July 11, 2011

I never see nuthin'

Aside from dozens of busy, vocal Pygmy Nuthatches and a sky full of Violet-green Swallows sailing in and out of their nests, there weren't many birds along the trail a few of us hiked Sunday morning.

[W]hen you go into the woods, even on the dullest of days, you never see nothing. [T-FB]

Not many birds — but a whole lot of other things to see. Exhibit A: thousands of ladybugs milling around their hibernating place under the pine needles. I snapped a picture of a handful of them, and got some Sticky Cinquefoil [Potentilla glandulosa, a member of the rose family] in the photo as well. Is Sticky Cinquefoil really sticky? Glad you asked: "It is usually coated in hairs, many of which are glandular, giving the plant a sticky texture." [Source.] Yes. Click the photo to embiggen.

This particular ladybug is Hippodamia convergens, correctly known as the Convergent Lady Beetle, thank you very much. "In the western United States, adult convergent lady beetles typically spend up to nine months, from May to February, hibernating in large aggregations in mountain valleys," sez Cornell. Check out these terrific photos at Cornell's Lost Ladybug Project. The Lost Ladybug Project is quite wonderful, and looks a bit like an eBird for ladybugs. From the home page:
Across North America ladybug species distribution is changing. Over the past twenty years several native ladybugs that were once very common have become extremely rare. During this same time ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Some ladybugs are simply found in new places. This is happening very quickly and we don’t know how, or why, or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity or the role that ladybugs play in keeping plant-feeding insect populations low. We're asking you to join us in finding out where all the ladybugs have gone so we can try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare.
If I'd known about the Project beforehand, I'd have taken better photos and sent them in. Next time...

Also check out this, from Cornell's site on biological control:
Commercial insectaries distribute beetles that have been "harvested" from natural winter aggregation sites. If lady beetles are collected in this dormant state and transported for field release, even among aphid infestations, they usually migrate before feeding and laying eggs. This migratory behavior before feeding is obligatory. Releases of such "harvested" convergent lady beetles could be a waste of time, money, and beetles. Insectaries may feed the adult beetles a special diet after they have been collected to minimize their migratory behavior. Only such preconditioned beetles should be purchased. Additionally, these harvested beetles may be parasitized.
More here. Food for thought before purchasing that bag o' beetles for your organic garden.

The trail to Sugarloaf Mountain, unlike the ladybug hike, was crazy with birds. More on that trip [with ossum photos by Pam Kling] soon.

[The title of this post was swiped liberated from this great entry over at Two-Fisted Birdwatcher.]


  1. This is an interesting post to read.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my site about the wedding anniversary.

  2. Thanks for visiting, and thank you for some of the best, most beautiful bird photographs I've ever seen. Your Cooper's Hawk shots are incredible!

  3. I've seen some awesome photos of ladybug clusters, but only seem to come upon solo ladybugs myself. What a beautiful discovery.


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