Swarm Sunday – 2/2012 – 6/17/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The dragonfly swarm season is starting up again!  It’s getting a slow start, but it’s definitely happening.  It seems like a lot of areas of the US had really strange weather over the past year, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the swarming patterns this year.  There could be more, there could be less, there could be no change – who knows?!  But that’s something we’ll be able to explore together this year.

Since my last Swarm Sunday in January, the following swarms have been reported:

USA:

Satellite Beach, FL
Rocky River, OH
Blythewood, SC
Abington, MA
South Salem, NY
Worcester, MA
Stoddard, WI

Mexico:

Cancun (5 reports)

Overall, there haven’t been all that many reports yet, but things are starting to pick up.  One thing that I didn’t hear about, something I expected to crop up in my data at some point and never did, was the swarming season in Australia.  Either it didn’t happen this year or it happened and I didn’t get any reports, but I haven’t gotten a single Australian swarm report this year.  Strange, but interesting.

I also wanted to point out that Bug Girl wrote a blog post about migrations in dragonflies recently and it’s got some good links.  In particular, she beat me to the punch in announcing that the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership is starting to collect data!  If you want to get involved and help us understand dragonfly migration patterns, I encourage you all to join Dragonfly Pond Watch.  It’s easy!  You simply visit the same pond multiple times throughout the year and report any green darners (Anax junius) or black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) you see.  There are only two species to learn and they’re very distinctive, so I hope many of you will choose to get involved!

In the meantime, start looking out for swarms!  I hope it’s going to be a great season!

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

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Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Friday 5: Very Different

I kept telling you I had big news and here it is: I took at job at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences!  So, I moved from Arizona to North Carolina last week and have loved every minute of the new job.  I’m the manager of citizen science for the Museum, so I have the very fun task of bringing scientists and non-scientists together to do science together, both in person and online.  This is absolutely the perfect job for me as it’s something I’m passionate about, I get to work outside much more than I used to, the Museum is amazing, and I’m working with a fantastic group of people.  I’m based primarily at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation, a 45 acre tract of land on the outskirts of Raleigh where the Museum does a lot of outdoor and environmental education, so I’ve gotten to spend a good part of each day wandering around the grounds so far.  And have you ever heard of a little event called BugFest?  I get to participate in BugFest!  Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this job and I am looking forward to what I am going to help build for the Museum.

As you might imagine, North Carolina is very different from Arizona, so I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison between the two for my first Friday 5 in my new home.  Up first we have, of course…

Humidity!

clouds over prairie

Clouds over prairie

Wow, there is crazy humidity in North Carolina!  As a lifelong southwesterner, humidity is a very different experience for me.  My shoes don’t dry when I get them wet.  Sweat doesn’t dry off your skin very easily and you don’t get nearly the same cooling effect that I’m used to.  The light from the sun isn’t as bright.  When it gets cloudy, the temperature doesn’t go down more than a few degrees and it’s often as warm when it rains as it was before the clouds rolled in.  That last one is the strangest thing for me because rain cooled everything down (sometimes A LOT!)  in the southwest.  On the plus side, I haven’t had to apply lotion since I got here, AND there have been clouds everyday since I arrived.  It’s the dry season in Arizona now and there will be practically no clouds at all until July, so June clouds are a fantastic sight!  Who knew what a little moisture in the air could do?

Ticks

tick

Tick

We had ticks in Arizona. My little longhaired dog got several over the 5 years she lived with me there.  I almost never saw them otherwise though.  Here in North Carolina, I got through a whopping 8 days before I got my first tick.  The photo is terrible as it was a very active little guy and kept running around after I removed him from my belly, but that’s him up there in the picture.  I believe it might be a lone star tick, but if anyone knows better I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Grass

prairie grasses

Prairie grasses

Arizona has grasslands, but the southern part of the state also has a lot of desert with little to no grass most of the year.  If you happen to remember the photo of the grass near my field site I posted last year… well, I was beyond excited to see that.  That photo above is where I’m working now.  It’s going to look like that ALL SUMMER too!  Crazy!  That grass might be full of ticks and I might be allergic to it, but I love it.

Bumblebees

bumblebee

Bumblebee

You know what you never see in southern Arizona?  Bumblebees!  There are lots of large carpenter bees that sort of resemble bumblebees, but they’re just not as fuzzy and adorable as their fluffy cousins.  Happily, there are scads of bumblebees in North Carolina!  I see them all over the flowers at Prairie Ridge, several species even.  It’s so nice being back in a place that has them.  I didn’t realize I’d missed them until I moved here and saw my first bumblebee out in the prairie.  I was so excited to see a very common bee!

Dragonflies Everywhere

skimmer

Common whitetail

I always became giddy when I saw dragonflies in my yard or the parking lot for my housing complex in Tucson.  They usually only appeared when the drip system sprang a leak and sprayed water all over the parking lot, and often not even then.  Now I head out to walk the dogs and see 5 dragonfly species within a few feet of my front door!  I am living in a big apartment complex for a while, so I’m shocked, yet thrilled, that there are so many dragonflies flying around the perfectly cut grass.  The dragonflies I’m seeing at home are all common eastern species, but several of them are new to me and a few I haven’t seen in a decade.  Fun!  I’m also looking forward to doing a sort of informal survey to see how many of the 103 species known in Wake County I can find at Prairie Ridge.

