Tag Archives: Friday Harbor

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

We don’t just have covid here, BETTY BOTFLY VISITS SAN JUAN ISLAND. Another reason to Wear that Mask!


I made a video of one of my favorite insects you will see here in the San Juan Islands. This is a bumble bee mimic, but it’s not a bee at all. It’s a fly. Not only is it not your ordinary fly, it’s a fly with a very interesting life cycle that requires a host. This particular host relationship has evolved between the fly and our local black-tailed deer. It’s not feeding on the deer because these adult flies don’t even have mouthparts to eat. Their sole mission is to reproduce and they need an incubator for their “babies.” If you see a deer and notice it coughing, watch the video to find out why. **Edit *** Update to post… I misspoke in the video and state that the fly oviposits onto the deer which is incorrect. The eggs actually hatch inside the fly body and the fly larviposits onto the deer muzzle. Either way it’s got to be pretty terrifying to the deer! 🦌

Cephenemyia apicata 07.07.2020 video by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Cephenemyia apicata 07.07.2020 photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Cephenemyia apicata
San Juan Island, WA
07.07.2020
Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann
Cephenemyia apicata
San Juan Island, WA
07.07.2020
Photo by Cynthia Brast-Bormann

The House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)

I got the coolest picture of a bug on Friday! 

House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)
2/28/2020
San Juan Island
photo by T. Santora
House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides)
2/28/2020
San Juan Island
photo by T. Santora

This little creature was photographed on February 28, 2020 by Trever Santora on San Juan Island, WA.

It’s a Pseudoscorpion! Found on the windowsill of his house and no larger than a tiny sesame seed, I believe it to be an immature House Pseudoscorpion (Cheliferidae cancroides). 

Keep an eye out for these. They’re quite harmless to humans and can’t sting or bite you. Pseudoscorpions are predacious and beneficial because they eat other organisms that are pests. Some live in birds’ nests and eat the mites that can build up and harm nestlings. 

Since they don’t have wings and can’t fly, pseudoscorpions move around by phoresy. That means they’ll hitch a ride on someone who can! Not just birds, but bees, wasps, and flies can also provide a free lift.

Check out https://bugguide.net/node/view/728962 for more information.

Thanks for reading 🌻

Harmonia axyridis, The Asian-Spotted Ladybird Beetle

I found this weird little creature stuck to a leaf on a rose bush by the picket fence in front of the San Juan County Land Bank office on Monday, June 24, 2019 when I walked down Argyle and rounded the corner onto Caines (does anyone on the island actually use street names? Where the heck is Caines, right?) 

Ladybird pupal case, June 24, 2019

Brought it home because I couldn’t resist the mystery of figuring out what it might be.  What on earth are those spiny things at the end? Is it some sort of pest insect?   

Ladybird pupal case
June 24, 2010

After taking a few photos, I did what drives my husband crazy sometimes.  I left the leaf with this little spiny-ended thing on the table, in a cup, without a lid.  Yep.  Just like when I left the really fat deer tick I had on my desk.  The one that laid eggs…that hatched when I wasn’t paying attention.  This is when it’s really handy to have sticky tape nearby, otherwise you have to vacuum every 10 minutes for about a month to finally sleep at night without feeling like things are crawling all over you and burrowing into your skin. This link should take you to my facebook page post about “Big Bertha.” https://www.facebook.com/buggingyoufromSJI/posts/2375866245969416

This morning, after my cat got me up with incessant meowing right in my ear, I sat down at the table with a cup of coffee. Millhouse (the cat) isn’t supposed to be on the table, but when my husband isn’t around, anything goes!  He was staring something down that was m.o.v.i.n.g!  Fortunately, I reacted faster than he did.  I tipped over the little medicine cup I’d put the leaf in to thwart this little creature’s attempt at a fast getaway.  

