Plague of Midges (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Last weekend I went to an environmental education conference.  Apparently there had been a mass emergence of midges shortly before we arrived because the whole place looked like this:

Masses of Midges

Masses of midges

So, SO many midges!  On the other hand, the massive all you can eat buffet of flies made for some good reptile and amphibian sightings.  I got to watch a green tree frog sitting under a light absolutely gorging himself, which was awfully cute.  There were more spiders out and about than I’d ever seen too.  Pretty darned cool!

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

The Smudge on the Wall (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

I’ve been seeing this little brown smudge on the side of my house when I’ve gone out to check my blacklight recently.  I thought it was just some crud on my siding, maybe a stain.  I caught it out of the corner of my eye tonight and noticed it was a completely different color – AND it was moving!  Had to stand on my toes, reach my camera up as far as I could, and hope for the best with the focus since this lens doesn’t autofocus.  This is what I captured:

Caterpillars

Caterpillars

Turns out that the little “stain” was actually a cluster of moth eggs!  Lots of little caterpillars are running about on my wall tonight.

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

What Visited My Blacklight Last Week (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

I am part of a grant that is bringing together science and writing by partnering science museums, like the one where I work, with local chapters of the National Writing Project to create K-12 educational programs.  I’ll share more specifics about the activities we’re offering later (they’ll be online, so you can participate too!), but the activity that my team is developing and rolling out to the public next month explores nocturnal insects.  As my team’s science museum representative, it falls to me to create the science-related content that supports our activities – field guides, photos, videos, etc.  One of the things the English teachers and poets on my team really wanted was a time-lapse video of my blacklight sheet.  So, I took a camera out a few nights ago, snapped 2700 photos of my sheet, and this is the result:

Now, what I get on my blacklighting sheet in North Carolina is nothing compared to what I used to see in Arizona, but it’s still interesting to see what came to the light.  My favorite part: the damsel bug that shows up in about the last 30 seconds and starts eating other insects on the sheet.  :)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy a glimpse at the insects I’ve been seeing at my backyard blacklight recently!

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

Collecting Dragonflies with Girls in Science (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

This post is going to be a bit longer than my usual Wednesday posts.  It’s not going to live up to the Well-Nigh Wordless name today, but I feel the need to tell a longer story, you know?

A while back, I posted a photo and told a story about a group of girls that I worked with last year that was particularly wonderful.  This group of girls included mostly low-income, mostly minority, teenage girls, a combination that often (in my experience at least) means that the students aren’t at all interested in what I have to teach them and they don’t want to do the activity I have planned.  Anyone who’s worked with groups of teenagers knows how important appearances are to that age group and how it’s often not cool for a teen, especially a teen girl, to show an interest in something like a dragonfly.  Few things break my heart like seeing that one kid who really wants to play with some bugs, who wants to learn, but pretends to hate it like everyone else so he/she doesn’t stand out.  That was 100% not the case with the group I worked with last summer!  They were THRILLED about the dragonflies and were completely and utterly engaged the entire two hours I spent with them.  I practically had to drag them back inside when our time was up.  That experience ended up being one of the highlights of my year.

I returned to do the same presentation for the new group of girls attending this year’s camp today and was worried: surely lightning doesn’t strike twice?  To my very great pleasure, this group was even better than last year’s!  EVERY girl in the group, even the two who were screaming every time a butterfly came near them, ended up catching at least one dragonfly.  Two girls caught 10 dragonflies each in the 40 minutes we were outside and another couple of girls caught 7 and 8 respectively.  Girls who probably haven’t intentionally run in years were chasing dragonflies down with the nets and made some of THE most impressive catches I’ve ever seen.  It was AWESOME!!  Here’s the group headed down the trail after successfully catching nearly a dozen dragonflies at the little stream that runs near the center where the camp is held:

campers walking down the greenway

I just have to say that, as someone who LOVES teaching people about insects and getting people outside to learn about the natural world, moments like these remind you of why you put up with any crap you have to deal with in your job.  These are the moments that make up for anything that’s ever gone wrong, any group that hated what you presented, and completely validate your career choices.  I am still on this amazing high from working with this group today – and I hope it lasts the rest of the week!

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

Taking Flight (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Last week was National Moth Week, so I have once again been taking countless photos of moths both at my annual moth night at work and in my own backyard.  Many of my photos turn out well enough to help me get an ID for the things I see, but every now and again I get one like this:

Photo of a moth flying away from the camera

Almost…

SOOOOO frustrating!

(I’ve been away at a conference and busy as heck at work recently, but I should get back to my normal schedule here for a while.  See you Friday!)

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

Lifer (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Many people keep life lists of the species they’ve encountered.  Getting to add a new species to that list, whether the species is uncommon or not, is always a thrill.  This painted skimmer was a lifer for me:

Painted skimmer, Libellula semifasciata

Painted skimmer, Libellula semifasciata

I was headed to the back gate as I was closing up at the field station and slammed on the brakes when I saw a flutter of orange over the prairie.  We’ve had a lot of similarly colored Halloween pennants around recently, but this was much too big and flew differently.  Was absolutely thrilled to discover that the dragonfly I caught out of the corner of my eye was a painted skimmer, a new species for me!  I rushed back to see if it was already on the species list for the site and was mildly disappointed that I was not the first to see one on the grounds, but checking that species off in my field guide more than made up for it.  :)

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

Fly on Fly Noshing (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

Last week, I was helping an employee measure leaves for a project she’s doing for her master’s degree when she came across this awesome robber fly:

Robber fly on bid leaf magnolia

Robber fly on bid leaf magnolia

Watching robber flies always feels kinda like watching one of those nature documentaries to me, the kind where a cheetah is chasing a gazelle.  You feel sorry for the gazelle when the cheetah gets it, but you are also secretly just a little happy to see the cheetah take it down.  Robber flies are the cheetahs in this scenario and the little midge it’s got is the gazelle.  You can’t help but root for the robber fly a bit, even though it’s sitting there sucking out the brains of another insect.

Isn’t nature gloriously gruesome sometimes?

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