Tag Archives: san juan island

Ratta two-y

Dora the Explorer (April 2022)

My brother and I have been swapping rat stories over the past few weeks. The rat that lives in our attic I’ve named Dora the Explorer. Perhaps you’ve seen me post photos of her previously. She comes and goes and I believe she was actually in our attic last winter. Well, Dora was making a lot of noise up in our attic the other night. We can hear her since she’s usually right above our couch. In fact, there’s a little circular hole in the ceiling that I’m not exactly certain has a reason for being there. It’s quite likely Dora is peeking through that hole watching us watch TV. She also probably doesn’t dare come into our house since she can probably SMELL Nimbus and Evie, our two, very bored, always looking for something to get into, indoor cats.

Dora the Explorer October 2022

Dora is smart, but she should have known we would hear her making all that racket up above. Well, my husband decided Dora was having a party or something and might have invited her friends. We might be OK if it was just Dora living in the upstairs attic room, but her friends aren’t welcome. He got out the traps. Don’t ask. You really don’t want to know.

I had to toast a pecan. Just one for each trap. My husband says toasted pecans are irresistible to rats. How the heck he knows this is beyond me. I thought they liked peanut butter. Well, the traps (I believe there were two) went up into the attic. The next morning, he asked me if I heard anything. Nope. Not a thing. No rat racket and no SNAP. Next night, nothing. Not a sound. Hubby went up to check the trap. Pecans still there. No sign of anything. No more noise. Dora is smart. She did this exact same thing last year. We are on season two. Dora decided to move out. So, I suppose the traps do work – just not like we expected.

I’m sure you’re wondering about my brother’s rat saga. Well, he definitely has a BIGGER problem. His rat isn’t in the attic. It is LIVING INSIDE HIS HOUSE. That’s right. It is hiding in drawers, sleeping in coat sleeves, and running down the hall after being discovered by Sassy the dog. If you ask me, that’s part of his problem. He has a DOG. Everyone knows that cats are much better at guarding you from the things that count – like invading mice and rats! Cats are stealthy. They also don’t yap all night and keep you awake when a rat is raiding your cupboards.

My brother says he has live traps set all over the house. He also has those ultrasonic noise maker things that humans aren’t supposed to hear, but I SURE CAN hear them! My parents have one in their attic and whenever I go visit, I have to ask them to turn it off. They can’t hear it, but the noise it emits is worse than having a giant rat party going on if you ask me. Maybe this is why the rat in my brother’s house is afraid of going into the traps he has out. It’s afraid of being stuck inside that house forever – subjected to the never-ending din of the ultrasonic repellers.

I offered a few tips to my brother to help him catch the rat. Have you tried opening a window? “Nope, and the rat just runs out of the room under the interior door.” Hmmm, have you tried using the inside cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper with a sock over the end to catch it? “Nah, don’t got any of those around.” Have you got one of those lever lids that you put on a 5 -gallon bucket that work with a ramp and catch the rat? “Made a homemade version and the rat took the food and managed to climb down the ramp without going setting off the lever.”

Well, what about buying a very nice rat enclosure and setting up food, water, a hammock, and some sort of a hide, and inviting your rat to stay? He sure seems awfully smart. My brother agrees with this. He says anything as smart as this rat sure deserves to live. Maybe not in his house, but he isn’t going to put out the traps like we did.

I drew a photo to text to my brother today, and suggested a name for his rat buddy.

Meet Einstein!

Einstein the Rat

The End (or perhaps only the beginning)…

P.S. If you are living in the Austin/Georgetown/Round Rock area and are in need of automotive dentless paint repair (he does airplanes too), give my brother a ring. He can fix you up! https://www.stephenspdr.com/contact

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

Western Calligrapher (Toxomerus occidentalis)

I sat outside today in the sunshine, forced convalescence if you will, exhausted and achey after getting my Covid Omicron Variant booster vaccine yesterday at the San Juan County Fairgrounds. My outdoor time was unfortunately cut short because we have been inundated with construction development noise. I’m fairly certain I will be forever challenged to have an amiable relationship with our newest neighbors. In part, because they sited their VACATION home, right in front of our view. Mind you, they could have moved over 100 feet and we would not have to look across the top of our driveway at their newly constructed 2nd home. It has definitely impacted us. We’ve lost a lot of our privacy out here in the woods. It was never my desire to have close neighbors. I am a bit of a recluse….which is what the new neighbor said about his wife, yet, it begs me to ask again, WHY DID YOU BUILD YOUR HOUSE RIGHT ON TOP OF US?

Oh, and the jackhammering! That noise is enough to make a person homicidal. We had an entire summer of jackhammering from the former owners of that property. Really, truly, that property should never have been zoned for development. Not any development. It’s partly (half) wetland, and the other half is bedrock. Imagine the task of trying to excavate enough to bury your septic lines down the hill when you have solid bedrock! Also, our house is on that same shelf of bedrock, so the hammering shakes the walls and vibrates the floors of our home in the process of all this construction. The development on this lot has gone on for multiple years. I’m really tired of the disruption.

