Thursday, September 02, 2010

Palmetto Bug Stomp

Not Palmetto bugs, I know, but lovely insects collected from our forest floor nonetheless. I'm taking an Entomology class this fall after much contemplation - not about the schedule or the work load (I've had this professor before and I'm prepared for the demands of field work and report writing). I'm more concerned about my somewhat natural dread of handling insects. Eeew!
This club-antennaed spider, above, is fascinating to look at, especially knowing that I haven't had to touch it once. The pit-traps set about our forest floor in hopes of catching Spotted Salamanders have proven useful for collecting a host of interesting insects instead, like this one. While I don't know the genus/species, I think it's a warrior of some kind evidenced by its lack of one leg.

This one is a carrion beetle - Nicrophorus species- which group and encircle a dead creature on the ground, digging underneath it to eventually bury it. Eggs are laid in the flesh of the dead and larvae soon emerge, so I understand. Pretty sure I don't want to witness that, but the adults are quite strikingly beautiful.

In spite of not loving insects, I have a hard time inflicting pain and death upon them and have thus been less than enthusiastic or successful at serious collecting. The kill-jar technique seems to leave the insects sweaty and the scratching heard as they paw at zip-lock bags creeps me out. Also, it's easy enough to get good photos of crawlers like those above, but fliers are going to be a problem. The reality is, there's this class that requires collecting, identifying, and storing of insects. Somewhere I read about using vials so I looked online and found these, ordered them, and am anxiously awaiting their arrival.
And the Entomology professor sustained an injury to his eardrum while diving and has canceled class for today - a brief reprieve during which I can bolster my confidence and numb my fears of insects so I don't go stomping them to oblivion for the next few months!
Palmetto Bug Stomp is a tune from the Reckless Reel.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Birches

White Birch limbs and branches are dropping as the trees grow weary from warm weather. The white color of the bark helps reflect heat much the way light-colored clothing helps us humans manage temperatures while the lenticels, small dark horizontal slits, act to ventilate the inner tree. But there's only so much temperature control possible in a tree, and the White Birches are beginning to show the stress by dropping branches and dying from decay.

White Birch has historically been used for birch bark canoes made by Native Americans, but the white man has depicted the waterproof craft inside out. The tawny inner bark is the part that has a waxy coating that keeps water from seeping through - the loose outer white bark has no such quality and is more easily water-logged which is an important consideration if anyone decides to build such a canoe.