Spring on the Prairie

It’s finally spring! Everything is turning green and there are insects everywhere again. Needless to say, I’m super excited! It’s still early in the green part of the year, so there are even better things to come, but I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first real spring so far.  I’ll always miss the wildflower explosion in Arizona, but wow is spring in North Carolina impressive!

The insects have been amazing recently! I’m starting to see things like this at the pond:

dragonfly exuvia

dragonfly exuvia

This is prime evidence that the dragonflies are becoming active, leftovers from the transformation from nymph (immature) to adult.  Those little white things are the lining of the last nymphal respiratory system, all of which is replaced every time an insect molts.  This dragonfly exoskeleton can only mean one thing: there are adult dragonflies out and about!  And there are lots of them.  There aren’t very many species yet, but I’ve seen green darners more than once, I just saw my first eastern pondhawks as few days ago, and there are dozens and dozens of these:

Widow skimmer

Widow skimmer

Common whitetails are, well, common at the pond at Prairie Ridge, but look how beautiful they are! What a gorgeous animal. The pattern on the wings is spectacular and the whites are currently really bright (I took this shot last summer, later in the season), so these are showy and beautiful residents at the pond. Now, if only the comet darners would come back…

There have also been a ton of these:

Eastern carpenter bee

Eastern carpenter bee

Can you see the eastern carpenter bee male hovering over that mess of mulch? The male carpenter bees have been defending territories around all wooden structures at Prairie Ridge recently. You can watch the females going in and out of the nests they’ve excavated vertically into beams and roofing supports.  I know they’re mildly destructive and we should probably try to discourage them from building nests in our wooden structures, but they’re just so darned charismatic!  And, you can tell the males from the females really easily and shock your friends when you pick up a large bee without being stung.  Stingers are modified egg-laying tubes (ovipositors), so only females can sting.  The bee in the photo is a male, as evident from the yellow (sometimes white) patch on his face and is incapable of stinging.  They keep finding their way into our classroom building, so I just pick them up and take them back outside.

Lots of our big butterflies are back! One of my coworkers spotted a zebra swallowtail last week and another saw a red spotted purple yesterday. Me, I’ve only seen the eastern tiger swallowtails so far:

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Eastern tiger swallowtail

They may not be quite as exciting as the zebra swallowtails as they’re much more commonly seen, but they’re still impressive.  The larvae feed on a variety of tree species, many of which we have on the grounds at Prairie Ridge, so I see them all the time.

A friend of mine saw fireflies lighting up on a warm night recently, quite early in the year. She’s an entomologist so I am confident that she knows what she’s talking about, but it’s so early in the year that the news felt wrong when she told me. But sure enough, I found this a few days later:

Firefly

Firefly

Firefly! In April! Wow. That’s just cool. I’ve been keeping an eye out for flashes in the early evening, but I’ve yet to see any myself. Rest assured that I will go frolic with them when I start to see them! I have a happy little firefly dance that I’ve done just about every time I’ve ever seen fireflies. I’ve never lived in a place that had them before, so getting to see them was always a rare treat and thhey were always a source of great joy when I was a kid. I guess I never outgrew that thrilled wonder that fireflies provoke and I don’t really care what people think of me, so I still run around chasing and catching them, even as an adult.  These days I don’t keep them in jars overnight because I don’t like waking up to a pile of dead fireflies, but I have an artificial firefly in a jar that I keep on my desk at work.  It makes me smile every time I bump it and it lights up and starts “flying” around inside the jar.

Of course, there are still a ton of these out:

seven spot ladybug

seven spot ladybug

Non-native ladybugs abound in Raleigh. I have to wonder why we have SO many of them here, but I see 9 non-natives for every 10 ladybugs I see. Sigh…

I’ve started seeing jumping spiders around too:

jumping spider

jumping spider

You all know how much I love jumping spiders!  This species seems to love the trailer where my office is located.  I’ve seen dozens of them on the trailer over the past 10 months, so it gets me wondering why they seem to like it so well.  Whatever the reason, I’m happy that I get to see so many.  They’re adorable, so who wouldn’t want them hanging out around them?

That’s just a little taste of what’s happening in the bug world here.  I’m super excited to see how the rest of spring and summer turn out.  There are still so many new things to learn and see in North Carolina!  While I often finding myself telling people that I don’t know when asked about natural things when I lead walks, I’m getting a lot better.  I think all the new learning opportunities, the new discoveries, have been the best part of my move to the south.  While I love Arizona and miss so many things about it, it’s also great to be in a place where everything is new and exciting, where I’ve finally gotten to see a real spring so I understand what all the excitement is about. I wonder what I’ll learn next?!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Friday 5: Things I Taught 6th and 7th Graders

Last week was the busy week from hell for me at work.  It was program after program after program all week, including Saturday.  In spite of my exhaustion and the fact that I’d already taught hundreds of people many different things, I spent last Friday at a middle school in rural eastern North Carolina teaching nearly 250 6th and 7th about my experiences as a scientist working with aquatic insects.  Essentially, I talked for about 5.5 hours straight.  And when I say talked, I really mean that I yelled over the many conversations going on and the window-mounted air conditioner and was to the point I could barely even speak by the end of the day.  So, I went home, didn’t talk the rest of the night, and photographed a bunch of the bugs I shared with the kids.  Today, I give you five factoids about some of the insects I shared with those 250 rural North Carolinian middle schoolers (who knew WAY more about aquatic insects than your average urban kid) on that completely exhausting, but exhilarating, day.

1. Ever see the Alien movies?  The dragonfly nymph mouthpart is rather like that little mouth inside the alien’s mouth.

Common green darner, Anax junius

Common green darner, Anax junius

Dragonfly and damselfly nymphs have one of the coolest mouthparts ever!  It’s essentially a long, flat grabber that they keep folded up under their heads.  When they encounter something they want to eat, they squeeze a lot of blood into their heads, which causes the mouthpart (the labium) to shoot out away from the body.  (Thus, the allusion to the Alien movies!)  Hooks on the end of the labium grab the unfortunate animal and then everything is quickly retracted, bringing the still living animal into contact with the dragonfly’s chewing mouthparts so it can be eaten.  This all happens really fast.  It’s a pretty amazing, yet somewhat gruesome spectacle.

2. Dragonfly nymphs breathe through their butts.

Dragonfly nymph

Dragonfly nymph

Dragonfly nymphs are gill breathers and absorb oxygen through the water via their gills, but their gills aren’t on the outside of their bodies. Instead, they are packed inside a rectal gill chamber, which is inside the body.  The nymphs pump water into and out of their back ends, moving water over the gills inside the rectal gill chambers and stirring everything around so they can breathe more efficiently.  Thus, they breathe through their butts!  Imagine a super giggly 4-year-old girl.  Now imagine a 6th or 7th grade boy sounding just like that.  You say “dragonflies breathe through their butts” and giggling ensues, every time!

3. Damselflies breathe through gills at the end of their abdomens.

damselfly nymph

Fragile forktail, Ischnura posita

While studies have shown that nymphal damselflies can live without their gills, the gills vastly increase the amount of oxygen the nymphs can absorb.  They’re quite pretty too, with a long, slender leaf-like shape.  damselflies also use those gills to help them swim, making them look a lot like fish as they dart through the water.  It’s a pretty cool movement!

4. Giant water bugs are among the tiny handful of insects that exhibit paternal parental care.

Giant water bug, Belostoma flumineum

Giant water bug, Belostoma flumineum

You know what’s interesting?  You ask a group of 6th or 7th graders if anyone wants to guess what “paternal parental care” is and you’re met with a bunch of blank stares.  Then you tell them that you’re going to give them a hint and ask, “Who knows what a paternity test is for?” and a dozen hands shoot up instantly!  It’s fun to watch the gears grinding in their heads as it suddenly dawns on them that they can use the meaning of one word (“paternity”) that they know to understand what another unknown word (“paternal”) means.  I love those moments!  Every single class I talked to was able to work it out without my telling them based on their surprisingly vast knowledge of what a paternity test was for.

5. Predaceous diving beetles are SCUBA divers.

Predaceous diving beetle, Thermonectus basillarus

Predaceous diving beetle, Thermonectus basillarus

I talked a lot about aquatic insect adaptations to water while talking with the middle schoolers, especially respiratory adaptations.  I started by asking the kids this question: if you suddenly decided that you wanted to go live underwater in a pond, what would you need to survive?  I would listen to the kids come up with ideas (take a snorkel, bring flippers so you can swim, learn how to hunt food while swimming, etc) and then tell them that insects had come up with nearly all the same ways to deal with living in water that they had suggested.  I led the students into admitting that getting enough oxygen should be their top priority.  Then we discussed ways that people can get oxygen while they’re in water, and I demonstrated each method they described with live insects that did the same thing.  There were the breath holders, the snorkelers, and the gill breathers, but the kids really loved the idea of the SCUBA divers.  Insects like the predaceous diving beetle above have a space under their wings that they use to store air, rather like a SCUBA tank, and then use that air to breathe while they’re underwater.  Just like a person with a SCUBA tank, eventually the air runs out and the beetle needs to return to the surface to refill its “tank,” but then it can dive underwater again.  It’s a pretty neat trick if you think about it!  And, when you can relate it something a human can do, I find that it’s a lot easier for kids to understand.

Ah, middle school kids.  They’re an adventure!  They have an unbelievable amount of energy and an intense need to look cool, but you can still get them excited about things if you are animated and show them amazing new things.  I really enjoyed that school visit, and as tired and hoarse as I was at the end of the day, it was a totally worthwhile and fun experience.  Might even volunteer to do it again next year!

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

Steve Maxson’s Photos

Guess what? After I shared my aquatic insect photo setup on Monday, the wonderful photographer I learned it from, Steve Maxson, got in touch with me and said I could share a few of his photos with you! So, I wanted to give you a sample of the images that inspired me to start photographing aquatic insects the way I described in my post on Monday. I think you’ll be impressed, as I am!

First, a giant water bug, genus Lethocerus:

giant water bug with mites

Giant water bug, Lethocerus sp., with mites

All those little red blobby things on the bug are mites, sucking away at its blood. (Aside: for whatever reason, I see tons of mites on Lethocerus and very few on the back brooding giant water bugs, Abedus and Belostoma. Wonder why…) The mites are always kinda gross, but I can’t help but be fascinated by them. Mites. They’re pretty cool little arachnids! And did you know that Lethocerus have eyelashes? Okay, they’re not like our eyelashes, but there is a dense fringe of hair behind their eyes that certainly looks like eyelashes. You can see it in the photo!

Next up is a photo of a predaceous diving beetle larva breathing at the surface:

predaceous diving beetle at surface

Predaceous diving beetle breathing at the surface, Dytiscus sp.

I think that is a fantastic photo showing a really cool larva doing a neat behavior. I love this shot! And here’s an adult predaceous diving beetle, doing essentially the same thing, without the really long tail:

Predaceous diving beetle

Predaceous diving beetle (Acilius sp., I think)

Predaceous diving beetles are beautiful, unbelievably graceful insects. I mean, look at that beetle! She’s amazing, and I think Steve captured her beauty wonderfully.

And last but not least, here’s a water boatman:

Water boatman

Water boatman

According to Steve, this image is a focus-stacked composite of 19 shots, done in Zerene Stacker. Super cool! You can see the little scoop-shaped front legs, the long, oar-like hind legs, and the air bubble that helps it breathe really well in this shot. These bugs always remind me of T. rex: itty, bitty front legs! But those legs are good at what they do too, scooping up algae and holding it near their mouthparts so they can eat. Unlike most other aquatic true bugs, there guys are vegetarians.

Steve also sent a photo of his aquatic insect photo studio setup, in case any of you are interested in seeing how his differs from mine:

Steve Maxson's aquatic insect photo setup

Steve Maxson’s aquatic insect photo setup

He uses a bigger aquarium than I do (2.5 gallon), so he uses a piece of Plexiglass to keep the bugs close to the front of the aquarium. You can see that sticking out of the top. Also, Steve likes to have natural vegetation in his shots, so you can see the plants in the aquarium. I rarely use plants myself, but I have to admit that, looking at these shots again, they do add to the ambiance of the images quite nicely. Might need to reconsider my “no clutter” stance! Finally, you’ll notice that this is located in a garage or workroom and isn’t sitting on the dining table like it is at my house. I’ll bet my husband wished I didn’t take everything indoors! It would certainly cut down on the number of times I find escapees, like the one I shared yesterday. :)

So those are a few shots by Steve Maxson, the inspiration behind my current aquatic insect photography practices! If you’d like to see more of his photos, and I highly encourage you to do so, he’s got a whole gallery of aquatic insects that you can view on BirdPhotographers.net. You’ll have to make a Bird Photographers account to view them, but I think it’s worth it. Lots of other great aquatic insects to see!

Thanks, Steve, for letting me share some of your photos. I really appreciate it!

Update: Steve’s wife tells me that his tank is actually in their basement and they do occasionally find loose aquatic insects flying around their house. Guess I’m not the only one with this problem! :)

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Escapee

One of the hazards of bringing dragonfly and damselfly nymphs into your house overnight is that they sometimes molt into adults and fly away when you’re not looking.  That’s what happened with this one:

Fragile forktail (Ischnura posita) damselfly female

Fragile forktail (Ischnura posita) damselfly female

Found it sitting on the wall the next morning.  My husband is always SO happy when these things happen…

(Note: it is very difficult to convey sarcasm in a blog post.)

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

My Aquatic Insect Photography Setup

Over the past few years I’ve had several people ask me how I photograph aquatic insects.  I think it’s time I share my method!  Hope this will help some of you take some amazing aquatic insect shots – and I hope you’ll also share links to your own aquatic insect photos/photo setups so we can all learn from one another.  I’m sure my method isn’t the best out there, so I would love to hear about alternatives!

For the first few years I had my blog, most of the aquatic insect photos I took were either taken with a camera mounted on a microscope or in a white bowl full of water.  Either method works okay, but there are major problems with each, especially with the equipment I had to work with.  I got a few decent shots with both, but I never got the kind of jaw-dropping, awesome shot that I was hoping to get.  I was beginning to despair.

Then I went to Bug Shot in 2011.  There I had a conversation with Stephen Maxson.  He showed me some of his amazing aquatic insect photos and how he set up his equipment to take the shots.  It looked easy, so I was eager to try it out when I got home.  It was revolutionary!  Suddenly I was getting a lot closer to getting the kinds of shots I wanted of insects in water.  So, thank you Stephen Maxson for teaching me your method!  And if you reading this ever have a chance to see any of his photos (he posts them on bird forums, not a blog or a personal website, and I am having a bear of a time tracking one down to share…) I know you’ll enjoy them.

So, here’s my setup, which has only very minor variations from what Stephen showed me:

My aquatic insect photography setup

My aquatic insect photography setup

It’s really simple!  Just a small aquarium, a couple of diffused flashes set on either side of the aquarium, and something to prop up a background with.  I use a small photo album for the latter, and use either a piece of fabric or paper as the background.  You can also print indistinct, blurry images of pond plants or other natural scenes to use as a background for a more natural look (what John Abbott does for his awesome aquatic insect shots!), but I personally like using solid colors.  Totally up to you and your personal tastes!

The aquarium is the most important part.  In my experience, you want to keep the insect as close to your lens as you possibly can, so minimizing the space in which the insect can move is a plus.  You can either use a piece of glass or Plexiglas to push the insects toward you in a purchased aquarium or make your own.  I used the custom aquarium you see in the photo for some research I did in Arizona and found that it worked marvelously for photographing insects in water.  I built a similar one as soon as I moved to North Carolina so that I could continue photographing my aquatics.  Building a custom aquarium is simple: just buy some glass, have someone cut it to the size you want, and assemble the pieces with aquarium sealant.  Easy!  My only piece of advice is that you use thinner glass than I did (1/4 inch).  The glass isn’t perfectly clear, so between that and the water, there are always distortions in the photos I take with my custom aquaria, both the ones I left behind in Arizona and the one I built here.  Thinner glass is more fragile, but should result in sharper images.

Diffusing the light is important as well so you don’t have a harsh, bright glare glinting off your bugs.  I use Alex Wild-style diffusers, little sheets of frosted white mylar.  I connect them to my Nikon R1 flash system flashes with nylon ponytail holders and then set them on their stands on either side of the aquarium.  That way, you have light shining on the insect from both sides and can eliminate as many of the shadows as possible.  My flashes are tiny, so I have to bump the intensity up, but they’re conveniently wireless.  If you have a Canon or other camera, you may need a remote flash trigger to make this work.

Then it’s just a matter of propping a background up behind the aquarium, filling your container with water (I used filtered whenever possible to keep the water as clear as I can), dropping the insect in, and snapping some photos!  You can add other pondy things to the water to make it look more natural – larger rocks, algae, floating vegetation, cattails/reeds, etc – or you can leave the water clear.  The more stuff you have inside, the less light is likely to hit your subject, so I tend to leave the water clear.  But then I also don’t like to have the clutter of other things in my shots.  Again, go with whatever works for you!

And that’s it!  A little glass container, a couple of flashes, a piece of paper, and a camera and you’re set!  With my setup, because I have such thick glass in my aquarium, I can’t get perfectly clear, crisp shots, but it’s a huge improvement over what I was able to do in the past.  For example, compare this shot of a predaceous diving beetle taken through my microscope…

Predaceous diving beetle under microscope

Predaceous diving beetle under microscope

to this shot taken with the setup above…

Thermonectus nigrofasciatus

Predaceous diving beetle, Thermonectus nigrofasciatus.

There’s really no comparison.  Likewise, here’s a caddisfly I shot in a white bowl…

Caddisfly

Caddisfly in white bowl

… and here’s one shot as described above:

Phylliocus aeneus

The caddisfly Phylliocus aeneus wandering around the rocks.

The insects look SO much better in the aquarium, shot through the side with soft, diffused light, than I could ever manage with my microscope or bowls.  I am still no Jan Hamrsky and there’s always room for improvement, but I think at this point I’m going to focus on improving the glass in my aquarium rather than adopting a new setup because I like this one.  It’s easy to use, relatively portable, and produces nice images – it works well for me and my style.

If you have your own setup for aquatic insects, I’d love to hear about it!  Just leave a comment below and tell me about your setup.  And if you haven’t ever tried photographing insects, give it a shot!  I think it’s a ton of fun, so see what you think.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Pollinator

The cherry laurels at work are blooming and I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite as many pollinators on a single shrub before!  It’s crazy!  We unfortunately have a ton of wind whipping across the prairie nearly all the time, so getting good photos of those pollinators is next to impossible with any of my cameras.  I keep trying though!  So far, this hover fly is the best I’ve managed:

hover fly on cherry laurel

Hover fly on cherry laurel

Aren’t hover flies beautiful?  Between their fascinating flight behaviors and their coloration I think they are worthy of a lot of admiration.  Do you appreciate hover flies?  I certainly do!

Here’s hoping I’ll manage to get a shot of the really amazing fly that I keep seeing.  Really want to figure out what that bad boy is…

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

Searching for Lost Ladybugs

Seven spot ladybug

Seven spot ladybug

I do a ton of citizen science outreach programs in my job.  I like different citizen science projects for a variety of reasons, but when I’m working with kids, you can’t beat the Lost Ladybug Project.  Lost Ladybug is great!  It appeals to little kids because all of them have interacted with ladybugs at some point in their lives and very few kids, even girls, are scared of them.  Also, when you ask the typical 5-year-old what their favorite insect is, ladybugs are right up there in the top two, just behind butterflies. Citizen science programs are often hard to do with young kids because they have only the vaguest idea of what science is, so trying to convince them that they should do science, that they can help scientists learn more about a subject, is a really hard sell.  But not with Lost Ladybug!  In my experience, kids LOVE that project.  They understand why they should do it (that they are helping scientists learn more about native and non-native ladybugs and their interactions) and no one beats a 5-year-old as a ladybug spotter.  Lost Ladybug is, I think, the very best citizen science project you can do with the really little guys.  I teach a lot of people about it.  A LOT.

Kids at Homeschool Day

Kids at the Homeschool Day bird lesson

My museum had a Homeschool Day on Monday, a day where homeschool families could bring their kids to Prairie Ridge for a variety of nature-themed lessons taught by several different educators at the museum.  I was scheduled to teach my Lost Ladybug lesson during my session for 7-9 year olds.  I had no idea what to expect!  I had done the same lesson just a few days before and we hadn’t found a single ladybug in the hour that we looked.  I had even looked at the bronze fennel in the Prairie Ridge garden, the place I can almost always find ladybugs, and we STILL didn’t find any!  It’s all well and good when you’re leading a small group on a free walk, but when you’ve got a larger group and they’ve paid to learn something from you, well…  It would suck if you didn’t find anything!  So, I scooped a couple of larvae I found into the magnifier boxes and hoped for the best.

ladybug 1I had about 10 kids in my group, and I started by telling them about the Lost Ladybug Project, what we were going to be doing, and handed out some identification guides for the ladybugs they were most likely to see.  The plan was that they would spread out in the prairie and look for ladybugs.  If they found any, they would bring the ladybug to me or my awesome volunteer and we would record some basic information on the data sheets I created for the project.  Then we would snap a photo and release the ladybug back into the field when we were done.  I had 6 magnifier boxes with me, but I had little hope we would find that many.  And things started off slowly as expected.  We walked out into the field and everyone started looking for ladybugs.  The kids looked really hard and were so excited!  Eventually one kid yelled, “I found one!” and we all rushed over to see.  It was just a ladybug pupa, so my volunteer and I talked about the ladybug life cycle a bit and showed off the larvae, then sent the kids back out to look.  It wasn’t looking good.

Asian multicolored ladybeetle

Asian multicolored ladybeetle

A few minutes later, another kid yelled, “I found one!” and came running over with hands cupped in that way that can only mean they’re holding something that’s likely to get away.  I grabbed a magnifier box and we carefully transferred our first ladybug into the box.  A few kids came over to see, so we all looked at the ID guide, counted the spots, and learned that our first find was a seven spotted ladybug.  It’s a non-native species, so the kids all said, “awwww!” in a very disappointed manner, then went back out to look for more.  Soon another kid came running over, hand carefully cupped around a ladybug.  Into a box it went, and before we’d even finished, a mom brought over another.  Soon it was all we could do to keep up with the flow of ladybugs!  Kids were running to us from all over the field.  My six boxes weren’t nearly enough, so we started doubling up, then tripling, the ladybugs in the boxes.  My volunteer and I gave up trying to record the data as the data was the same for every ladybug and there was no way to keep up with the photos.  Eventually, we took photos of two ladybugs just so the kids could see us doing it, then we gave up and decided to finish photographing ladybugs after everyone left.

Convergent ladybug

Convergent ladybug

One of the other museum people went to find more bug boxes for us, and soon my pockets were full of ladybug boxes.  My assistant was carrying even more in my lunchbag.  We counted our ladybugs and learned that we found 28 of them.  And it was great!  The kids were having a ton of fun.  Their parents were getting really into it too.  Every time a kid would bring a ladybug over, they would say, “It’s just another seven spot…” and sigh heavily before running off to find more.  I even heard a few kids whine, “ANOTHER non-native ladybug!  Are there ANY native ladybugs out here??”  That’s the sort of thing that makes your heart leap a bit when you’re doing a program, a kid that has voluntarily demonstrated that they understand what you’re doing.  I even had a few kids teach one of the other museum educators what a ladybug pupa looked like because she hadn’t ever seen one.  The kids knew just where to find one and were really happy to share their new knowledge.

Polished ladybug

Polished ladybug

After making a quick trip to the garden to look at the larvae on the fennel plants, we gathered together to discuss our findings.  Of the 28 ladybugs we found, 25 were the non-native seven spots.  One was another non-native, the Asian multicolored ladybeetle.  Considering how very many of them make their way into the trailer where the Prairie Ridge offices are during the winter, I was quite surprised that we found only one in the field.  Happily, we did find two native species, one convergent ladybug and one polished ladybug.  The kids that found those were incredibly excited because they’d found something special – they’d found native ladybugs in a sea of non-natives.

Seven spot ladybug

Seven spot ladybug

We finished up the session with a discussion of warning coloration in ladybugs and what it means, then I gave each kid a coloring sheet so they could draw a ladybug with warning coloration (real or imaginary) and had them write down what kind of animal the coloration protected them from.  We had a great mix of realistic and imaginary ladybugs, then all the kids proudly took their art, a Lost Ladybug bookmark, and an ID sheet home so they could continue finding and submitting ladybugs on their own.  I’ve told thousands of people about Lost Ladybug, but this was the first time I’d ever really felt like most or all the people in the group would go home and actually do the project.  It was a great feeling!

Days like this are the reason why I love my job and why I love teaching people about insects.  Getting a bunch of kids out in the field collecting bugs…  There’s really nothing better!  Seeing that excitement and energy directed toward something you’re passionate about is incredible.  And I’m teaching this lesson again this Saturday!  We’ll be collecting in downtown Raleigh this time, not at the field station, so it will be interesting to see if there are differences in the things we find or not.  And this time, I’ll bring a LOT more boxes, just in case.

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