So far I think North Carolina is a pretty great place!  I am really happy with my life here, so I hope you’ll all enjoy the posts as I explore the bugs in my new area.  I’ll kick things off Monday with a post about the fabulous facility where I’m based at the Museum.  But first, look for a new, rather short Swarm Sunday this weekend.  Swarming season is about to begin in earnest, so I hope you’re all ready!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Where Stoneflies Roam

Stoneflies are insects that like to be cold.  They often live in fast flowing, mountain streams and are great indicators of water quality.  Needless to say, they’re a little hard to find in southern Arizona!  In fact, you have to go up in elevation quite a ways to find them during most parts of the year.  This is the closest place where I consistently find them, Mt. Lemmon:

Mt. Lemmon

Mt. Lemmon

Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re still in a desert up on top of the mountain!  Trees that are more than 15 feet tall, water, bright vivid greens – it’s a whole different world!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Southern Bugs

(I had this all ready to go last week and then completely forgot to post it! It’s a week old now, but what the heck – I’m posting it anyway.)

It’s been one of those weeks. You know the kind – the ones where absolutely nothing goes your way. So here I am at the end of the week with a topic for Friday 5 but absolutely no photos to go with it – and only a cell phone to connect to the internet as I wait for a delayed flight back home. Wow is it hard to code html on a cell phone! But, I’m going to write the post anyway. You all can make it through one text-only post, right?

This past week I’ve been traveling in the southern US, the Raleigh area of North Carolina mostly. I was very excited to be there because I’ve never been to the south in the summer and I hear stories about the monster bugs that are out en masse and wanted to see it for myself. I wasn’t disappointed! I saw lots of bugs on my trip. Tons! But I was so incredibly busy I wasn’t able to take a photo of a single one. So, you just get descriptions this week with some links to photos, some by me, some by others. Maybe next time I travel things will go more smoothly and I’ll end up with a beautiful photo-filled post, but for now this is what I saw…

1. Comet Darner

I saw my first comet darner! As a lifelong southwesterner, this was incredibly exciting because I’ve rarely even visited places that get them. Bright green thorax, bright red abdomen, huge. It was spectacular! I was beyond excited to see it, flying over a little pond full of snapping turtles. This one insect made my trip. :) If you haven’t ever seen them, I highly recommend checking out Brian Pfeiffer’s gorgeous photos of them, linked above. His photos are well worth a look!

2. Net Winged Beetles

I don’t see many of these and I really enjoy them. Net winged beetles have very soft elytra (the hard shells that beetles have covering their flying wings) and gorgeous antennae. I saw several in a parking lot – even caught a few and let them walk around on my arms a bit. Loved it!

3. Crane Flies

There were SO many crane flies out! I’ve seen a surge in views of my crane flies post over the last month and now I know why. They’re everywhere! And I ended up answering questions about them with strangers, as usual. This is always kinda fun for me. People have a lot of very strong opinions about what crane flies eat (nectar or nothing as adults, NOT human blood) and their relative deadliness to mosquitoes (again, they eat nothing as adults or nectar, NOT mosquitoes), so I try to educate people about them. I’d really like to know where all these urban legends about crane flies come from, so let me know if you know about the sources of these myths!

4. Mosquito

I hate mosquitoes! I’m one of those people that get a million bites when the people next to me get none, and my bites swell up to flaming red, quarter-sized welts over a few days. I was less than thrilled that the only mosquito I saw on my whole trip was sitting on the wall of my hotel. There’s nothing like being eaten alive by mosquitoes inside your hotel room! However, I still think indoor mosquitoes are much better than bedbugs. I do a thorough check of every hotel room I stay in when I travel to prevent losing any of my blood to bedbugs or bringing them back home with me. Everyone should do this these days!

5. Cockroach

I was kinda hoping that if I saw a cockroach that it would be one of the giant cockroaches everyone claims fill the south. All I saw was a single little one, barely even worth mentioning. I only mention it here at all (I saw several other, nicer bugs on my trip!) because I was told that people in Raleigh often call them water bugs because “it sounds better than cockroach.” Yeah, that wouldn’t be at all confusing when people ask me about what I do! I mentally prepared to carefully add the “giant” part of “giant water bug” to try to distinguish my big, awesome bugs from the roaches. Then, wouldn’t you know it, hardly anyone asked me about my work and seemed perfectly content to stop asking questions once I told them I was an entomologist. I had a whole little speech prepared to explain the difference between real water bugs and roaches, then I never even got to use it. Sigh… :)

So that’s a tiny little snapshot of what I saw on my trip. Next time I’ll get pictures! And I’ll be going to Raleigh again, so look for photos in future posts.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Tinaja

Many streams in southern Arizona are either ephemeral (they only flow a small part of the year) or intermittent (the water is disjointed during dry seasons with pools of water separated by dry stretches, often connected by underground flow).  Many of those same streams are also partly or completely lined with bedrock, a solid layer of rock over which the water flows.  In bedrock-lined streams, the water doesn’t soak into the ground during dry periods and instead sits on top of the rocks as shrinking pools:

Madera pool

Tinaja in Madera Canyon

These pools are called tinajas (tih-NAH-hahs) and are very important to many desert aquatic insects.  In fact, they are often the only reason many insects survive until the rains return and flow is restored in the stream.  They are absolutely full of life!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Going Offline Briefly

Just a very quick note today to let you know that I am going to be offline for the next several days, maybe into next week.  I’ve got several posts ready to go, but if I don’t respond to comments it’s because I’m moving!  And I’ll tell you all about it when I get to where I’m going.  In the meantime, I leave you with a photo of my beloved Sonoran Desert:

Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

See you on the other side!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth