British Columbia. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia, 104, 73-80. https://journal.entsocbc.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/101

Geller-Grimm, F. Information on Robber Flies. https://www.geller-grimm.de/genera07.htm

McAtee, W.L. 1918. Key to the Nearctic Species of the Genus Laphria (Diptera, Asilidae). The Ohio Journal of Science. v19 n2 (December, 1918), 143-172. https://kb.osu.edu/handle/1811/2019

Nelson, D. 2022 Laphria Ventralis. 10,000 Things of the Pacific Northwest. Adventures of a Recreation Naturalist. http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2021/07/31/laphria-ventralis/

Nelson, D. 2022. Metellina segmentata. 10,000 Things of the Pacific Northwest. Adventures of a Recreation Naturalist. http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2020/10/25/metellina-segmentata/

Nelson, D. 2022. Smerinthus opthalmica. 10,000 Things of the Pacific Northwest. Adventures of a Recreation Naturalist. http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2022/06/27/smerinthus-opthalmica/

PNW Moths. 2022. Lophocampa roseata. http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/browse/family-erebidae/subfamily-arctiinae/tribe-arctiini/lophocampa/lophocampa-roseata/

PNW Moths. 2022. Smerinthus opthalmica. http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/browse/family-sphingidae/subfamily-smerinthinae/smerinthus/smerinthus-ophthalmica/

Thanks for Reading! 🐛

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans

Don’t miss out on the 3rd Annual Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – happening now and running through the entire month of September. Check out @Bugs of the San Juan Islands on Facebook for more posts an to see what others are sharing.

Bugging You From San Juan Island

Today is officially the first day of September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans. I’m excited about seeing those “spidee” photos and learning together about some of the very cool things that spiders do. We’re also going to conquer any FEARS of spiders and to start off, I’m going to post a link so you can discover Lucas the Spider. If you don’t know about Lucas, he is the cutest spider in the world, AND he wants to be your friend. *Kid and Adult Friendly!

Check out the event on Facebook at https://fb.me/e/1HRI2PNFw

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Birdie Buffet

Yellow Rumped Warbler – San Juan Island, WA

I have an observation I was fortunate enough to see in person last September (2021) that I’d like to share, including a short video or two I filmed, and a wonderful animation slide made for me by one of our local San Juan Island artists, April Randall, who I asked to illustrate what I witnessed, but did not have an opportunity to record on camera.

We are entering the season – late summer/early fall, when some species of ants and termites send out their winged reproductives, also known in scientific lingo as “alates.” These flying individuals have reached reproductive maturity and their purpose is utilitarian: to fly away from home, mate, and establish a new colony…IF they are lucky enough not to be eaten or fall to some other random fate in nature.

Over the past seven years, I’ve been able to watch as one particular colony of Western Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes hesperus) sends out their offspring to do exactly this. The event happens annually during the first 12 days of September without fail. They swarm to the surface, exiting en-masse out of the little hole in the ground, to launch out into the great, wide world. The air is filled with their tiny black bodies and translucent wings – wings that last just long enough for them to disperse far enough away from home, so as to not compete with the parent colony.

Many, or probably it would be fair to say “most” of these winged reproductives or alates, aren’t successful, if by defining success, your measure is for them to begin a new colony. However, if you measure success from another perspective – that of Mother Nature, this event is indeed a success – for Mother Nature hasn’t forgotten the food web and the myriad of other species who must forage for food in order to survive.

In the videos below, you will see a close up of these Western Subterranean Termite alates emerging from their underground colony which lies below our driveway in a network of old Douglas fir roots that were cut down long ago by the former homeowner. As “momma” to a bearded dragon, I included some video of my pet, Drago, feasting on these termites as they emerged. Bearded Dragons are known to dine on termites in their native range in Australia, so I thought, “Why not?” Yes, he loves them! What I unfortunately don’t have video footage of is what we saw after we came back into the house. There was a little flock of Yellow-Rumped Warblers waiting for us (mostly for Drago) to leave that spot. As soon as the coast was clear, those little birds were down on the ground, eating the termites as fast as they emerged.

