I promise I’m coming back!

Hello everyone!

Just in case you were worried, I have NOT in fact dropped off the face of the Earth!  I’ve been gone for two reasons:

1) My hard drive on my computer died.

I haven’t ever actually HAD this experience before, so it took me three weeks to realize why my computer wasn’t working properly.  If it had been a spectacular failure, with my hard drive going out in a blaze of heroic glory, I might have figured it out sooner.  But no, it sort of creaked along for a couple of months, getting slower and more decrepit each day.  I ran through several different attempts to fix the problem based on previous experiences with slow computers before I finally realized that my hard drive was on its way out.

All that was fine and good – I found the problem.  Yay!  However, getting a new hard drive is like getting a whole new computer.  I absolutely HATE getting new computers.  I find installing software and transferring over all my files to be tedious beyond belief.  It is such an unbelievable waste of life for me.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I could no longer view any of my RAW format photos and that was driving me absolutely crazy, I would probably still be finding excuses to avoid installing my software.

So, I installed my software (most of it at least…), but then…

2) I Immediately went on vacation.

I made plans back in February to go to New York and visit my aunt during the good fall leaf time.  We spent a few nights in New York City where we ate some really excellent (but expensive) food and saw some really excellent (but expensive) museums, including the marvelous American Museum of Natural History.  Then we took a train to my aunt’s town in upstate New York.  There I ate in my cousin’s restaurant, visited with his family, went to more museums with my aunt, and generally had a wonderful time.  However, I didn’t have access to a computer most of that time and wanted to make the most of my time with my family, thus the blog silence continued.

I didn’t see too many insects on my trip (though I did find a deer tick crawling on my hand after spending 5 minutes outside looking at leaves one day – seriously, New York?), but I did see some in an art exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art:

art installation by Johnny Carrera

Icicahiya by Johnny Carrera

That’s a piece by Johnny Carrera called Icicahiya, a lovely screenprinted installation that was set up to look like sails on a sailboat.  I’ll be perfectly honest: I have no idea what this piece is meant to represent, but my eye was IMMEDIATELY drawn to the print of the giant water bug.  You can see it along the bottom row, between the beetle and the internal combustion engine.  I absolutely loved this piece!  It combines screenprints of black images on white and has an old natural history book/informatic look to it.  Wish I could have something like this in my living room…

Now I’m back home, but I’m leaving again tomorrow afternoon for a work trip to the Smoky Mountains: I’m attending one of my Museum’s educator treks for teachers and informal educators.  These trips are fantastic!  This particular trip is focused on elks and bringing field work into K-12 classrooms and informal education settings and it should be great fun.  We’ll also be learning about the awesome citizen science program at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is why I want to go.  I am really looking forward to the trip!

And all this is to say I haven’t forgotten about the blog, but there have been extenuating circumstances that have prevented my writing for the past 3 weeks. But, I fully intend to jump right back in next week, just as soon as I get back from my trip to the mountains.  I’ll try to make the post worth the wait!

Hope you’re all doing well and, if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, enjoying the fall!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Mantid Butt

The ol’ home computer is still having massive problems, so just a quick post for today. It’s been a couple of months since I posted a mantid photo, and because they’re such awesome insects, you can’t ever see enough mantids, and I’ve seen a lot of them recently, I give you this:

Mantid butt!

Mantid butt!

Mantid butt! This is a Chinese mantid, so it’s a really BIG mantid butt too. Here’s hoping it was just full of eggs and NOT full of parasites like that one time…  :)

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

Swarm Sunday: 9/29/2013 – 10/5/2013

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

There are still some swarm reports coming in, but things were pretty slow again this week.  Swarms were reported from these locations:

USA:

DeSoto, MO
Raleigh, NC
Utica, OH
Astoria, OR
Newport, OR
Yachats, OR
Charleston, SC
Pearland, TX
Falls Church, VA

And here’s the map:

Swarm map 9.29.13 to 10.5.13Red pins are static swarms, blue pins are migratory. Click the map to enlarge!

This week was a little surprising to me, for two reasons.  First, there were more reports than I expected, and nearly all of them came from northern regions of the country.  I didn’t expect to get any swarm reports from the northern US for the rest of the year.  Second, there was a second migration on the west coast with thousands more dragonflies flying down the Oregon coast over the last few days.  That seems odd, especially considering the migratory movement down the coat in August was so huge.  I didn’t think there would even be that many dragonflies left!  But there were multiple reports, so it was a big enough event for people to notice.

On the home front, we had a few cool days last week and the dragonflies all but disappeared.  I thought they were gone for the year, that we’d just see a few more here and there.  Then, it warmed back up and a few days later I saw my first swarm of the year!  There were massive numbers of little flies and other flying insects darting around over the grass as the sun began sinking toward the horizon and the dragonflies were eagerly taking advantage of the bounty.  It wasn’t a very big swarm, just a dozen individuals, but I was still excited as I haven’t seen a swarm all year in spite of going out to look for them every time I felt the conditions were right.  There was also a big bunch of chimney swifts flying up above the dragonflies.  I never saw a swift go after a dragonfly, so I can only presume that they were eating the same insects as the dragonflies.  This behavior is reported for swifts and swallows all the time, so it’s nice to see it in person from time to time.

The season is likely really over in the areas of the country that had blizzards last week, but apparently there are still a lot of dragonflies out and about in other areas.  Report any swarms you see!  This season has proven to be very strange, but really interesting, so I’m eager to get as many late season swarm reports as I can!

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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 © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Fall Leps

I’m getting Friday 5 up this week if it kills me!  My home computer is essentially non-functional for whatever reason and I am about to give up on it entirely.  That unfortunately means I don’t have easy access to the majority of my photos, I don’t have easy access to the internet on a real computer, and it all means that blogging has become really hard to do.  But, I’ve got enough photos on my camera’s memory card to make a post from another computer, so I give you this week’s Friday 5: fall leps (aka, butterflies and moths)!

Let’s start with this bad boy:

Sycamore tussock moth

Sycamore tussock moth

That’s a sycamore tussock moth caterpillar, Halysidota harrisii.  Guess what they eat as caterpillars?  And they do their sycamore munching boldly, right out on top of the leaves where they’re fairly easy to see.  It might look all cute and cuddly, but you’re going to want to resist the urge to snuggle up to that little guy.  He’s full of nasty urticating (=irritating, stinging) hairs that are likely to leave you itchy, in pain, or worse depending on your sensitivity.  Caterpillars like these little guys are why I don’t touch fuzzy caterpillars.  I’ve got super sensitive skin.  I’m not about pick up an unfamiliar fuzzy caterpillar…

Now this one, go right ahead and pick him up:

Banded woolly bear

Banded woolly bear

Banded woolly bear, Pyrrharctia isabella!  These things have been wandering across the road in droves recently.  Since moving to the southeast, I’ve been treated to lots of new old wives’ tales and the woolly bear one is a great one.  If you believe the story, you can tell how bad the winter will be by the width of the brown band in the center.  A wide band means a mild winter while a narrow band means a brutal winter.  That caterpillar up there suggests we’re going to have a mild winter.  However, considering these can be all brown, all black, blonde, or other colors, I think I’ll to stick to more sophisticated weather equipment.

The few remaining pipevine swallowtails, Battus philenor, have been out wandering, looking for a good place to pupate.  Most of the caterpillars at work have crawled down the pipevine, moved about 3 feet across the grass, climbed up the entrance shelter to the native plant garden, and pupated on the ceiling:

Pipevine swallowtail pupa

Pipevine swallowtail pupa

Apparently this is a good place to be if you’re a pipevine swallowtail pupa.  There are dozens up there!

I’ve also found several of these pupae lurking out in the areas around our milkweed patch:

Monarch chrysalis

Monarch chrysalis

Monarchs, Danaus plexippus!  We’ve just started to see caterpillars in any sort of numbers, so there’s a chance we might start to see some adults soon.  Unfortunately, it’s pretty late in the year for them to be emerging as adults…  I’m hoping the weather holds out a few more weeks so they at least have a chance at making it to Mexico before we get our first freeze.

And finally, I present this:

Fall Webworm

Fall webworm caterpillar

We just opened a nature play area at work and right now it’s full of fall webworm caterpillars, Hyphantria cunea!  They’re awfully cute, for voracious leaf eating caterpillars that most people consider pests.  This little guy and a friend of his looked rather like they were playing tag, racing up and down the railing to our amphitheater.  I suspect they’re looking for a way down so they can find a nice comfy place to pupate at the base of a tree, but, well… They’re not exactly the smartest animals on the planet, so around and around they went.

In spite of my general fear of touching furry or spiny caterpillars, I really enjoy this time of year.  It’s great to walk down the road and see a woolly bear making a break for the other side and my heart rates jumps a bit every time I duck under the sycamore tree just in time to avoid running face first into a sycamore tussock caterpillar.  The arrival of the caterpillars means there’s one last little burst of insect activity to enjoy before the cold weather sets in and the insects disappear until spring.  I intend to enjoy it thoroughly!

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Mimic

When I was in Asheville, NC a few weeks ago for a conference, I had an opportunity to wander the grounds of the NC Arboretum for an hour one day.  I was photographing flowers when I saw this land on a marigold right in front of me:

Yellowjacket hover fly

Yellow jacket hover fly, Milesia virginiensis

A huge, yellow jacket mimicking hover fly!  I was thrilled to see it.  What an absolutely spectacular creature!

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