Asian Spotted Ladybird Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)
July 27, 2019
San Juan Island, WA

Carefully sliding a piece of paper under the cup, I could see it looked like a ladybug.  Ladybugs come in different colors, with different spots, and there are quite a few species one could encounter on San Juan Island.  This beetle goes by an assortment of names.  It’s often referred to as the Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle or sometimes the Halloween Beetle because in some places they show up in large numbers at Halloween! 🎃😱

This beetle’s scientific name is Harmonia axyridis (The Asian-spotted Ladybird Beetle).  It was imported to the United States as early as 1916 to help control pests as a biocontrol agent.  While “Miss Harmonia” eats aphids, thrips, and scale insects (and manages these pests fantastically in soybean crops), she isn’t native and these pest insects aren’t all she eats.  Asian-spotted Ladybird Beetles also eat native coccinellid beetles (native lady bugs) and even butterfly eggs.  In the winter, she can bring her friends and invade your home.  When handled, the ladybird beetles can excrete a stinky defensive chemical from their leg joints.  This makes removal of large numbers of them from inside homes somewhat problematic.  You don’t want to have them discharging this awful odor that will linger….all…winter! 

Newly emerged adult (Harmonia axyridis)
June 27, 2019
San Juan Island, WA

Another unfortunate consequence of importing these beetles is their love of wine grapes.  🍇 🍷 Asian-spotted ladybirds will eat grapes and then the grapes end up contaminated with an awful smell lingering on them.  While I personally don’t drink wine, I know lots of people do and they’d be very unhappy if it tasted like essence of ladybug…a twist on a new aromatic bitter perhaps! 

Did I squish her? Nope.  I put her in the tree near our bird feeder.  It’s possible she will become part of the food chain.  While not all birds eat these beetles, some do. Insects and arachnids like robber flies, dragonflies, ants, various ground beetles, and cellar spiders also eat them.   

If you see them, should you squish them?  That’s up to you and how confident you are that you’ve identified it correctly. I wouldn’t want to mistake a helpful native ladybug as an invader.  I recommend that instead of buying ladybird beetles at the garden store to release in your garden you establish native habitat to attract and support native species of ladybugs.

As I looked a bit more into the literature about Harmonia axyridis, I was intrigued with the publication of some research about the biochemistry of the liquid they secrete.  It has been found to have strong antimicrobial action against strains of bacteria that are pathogenic to humans. This fluid has even been examined for its action against malaria.  Perhaps these beetles don’t belong in the garden, but in your medicine cabinet instead.  

empty pupal case
Asian spotted Ladybird Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)
July 27 2019
San Juan Island, WA

References and further reading

  1. https://plunketts.net/blog/ladybugs-vs-asian-lady-beetles/
  2. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2011.0760?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC524671/
  4. https://bugguide.net/node/view/397

Enchoria lacteata

fullsizeoutput_2289

Enchoria lacteata

Enchoria lacteata (Packard) is a relatively small moth with forewings measuring only 0.9-1.1 cm in length.    Adults have a remarkable zig-zag pattern on forewings made up of various shades of brown and buff.  They are diurnal (daytime) fliers and emerge from late February to May.  Sightings are often in grassy areas or edges of moist woodlands.  Larval host plants are various species of miner’s lettuce, Claytonia (Portulacaceae).  Check out the following link for more information on miner’s lettuce.  It’s edible! https://www.ediblewildfood.com/miners-lettuce.aspx

Enchoria lacteata

Enchoria lacteata crawling onto my pruning tool.

IMG_9131

Enchoria lacteata between my work glove and pruning tool

 

References:

POWELL, JERRY A., and PAUL A. OPLER. Moths of Western North America. 1st ed., University of California Press, 2009.

https://bugguide.net/node/view/46115

http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu/species.php?hodges=7403

 

Itchy-Scratchy!

Just in time for Halloween!  Yesterday I was using the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at Friday Harbor Marine Labs.  I got to take some really cool photos but in order to use the SEM, your specimen has to be dried out.  Well, I had some specimens that are really tiny and very delicate and they weren’t dried out because it is a complicated process that takes a certain chemical called Hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS).  Also, drying out your specimen for viewing under the SEM renders it useless for viewing under a light microscope and you’ve lost the ability to preserve it in a collection.

So I’m going to share how I took images of some of my specimens at home with a pretty old compound microscope, an iPhone, and a clip-on macro lens from Amazon.   First, I’ll tell you a bit about the compound microscope image posted here.  This specimen is in the genus Damalinia, most likely the exotic chewing louse, Damalinia (Cervicola).

