Balancing Technology and Nature

With our first post on Riveredge Nature Center’s philosophy behind the balance between technology and nature shared with the world (see Curiosity as the App), it’s time to give some practical examples for parents, grandparents, educators, or even child-care providers to put into practice purposeful use of technology that aims to enhance children’s connection to nature this summer.

While I’d like to jump right into the fun app-tivities (yes, that’s what I am calling them), I want to be sure we are on the same page regarding the very important differentiation between how we consume technology today. Understanding this is crucial because it begins to answer the “why” of the importance of using technology as a catalyst to spending more time outside in nature, especially for young people. I mean, you’ve heard the depressing statistics about children’s health and screentime, right? No matter what study you reference, the findings are clear- nationwide, children (and, adults for that matter) are spending less time outdoors and more time on screens than ever before, and as time goes on it’s happening younger and younger.

But, fear not, techies-on-the-fence! While technology is not going extinct anytime in the near future, we are becoming wisen to the long-term effects of various forms of digital consumption. The two main approaches: active and passive use of technology.

Anne-Marie Fiore writes in her blog:

“Some practitioners refer to passive and active learning with technology as the new digital divide. There is a difference between students who use technology to create, design, build, explore, and collaborate and those who simply use technology to consume media.”

(“Digital Use Divide” graphic borrowed from the 2016 National Education Technology Plan published by the U.S. Department of Education).

So, to avoid more zombie-faced passive consumers we all know and maybe have experienced personally, active use of technology helps us more deeply explore the topics we wish to know more about. In other words, we are the drivers of our learning. With our own brains as guides, active use of technology like the app-tivities I am including here can help us become more curious, more creative, and perhaps even more connected to nature. With that, I do solemnly declare the following nature-based activities, with a fresh hint of summer.

App-Tivity #1: Try a DIY Lake Science Experiment!

Are summer showers keeping your kiddos inside? No problem. The app, created by the Lawrence Hall of Science, includes a dozen easy to use, hands-on activities to learn about freshwater ecosystems (indoor and out!). Each activity includes step-by-step instructions that have been tested by educators, kids, and families.

Our Riveredge Staff Picks: Dip, Dip Hooray (Free download, iOs compatible)   

 

 

 

App-Tivity #2:  Set out sand traps and see who crawls in using iTrack Wildlife

Or, maybe it’s a sunny day, and you want to know more about what animals visit your backyard while you aren’t home or asleep. Read these short instructions, create the trap(s) using household items, and wait! While you’re waiting, download iTrack Wildlife (lite version is free) or any of the several others available on the app store and make a prediction about what you’ll find. (iOs and Google Play compatible).

 

 

App-Tivity #3: Play hide-and-seek in Space with Ready Jet Go!

Grab a blanket and head outside on a nice clear night to stargaze and explore all around the galaxy with this PBS app for young kids. Operate in hide-and-seek mode to challenge yourself to locate different constellations. If this app is too kid-like, “upgrade” to Go Sky Watch instead. It’s the same idea, but for older kids and adults (Free, iOs compatibile).

Let me know how it goes! You can reach me at cjhintz@riveredge.us or 262-375-2715.

Carly Hintz is the Educational Technology & Evaluation Specialist at Riveredge.

Bug o’the Week – Protean Shield-backed Katydid

Salutations, BugFans,

 

Protean Shield-backed Katydids evoke adjectives like “earthy” and “organic,” and “elemental” (along with “lunker”).  This utilitarian katydid looks like it saw the dinosaurs, and maybe it did.  Katydids (family Tettigoniidae, subfamily Tettigoniinae) are in the order Orthoptera (“straight wings”) (grasshoppers, crickets, et al), and the Orthopterans have been around for 300+ million years or so, compared to dinosaurs’ 233 million years.  Orthoperans survived the meteor strike 65 million years ago; dinosaurs did not.

 

As a group, Shield-backs are drab insects with very long antennae and a pronotum (a structure that covers part/all of the top of the thorax) that is flattened and flared like a shield. They make noise (stridulate) (but not very musically) by rubbing together rough areas on their wings.  If you make noise, you need to hear noise, so they have “ears” (tympana) located on the front legs, near the “knee.”  There are 123 species in North America, and they are a mostly-Western bunch, with about 10 species in the East.

