Getting out to talk to kids about bugs has got to be one of the coolest things to do in science outreach….As we did last year, we went to the Richmond Nature Park for their insect (and spider!) show. Great thanks to all the volunteers and especially Emily Toda for putting this together.
Tanya Stemberger was out to get the kids into entomophagy (eating insects), serving up tasty insect treats with Grant Olson. Tanya is subtly indicating that this is going to be awesome.
Grant is a professional in the world of insect cuisine, as he works for Enterra, a company that produces animal feed from insects. Of course, all the bugs served up were human grade!
Catherine Scott was on hand to talk to kids about our native spiders, and to show some great examples, including black widows and jumping spiders. Here she is with a Madagascar hissing cockroach, one of the great insects we had on hand for kids to touch and handle.
It was great to see Mike Hopcraft, the Reptile Guy, back again with his awesome collection of scorpions, tarantulas and more!
We had an absolute blast showing these cool insects and spiders to the kids. If you ever get the chance to do this kind of outreach, DO NOT HESITATE! It is awesome!
OK, bear with me here. I got so many great shots of kids playing with insects, I put them in a gallery. Just click on the first image below, and a slideshow should appear. Enjoy!
This weekend I spent close to home, working on my final thesis tweaks before it goes out to my committee. Instead of going on a proper expedition, I decided to explore our new neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. Right near our house is a largely-disused railway line that has some good habitat, including tall grasses and saplings, so that is where I rambled. In addition to finding the cuckoo wasps on Friday evening, I also saw a bunch of other cool stuff!
At the top of the grasses where I found the chrysidids, I encountered many large sac spiders (Clubionidae). These fearsome-looking spiders all seemed to be feeding on the same thing: Aphids! With these huge chelicerae and fangs, it seems to be a bit of an overkill!
Check out the chelicerae on this girl!
Also interested in aphids, these Myrmica are milking a thriving colony on a sapling. I figure these are Myrmica incompleta, a fairly robust species.
Myrmica are rather fascinating ants, and a genus I am working with. More on this another day.
These ants have quite the herd of aphids!
On a quick trip to Trout Lake (in East Van), I found some little katydid nymphs. These appear to be meadow katydids, a welcome change from the introduced drumming katydids.
A robust dolichopodid (Long-legged Fly) by the side of Trout Lake. They are quick!
Not quick enough for this tiger fly (Coenosia spp.)!
Here is a Coenosia looking regal and dramatic in the sunset.
Back at the railroad tracks in Kerrisdale, I found these Lasius taking honeydew from a scale insect on an oak sapling.
Ochlerotatus dorsalis, a saltmarsh breeding mosquito, is abundant at both McDonald and Iona Beach. This one was particularly persistent and bit readily on my hand.
This weekend, Catherine and I made a few quick trips around the area to hit some of our favourite haunts. The weather was nice, but after a long week including a move back to the Lower Mainland, we were not up for major exertion. Here are some of the cool things we saw.
An dew-covered weevil at McDonald Beach.
Here is another shot of the Ochlerotatus dorsalis. This light-coloured, day-biting mosquito is super-pretty.
The forest of Pacific Spirit Park was full of harvestmen. They could be found on almost every bush along the trail we walked.
This sac spider posed for at least a few frames before dropping to the ground.
A freshly emerged muscoid fly. You can see the ptilinum poking out from the front of its face (just above teh antennae), which it used to pop the cap off its puparium.
A particularly robust springtail on a fallen leaf.
This damsel bug appears to be feeding on some kind of nematoceran fly.
At Iona Beach, there are oodles of non biting midges (Chironomidae) as there are sewage ponds nearby as well as less-polluted man-made ponds.
A male zebra jumper.
This cuckoo wasp was diligently exploring every nook and cranny in this dead log, looking for a host nest for her eggs.
I love the metallic sheen on these. They are also notable for having a very hard exoskeleton, a trait shared with other nest parasites such as velvet ants (Mutillidae).
This shot is pretty cute!
Osprey are always hunting around the ponds at Iona, and this one made several flybys.
The Yellow headed Blackbird can be found at Iona, one of the only places on the coast where it occurs.
It is a popular pastime among us West Coasters to point out our gorgeous spring weather to those of you who are freezing back East. I think that’s just cruel. Nonetheless, I can’t help but notice it is minus three in Toronto, snowing in Alberta and freezing in New Brunswick….Here in Victoria, the snakes are out, the flowers are blooming and we are expecting our first Rufous Hummingbirds any day now!
Here are a few shots from the past couple days in sunny Victoria!
A springtime cove from high above on windy Mt. Douglas.
This elaterid is a bit of a cheat, as I had to flip a stone to find it.
The first snakes are always how I have registered springtime…This one was just neonate sized.
A cormorant fishing in Swan Lake.
A Cooper’s Hawk from yesterday morning.
Red-tailed Hawk about to bug out!
In Victoria, the weather has been getting a bit nicer recently, with a few sunny days in a row. I have not been taking much advantage of the fine weather, but I did get out yesterday in the backyard to shoot a little running crab spider we found at a gas station.
During the shoot, Catherine and I saw a female Culiseta incidens mosquito, which is not an unusual species to find this time of year. These mosquitoes spend the winter in protected locations such as caverns, basements and hollow trees, where they live off their fat reserves in a state similar to hibernation. This state, in insects, is known as diapause, specifically reproductive diapause. This diapause state is induced by a certain reduced light cycle during the sensitive stage, which for many mosquitoes is the final larval instar and the pupa. In Culiseta, as in Culex,reproductive diapause is characterized by hypertrophy of the fat body (the bugs pork up on sugar), seeking dark places (for overwintering), and aversion to bloodfeeding (they don’t take bloodmeals). This environmentally-induced and hormonally-maintained state only lasts part of the overwintering period, and for many of our northern Culex, Culiseta and Anopheles only lasts until mid December.
This means that anytime springlike conditions come about, such as this late-February fine day, the females can come out of their overwintering site and take a blood meal. This female came out and did so on me, and if things go right for her, she can use the protein from my blood to nourish her first clutch of eggs, which she will lay in an egg raft.
These overwintered females are the first active bloodfeeding mosquitoes out there, so have a look for them when springlike conditions prevail. Enjoy some special time with one or two of them sucking your blood, as the next species to emerge will be the far more numerous and ferocious Aedes and Ochlerotatus which overwintered as eggs.