IMG_7536

Chewing louse Damalinia spp

It lives on black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) in Washington, Oregon and California, and has been indicated in what is called HLS (Hair-loss syndrome).  They build up in large numbers on deer at certain times of the year.  One factor thought to contribute to this is lack of adequate nutrition in the deers’ diet, particularly an absence or deficiency of Selenium.

In a nutshell, these lice can reproduce at high numbers in vulnerable deer (typically old, young, and those with weakened immune systems due to nutritional deficiencies or internal parasites).  The lice cause extreme itching, irritation, and hair loss.  The deer respond to the itchiness by excessive licking and grooming.   Why hair loss? Well, these lice are called “chewing lice” because they munch on hair, skin fragments and secretions, and in some cases will feed on blood from skin wounded from scratching.  It’s a miserable condition to have.  This is what a deer looks like that is suffering from HLS caused by the chewing lice.

hairloss

Photo by Brian Murray  https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/health_program/hairloss/index.asp

Here is a larger version of my photo.  It’s not as clear as I’d like, but I’m certainly going to practice to improve. Happy Halloween and I hope you don’t spend the night scrrraatching in bed!

IMG_7537

Chewing louse Damalinia spp.

Further reading and references:

Protocol for drying insects with HDMS: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/ppd/entomology/HMDS.html

Link to Amazon clip on iPhone lens set ~

Robinson, J. (2007). Transmission of the chewing louse, Damalinia (Cervicola) sp., from Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) to Rocky Mountain mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus) and its role in deer hair-loss syndrome. Masters Thesis. Oregon State University. https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1v53k0068?locale=en

Roug, A., Swift, P., Puschner, B., Gerstenberg, G., Mertins, JW, Johnson, CK, et al. (2016). Exotic pediculosis and hair-loss syndrome in deer (Odocoileus hemionus) populations in California. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 28(4), 399-407. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1040638716647154

Maude, R. J., Koh, G. C., & Silamut, K. (2008). Taking photographs with a microscope. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 79(3), 471-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2843439/

Smartphone Microscopy by Annie Morrison.  Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

Spider Sleuthing in the San Juans – Day 9 – How to get that spider out of your bathtub!

IMG_7516

Eek there’s a spider in the tub!

Eek! There’s a spider in the bathtub!  Do you really want to turn on the water and drown it?  Hopefully you are not nodding your head “yes,” but instead finding courage to overcome your arachnophobia and finding a tiny bit of compassion.  Just take a deep breath.  Get a towel, or a cup and a card, and find your brave inner self to save this poor little eight-legged individual to live out its life.   Say this mantra with me….”Be NICE to spiders!”  Then say it over and over and over to yourself.  It will make you a much more confident person. You can tell your friends and co-workers about how YOU got a spider out of the BATHTUB!

At my house, the number one threat to spiders is my cat.  Millhouse is determined his job is to be spider exterminator.  He squashes them.  He used to eat them!  Once he ate one.  He fainted.  I had to rush him to the vet.  He revived on the way.  The next time, he bit one and spit it out.  I don’t know if the spider was foaming from being punctured or if the cat was foaming because well….maybe cats foam at the mouth sometimes when they eat something they shouldn’t.  In any case, he’s evolving his kill techniques.  Now he eats too much cat food and uses his massive body weight (he thinks it’s muscle) to flatten them.

I’m on the other side.  My job is to save them. It was a good thing I saw this one before Millhouse did.  You see, Millhouse loves to drink his water out of the bathtub.  I have to leave the water dripping for him.  That’s why you’ll note the stain on the tub.  It’s from hard well water.  One day I will scrub off the yellowing, but for now, pretend it’s not there.

The first thing I recommend to get the spider out is to grab something like a hand towel or a plastic cup and some sort of paper (mailer, index card, envelop, etc.).  I used a towel.  Watch my video and see how easy it is!  The spider isn’t going to bite you.  It just wants OUT of the tub.  Probably it was thirsty.  See my post from October 27, and you can read all about how to give a dehydrated spider a drink.  At this point, it needs your help.  It is stuck.  The sides of the tub are too slippery for it to crawl out.    It’s really easy!  Here goes…

The general idea is to be extremely gentle.  You don’t want to injure the spider.  Keep chanting your mantra…”Be nice to spiders!”  Over and over and over!