Surprising Shield-back Katydid Fact #1: Besides being called Shield-backed katydids, the subfamily Tettigoniinae is also known as the Predaceous katydids!  In fact, lots of species of Orthopterans eat meat to some degree (Bambi is an omnivore, too, a story for a different day).  Shield-backs do eat plants, and some are agricultural pests, but they are also scavengers on dead insects and are active predators, including on their brethren.

 

Surprising Shield-backed Katydid Fact #2: The Mormon crickets that threatened to ravage the Mormons’ crops in the summer of 1848 are actually an almost-3”-long, flightless species of Shield-backed katydid.  According to Wikipedia, “Although flightless, the Mormon cricket is capable of traveling up to two kilometers a day in its swarming phase, during which it is a serious agricultural pest and traffic hazard.”  In gratitude for their delivery, which came in the form of a big flock of California Gulls, the Mormons erected the Seagull Monument (more apologies to birders, everywhere) in Salt Lake City.

 

Surprising Shield-backed Katydid Fact #3:  Expect to be nipped if you handle them (probably won’t break the skin). In England they are nicknamed “wart-biters.”

 

PROTEAN SHIELD-BACKED KATYDIDS, aka Short-legged Shield-bearers (Atlanticus testaceus) are found east of the Mississippi, from Kentucky/Virginia north around the Great Lakes and New England and into southern Canada.  They used to be lumped with the Southern Protean Shieldback (Atlanticus pachymerus), a distinct species that is now believed to replace them in the South.  They are found in open woodlands, woodland/grassland edges, fence rows, and brushy fields.  Young nymphs seem to seek the sun than adults do.

 

Based on their sheer bulk, it’s hard to imagine the chunky, inch-long PSBKs airborne.  In fact, because of their reduced, almost vestigial wings, the only way they get off the ground is by climbing.  Where do they go on foot?  Researchers captured, marked and released 231 of them and found that they moved as far as 550 feet (average 120 feet) over a period of a few weeks, but their peregrinations seemed random.

 

These are the first katydids to mature and initiate a chorus in summer, and it is suspected that they may get a jump start by overwintering as nymphs, though some sources say that it is the egg that overwinters.  They may sing from June through early fall, but their song is high-pitched and hard to pick out http://songsofinsects.com/katydids/protean-shieldback (click on the sonogram at the bottom).

 

Researcher S. K. Gangwere studied both the feeding habits and the circadian rhythms of PSBKs and discovered that they are “incompletely nocturnal” – that is, although they are most active from dusk until the “wee hours,” they are not completely at rest during the day.  Gangwere paints a lovely picture of PSBKs moving about their landscapes, sometimes walking, sometimes hopping, twirling their antennae, resting under leaves and debris, and enjoying late-morning snacks.  Males will gather at the base of plants and stridulate a bit in late afternoon.

 

At sunset, their activity level increasess, and they abandon the ground and climb into the vegetation.  Males feed and stridulate, females feed, and she may mate if a male occupies the plant she’s on.  Activity starts winding down after midnight (though, as Gangwere says, “they remain alert and their antennae continue to twirl”).  They descend and tuck in well before dawn and remain still for six or seven hours.  Elliot and Hershberger, in The Songs of Insects (a great book that comes with a CD) call shieldbacks “the linebackers of the insect world” and say that “Protean Shieldbacks are easy to approach, but their habitats are typically dense, and reaching a singer can be exceedingly difficult, unless you’re a professional contortionist.

 

About feeding, Gangwere tells us that based on their mouthparts, they are adapted for a carnivorous lifestyle, but their diet probably consists more of plants, which are more readily available than animals.  He calls them “a carnivore by preference but an omnivore by necessity.”

 

The individual pictured is a male – if it were a female, it would have an impressive, sword-like ovipositor aft.

Alert BugFans may have noticed that one of the BugLady’s nemesis bugs is sitting on the PSBK’s head in one shot.  Thanks to Dan, an authentic entomologist, for the ID – a biting midge in the family Ceratopogonidae.  And perhaps a future BOTW.

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Flying Ants

Greetings, BugFans,

 

The BugLady got a very special request from almost-5-year-old BugFan Jolene, who is curious about “ant flies” (aka flying ants).