I digress. Sorry, I just had to vent. San Juan Island would be a much friendlier place for wildlife and bugs and such if we didn’t allow anyone to build a 2nd, or 3rd home here. We are outgrowing our space and it isn’t pretty.

Here’s my bug of the day. This beauty is a Western Calligrapher Fly (Toxomerus occidentalis). I was mesmerized watching it rest on the mint leaf. The patterning on the dorsal side of the abdomen reminds me of some sort of totem design.

The adults of this fly species are pollinators. They lay eggs on plants near aphids and when larvae emerge they are predatory on the aphids. It is believed that late instar larvae overwinter, pupation takes place in the soil cavities in the spring and adults emerge later in summer. The name for this group of flies comes from Greek toxon ‘bow’ + meron ‘thigh’ (refers to the bow-shaped hind femur). You can see the curve in the first photo below, circled in red. Something else interesting pertaining to the adult coloration I found on bugguide.net: “Colors vary with overall temperature during pupation: if it was hot, the yellow/orange increases and the background becomes lighter, but if it was cold, the dark/black increases and the yellow/orange becomes darker like the background.”

Enjoy the last few days of sunshine and embrace our native pollinators. We are heading into the dark part of the year. For those of us who live here year round, you know what to expect. Lots and lots of rain.

Thanks for reading!

Western Calligrapher Fly (Toxomerus occidentalis)

Western Calligrapher Fly (Toxomerus occidentalis)

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! 🐛

San Juan County, WA Spider Information – Resource Sheet 

Scared of Spiders?  Here’s a go-to info-sheet (that I plan to update as time allows) with links to verifiable, research-backed Spider Information/Literature.  Let’s end all the misinformation and our arachnophobia.  Too often people buy into false reports.  Don’t listen to someone’s tall tale of horror.  These stories are sensationalized and inaccurate.  Know the facts.  Dispel the rumors.  Spiders are not out to kill you.  It’s just not true. 

YOU have to do the reading!  These are scientifically based, accurate studies with information related to spider bites.  

Hobo Spiders (Tegenaria agrestis) ****Medically insignificant 

*Bennett RG, Vetter RS. An approach to spider bites. Erroneous attribution of dermonecrotic lesions to brown recluse or hobo spider bites in Canada. Can Fam Physician. 2004 Aug;50:1098-101. PMID: 15455808; PMCID: PMC2214648 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2214648/pdf/15455808.pdf.

*Melissa M. Gaver-Wainwright, Richard S. Zack, Matthew J. Foradori, Laura Corley Lavine, Misdiagnosis of Spider Bites: Bacterial Associates, Mechanical Pathogen Transfer, and Hemolytic Potential of Venom From the Hobo Spider, Tegenaria agrestis (Araneae: Agelenidae), Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 48, Issue 2, 1 March 2011, Pages 382–388, https://doi.org/10.1603/ME09224

How to identify and misidentify a Hobo Spiderhttps://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2210/2015/05/PLS116_1.pdf

Brown Recluse Spiders (Loxoceles sp) – NO! I repeat “NO, none, nada!” established populations in our area.  

In the attached links below, you will find links to information about the Brown Recluse Spider.  Information that comes from a verified, reputable source – from an actual expert.  Brown Recluse spiders do not live in the San Juan Islands.  Caveat: this is not to say that if you move here from an area where there ARE established populations, one might be found hitching on your moving boxes.  It’s possible, BUT – they have not been able to survive and breed here.  If you see a large brown spider in your house – especially on the ceiling, it is most likely (99.99%) going to be a Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica).  They are very common and harmless.  If you don’t like them, just catch in a cup and take it to a sheltered area outside – preferably another structure where it might have a chance to survive.  They won’t hurt you. 

Map showing distribution of Brown Recluse spiders (Please note that San Juan County is NOT found on this map)  – https://spiders.ucr.edu/spiders-map

Map of Brown Recluse Spider distribution – UC Riverside

Where else can I find reliable information on Spiders?

There are a few sources I’ll list here.  The first two are the ones you should look at first.  They are valuable resources with information from highly credentialed experts in all things arachnid-related.  If you read something written by either Rod Crawford (Seattle Burke Museum curator of the arachnid collection) or by Rick Vetter (UC Riverside Department of Entomology), you can be assured it is correct. 