So here’s where I brought April into the picture. April made the animation and I think it’s important because it gives you something to share with your friends about how the food web works – or how it’s supposed to work. It’s also important because many, many people automatically see termites as something bad, a PEST. While that may be true if they are eating your home, it isn’t true in this case.

These termites have never bothered our home (not once in 7 years). We border a wooded area and there is plenty of habitat that termites need for survival. Some pest control operators will tell you right off though, that you have to be proactive. Get rid of the colony. Well, they also want you to PAY them, so don’t believe everything you hear. What I’d like you to consider is how Mother Nature is providing for these little birds – and other species of wildlife. The Warblers (and other wildlife) don’t have a grocery store to pop into whenever they are hungry. They rely on seasonal (often temporary surges) where food is abundant, so they can eat enough, storing energy to survive whenever they can’t find food. Feast or famine is a common theme for wildlife. They may even have to travel for long distances to take advantage of a resource. Because Yellow-Rumped Warblers can live for 6-7 years, they may well remember how to find this exact spot on our property each year.

Western Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes hesperus)
Drago, the bearded dragon eats Western Subterranean Termites on San Juan Island – Sep. 12, 2021
Animation by April Randall, Orcas Island, WA

Please feel free to share with you friends and family. I hope you enjoy the animation. This year, I’m going to be waiting with my camera in hopes of capturing this special moment.

About Reticulitermes hesperus:

Lifespan of a Queen – up to 30 years

Family: Rhinotermitidae

Geographic Distribution: along the Pacific Coast (BC-CA-Mexico) east to ID & w. NV

References, Further Reading, and Artist Information

Bugguide (Reticulitermes Hesperus) https://bugguide.net/node/view/183940

Keller, Laurent. (1998). Queen lifespan and colony characteristics in ants and termites [Review]. Insectes Sociaux. 45. 235-246. 10.1007/s000400050084.

April Randall, The Windy Painter – https://www.instagram.com/windypainter/?hl=en&fbclid=IwAR26Joo9sFvw1KUnA_0tiQe2wObCAMTNh8Rzxy6pkZU1WKaMtD_vcmDEliw

Musings on the complicated topic of native pollinators, food production, and climate change

Bee Balm, nasturtiums, and Stinky daisies

 

Our native pollinators were slow to emerge this year in the San Juans because of the cool weather. Usually, we can rely on flies, solitary bees and wasps, and even moths, ants, and others to pollinate our fruit trees. I did see some species of flies out this spring, but again, weather conditions were poor. 

We have PLENTY of “pollinators” out in our yard right now. So, in trying to explain to people when they ask me about a decline in native pollinators, I have a few points I like to throw out for consideration.

1) honey bees are poor pollinators to keep on the island. It has to be above 50 degrees for them to come out of the hive.

2) native flies and other insects like moths (which fly at night and we don’t typically see) are better at pollinating in cooler temperatures.  While they also won’t be out if it’s rainy and super cold, they can fly in temperature ranges lower than 50 degrees F.  

3) the critical importance of native pollinators may not be in their “pollination” services – but their role as pest predators and/or role in the food cycle for other organisms, and for creating biodiversity in our ecosystem, which helps keep everything healthier.   I think this part is important.  If you look at some of the plants we put in our gardens (native perennials), they actually do not require pollination to survive and reproduce, but do offer pollen and nectar to many insects, spiders, and hummingbirds.  Looking further at the food web, we need a variety of native insects for more than pollination.  Tachinid flies, syrphid flies, solitary wasps, ants, and even spiders can be pollinators, but also help regulate populations of orchard, garden, and forest pests.  

My take on all of this is as humans, our focus has largely been on how to grow food over environmental conservation and maintaining balanced, functioning ecosystems.  With climate change, many of our food growing operations may fail.  Our fruit trees (at least none that I know of) are not native.  In spite of the best intentions, conditions may decline to a point where we can’t produce great fruit here.  Weather is only one limiting factor.    We have poor soils or no soil in many locations, limited water resources, and the pressures of continuing development resulting in loss of natural habitats.  I don’t have the answers for you when it comes to fruit production or any way to personally mitigate climate change, so we may have to figure out a substitute for growing apples, plums, and such.  