 

The BugLady will try to answer her questions, keeping in mind that ants are a huge group (12,500 species ID’d so far, globally, and maybe that many more awaiting discovery; 700 species in North America, 30 of them non-native.).  There are very few “always-es” or “nevers” as far as the life styles of ants are concerned, so the BugLady may generalize a bit.  Turns out that this is a pretty timely request, considering that tennis at Wimbledon was interrupted recently by ant flies https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/05/flying-ants-distract-players-at-wimbledon.

 

It’s been a while since we visited the ants.  They’ve had supporting roles in a number of BOTWs and starred in others, beginning with Ants (101) in 2008 http://uwm.edu/field-station/ants/, then Western thatch ants http://uwm.edu/field-station/western-thatch-ant/ and then an episode about the mound building Ants of CESA http://uwm.edu/field-station/the-ants-of-cesa/.  As charter BugFans may recall, the BugLady has had her moments with ants, and she is sure that somewhere in the mind of the Collective, they remember.

 

A little about life in an ant colony:

Ants (family Formicidae) are social insects that live in colonies made up mostly of sterile, female workers (sometimes many thousands of them) that do different jobs that support the community.  A worker may rotate through a number of tasks in her life; she starts “inside,” doing digging/maintenance or caring for the nursery or garden or queen, but when she’s reaching the end of her life span (which could be as long as one to three years), she is more likely to be “assigned” a more dangerous “outside” job like soldier or forager.  Why?  Because, actuarially speaking, she’s considered more expendable as younger ants join the workforce.  No sentiment in an ant hill!

Nursery

There is also a queen (or queens – see the thatch ant episode above), and, once a year, drones (fertile males) and virgin queens.  Royal ants are not produced until the colony reaches a certain level of maturity/stability/population density, and then they are produced (usually) annually.  In many (but not all) species, the queen is the only one who can lay eggs.  In some species, she may live for 20 or more years, but (generally) unless there are multiple queens, the colony dies when the queen dies.

Without further ado, here are Jolene’s questions:

 

Why do some ants get to fly but others don’t?

Most of the ants in an anthill do not have wings and will never have wings and will never leave home except to look for food nearby.  But, once a year, the nursery ants feed some of the young ants some special, extra food that lets them grow wings.  They get to fly far from home and start new anthills so there are more ants.

 

Do ant-flies have a special job in their family?

All the other ants in the anthill have jobs, but the ants with wings (usually) don’t work – the worker ants take care of them and feed them.  The ant flies’ special job is to be a royal ant “prince” or “princess.”

Are their classmates jealous of their wings? 

Ants know what to do without thinking – they have amazing instincts – and they can even learn from other ants (and, as BugFan Linda points out, “Every animal knows more than you do,” a Koyukon Indian proverb from northern Alaska). Ants do their jobs and don’t make a fuss about it and (probably) don’t get jealous.

 

Do they get to have the wings their whole life or do they have to give them back?

Royal ants just have wings from the time they come out of their cocoon in the ant hill until the time they fly into the air on Flying Ant Day (more about that in a sec).  They mate in the air and then the females start looking for a good spot to start digging their own anthill.  It’s pretty tough to tunnel into the dirt with a big set of wings dragging behind, and the wings would get shredded, and she doesn’t need them anymore, so before she starts digging, the young queen will break or chew her wings off and never have wings again.  The males die and don’t help with the new anthill.

Do all ants have ant-flies as part of their family?

The BugLady isn’t sure. There are some kinds of ants where the workers can lay eggs.  Sometimes they live in colonies that have queens, but sometimes their colonies don’t even have queens.  Maybe if there’s a queen, there are princes and princesses, but if there’s no queen, there aren’t.

 

Flying Ant Day:

So, what signals ants to, as one author puts it, “erupt from the ground?”  Phenology, for one thing – species fly at distinct points in the summer/fall and at different times of day; each species’ schedule separates them from other species and helps to prevent males from wasting energy chasing an unsuitable bride.  Weather, for another – many species wait for a warm, calm, humid day, preferably after rain.  They fly better in damp air, and wet soil is easier to excavate.

 

Females fly away from their natal hill, and they fly fast, and they don’t release their “come hither” pheromones until they’ve put some distance between themselves and home (and the princelings that they share a gene pool with).

 

It didn’t take much poking around on the internet to discover that “Flying Ant Day” is an internationally noted phenomenon (Googling “ant nuptial flight” will result in a fascinating list of “related searches” at the bottom of the page, too).  Find out about the UK’s National Flying Ant Day here, http://www.mirror.co.uk/science/flying-ant-day-2017-it-10742632, (cookie alert) including information and a podcast about The Royal Society of Biology’s citizen science Flying Ant Survey and a bit about drunken “seagulls” (apologies to birders everywhere) that apparently find ants delicious and are “stupefied” by the ants’ formic acid content (imagine living in a country that takes a national interest in such things).

 

And a little more about life in an ant colony:

When the young queen lands, she has probably mated with several males (ensuring some genetic diversity for her offspring) and she will store and use the sperm for the rest of her life, fertilizing hundreds of thousands/millions of eggs.  She digs an initial tunnel, makes a chamber, lays her first eggs, and cares for them herself.  Because she tends this first brood alone and her foraging may be limited, the workers she rears are smaller and weaker than future workers will be.  When they emerge, they take over all the chores.

 

The mortality rate for young queens is huge, due to predators that are attracted to the nuptial flight, weather, failure of the first brood, marauding rival ants, etc.  Several sources said that maybe a single one of the potential queens a colony produces in its lifetime might survive!

 

Side note – No matter how cleverly you word your Google search about ants, a myriad of exterminator sites pop up, giving you interesting details and fun facts about ants right before making their big, chemical pitch.

 

Also, there are some really committed groups of ant fans out there, and lots of instructions for starting your own ant farm.  Some people track Flying Ant Day in order to take home a young queen and start an ant farm.  Remember, depending on species, ant hills in the wild have populations from the hundreds to many-thousands.  And nuptial flights.

 

For lots more information in very readable form (though it seems to be a translation and sometimes reads like one), try: https://www.antkeepers.com/facts/ants/.

 

Thanks, BugFans Jolene and Caitlin.

 

Note – The Riveredge Nature Center Dragonfly Survey is right around the corner.  Join us on July 22 from 10 AM to 3 PM (come for all or part of the day).  No experience necessary – wear good walking shoes and bring binoculars if you have them and munchies if you need them.  Call Mary Holleback at 262-416-1224 for more info or to register.

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – A Surprising Porch Bug

Howdy, BugFans,

 

The BugLady added a new porch light bug recently – a Northern Pearly-eye.  Butterfly.  At 11 PM.

The porch-light Pearly-eye is not the first one that the BugLady has seen after dark – she has photographed them on oranges (put out for the birds) after sunset and at 1 AM under her yard light.

On the topic of nocturnal butterflies, the internet is, understandably, largely mute (of course, the BugLady is keyword-challenged) (and there is a film by that name).  In Mariposa Road, Robert Michael Pyle says that the Northern Pearly-eye “might be the closest thing to a nocturnal butterfly in the United States,” and there was a tantalizing paper called “Nocturnal Butterflies of Panama” by Annette Aiello, who reminds us that day-flying Lepidopterans are a very small minority indeed (butterflies make up fewer than 10% of species of Lepidoptera).  She goes on to say that our knowledge of butterflies is expanding, and that a family of Lepidopterans in Panama that was once thought to be moths in the inch-worm family (Geometridae) turned out to be nocturnal butterflies!

 

A search for “crepuscular butterflies” (dawn and dusk) proved only minimally more successful.  Most trails lead to the Pearly-eye’s family (family Nymphalidae, the brush-footed butterflies) and to its subfamily Satyrinae, and then to members of its genus (which is either Lethe or Enodia, depending on whose book you read).

Northern Pearly-eyes are generally described as shade loving butterflies of forest glades and edges, not found on flowers in sunny meadows.  Weber, in Butterflies of the North Woods, says that they “may be active early a.m. or late p.m. when they court,” and several sources said that they may come to light at night.  Quod erat demonstrandum.

 

Day-flying butterflies face a variety of predators, but being afoot at night isn’t much safer; many bats would consider a Pearly-eye a tasty morsel.  Like some families of moths, butterflies in the subfamily Satyrinae have hearing organs – swollen, fluid-filled, enervated veins on the underside of their forewings.  The Pearly-eye folds its wings at rest, which exposes the “ears,” located at the base of its wings (in fact, the BugLady has never seen a Pearly-eye with its wings spread and would probably not recognize it if she did).  Day-flying butterflies may be able to detect the sound of a bird’s wings, and Pearly-eyes may be able to hear the clicking of bat echolocation.

