Bug Walks - Impressions of the Second Year

Last spring's early Bug Walks occurred at the height of ladybug migration. There were ladybugs everywhere. All the children were busy catching them in the small "bug boxes" and showing them to the adults. Since there were several species present, I would often ask the children to go and find a different one. Invariably they would return with a different one but one of the same species. I learned quickly that asking them to find one that looked different worked better. In spite of the vast numbers, I wondered how many had actually been caught more than once (perhaps even by the same children). Fortunately, ladybugs are rather sturdy and handling tolerant. Since children seem almost magnetically drawn to them, one might ask if this isn't some sort of survival characteristic.

As in the previous year one of the the most prolific habitats was near the parking lot. This area too had benefited from the increased rainfall and was surprisingly (at least to me) good until someone decided it needed to be "cleaned" up. Interestingly, this "clean" up consisted of cutting down the vegetation around the parking lot but not picking up any of the trash that had collected there. From a personal standpoint, I liked the weeds better - at least they took away from the trash. Besides, some of the insects we found there in the larval stage, we didn't find anywhere else.

The Harlequin Bugs which had been relatively abundant in the area where the parking lot is now and along the railway tracks didn't appear along the railway until quite late and then only in small numbers. Unlike the prior year however, they, along with the Green Stink Bugs appeared in reasonable numbers on Gunpowder Point.

For most of the season, the best habitat to examine for insects was Telegraph Weed. These plants supplied food and/or lodging for a number of species of spiders, wasps, ladybugs, aphids, tree crickets, various pollinators and others. Some species, like the "Telegraph Weed" Lace Bug, were only found on these plants.

Perhaps the most unusual event happened at the end of the season. Early one cool morning, a solitary bumblebee approached our group from across the parking lot as we stood waiting to get started. Perhaps this one lacked enough energy to make it all the way across, perhaps it liked someone's hair cream. For whatever reason it dropped in (literally) visiting several people in succession. No one panicked although some people did back away. Eventually the bee reached one gentleman and landed on his face. While everyone watched in fascination, it then proceeded to walk or crawl...slowly...across his cheek...under his glasses (which we quickly got off him!)... and across his forehead before getting a bit tangled in his hair and deciding to visit someone else. Eventually we got it close enough to a flower that it left.

Earlier that same morning, I had searched in vain for Green Lynx Spiders, fairly large hunting spiders that sit near the heads of fresh flowers and capture unwary pollinators. We eventually found three, not because we spotted them but because we noticed these dead bumblebees dangling in the air hanging in some threads.

As spring approaches, I wonder what this season will bring. We've had so much rain and so much habitat disruption. This, the third year of the Bug Walks, should be very interesting.

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Ron Lyons (volunteer 1990-1999)
Chula Vista Nature Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201