Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Wasp Wednesday: Blue Mud Dauber, Chalybion californicum

NOTE: This is an update of my original blog post from August of 2010, with some new images.

Blue Mud Dauber drinking water in Colorado, USA

Among insect architects, the Blue Mud Dauber, Chalybion californicum, is not Frank Lloyd Wright. What it does have going for it is a remodeling career. Oh, and a reputation as a fierce enemy of black widow spiders.

Female Blue Mud Dauber with paralyzed juvenile Western Black Widow in Colorado, USA

Blue mud daubers are solitary wasps in the family Sphecidae. Females take over abandoned nests of their cousin, the Black and Yellow Mud Dauber, Sceliphron caementarium, or, in many cases, evict the larval tenants and food stores of active mud nests. While Sceliphron gathers mud to make her nest, Chalybion carries water to an old nest to soften it and remold it to her needs. The result is a very lumpy version of the normally smooth Sceliphron nest.

Female Blue Mud Dauber on "renovated" nest of Black & Yellow Mud Dauber in Delaware, USA

Chalybion makes up for any engineering deficiencies with a persistent, clever, and energetic approach to catching prey. The female wasp is able to land on a spider web without getting entangled, then do a convincing impression of an insect that is in distress. She vibrates the web and draws the spider out. The poor arachnid comes dashing down a thread expecting dinner and instead seals its own doom. The blue mud dauber stings the spider into paralysis and flies it off to her nest.

A female Blue Mud Dauber in Kansas, USA begins her hunt by alighting on non-sticky threads of a cobweb weaver's snare....
Fanning her wings, she vibrates the web to simulate a struggling insect....
Now she awaits the spider's response.... one more try at luring the arachnid....
Success! The spider rushed to the wasp so quicly that I missed the shot. The wasp stung the spider in a nerve center and it was immediately paralyzed.
Extricating the spider from its web, she flies away with her prize.

Among the known spider hosts for the blue mud dauber are black widows, specifically the Southern Black Widow, Latrodectus mactans. For a highly entertaining account of this I recommend chapter five (“The Terrible Falcons of the Grassland”) in Hunting Big Game in the City Parks, by Howard G. Smith (New York: Abington Press, 1969). Additional spider hosts include mostly other cobweb weavers, family Theridiidae, small orb weavers (Araneidae), and the odd lynx spider (Oxyopidae), crab spider (Thomisidae), or jumping spider (Salticidae).

Female Blue Mud Dauber dismembering a spider in order to feed on its hemolymph (blood). I do not know how frequently the wasps do this.
Missouri, USA

Mud daubers in general stuff a multitude of spider victims into each mud cell before finally sealing it with a curtain of mud. A single egg had been laid on the very first spider stored at the bottom of the cell. The wasp larva that hatches then gradually consumes all the spiders, leaving a smattering of legs as the only indication there was ever anything else in there with them. The mature larva then spins a papery silken cocoon inside which it pupates. A few weeks later (or come spring if it was overwintering) an adult wasp chews a round hole in the end of the cell and exits. Holes in any other part of the mud nest indicate that some kind of wasp parasite chewed its way to freedom instead of the mud dauber.

Male Blue Mud Dauber hot-footing it in Colorado, USA

Male mud daubers are far less industrious than their female counterparts. Their sole mission is to father the next generation.

Meanwhile, they are content to sip nectar from flowers or extrafloral nectarines. They also like oozing sap from wounded trees and, perhaps most of all, the “honeydew” secreted by aphids and scale insects. Both genders of mud daubers like this delicacy, which is nothing more than the sugary liquid waste produced by those sap-sucking buggers.

Large nocturnal congregation of male Blue Mud Daubers in a door frame in Colorado, USA

After a heavy day of drinking, males may gather in “bachelor parties” to sleep it off during the night. These congregations of normally solitary wasps can cause a bit of anxiety in people who confront them. Take a look at this image and comment thread for an example.

A smaller group of males in Georgia, USA

It should be noted that there are actually two species of Chalybion found north of Mexico. C. californicum is transcontinental in the U.S. and southern Canada, while C. zimmermanni ranges from Tennessee and North Carolina south to Florida and west to Texas, Arizona, and into Utah. I am curious as to whether these specimens I photographed in southern Arizona are C. zimmermanni given the white, not dark, hairs on the thorax; and the smoky, rather than violaceous, wing coloration (see below).

Probable male Chalybion zimmermani in Arizona, USA

Enjoy making your own observations of these wasps. They are not the least bit aggressive and, because they often nest on the exterior of buildings, are easy to watch.

Probable female Chalybion zimmermani in Arizona, USA

Bohart, R. M. and A. S. Menke. 1976. Sphecid Wasps of the World. Berkeley: Universithy of California Press. 695 pp.
Eaton, Eric R. 2021. Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 256 pp.
Krombein, Karl V. et al. 1979. Catalog of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. Vol. 2, pp 1199-2209.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Fly Day Friday: Biting Midges, No-See-Ums, Punkies

The list of aliases for the biting midges of the fly family Ceratopogonidae is seemingly endless, but most are apt descriptions of how tiny these insects are. I suppose I could emphasize their diminutive size by not illustrating this post at all, and leaving their appearance to your imagination....These flies certainly stretch the limits of my Canon PowerShot SX50 (and more recently SX70), so I encourage you to visit other photo resources to see the insects' true majesty.

Adult female Culicoides sp.from Colorado, USA.

Were it not for the few species of biting midges in the genus Culicoides that habitually bite humans, we might know little about them at all, aside from those that bite livestock. The majority of ceratopogonids apparently feed mostly on the hemolymph (blood) of other insects, believe it or not.

Biting midges feeding on the hemolymph (blood) of an Arizona Sister butterfly in the Huachucha Mountains of Arizona, USA

Only the females take blood meals, and in some species the females have atrophied mouthparts and do not feed on blood. Both sexes feed on nectar and other sugary liquids as well, to fuel their flights. There are at least 39 genera, with over 600 species, of Ceratopoginidae in North America north of Mexico.

© Judy Semroc

I was prompted to finally do a post about no-see-ums, in part, by an e-mail I received from my friend Judy Semroc, an accomplished wildlife photographer. She sent me images of peculiar "larvae" around the nostrils of a snapping turtle. It wasn't until the final close-up image that I was able to discern that the creatures were actually adult female biting midges, some so engorged with blood that they looked more like mites.

© Judy Semrock

Not all ceratopogonids are that small. They collectively range from one to six millimeters in body length. They are not always easy to tell apart from other families of non-biting midges, but with a little practice one can often discern the "long face" that includes a short proboscis and associated palps.

This biting midge has killed a non-biting midge in Wisconsin, USA

No-see-ums can be more than a mere nuisance. Some are known to transmit disease-causing microbes to humans and livestock. They are a principal vector of bluetongue, a virus which afflicts cattle and sheep.

In this specimen from Colorado, USA, you can see the proboscis and palps.

There is, however, at least one redeeming member of the family. A species in the genus Forcipomyia is the sole pollinator of cacao trees, the plant from which we get chocolate. Unfortunately, when tropical forests are turned into cacao plantations, the tiny flies lose the humid conditions and moist soil needed to complete their life cycle.

The life cycle of ceratopogonids usually revolves around aquatic or semi-aquatic habitats, or excessively moist conditions in otherwise dry habitats. Larvae may live under bark of decaying logs, in mosses, treeholes, sap flows, or soil. There, most feed on floral debris, algae, or fungi. Larvae in fully aquatic habitats are mostly or exclusively predatory on other small organisms.

Male biting midges, like this one from Illinois, USA, often fold down the setae on their antennae, giving them the appearance of having a mustache.

Adult male midges of many species form aerial swarms over a prominent object or landmark, to attract the attention of females. The plumose (feather-like) antennae of males function as "ears," tuned to the wingbeat frequency of approaching females. Mating usually takes place while airborne, though some species alight to copulate.

Clinohelea bimaculata, Leavenworth, Kansas, USA

Another encounter that fueled my curiosity about ceratopogonids happened just yesterday. I spotted what I initially thought was a small, skinny mirid plant bug on the surface of a leaf in our back yard. I had serious difficulty getting an in-focus image with any detail whatsoever. Reviewing the images it became clear it was not even a true bug. On a hunch I explored for ornate punkies. Lo-and-behold, I found a match: Clinohelea bimaculata. It will be a state record for Kansas for both Bugguide and iNaturalist, provided I have identified it correctly.

Oh, my, I think it has prehensile "toes" (tarsal claws)!

The preceding is at best a snapshot of a highly diverse and complicated family of flies. Much is known, especially about species of economic and public health importance, but there remains much to learn.

Sources: McAlister, Erica. 2017. The Secret Life of Flies. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books. 248 pp.
McAlpine, J.F., et al. 1981. Manual of Nearctic Diptera, Volume 1. Ottawa, Ontario: Agriculture Canada. 674 pp.
a href=>The Ceratopogonid Web Page.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Conflicting Advice Is Killing the Rewilding Movement

All the major figures leading the modern conservation movement agree that converting your yard into wildlife-friendly habitat is the most important and impactful thing you can do to turn the tide of bird and insect decline. As for how to do that, there is precious little agreement to be had. The result is analysis paralysis, and the “lawnscape” continues to dominate urban, suburban, and even rural areas.

"No Mow May," or "No, go ahead?"

This happened to myself and my partner. We finally own a modest home in Leavenworth, Kansas, with modest yards in front and back. Our goal is to begin planting native flora, but we were confronted with opposing recommendations on how to begin. “Kill the lawn with a single application of glyphosate” says one authority. “Suffocate it” advised another party. Heck, do we even have a lawn to begin with? Sure, there is some grass, scattered among thick patches of henbit, red deadnettle, violets, dandelions, plantain, wild….garlic?

"Before" we did anything

The result is that after over a year of living here, my wife finally took the initiative to start burying a section of the yard under a layer of carboard covered in mulch. Now we wait four to six weeks….”No, it will likely take four to six months” said someone commenting on our proud social media post. Great. Next, we will hear “till once!” versus “no, don’t till at all!”

We need to stop circulating memes and sound-bite articles in the media….We want the easy fix, but it is rarely the best avenue.

I agree that one has to be patient. Nature generally operates at a snail’s pace, while we are now too eager after having flailed in the turbulent seas of “how-to” recommendations. We should know better, of course. We should learn from our previous experiences, however few.

Here comes the cardboard and mulch!

At our previous home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where we lived in a townhouse, we had about a 5x10 “yard” in the back, a tiny patio adjacent, and a shed, with a fence enclosing all of it. We planted milkweed in hopes of attracting Monarch butterflies. It was at least three years before the plant flowered. Oh, it proliferated underground, sending up shoots all over the place, but it was at year five before we found Monarch caterpillars. Garden gratification is seldom instant.

Where things stand right now....

We also put up a “bee condo,” a block of unfinished wood with holes of various diameters drilled into it. This effort did yield almost instantaneous results. Leafcutter bees and mason wasps began nesting. We also had sapygid wasps that parasitized the leafcutter bees. Neat fodder for blog posts.

Many experts now claim that bee condos are about the worst thing you can do. They attract parasites, become infested with mites and fungi, and are basically deathtraps for the very insect pollinators we are supposed to be helping. You need to replace the cardboard tubes inside the bored holes, if that is your style of bee block, or at least clean the cavities with a brush and dish soap diluted in water. I’m not sure exactly when you are supposed to do that….

Here in Kansas, bees simply nest in our siding. LOL!

Further, are we not giving bees and wasps enough credit for choosing healthy nest sites? They clean out cavities before they begin nesting anyway. Even in natural situations of old beetle borings in logs and dead, standing trees, there are always cuckoo wasps, leucospids, and others lurking, eager to parasitize the nests of other wasps, and bees. That is the way nature works.

Clover *does* feed the bees, and fixes nitrogen for other plants, but surely someone else will tell you differently....

Oh, I forgot about the dandelion controversy. Leave them, they are necessary resources for early-emerging pollinators. No, dandelion pollen and nectar has very low nutritional value. They do more harm than good. Do away with them….but, but….”No mow May!”

The bottom line is that recommendations will change based on new scientific research, and the collective experience of those gardening for wildlife. However, there is no one solution for every situation, every geographic location, every soil type, nor any other element that varies. We need to stop circulating memes and sound-bite articles in the media that claim otherwise. We most definitely need to stop the implied shaming of anyone who disagrees.