As a local resource, you can also check out the Facebook Bug Group (Bugs of the San Juan Islands).  There are several group “experts” with experience identifying spiders.  These folks generously volunteer their time and knowledge, so keep that in mind and please refrain if you feel inclined to INSIST they are wrong and there are INDEED Brown Recluse Spiders living in your house in San Juan County.  If you have a spider you’d like identified, it helps to have a couple of clear photos to submit.  Try and get a shot of the dorsal (top) of the spider, and if you’re able, one of its face – showing eye pattern.   You may contact me, Cynthia Brast-Bormann at cynthiabrast@icloud.com to submit live or deceased specimens for identification.  I will help you coordinate a drop off point for collection.  Please don’t indiscriminately KILL a spider though and ask me to ID it.  It will likely make reliable identification more difficult.  Just get a cup and a lid with some air holes punched in the top.  I appreciate your showing kindness to the helpless creature you’ve caught.  I will ID and humanely release.  

Here’s a link to Rod Crawford’s site – http://staff.washington.edu/tiso/

If you’re interested, here’s a link to his blogpost of our 2022 outing on San Juan at Reuben Tarte Park collecting spiders – https://crawford.tardigrade.net/journal/album8630.html

More great links featuring Rod Crawford

  1. Spiders aren’t out to get you – https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/science/seattles-real-spider-man-sets-us-straight-theyre-not-out-to-get-you/

Rick Vetter UCR  

Myth of the Brown Recluse: Fact, Fear, and Loathing

https://spiders.ucr.edu/myth-brown-recluse-fact-fear-and-loathing

Local help: 

Bugs of the San Juan Islands Facebook Group – There are at least 4 spider group experts and folks with entomology degrees or experienced backgrounds in the group who are more than qualified to help you.  https://m.facebook.com/groups/bugsofthesanjuanislands/about/

Bugging You from San Juan Island (Cynthia Brast-Bormann’s entomology blog for the San Juan Islands)  https://buggingyoufromsanjuanisland.com

Great YouTube information and fun links to watch from one of Bugs of the San Juan Island’s group experts, Arlo Pelegrin (entomologist and arachnologist) 

  1. Spiders of the West and their Medical Significance – Arlo Pelegrin at Dept of Health

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/

What are extrafloral nectaries?

Ants (Lasius sp.) on Big Leaf Maple Extra-Floral Nectary – May 17, 2022, San Juan Island, WA

When you study insects, or even birds for that matter, you start to understand you have to get to know plants a bit too.  It’s all connected.  

Plants (including trees and shrubs) provide food and shelter for many different species of animals.  Admittedly, I just don’t know a lot about the parts of plants, beyond things like a tree trunk, bark, limbs, branches, leaves, or stems or flowers, nuts, fruit.  The obvious parts.  

There are some not so obvious parts.  Like these extrafloral nectaries.  Huh? Sounds weird.  Keep reading. 

Extrafloral nectaries (EFN’s) are glands occurring on more than 2000 plant species in 64 families.  Extrafloral literally means outside of the flower. When we think of nectar, we usually think of little bees and hummingbirds flying around, visiting pretty flowers to sip nectar and in the process, pollinate all of our plants.  It’s just that plants are a bit more complex.  These glands are located in various places on plants (including trees and shrubs), and may be found on the laminae of leaves, petioles, rachids, bracts, stipules, pedices, fruit, etc.  (Mizell, 2019).  

These glandular secretions are a fascinating part of how plants attract and sustain a diverse, ecological community, providing sustenance for a multitude of species, including both pests and predators.  You can find ants, aphids, beetles (including ladybugs), bees, wasps, and possibly even birds utilizing this excretory faucet to sip what consists of mostly carbohydrate-rich sugar, but also comprised of a wide array of amino acids and other nutrients.  

Why are these important? Well, scientists are still trying to fully understand all of the diverse relationships around extra-floral nectaries. It is thought perhaps, beyond attracting organisms to a food source, they play a role in orchestrating a plant’s defense strategy against predators. They also are believed to provide a source of food and/or beneficial nutrients for various organisms during the off-season – when flowering and pollen sources are not available. They may also reduce conflict between ants and other pollinators by partitioning resources (Villamil & Stone, 2019).

Lasius sp. Ants at Extra-floral nectaries on Big Leaf Maple, 05.17.2022, San Juan Island, WA

Ant and aphid hanging out on extrafloral nectaries on Cherry Tree, San Juan Island, 05.17.2022

References

Bentley, B. L. (1977). Extrafloral nectaries and protection by pugnacious bodyguards. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics8(1), 407-427.

Holopainen JK, Blande JD, Sorvari J. Functional Role of Extrafloral Nectar in Boreal Forest Ecosystems under Climate Change. Forests. 2020; 11(1):67. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11010067

Mizell, R. 2019. MANY PLANTS HAVE EXTRAFLORAL NECTARIES HELPFUL TO BENEFICIALS.  UF IFAS Extension Bulletin. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN175

Villamil, N., Boege, K., & Stone, G. N. (2019). Testing the Distraction Hypothesis: Do extrafloral nectaries reduce ant-pollinator conflict?. The Journal of ecology107(3), 1377–1391. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13135

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