Hackelmesh Weaver Callobius.severus

Safe!

See!  It’s not that hard.  The spider didn’t attack me.  Isn’t it so cute! By the way, this spider is a Hackelmesh weaver (Callobius severus) https://bugguide.net/node/view/7018 .  I checked later today and it has crawled off somewhere.  Happy to escape the cat!

The lone wolf at my door! Tarentula kochii a.k.a. Alopecosa kochii

Here’s a clip of my little Wolf Spider, Tarentula kochii a.k.a. Alopecosa kochii (ID credit to  Rod Crawford at Seattle’s Burke Museum). He ever-so-kindly responded to my email query for help.  According to Rod, this spider is “a local native wolf spider and somewhat uncommon and rare.”   I found it in the doorway two days ago (10-23-18) and worried the cat injured it, but as you can see, it is moving a little. After examining it carefully, it looks uninjured, but possibly suffering from another spider bite…recent molt…or dehydration.   I attempted to get it to drink some water using a tiny syringe but was unsuccessful…or perhaps too late.  I also got some great advice on the correct way to give spiders a drink of water from Rod, who says:  “For future reference, the way to give a spider a drink is to rest the mouth area (under the front of the “head”) directly in a drop of water.”

 

If you are interested in learning more about this species of Wolf Spider, here are some links to check out:

https://bugguide.net/node/view/1490575

Click to access A42-42-1990-17-eng.pdf

 

 

 

Heterosilpha ramosa (Say 1823)

I found this specimen October, 20, 2018 when I went for a walk and I’m excited to add it to my insect checklist.  This is the larva of the beetle Heterosilpha ramosa, also known as the Prairie or Garden Carrion Beetle.  It is classified within the family Silphidae, a group of beetles named after their preference for dining on carrion.  Both adult and larval forms of carrion beetles typically feed on dead things.  There are two subfamilies within the Silphidae.  The Silphinae and the Nicrophorinae.  Nicrophorus beetles actually have bi-parental care of their young, but that’s for another post!

The strange thing about Heterosilpha ramosa is that it doesn’t quite fit the category it’s been placed into.  There isn’t much online either to help with the derivation of its name, but this is what I’ve put together.  For the genus:  Hetero meaning different or other and Silphidwhich comes from the Greek word silphe,a kind of beetle.”  The species name, ramosa means “full of branches” and refers to the beetle’s branched elytral costae or the main veins on the leading edge of an insect wing.  I love looking up the name derivations for insects.  Curiously, we get ramosa from “Ramos,” a Spanish or Portuguese name derived from the Latin “ramus” to describe someone who lived in a thickly wooded area.

Yes, I digressed a bit! Back to the feeding habits of this creature and its name:  Heterosilpha.  Instead of only eating carrion, it is a generalist feeder which means it eats lots of different things, other than carrion!  The common name, Garden or Prairie Carrion beetle refers to its habit of feeding on plant detritus and sometimes even nibbling the leaves and roots of living plants you may have in the garden.  Generally it is believed to do more good than harm in gardens or crop systems since it feeds on snails and other invertebrate pests.

Heterosilpha ramosa larva IMG_7448

Heterosilpha ramosa larva photo by Cynthia Brast October 20, 2018 San Juan Island, WA

In my search, I also found out that this is yet another understudied creature.  It is unfortunate that we know so little about the world that exists under our feet!  Here is a photo of an adult Heterosilpha ramosa.   For now, I am waiting to see if the larva I found pupates.  Check back for updates and be sure to look for interesting bugs next time you’re out on a walk!

Heterosilpha.ramosa.adult

Photo credit to https://insectsofsouthernontario.ca/heterospila-ramosa/

 

 

 

 

 

Revenge of the Mantids

clip mantis Check out my story about praying mantids on San Juan Island!  They’ve been a victim of hyper-sensationalism.  Seriously.  Read my article before you squish one.

https://sanjuanislander.com/news-articles/environment-science-whales/environment/28146/revenge-of-the-mantids

Merlin.mantid

Let me know if you have questions about these or other insects you come across!  I’m always interested and do my best to answer emails.  Thanks!

 

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