 

Find a brief biography of Northern Pearly-eyes here: http://uwm.edu/field-station/wood-nymphs-part-2/.

 

Field note #1 – Small moths in the genus Petrophila covered flowers blooming along the river on a recent walk.  A delicately beautiful moth, it has a big secret.  See http://uwm.edu/field-station/two-lined-petrophila-moth-rerun/.

Field note #2 – When the BugLady was out on the prairie after a rain last week, she found a bunch of Blue Mud Daubers visiting the water reservoirs of cup plants (more about that in a future BOTW).  To find out why, see http://uwm.edu/field-station/black-and-yellow-mud-dauber-family-specidae/

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Technicolor Thoughts

Salutations, BugFans,

 

A century ago, give or take, Herbert Kalmus, Daniel Frost Comstock, and W. Burton Wescott founded the Technicolor (a trademarked name) Motion Picture Corporation and applied for a series of patents on the evolving processes for producing motion pictures in color (it’s pretty interesting, and far beyond the scope of any physics class the BugLady ever took – beam splitters and color filters and subtractive color prints, and smoke and mirrors, and multiple “monochrome” films in primary colors run simultaneously on special projectors to produce saturated colors in combination, and in later incarnations, films laminated together to create a final, color print).

 

With a lower case “t,” technicolor refers to something that is vividly colorful.

The BugLady submits that Mother Nature has had the whole thing figured out for a good long time (the dogbane leaf beetle, for instance, whose changing colors emanate from the play of light on tiny, tilted plates above its pigment layer, has something pretty sophisticated going on, and so does any bird that is blue).

Go outside – be dazzled.

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Jumping Spiders Can See the Moon

Howdy, BugFans,

 

A lovely article about jumping spiders, though you have to wade through a few ads to read it.  It contains a juicy vocabulary word – new to the BugLady, and one that she will have difficulty injecting into a conversation unless she takes up rock climbing or spelunking (equally unlikely).  “Abseiling” (most definitions are for the noun or verb, not the adjective), from the German verb for lowering/descending vertically, in a controlled fashion, by rope, rappelling.

 

It’s also about the inquisitive nature of science, about Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.

 

The BugLady found this jumping spider on the fertile stalk of a cinnamon fern this spring.  The “green grapes” are the spore-producing structures of the fern.

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/06/jumping-spiders-can-see-the-moon/529329/

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady]

Restoring Our River’s Edge

River entrance point for river programs.

River entrance point for river programs.

Shoreline area used for sampling, pre-restoration.

Shoreline area used for sampling, pre-restoration.

Hands-on water quality education programs have been a cornerstone of the educational offerings of Riveredge Nature Center for its entire 49 year history. Each year, over 2,100 students don a pair of waders and explore the macro-invertebrate life and chemical parameters of the water in the Milwaukee River at Riveredge.   These students represent schools throughout southeastern Wisconsin and take part in partnership programs with the Urban Ecology Center (the River Connections program), Testing the Waters (regional high school science program), and Determining Water Quality classes. Although Riveredge includes over a mile and half of Milwaukee River frontage, one location is by far the most ideal, and safest, for this type of education. Due to the high use of this program area, the shoreline had become severely degraded.

Planting native vegetation along river bank.

Planting native vegetation along river bank.

With help from several funding organizations (Fund for Lake Michigan, Brookby Foundation, and Sweet Water), the River Restoration Project was conducted. The project consisted of stabilizing approximately 120 feet of Milwaukee River shoreline with rip rap, planting native vegetation in highly impacted areas, as well as the installation of a floating EZ dock to re-direct foot traffic.

In spring 2017, customized railings were added to the dock to allow safe access to the river, specifically during high water seasons and for ADA accessibility.  In addition, interpretative signage was created to educate visitors on our water programming and restoration initiative.

The shoreline stabilization, installation of the dock, and planted native vegetation will allow the shoreline to heal as well as allowing visitors the opportunity to venture out onto the River.

IMG_5672

Completed dock with railings!