Let’s go back to the importance of native pollinators though.  If you think of our island as a living organism with many different functions, it is important to have all the essential pieces to keep the “body” healthy.  These native pollinators (and the native plants they visit), and all the other myriad species of invertebrates, fungi, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, soil, water, etc. are all part of the “body,” a body that has to fight off occasional or repeated assaults from being thrown off balance by exposures to external forces.  Just like we need a variety of foods and minerals and other things to keep our body healthy, so does an ecosystem.  We need all of these pieces (and that includes our native pollinators and all the other diverse species) to keep our island home healthy.  

As to the fruit trees and other food crops requiring pollination, for now, some of these issues can be mediated by planting around your orchard and garden with plenty of diverse native species and providing habitat for all of these native species to develop.  Some of our practices of cleaning and sanitizing our orchards and gardens, burning yard clippings, and applying fertilizers and pesticides can adversely affect the biodiversity needed to help our food production thrive.   

I imagine it can be frustrating to see an orchard fail to produce fruit.  My grandparents were tenant farmers and wholly dependent on growing cotton and corn and the bit of garden and livestock they had around the home on the property they did not own.  When it was a drought year, and crops failed, things were utterly miserable.  Destitute would be a better adjective.  I believe we may have an inherent desire to be “part of the land,” and grow our own food, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, conditions aren’t favorable.  Crops fail.  Historically, we have tried (and failed) to control some of these external forces – like applying pesticides in amounts that probably will poison us forever.  

I’ve gone way beyond the “pollinator” topic here, but it is next to impossible for me to see a one-dimensional issue.  We have a much larger and more complex picture before us.  How do we either re-create or maintain a healthy functioning system, navigate the perils of climate change, and feed ourselves?  I like to believe that protecting diversity in our ecosystems is an important facet of this complex, multi-layered crisis we face. 

Resources and Further Reading

Washington Native Plant Society – https://www.wnps.org

Xerces Society – http://www.xerces.org

WSU Extension Master Gardeners of San Juan County – https://extension.wsu.edu/sanjuan/master-gardeners/

Living Jewels of San Juan

Buprestis aurulenta or Golden Buprestid Beetle

I found this little green beetle (and another sad little black and yellow beetle missing its antennae) in the pool yesterday. The black and yellow beetle is alive and… well, sort of living in a special habitat right now because of those missing antennae.

The green one was completely waterlogged and lifeless. I had left it on the table next to Drago’s enclosure last night, thinking I’d pin it and keep it in my collection. I am SO GLAD I DIDN’T stick it with a pin! This morning, I found it moving those little legs around at me. It was alive! RIP woke up.  

Golden Buprestid beetle (Buprestis aurulenta)

Golden Buprestid beetle (Buprestis aurulenta


This is a Golden Buprestid Beetle (Buprestis aurulenta). They are a native species in the Pacific Northwest. I have referred to them often as the Rip Van Winkle beetle because they take such a long time to develop from egg to adult. In fact, the record is 51 years!  


Why so long? Well, the developmental time depends a lot on the quality of what they’re eating (they develop in dead or dying trees) and miscellaneous environmental factors. When they come out as an adult, they leave behind a little oval hole. I think it adds character to your wood trim if you have them “sleeping” in timber used to build your house.

We had one in our door trim that didn’t make it all the way out and probably had been stuck for awhile before I noticed. It became a fascinating object to show anyone who came to visit our home.

Golden Buprestid stuck in door trim (March 20, 2016)

I’m not sure what gives them this beautiful iridescence, but they are undeniably one of nature’s jewels, thus the name “Jewel” Beetle. 

Golden Buprestid Beetle – San Juan Island 07.27.2022
Golden buprestid set free to fly away in the forest.

References and further reading:

Zeng, Y. 1995. University of Florida Book of Insect Records, Chapter 12 Longest Life Cycle. Department of Entomology & Nematology University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0620 https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/ufbir/files/pdf/UFBIR_Chapter12.pdf

Bugguide.net https://bugguide.net/node/view/74029

Nelson, D. 2021. Buprestis aurulenta (Golden Buprestid) 10,000 Things of the Pacific Northwest http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2021/05/19/buprestis-aurulenta-golden-buprestid/

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