Saturday, August 29, 2009

Down with a Bug

August 16, 2009
Mud Pond

Well, it seems that I was not truly recovered from my cold of the week before. Climbing Buck Mountain on a hot humid day apparently did me in! I woke up feeling sicker than ever; missed two days of work, and even after going to the doctor (“it’s a virus”), just felt awful the whole next week.

It was the height of the Dog Days as well, weather-wise, an appropriate time to feel sick-as-a-dog. The days were hot and humid. The evenings barely cooled down – one night, it was 80 degrees at 9:30 pm. After a week of lingering indoors in air-conditioned discomfort (when not at work), I felt good enough to go a-walking again. This time I would take it easy! What better tonic than a visit to Mud Pond?

Despite its humble name, Mud pond is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

I got there early enough to see the morning dew on the raspberry leaves, and to hear or see lots of birds - catbirds, goldfinches, a bluejay, a flycatcher, wrens, herons, crows, a kingfisher, woodducks and an osprey. Heard red-eyes, cherry-birds and wood peewees, still in the west woods. They’ll be leaving soon. A skein of geese flew in from the Big Lake, honking as they came, and landed by the beaver lodge. So fall begins ...

It was high time the blue-curls were out, in a spot I knew of from the year before.
Jackie got some fantastic photos of them this week.
They are a tiny plant - the flowers are ridiculously flamboyant if you look really close:

I’m am standing next to one, just to give you an idea of how small they are.

Waded through the lush pond-side undergrowth, to get to the water’s edge.
Ow ! what was stinging my legs?
It took me a while to figure out that it was a PLANT.
Ellen featured this plant in her blog recently – Arrow-leafed Tearthumb. Being a Lazy Botanist, I knew it merely as a Smartweed.
Always wondered why it was called Smartweed – did eating it stimulate the brain?
No, it’s because if you walk through a patch of the darn stuff in shorts – it smarts!
The stems are barbed and will raise red-lined welts on your legs. You feel like you’ve been scratched by ten teeny tiny kittens.

My legs were stinging pretty good. And I had been ready to blame it on a bug.
Outsmarted by smartweed.

Speaking of bugs – let me show you some of the insect life I saw today. Without a decent field guide (does the Little Golden Book of Insects count?) – I apologize for the generic naming here. If anyone can identify them exactly, let me know!

A dragonfly – meadowhawk, perhaps?

Some kind of weevil – hanging out in American Hazelnut shrubs

A bumblebee enjoying mint –

In the water, whirligig beetles were having a hoedown –

If you look closely (click to enlarge), you can see the beetles themselves –

A grasshopper or locust –

He was wonderfully armored in a sleek aerodynamic way -

Gerardia and a type of Syrphid Fly. I love his “I’m-A-Bee” paint job! -

A beautiful wasp – with waist that would make Audrey Hepburn jealous -

On the way home in the car, driving along Mountain Road, something flew into the open window with a thunk! against the doorframe, & the next thing I know
PAIN on my upper back - it was a bee!
I pulled over, tugging at my shirt, and saw a little yellowjacket fall onto the seat.
It’s been many years since I can even remember my last bee-sting.
Wow, did it hurt.
Continuing home, as a painful welt formed on my shoulder, I laughed.
At least my legs didn’t sting anymore!


  1. Great shots! Love those bugs! I especially love the whirligig photos -- they look like Monet paintings. About that Tearthumb. I call it "Tear shin" for the lacerations it leaves when you try to walk through a patch of it.

  2. Hi W - as a matter of fact, the area of Mud Pond where I saw the whirligigs was at the place I call Monet's Corner. (We've gotta get working on our "custom" map! Sounds like a good winter project...)

  3. While I've come to terms with most bees (and their kin), I must say that one in the car is still a cause for panic - although fortunately now I can pull over before I leap from the vehicle and go into a "modified stationary panic."

    I've read that a smooshed yellow jacket emits an odor that attracts others. I don't know if there is any truth behind it, but knowing that they are one of the more aggressive Hymenopteras, it wouldn't surprise me in the least!

  4. hi Ellen - yeah I find it ironic that I had spent the previous hours admiring the beauty of stinging insects, and then have this reminder of their other talents ... needless to say, THAT yellowjacket didn't get to have his photo in the blog!