Bug o’the Week – Tiger Swallowtail Brood I

Greetings, BugFans,

swallowtail tiger17 4rz

Anyone with siblings has heard/said “Mom always liked you best.”  Out of all the bugs she has seen, photographed, researched, and written about, the BugLady likes Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) best.  The first brood of Tigers is sailing around her skyscapes, along with a good number of Giant Swallowtails (a Giant Swallowtail sitting on a candy-pink peony is just, plain over-the-top).  Breathtaking!

t swllwtail11 22rz

Some tigers are dark, designed to fool predators into thinking that they are Pipevine Swallowtails in places where the two species overlap.  Wisconsin is not one of those places.  Pipevine Swallowtails are poisonous because their food plants are poisonous.  Although the pipevine plant is not native to Wisconsin (some related plants are found in gardens here) and Pipevine Swallowtails are rare in the state, some female Tigers are the “dark morph.”

t swllwtl cat11 9rz

Brood I has it tough –they weather the winter and early spring as a chrysalis, hitched (stitched) to the base of a tree trunk, exposed to bitter cold by the lack of snow and chilled by long, cold, wet springs.  Many die.  And yet, here they are – looping through the air and instigating Brood II.  Brood II has it relatively easy and will emerge in time to enjoy the cup plant and Joe-Pye Weed in mid-August.  And the beat goes on.

swallowtail tiger17 3rz

Tiger Swallowtails are the definition of “perfect.”

 

The BugLady 

2017 Prairie Plant Sale

Looking to take a little slice of Riveredge home with you? We have just the thing you’re looking for, our annual Native Plant Sale! All of the plants were grown here at Riveredge using herbaceous and woody seeds collected from our sanctuary. These plants are made possible thanks to the hard work and dedication of Bob Foss, and a dedicated group of volunteers (called the Habitat Healers) who collect seeds in the fall and tend to the seedlings throughout the winter and spring months. Because of this dedication, Riveredge is able to provide you with an opportunity to create your own little patch of Wild Wisconsin.

All of the proceeds go towards the conservation and land stewardship of Riveredge’s 379 acre wildlife sanctuary and allows us to keep the invasive species out and the native species flourishing.

To view the current list of species available for purchase go to the 2017 Native Plant Sale List.

*Plants range in price from $2.50-$7.00 per plant.

Grass Pernassus

Grass Pernassus

Bergamot

Bergamot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about native vegetation, land stewardship, or helping care for our seedlings consider joining our Habitat Healers. They meet from 9:00am-Noon every Tuesday at Riveredge. This volunteer group not only helps to preserve and improve the health and biodiversity of the sanctuary, the program also recognizes several other important individual and community educational goals as well. These include:

  • Providing a group learning environment that fosters Habitat Healers individual growth and the sharing of interests among its members
  • Helping others, through sanctuary preservation, research, and stewardship, to understand the interconnectedness of all living things
  • Serving as a regional resource for teaching effective stewardship methods by integrating elements of experimental design and analysis into Habitat Healer activities.

If you are interested in becoming a Habitat Healer, please contact volunteers@riveredge.us.

Bug o’the Week – Wildflower Watch II – Regarding Wild Geraniums

Salutations, BugFans,

 

The BugLady’s evening hours at the computer are now accompanied by the soft “thunk, thunk” of June beetles hitting the window.

 

If the first rule of looking for insects is “check the flowers,” then wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) are the flower to watch right now.  Showy, rosy-pink-to-purple blossoms that stand out in a landscape dominated by white and yellow.  They line roadsides and forest edges and grow in semi-sunny woods, the dense stands originating from thick rhizomes (horizontal underground stems).  Their name comes from the Greek “geranos” (stork) and refers to the long, pointed shape of the fruits, fruits that will eventually explode and propel the seeds many feet from the parent plant.  Insects perceive UV light differently than we do, and the transparent veins that lead them across the petals to the payload at the center of the flower (they’re called “nectar guides”) are far more conspicuous to them.

anthaxia buprestid13 1

 

The BugLady was surprised to discover that this chunky little beetle (genus Anthaxia) is in the Buprestid beetle family (Buprestidae), a.k.a. the Metallic wood boring beetles, a.k.a. Jewel beetles.  Metallic and jewel-like, it isn’t.  Adult buprestids fed on vegetation, pollen or nectar; it’s their offspring that do the wood-boring, usually in already-weakened woody plants.  Looks like this Anthaxia goes for flower petals.

