The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Flowering Plants

I’m not mad, I’m concentrating…

BugShot 2011 participant Pat Porter just sent me this candid photo of yours truly…

Photo credit: Pat Porter

My first thought was, “why am I so ANGRY?” I stared at the image for a while and then remembered the circumstances under which this shot was taken (apparently by a very stealthy photo-ninja). I had spied a tiny but lovely moth (the Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea) who was slightly obscured by several petals of the yellow flower on which it was perching. Although I usually don’t pick too much at the nature surrounding my photographic subjects, I made an exception this time because I’d never seen one of these in the flesh before.  I had to remove three petals without disturbing the critter…hence the frowny-face.

Here is the shot I ultimately got…I was using one of Alex’s off-camera remote flash units, which accounts for the black background (it was my first time trying this kind of gear out in the field – with VERY mixed results. Actually, not so mixed: mostly crappy, but hey, it’s a learning curve).

Ailanthus webworm moth, Atteva aurea

Sneak Attack! (Goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia)

Our gardens provide an excellent close-by space for bug hunting.  Most days I do a “tour of the grounds”, inspecting flowers and leaves for interesting critters.  So the other day I was poking around a patch of purple coneflowers, when I saw this:

A bee head...upsidedown?

A little bit of bee peeking out from behind the pink petals.  Something was all wrong, though.  First, it wasn’t moving, and secondly, it was peeking out head-first.  Very odd.  Crouching down to get a better look beneath, the problem quickly became apparent:

Goldenrod crab spider with prey

A well-hidden goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia: Thomisidae) had snatched up the unsuspecting foraging bee and was now enjoying a well-deserved snack.

As I photographed the scene, I noticed a pair of very small flies circling nearby.  They occasionally landed on the bee.

Little...Muscids? Doing...something?

I’m really not sure (little help, fly guy or other fly guy?) but I think they’re little Muscids of some kind.  If I had to guess, I would say that they were feeding on the pollen grains clinging to the bee’s hairs…I can’t think of what else they’d be doing…does anyone else care to venture a guess?  (Ooh, I’d take guesses on the ID of the prey, too!!!)

***Edited to add: read the comments (Dooooooo it.  Do it now). Morgan from Biodiversity In Focus (aka “Fly Guy #1) has some great insights here!

***Edited to add #2: Micheal has offered another really interesting suggestion, and a nice pic to boot (in other words, if you haven’t read the comments already, you really should now).

Break Time

So much work, so little time.  My desk chair has been permanently stamped with the imprint of my rear. 

Either that, or my rear has assumed the shape of my desk chair.  Not very flattering either way if you ask me.

My wife called me today from work and suggested I take a break and play outside. It was a balmy -12C today (yes, that’s quite balmy after the near -40C we’ve had for the past two days), the dogs were short-circuitng from lack of exercise, and my wife is usually right about stuff anyways (don’t tell her I said that), so I went and played outside.

Although it was dark and grey, fresh snow was on the ground, and I got to try out my new toys:

That’s an old, shrubbed-over agricultural field.  There are squat stonerows  running along either side of the open area, and lots of early ii trees around the edges (birch especially) along with thick tangles of invasive buckthorn  native hawthorn (thanks for the clarification, Seabrooke!)

Evil Hawthorn...thorns.

Speaking of trees, and of bucks (aw nuts, now my nice little segue doesn’t work as well *harumph*),  I found a pretty recent deer rub on a young tree.  Bucks will rub their antlers on trees for a few reasons: in the early summer/late fall, they do it to slough off any velvet remaining on the rack; during rut, they rub to mark their territory.  If done aggressively enough, this action can kill the tree by cutting the flow of water and nutrients.

The small mugsly dog found something too:

C'mere, you wascally wabbit...

The occupant had left tracks nearby, but wisely stayed out of sight…

See ya, 2010…

All right, all right, I give.  2010 is tout fini and the holidays are over (wah!).  Tomorrow marks the start of the new term; I’m teaching and have coursework of my own. 

I consider 2010 to be my first “real” year of blogging; though I have dabbled since ’09 it wasn’t until last January that I felt the pieces pulling together and then sat back and watched this little speck of the blogosphere grow into something a little more cohesive (though perhaps still just as rambly).  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on posts, taking pictures, and sharing my interests with you.  In fact, you, my readers, are the most surprising and wonderful thing to have developed out of this hobby of mine; I never imagined that I would find a home among a group of such interesting, intelligent and talented scientists, naturalists, and outdoorsy-types.  I value your readership, your comments, your insights: thank you.

Now I’m going to indulge in a bit of copy-cattery (a sign of flattery!): some of you have been doing different versions of  “2010 in Review” posts, and I’m diggin’ it.  So here is my version.  See ya, 2010!

Some blog stats

Visitors in 2010: 18,965 (!!!)

Most Visited Post:  Goldenrod gall fly 

My Favourite Post: Crocodile!

Best Search Engine Terms: this was a toss-up between “dork dweeb nerd” and “Spider in Canada that is black and white and has thorn looking things on legs”.  Sorta sums this whole blog right up, those.

Favourite Photographs

Best Adult Beetle Photo

Best Larva Photo

Best Other Insect Photo

Best Non-insect Arthropod Photo

Best Mammal Photo

Best Bird Photo

Best Plant Photo

As I’ve searched through my posts from the past year, I’ve realized that I’ve got a ton of other photos tucked away that never made it on the blog.  I think I’m going to start a weekly feature (Foto Friday? Wordless Wednesday? Something along those lines) where I just post some of my favourite pics without worrying so much about accompanying text; it’ll be a nice project for the winter months.

Anyways, here’s to 2011!  I wish you all an exciting and fulfilling year!

Falling for autumn

For today’s lab, along with a discussion of urban forest management, we had students tour the campus and identify the tree species they found:

Not a particularly painful way to spend a morning, if you ask me.

The trees near my house have mostly started to brown or have dropped their leaves altogether.  Some signs of autumn’s beauty remain on the ground, however:

Further east at The University, however, colours are still resplendent:

How anyone can concentrate on such mundane things as, say, thesis proposals due this Friday, is beyond me.

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