You Are Not Alone….

You’re never more than nine inches away from an insect at any time.  That’s got to make some people uncomfortable.  But given the enormous population and diversity of insect life on this earth in comparison to numbers of humans, it’s got to be pretty accurate.  After all the rain we’ve had here in New England this June, it may be even more true since standing water helps hatch out mosquito larvae in record numbers.

argiope

Ants and worms, that’s another story.  Living as they do mostly in the ground, they are refugees of late.  Low places and just about anywhere is waterlogged now due to our swampy spring.  It rained all of June, save for an hour here and there, and made me wonder why so many people seem to like Seattle.

We have “bugboards” all over the place at Hill-Stead.  Lots of nature-y places have them.  They’re even fun to make for your own backyard if you like bugs and such or have children who do.  Take a piece of plywood and set it down somewhere.  There, now you have a bug board.  Over time critters of all types will crawl under there and leave signs that they have done so.  You may even find the creature still there when you look.  There really is no way to say exactly what you might find, but common enough habitues include pillbugs, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, spiders, salamanders, snakes, mice and meadow voles.  It really depends on where you put the bug board, how long it’s been there and what the weather has been lately.

ringneck

I think we have very nice bug boards at Hill-Stead.  They are without a doubt the fanciest in my experience.  Ours have handles (though the tractor seems to squish them now and again), and are painted with a message to encourage you to look underneath and see what you find.  You don’t need handles or a message for the bug board to do its magic, but it’s nice.  If you find anything you want to know or tell about, leave a message here, or in the trail log at the trail head to the rear of the parking lot.

bug board pic

I fear our bug boards look like puddles with boards over them right now.  Some may have become rafts and we’ll never see them again.  Even when it doesn’t rain like this, our boards have a way of walking off.  I don’t know where they go.  It seems an odd thing to steal, even as nice as ours are. 

With a little good weather, the trails and bug boards will dry out.  I don’t know about all the bug populations that may have been negatively impacted by all our rain.  Bug breeding is generally not supposed to be a soggy affair.  Fireflies need a clear night, and eggs of certain insects can be washed away or even become waterlogged.  Spiders generally are ok, they can just climb out of harms’ way. 

I thought the other day that successful fledging of baby birds seemed down, too.  But that may be my imagination.   Anyway, nature mostly finds its balance.  With fewer bugs to eat, it makes sense that might cut down on the number of insect-eating fledglings as well. And the rain itself was no favor to baby birds.  Storms at the wrong time can play havoc with bird reproduction.  

Big weather events affect large and small.  Just ask us here in Farmington, CT.  A tornado touched down here a few days back and we are just beginning to poke our heads out and take the measure of things.  The power was out for a couple of days.  It seems that the storms blew the constant rain out to sea, as it hasn’t rained here since.  Along with me I am betting that the birds and bees are happy about it. 

See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist

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4 Responses to “You Are Not Alone….”

  1. Anna Says:

    Diane, aha, 9 inches that is scary, but you know now I think about it, it may be true. There are always bugs around me, lol, but I think they are very small. We have ants in the house sometimes, spiders we just let them wonder and eat other insects. Excellent post and very informative. You have nice blog in here too. Anna 🙂

  2. Ratty Says:

    I actually never thought of laying a board on the ground on purpose to get a look at bugs. It’s a great idea. I’ve seen old boards that had been discarded before, and found the bugs under them. I’m going to try this one. I’ll have to put it in an inconspicuous place. People around here keep picking that stuff up too much.

  3. hillsteadnatureblog Says:

    Ratty: The one thing I should emphasize about bugboards is that they are like wine: they ripen over time. It takes a couple of seasons for them to really attract a lot of stuff. Hang in there, though, and you’ll have a lot of fun with it. This is one reason that I go crazy when mine disappear. If they are really “ripe”, it takes a long time to replace the bounty. Cheers!

  4. macromedia Says:

    Cool!

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