Tag Archives: Bugs of the San Juan Islands

Sparrow Bee

Doodles

I find doodling is a great way to reduce stress. Here are my morning doodles (and Japanese interpretation) of the most scary insect in the news in the United States.

They say laughter is another good way to reduce stress and I admit I chuckled a bit watching the sensationalized CBS video of the kevlar?-suited team taking on the “Murder Hornets.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/murder-hornets-85-killed-13-captured-alive-washington-state/

These hornets INVADING North America (hyperbole here), are native to Asia. It’s also very likely they’ve entered the US illegally in someone’s suitcase. At least that’s what I think! My sense of this came from reading the US Dept of Agriculture bulletin titled New Pest Response Guidelines linked here – https://cms.agr.wa.gov/WSDAKentico/Documents/PP/PestProgram/Vespa_mandarinia_NPRG_10Feb2020-(002).pdf Note page 16 of the guide where it reviews how Asian cultures place a high value on the wasps as a delicacy, especially how expensive the market price for the wasps are in Japan. Hmmm.

Yesterday I thought I’d do some research on how the Japanese live amongst these giant wasps, known to entomologists as Vespa mandarinia or the Asian Giant Hornet (AGH).

What I found out was pretty interesting!

First off, the Japanese name for the wasps is Suzumebachi. Say “Sue zoom eh ba chee” and you’re close. Suzumebachi translates into “sparrow-bee.”

In my quest to uncover the history of these insects in Japanese culture, I found they are actually revered. The Japanese bee hunters climb into the mountains to dig up the subterranean nests and collect the adults, larvae, and pupae. Check out this bloggers adventure as she hikes into the mountain to help her guide dig up a subterranean nest http://www.libertyruth.com/blog/vespa-mandarinia-finally-finally-i-can-write-about-the-venom?fbclid=IwAR30J9hbyB6xtRx5zqVZrodcfG6U2DFKdPPDlV9CGolOBc1HwR7CbAV5S5c

Japanese anime’ has a character based on the “bee sparrow,” and you can buy a variety of costume garments to dress just like her if you’re inclined. If you can believe it, many of the online stores selling these costumes are SOLD OUT! You can read about the anime’ character of Suzumebachi here https://naruto.fandom.com/wiki/Suzumebachi

The Japanese eat these highly prized wasps. I found one story online originally published in Munchies. It’s titled, I Got Buzzed on Japanese Hornet Cocktails and takes place in a bar in Japan. Guess what the bar is named? Suzumebachi! According to the blogger, the owner has gone all out and even has a giant hornet nest displayed behind the bar. Read more here – https://www.vice.com/amp/en/article/aeyp4k/i-got-buzzed-on-killer-japanese-hornet-cocktails

More about hornet sake here – https://youtu.be/r6k60yo_nZo

While some hornets are kept in captivity and bred because of their great value, in rural village communities, you can still find traditional Suzumebachi hunters and attend annual festivals themed around the collection of the hornets https://travel.gaijinpot.com/edible-wasp-festival/ and https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2019/02/08/the-japanese-tradition-of-raising-and-eating-wasps

It’s pretty incredible how prized these hornets are for their medicinal and culinary properties. Japanese athletes are even touting increased energy after drinking hornet juice https://youtu.be/sfdSPW-cwgM or using bee protein powder.

While I don’t discount the intimidation factor of these wasps, we may be missing something in our eradication efforts.

Eating insects is in our future. It could be a lucrative investment!

Thanks for reading.

Author’s note: I am in no way encouraging the importation of exotic species, or species deemed invasive, but only writing this to present an alternate perspective as a means of balancing the extraordinary sensationalization of the Asian Giant Hornet. They aren’t the Winged Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

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!  

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:

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 10 – A Home with Folding Doors

I found this spider in our barn in August and thought it was dead, so I did what I often do – grab it and pick it up! Hmmm. This spider moved. It was alive.

This is a Folding Door Spider, Antrodiaetus pacificus. While I’m not 100% certain, I do believe this is a male since there was no burrow nearby and it’s “wandering” season. Most of the time, females are inside or near the entrance to their burrow.

Folding door spiders are the “tarantulas” of the Pacific Northwest. Their scientific name comes from Greek antrodiaitos (αντροδιαιτος)- “living in caves”, from antron (αντρον)- “cave” + diaita (διαιτα)- “way of life, dwelling” – according to https://bugguide.net/node/view/23442 They build their homes (burrows) in rotting or decaying wood or moss, living in moist, forested areas where they are rarely seen.

Females are approximately 13mm in size, with males a bit smaller at 11mm. They are classified as Mygalomorph spiders, the more primitive spiders with one pair of book lungs.

Occasionally, they become victims of spider hunting wasps. These wasps sting and paralyze the spider, then drag them into a burrow. The wasp lays her eggs on the spider, then leaves. The developing larvae feast on the poor spider while it is still alive.

Please be kind to these harmless, gentle giants!

Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020
Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020
Antrodiaetus pacificus – San Juan Island, WA 08.10.2020

September Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 8 Araneus diadematus, the Cross Orb weaver

Yesterday my husband was outside working on our deck (without much help from me). The weekend projects can be overwhelming, especially when I’m so easily distracted every time I find a BUG. This one was perfect for my post today!

Female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus 09.07.2020

First off, it’s a SHE spider! This fall beauty is a female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus. She was hanging out on the side of the house, just under the eave. I had to carefully climb a ladder to get a photo, but it was completely worth the risk.

Female Cross Orb Weaver, Araneus diadematus 09.07.2020

Orb Weavers are in the family Araneidae. These are some of the most beautiful and commonly seen spiders in our area. They weave the classic and typically vertical, orb-shaped web that we often see in our gardens.

March 29, 2013, Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

While Araneus diadematus is not a native species and was introduced from Western and Northern Europe, it has become naturalized here and ranges across North America now. Bugguide.net gives the North American (including Canada) range for A. diadematus as the following localities – “diadematus – BC, WA, OR, MI, OH, PA, ON, NY, QC, RI, MA, NS, NL.”

Male and female specimens have different morphology (size, shape). Female body length can be from 6-20mm and they are fuller and more rounded. Male body length varies from 6-13mm and they are more narrowed in body shape.

Male A. diadematus

Typically, even though they are around in spring, we don’t notice them until later in the fall (like now). Females will be waiting on their web for a wandering male to find them. Males are not usually seen on webs since they are often on the move to find “Miss Right.”

The female A. diadematus will lay her last clutch of eggs in fall before dying, usually timed with our first frost. The eggs will overwinter. The eggs will hatch in springtime when temperatures warm, releasing hundreds of baby spiderlings!

June 13, 2013 – San Juan Island “Orb-Weaver Spiderlings”

I found this interesting poem online about Orb Weavers that I’ll leave you with today. Thanks for stopping by!

Araneus diadematus

Our cradle empty, we shall climb

To a high place, to catch the wind

And fly, strewing gossamer as we go,

Singly, flowing without will, to land

Wherever.

We shall know, by the compass

Blotched in white upon our backs,

Where to spin the spokes, and how

To spire the wheel; with one leg, feel

The trembling.

Approach too fast, and we shall quake,

And blur the whorl with shaking

From the underside, the compass

Pointing down, our legs the eight points

Taking.

At night we eat the orb, conserve

The silk, to spin again by morning,

Indelicately, cramming all

Into open mouths, every spoke

Consuming.

We spin the globes of nurture

After mating, span them so,

With loving claws, adore the

Minor worlds we make, compass

Turning.

Entwined in silk, their spinnerets

Are forming, massed bundles

Of eyes, and legs, and fangs

Entangling. Each of us

Expiring.

Source material. Veronica Godines, Araneus diadematus, http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu. Theodore H. Savory, The Spiders and Allied Orders of the British Isles, London, 1945, pp. 130–131. The common “Garden Spider” has a characteristic “cross” on its back, and is the archetypal orb-weaver. Immatures, already orphans by the time they emerge, go out to seek their fortunes by abseiling more or less at random on air-currents, attached to an anchor point by nothing but a thread of gossamer.

Spider Sleuthing in The San Juans – Day 7 Debunking Spider myths

Today, I’m going to introduce you to Rod Crawford in my post. Rod is the curator and spider expert (GENIUS) at the Burke Museum in Seattle. He is the go-to guy for anything you would possibly want to know about spiders.

One thing I really like about Rod are his efforts to debunk some of the most common myths about spiders. For instance, putting that spider you find in your house outdoors is good for the spider and where it belongs. Nope. Nope. Nope,….and one more big ole’ NOPE! Take a look here to read what Rod says about where some spiders live (including indoors), and why tossing them outdoors is not a good idea.

https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/arachnology-and-entomology/spider-myths/myth-house-spiders-belong

So, if you haven’t come across some of Rod’s work, check out some of these links and watch the YouTube video below.

https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/arachnology-and-entomology/spider-myths

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