Mystery bug #1 Mystery Bug #2
What's that bug?
Have you ever found a cool bug in your backyard, tried to I.D. it, and been frustrated because you could not find it in any of your field guides, in a google image search, or even in BugGuide.net?
Do not despair, as you are not alone! As you may know, insects are the most numerous animal life form on the planet, comprising about 85% of terrestrial animals. Not only that, insects come in all shapes and sizes, and do magic called metamorphosis after being nymphs or molting their hard exoskeletons as they move through instars on their way to sexual maturity.
"Arthropods are a highly-successful group of invertebrate animals that includes insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, mites, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, and crustaceans. In terms of species diversity, arthropods are second to none. That there are in excess of one million arthropods species that have been identified by scientists and there are estimated to be many millions that have not yet been identified. Scientists estimate there may be a staggering 30 million species of arthropods alive today, the vast majority of which are insects."
The insect world is currently divided into 32 orders. The largest order, the beetles (Coleoptera), contains more than 370,000 species. Other major orders are moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera, 150,000 species), bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera, 120,000 species), flies (Diptera, 100,000 species), and bugs (Hemiptera, 80,000 species).
To make mystery bug I.D. even harder, remember that all insects go through metamorphosis-which means that most of them look completely different from adults when they are in their immature stages as larvae and instars-making it quite a puzzle to identify them, since field guides and websites often only show images of the adult stages of many insects.
For example, take mystery bug #1, found by my friend Lorene in her West Seattle garden:
after three fails (which included an image search, googling "green ladybug", and BugGuide.net), I googled "Seattle pest insects" and found a P-Patch reference document from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, that told me all about the invasive Green Stinkbug, which were first reported in Seattle in 2014.
Bingo! Lorene's bug turned out to be the 5th instar stage of the Southern Green Stinkbug Nezara Viridula. She found this insect alongside lots of little tiny black bugs (2nd/3rd instar) on a Dalia leaf, never before seen in her garden.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus Philenor) life cycle stages
The thing to remember, when taking care of your backyard, is that often times immature stages of beneficial insects look very different from the adults. Be sure to be gentle when you are weeding and tidying up your garden for the winter, as many caterpillars overwinter in the grasses, leaves, shrubs, and woodpiles. These are your butterfly nurseries. If you do find a "pest" insect, such as the Green Stinkbug, please contact the Garden Hotline: email@example.com or call 206-633-0224.
Ah yes, cold and flu season is upon us...why not send a card or photo email? Cheers~
Hmm, I had no idea-really. So...googled it, and the first answer came from "Ask an Entomologist"
This second image is a still-shot of a really cool gif created by Seattle's Eleanor Lutz (and if I ever figure out how to embed the gif, I will update this post!) Meanwhile:
I will have more interesting bug research for you soon, but wanted to lead with some fun facts. Enjoy! (and be sure to check out Tabletop Whale for additional awesome science illustrations!)
It's funny, if you asked me what the main colors were in our backyard garden, I would describe to you the borage, peppermint, and lavender purples, the California poppy oranges (and pink), and brilliant red clover...but, after tidying up the yard yesterday, I noticed that there were SO many white flowers everywhere! Some of them are really tiny, like the yarrow, cilantro, and buckwheat, but others are just lovely anomalies; I absolutely adore the white California poppies and the elegant white foxglove!
I know that I should probably name all these sweet blooms for you, but it is SUNNY outside, so I must get back out and soak up that Vitamin D while I can.
Enjoy the tour!
While out for a morning walk in Santa Ana CA, we had the good fortune to come across Nancy and Tom Larson who have been hosting honeybees in their ceramic elephant for the last ten years or so. The only entrance was a tiny hole in the back of the saddle. The bees were happy to pollinate their flowers and fruit trees, but since there was no way to open the elephant, the Larson's had never tasted the honey. Not only are these two beekeepers and bird lovers, but Tom also builds elevated raised beds (to make it easier for the elderly volunteer gardeners) and grows organic vegetables which they donate to food banks. Thanks for inviting us for a tiny apiary tour. Lovely to meet you!
The effect of the drought is very apparent when walking around the neighborhood; several homes had replaced their lawns with native plants and their lush, low-water habitats were brimming with lizards, bugs, and birds. Other yards have not fared as well, and it was sad to see the dead trees and brown lawns (though I would rather see brown lawns than green). Lots of yards in transition.
February, you were brutal: high winds, wintery mix, snow, rain, below freezing temperatures...
you've whip-lashed my garden, my bees, and my spirit.
I indulged in several winter blues-busting field trips, including the Seattle Aquarium and Volunteer Park Conservatory. It works!
This juvenile Cooper's Hawk swept into our bird feeder to pluck an unlucky finch (?) out of the air; we were sitting at our kitchen table with coffee and were in awe at how quickly it happened. I was able to get these shots from a perch in my upstairs studio.
In the twenty years that I have been feeding birds, this is the first songbird snatching I have witnessed. I must admit that I would much rather know that wild raptors are catching an urban songbird on occasion, as it is part of the natural order of things--unlike the pervasive devastation wrecked upon backyard birds by feral cats in the US.
Thanks for keeping it wild on the hill Cooper's Hawk!
2018 is starting off strong for moon-gazers: tomorrow, January 2, we'll have the chance to enjoy the year's first full moon/super moon; then, on January 31st, it's a blue moon, super moon, and a lunar eclipse! According to Space.com, along the U.S. West Coast, the total phase will begin at 4:51 a.m. PST. The farther east you go, the closer the start of the partial phases will coincide with moon-rise.
When is a full moon called "blue"? It turns out it has nothing to do with color, but rather it is thought to come from an old English term meaning "betrayer"; this term is used to describe two full moons that occur in one calendar month, and usually happens on average every 2.7 years. There will be no shortage of full moon/blue moons this winter season, as we'll have another double in March (no full moon in February).
In 2015, we were treated to a Super Moon Lunar Eclipse, and I captured the above image from my backyard. This YouTube re-post from 2015 explains the celestial clockwork behind the magic.