Saturday, May 10, 2003


These arthropods were seen in the yard today, while digging up the herb garden for renovations. First, from the oft-overlooked subphylum Crustacea:

Class Isopoda: Various sowbugs/pillbugs

Second, the Chelicerata:

Class Arachnida: Opiliones (daddy-longlegs); Thomisidae, Salticidae, other unidentified spiders

And, of course, the Uniramia:

Class Diplopoda: Millipede

Class Chilopoda: Centipedes

Class Insecta: Various, including:

Homoptera: Cicadellidae (unconfirmed)
Lepidoptera: Noctuidae (larvae), Nymphalidae (Vanessa atalanta), Pieridae (Colias sp.)
Hymenoptera: Apidae (Bombus sp.), Anthophoridae (Xylocopa sp.), Megachilidae (Osmia sp.), Vespidae (Polistes dominulus), Formicidae (Camponotus sp. and others)
Coleoptera: Staphylinidae
Diptera: Muscoidea, Syrphidae (unconfirmed)

The megachilids are leafcutting bees, much like the one we watched in Indiana a few weeks ago. They were nesting in the hollow canes of a well-pruned butterfly bush; the place was absolutely swarming with the little things. The Polistes dominulus were definitely taking care that Rick and I didn't get too close to the butterfly -- I mean, wasp box. They're obviously primed to take good care of the garden again this year. (They grudgingly allow us into it.)

Vanessa atalanta, the common red admiral butterfly, is always addressed by our household as "Admiral Bug" and properly saluted as befits its rank. I was attacked by one once; it flew into my face and then started bouncing off the front of my red T-shirt when I got too close to its defensible space during mating season. I also enjoy the company of its cousins in the genus Polygonia (question marks and commas), which, when in territorial mode, can be provoked into chasing a stick. I expect the question marks somewhat later in the season.

Still working my way through Holldobler and Wilson, and getting more obsessed with ants. I'm not sure if I'm actually in love with them yet, but I'm certainly ready to bring them flowers. This would get me points if we actually had any leafcutter ants in Michigan ("Look, sweetie, some petals to chop up for your fungus garden!") I've got a large brown ant in the fridge now, trying to chill it into submission so that I can count the humps on its petiole without actually killing it. In this region, chances are that if it's got one hump, it's a formicine, and if it's got two, it's a myrmicine. I prefer to tell people that I want to find out whether it's a dromedary or a Bactrian ant.


A few years back, Newsweek ran a cover story with the title "Menopause". The cover art depicted a tree with falling leaves and drooping branches. I recall having emitted a few appropriate expletives before Rick and I laughed our arses off over the general stupidity of the image. I also remember that, in the fall, one of our neighbor's trees closely resembled the image while it was shedding its leaves, causing Rick to comment, "Look -- it's the menopause tree!"

With some confidence, I can now assure everyone that if a real menopause tree existed, it wouldn't droop and it wouldn't shed. Instead, it would suddenly catch fire at random intervals, then just as quickly extinguish itself. The pyrotechnics would be especially impressive at night.

Only 23 more days until estrogen ....


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