arctic skppr13 1b

Arctic skippers (Carterocephalus palaemon) are northern in distribution but their range isn’t exactly Arctic.  It’s listed in bugguide.net as “circumboreal: in North America, Alaska and coast to coast across Canada and northern US, south in the west to central California, south in the east to Pennsylvania.”  They also occur in Europe, and the British call them Chequered Skippers.  The BugLady finds them in moist, dappled, woody habitats.  Adults nectar at flowers, especially purple ones, though the BugLady has seen them on the whitish flowers of black raspberry.  Butterflies of the North Woods tells us that their courtship behavior “includes a display where males and females open and close their wings in unison.”

bumblebee13 1rz

Looks like this bumblebee almost exceeds the weight limit for wild geranium.

click beetle16 8rz

Click beetles (a.k.a. jackknife, snapping, spring beetles or skipjacks), are famous for their ability to get from upside down to right side up.  They have a tongue-and-groove arrangement on the underside of the thorax that allows them to arch and then curl, snapping a spur into a groove, levitating into the air with an audible click, and landing on their feet.  The BugLady doesn’t know who this small click beetle is, but she often sees it on white trilliums in the middle days of spring; it probably eats pollen.

crab spider16 12rz

Flowers are a good place to eat or be eaten, and this crab spider will be happy to assist with the second.

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So will this daddy long-legs.

anapsis13 2bb

A small, common, rust-colored beetle of spring, Anapsis rufa (probably) is in the False Flower Beetle family Scraptiidae.  Adults like a variety of flowers, but larvae are found under bark or in rotting logs.  It can be seen in woodlands and edges across the northern two-thirds of the continent.

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The BugLady takes more “Hail Mary” shots of Hummingbird moths than of any other insect.  They hover, move abruptly, pause briefly, and love terrible photographic backgrounds.  This Bumblebee Hummingbird moth/Snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) was a real treat, especially since hummingbird moths often use their long proboscis to probe for nectar in tubular, not flat, flowers.  Because they hover, they are often mistaken for tiny hummingbirds.

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Mining bees are native, solitary bees (not social, like honeybees) that feed on pollen and nectar and so are responsible for a tremendous amount of pollination.  You have to work pretty hard to get stung by one.

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Sweat bees are another family of important and abundant native pollinators – some are “bee-colored,” and others are bronze or emerald green.  Like mining bees, they are solitary-to-semi-social bees that make nests in the ground and, supply their larvae with pollen (sometimes formed into balls) and nectar.  Sweat bees get their name from the habit of some species of landing on sweaty skin and to stinging when brushed off (the BugLady’s husband was allergic to their sting, and the allergist he consulted said “what’s a sweat bee?”).

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Sometimes a flower is simply a handy platform to land on. Male mosquitoes (feathery antennae) do feed on plant juices, though this one was just resting.  Females will also eat plant juices but eventually need a blood meal.

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But, some insects contract other business there.  Pidonia ruficollis is a long-horned beetle (family Cerambycidae, flower longhorn subfamily) whose larvae feed in the wood of a variety of hardwoods.

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Shy white-spotted sable moths (Anania funebris) dive below the flowers to avoid the camera.  Their species name, funebris, refers to their “funereal” dark color, though those white spots brighten the mood.  Because it’s a flashy, daytime flyer, it’s often mistaken for a butterfly (moths tend to fly for short distances and take cover in vegetation – butterflies don’t.  The larval food is goldenrod.

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This beetle is (probably) Trichiotinus viridans, a Flower chafer in the scarab beetle family.  Members of the genus are variously called Bee-like flower scarabs and Hairy flower scarabs/Hairy flower beetles (the beetles are hairy, not the flowers).  With their buzzy flight, it’s easy to mistake them for bumblebees (the BugLady found one tantalizing note saying that unlike most beetles, which hold their elytra out to the side like mini bi-planes while flying, Trichiotinus can fly with its elytra folded.  Adults eat pollen/nectar, and larvae feed in rotting wood.

 

Seen but not pictured – ants, a jumping spider, a thick-headed fly, a two-spotted stinkbug, a honeybee, a curiously-immobile soldier beetle that may have been spider prey, and syrphid flies.

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady