Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bug: The Realm of the Insect (Part One)

Bug: Realm of the Insect (Part One)
South Seattle Rare Insects and their habitats
In Part One of the series we focus on the beetles and winged insects of the Cheasty Forest
The Cheasty Widlife Refuge or Greenspace, provides an interesting and unique environment to explore local rare insects.  Located along South East Beacon Hill the area provides abundant flora, winding trails, a wet land, and a cliffside.  Among the different variables of landscape are several insect species that are not found anywhere else in the world.  Furthermore these insects have remained unclassified, named, and or collected for further study.  That is until now.  Dr. Murray C. Aaron of the Cascadia Entomological Society attempts to document the habitat and behavior of several different rare insects.  He combs through leaf litter, digs into dirt piles, and crawls under ivy looking for his specimens.  Below are some of his findings.  Please note, that due to the rare and future protection status of these insects, it is recommended to not explore Cheasty Greenspace and Wildlife Refuge in a reckless manner and to leave the insects alone.

 The Yellow Thorn Beetle
length: 2-3 inches
Color: Yellow, green, brown, black

The Yellow Thorn Beetle is found in scattered leaf litter and broken blackberry bramble.

During the day it forages the litter in search of tiny granules of algae that cling to the back of decaying lichens.

The Yellow Thorn Beetle does not fly, but it does have wings which are presumed to be used during it's annual mating ritual in the Spring. During this ritual the beetle emanates a buzzing noise that resembles a toy plane by vibrating the thorn shaped wings.  It could be said that the noise is also similar to having a "thorn" in one's ear.

Cloppert's Black Bark Tick
length 1 1/2- 2 inches
color: black, green, white, yellow
Though not your typical tick, this one feeds off of the sap of trees that have been damaged from vandals.  When a vandal carves through a piece of bark with a knife, saw, or axe blade the sap that seeps out from the wound attracts the tick. These ticks then burrow into the cut and live inside the core of the tree.  When they are full of sap they re-emerge from the cut and vomit up sap at the base of the tree, where over time ants and aphids build homes.   The Black Bark Tick plays a vital role in this ecosystem.

Predators such as birds and snakes have difficulty feeding on the black bark tick.  Some think that the predators are tricked into believing that they are looking into the eyes of their own babies.

The Black Bark Tick will only vomit sap when the daytime temperature reach 57.4 degrees F

Spiked Digger Bug
size: 3-4 inches in length
color: green, black
This rare insect lives in a small hole in the ground.  Here it can be seen leaving the hole, the digger bug will often cover up the hole after leaving it.

Here a digger bug is seen leaving a hole at the base of a tree.  This hole is hidden beneath a bed of moss.

The spikes on the back of the digger bug are used to carry small twigs, which the insect uses to build nesting sites.

Mottled Wood Leaper
3 inches long
white, green, brown
The Mottled Wood Leaper is a distant relative of the grasshopper.  It is inactive during the day and leaps from tree to tree at night in search of food. 

Wood leapers can cling to a piece of bark for up to 20 hours a day.

This insect is often mistaken as a small bat while flying.

It is also known as an "E.T." bug

Though Mottled Wood Leapers have the ability to bite, this one seemed rather tame.   In previous encounters I was bitten by a Mottled Wood Leaper when I tried to scurry up a tree after being chased by a rather large black bear.  It seems that The Leaper is rather territorial, and if startled may inflict a bite in order to fend off aggressors.  
 Gravelly Dung Beetle
1-2 inches in length
green, brown, white, gray, black, yellow

This dung beetle is the only one in the world that is white.

It can smell dung from up to 10 miles away

Here the Gravelly Dung Beetles is attempting to form a piece of excrement into a round ball

Now the Beetle begins to roll the excrement across the ground which it will take back to it's burrow.  It can roll a ball of dung for a mile in under 12 minutes.

Green Horned Grasshopper
2-3 inches
green, yellow, black

The green horned grasshopper was once abundant all over the city of Seattle and was last seen at Volunteer Park in 1917.  This is the only known photo of one since then, taken at Cheasty watershed in 2013. 

This grasshopper also like to nibble on English Ivy shoots from time to time.

Unlike other specie of grasshopper, this one does not fly.  It could be the "missing link" between grasshoppers and crickets.

Queen Ladybird Beetle
1.5 inches long
red black

The Queen Lady Bird Beetle is the largest known Ladybug in the world.  

The ladybird emerges in the Spring to feed on aphids and wood louse

The Lady bird beetle is not dangerous

Albino Leaf Hopper
3 inches in length
white black tan

The Albino Leaf Hopper could also be called a fungi hopper because it often disguises itself near shelf fungi

The Albino Leaf Hopper was only observed once for three minutes before it hopped and flew away. No other sightings has been confirmed to this day.

Red Bellied Lichen Hopper
2 inches in length
blue green, white, red

The Lichen Hopper is thought to be related to leaf hoppers.  This one is well suited to this habitat.  One one tree alone I spotted 27 of them nibbling on blue-green lichens.

Lichen hopper detail

Lichen Hoppers are relatively unconcerned with human behavior because they are only interested in lichens.

Hobo Camp Fly
2-3 inches
black, gray
The Hobo Camp Fly is so-called because it tends to live near abandoned homeless camps. It avoids people, but for some reason is attracted to used candy wrappers, particularly Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Here, the fly is attempting to cover up a Reese's wrapper.  Within a minute the fly has buried it in 4 layers of leaves, sticks ,  and locust seed pods.

Velocity Bug
1.25 inches
black brown yellow
The Velocity Bug is not fast.  Native Folk Legends say that ancient couriers used to eat the bug in order to have enough energy to climb over mountain passes, swim across vast fast-moving rivers, and to out-run predators such as moose, bear, and cougar.

The last known person to eat a Velocity Bug was pioneer Festus Sanders in 1884.  The velocity bug got caught in his throat and he died of asphyxiation.  They were considered pests there ever after and a local pesticide company in Montesano soon began a publicity campaign to destroy the local scourge. In 1964 victory was complete when the last velocity bug was captured in Walla Walla and fed to a pile of red ants.  Little did they know that the Velocity Bug continues to thrive to this day.
 Blue Spotted Scorpion
4-6 inches in length
blue, black, red, gray
This scorpion is considered to be the largest native scorpion in the West. 

This was the only specimen observed.  I watched it roam across the forest floor until it reached a boulder.  It crawled onto the boulder for a moment and sat there in the sun waving it's tail back and forth.  It was as if it was measuring the wind. Then it scurried off into a burrow beneath some leaves and rotten branches. I did not find out if it's stinger contained abundant venom for necrosis.

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