Tag Archives: Curculio

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 Little Weevil House

Key Words: masting, Curculio, Quercus, mast seeding, acorn weevil, diapause

I picked up these acorns (Quercus sp.) when I visited my folks recently in Texas. They have several oak trees on their property and there was an abundance of acorns all over the ground this year, so I brought a few home with me in a ziplock bag. I like acorns. My mom used to draw little faces on them and I had acorn “people” to play with when I was a child.

Acorn “person”

I also found a very cool bug under one of those oak trees while I was there. This strange looking creature is one of the Nut and Acorn Weevils (Curculio sp). It has an extremely long snout. When you find out how this weevil uses it to DRILL, you may be amazed. The adult female weevil will use this drill on her very long snout to make a hole in those acorns!

Nut and Acorn Weevil (Curculio sp).
Nut and Acorn Weevil (Curculio sp).
Nut and Acorn Weevil (Curculio sp).

Keep reading. It really is amazing.

A female weevil will make a hole in the acorn so she can put her eggs inside it!

Hole drilled by Nut and Acorn Weevil

Because I like word games, I thought I’d point out to you that rearranging the letters in the word weevil will make the words “we live?” Well, those eggs hatch into baby weevils who LIVE in a little house that is an acorn (and sometimes in other nuts too). Some folks call them grubs or worms. They are actually the larvae of the adult weevil mom who selected the acorn for her nursery.

If you are assessing this situation from an agricultural perspective (say that nut is a pecan), invested in harvesting a profitable crop, you might be feeling very worried. Sometimes the worry may indeed be justified, but in many cases, like with these acorns, the tree has evolved a strategy to deal with occasional waves of weevils and other insects we consider pests. In actuality, they are just utilizing the resources of the tree like we do when WE (the humans) eat the nut or fruit.

Larvae of Nut and Acorn Weevil (Curculio sp).

I’m going to name the trees’ strategy of dealing with this bug FEAR NO WEEVIL. However, the actual scientific moniker for this strategy (and it applies to other pests and adverse weather stressors as well) is MASTING. The word mast has been used since way back in the Middle Ages to refer to the acorns and seeds of forest trees that drop and accumulate on the ground. It comes from Old English, mΓ¦st. Essentially, masting is an ecological term referring to the highly variable and often synchronized periodic cycles of fruiting/seeding in the reproductive processes of trees (both forest and fruit trees).

How is it a strategy for circumventing the deleterious affects of pests? Well, the idea is that in some years, bumper crops of nuts and seeds are produced in order to satiate the predators, so some are left to germinate and continue new generations. In this particular case, you could think of it as the oak trees sacrificing some of their offspring to the weevil gods. When there are more acorns than there are adult female weevils, some of those acorns will escape the weevil drill and makeover into little bug nurseries.

In reality, this relationship is much more complicated. In some cases, acorns parasitized by only a few weevil larvae will germinate, while those acorns with many larvae will not. The trees’ bumper crops of seeds and nuts will also cycle with years of low production, where resources are scarce for the weevil (and other organisms). Nature is incredibly dynamic though. Studies show some species of weevils have adapted a counter mechanism to circumvent the trees’ strategy of masting. It’s called prolonged diapause. This means these weevils are able to sleep longer (more than one year) as they develop in order to synchronize adult emergence with years when the trees’ seed/nut production is high.

If you are interested in reading more about the history and MYSTERY of masting, I encourage you to delve into the literature I’ve listed in the references below. It’s quite fascinating – especially going back in history to the link between masting and pannage. Way more than I can cover here. Check it out.

References

Baldwin, M. 2021. Pigging out in the forest: the Common of Mast (Pannage) in Britain https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/blog/post/pigging-out-in-the-forest-the-common-of-mast-in-britain

Bugguide 2021. Curculio. https://bugguide.net/node/view/6682

Higaki M (2016) Prolonged diapause and seed predation by the acorn weevil, Curculio robustus, in relation to masting of the deciduous oak Quercus acutissima. Entomol Exp Appl 159:338–346. https://doi.org/10.1111/eea.12444

Jefferson, R. 2006. Why Are More Acorns Falling? Excessive Drops of Nuts from Oak Trees Is Part of Normal ‘Mast Year’ Phenomenon. Scientific Times. https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/33795/20211006/why-more-acorns-falling-excessive-drops-nuts-oak-trees-part.htm and https://youtu.be/EQ748TZcuqs

Jesse, L. No date. The dark side of collecting acorns. Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2007/sep/072107.htm

Koenig WD. 2021 A brief history of masting research. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 376: 20200423. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0423 Koenig, W. D., & Knops, J. M. H. (2005). The Mystery of Masting in Trees: Some trees reproduce synchronously over large areas, with widespread ecological effects, but how and why? American Scientist93(4), 340–347. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27858609