Daisy Fleabane "volunteers" in our yard and we are "weed tolerant."

We want the easy fix. It is in our human nature, but it is rarely the best avenue. Resist the impulse to jump on the latest bandwagon, and consult your state chapter of the Native Plant Society instead. Consult the list of noxious weeds for your state and eliminate any you find. Otherwise, be “weed tolerant” and see if most of those plants volunteering themselves are actually native wildflowers. Never use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or even fertilizers. Indeed, the soil is itself an ecosystem of microbes, and symbiotic fungi that enhance the vigor of plants.

Here at Bug Eric blog, I promise to continue sharing my own experiences, good and bad, and recommend dependable resources to further your own pursuit of biodiversity enhancement. Let me know what has worked (or not worked) for you. I will pass that along as well. Above all, please act, with whatever information you have already garnered. The inertia of inaction is the enemy of rewilding.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

OrThoptera Thursday: Eastern Ant Cricket

Between allergies to grass pollen, windy and/or stormy weather, and periodic depression, I have not been getting out in the field very often lately. Consequently, I was delighted when an unusual insect came to me. Leaving our bathroom for our bedroom the other night, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. A small insect was running along the edge of the bathtub. My initial thought was "oh, shoot, a cockroach nymph." Closer examination revealed it to be something much more exciting and not at all a pest.

It was an adult male Eastern Ant Cricket, Myrmecophilus pergandei. How it came to be in our bathroom I have no idea. This species, like others in its genus, is supposed to be found almost exclusively in association with ants. Ironically, ants may consider these diminutive crickets to be pests inside their colonies.

Myrmecophilus have been observed actively "licking" ants, and the walls of underground ant nests, presumably feeding on oily secretions from their hosts' exoskeletons. The ants barely tolerate this unwanted attention, and may attack or even kill and eat the crickets. Still, the cricketes are remarkably agile, able to run away quickly from danger. I was surprised that I managed to successfully usher this one into a vial so I could take better images in the casserole dish that is our "studio" for insect and spider subjects.

Carpenter ant, a potential host species for our ant cricket

Ant crickets vary in size, usually in accordance with the host ant species, but none exceed 4.7 millimeters. The smallest adult specimens recorded measured less than 1.5 millimeters.The one imaged here is a relative giant. I suspect it may have come from a nest of carpenter ants, of which we have several around our home, one satellite nest in the frame of our back door, not terribly far from the exterior wall of the bathroom.

Among their adaptations to life in subterranean ant colonies, ant crickets have no ocelli (simple eyes), and their compound eyes are reduced to a small collection of facets. What they lack in vision they make up for with long, sensitive antennae. They also have oversized cerci, the pair of flared, tail-like appendages at the rear of the abdomen. The cerci are covered in sensory hairs that, as in roaches, other crickets, and related orthopterans, detect otherwise imperceptible air currents generated by approaching predators.

Eastern Ant Cricket is found from Maryland south to Florida, and west to southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, but there are recent records from New York and New England. There may be other species where you live. Oregon Ant Cricket, Myrmecophilus oregonensis, ranges west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Oregon and Washington, and most of California. Mann's Ant Cricket, M. manni, has a similar range, but from southern Washington state through Oregon, California, most of Nevada, and Arizona. Nebraska Ant Cricket, M. nebrascensis, occurs from southern California to Texas, and north through eastern Colorado, and most of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Sources: Capinera, John L., Ralph D. Scott, and Thomas J. Walker. 2004. Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets of the United States. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 249 pp.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wasp Wednesday: Walden's Mason Wasp, Ancistrocerus waldenii

Guest post by Heather Holm

The Vespidae subfamily Eumeninae includes primarily solitary wasps that nest aboveground in pre-existing cavities (hollow stems or brambles, holes in wood) or in free-form mud nests. One morphological trait eumenines share with the social wasps also in the family Vespidae, is wings that fold longitudinally. Eumenines (potter and mason wasps) are generally black with white, rusty orange, and/or yellow markings. In the southeastern United States, some species have very prominent red markings and in some instances, these red markings replace the white or yellow markings of northern populations. Generally, eumenines hunt various families of moth larvae (caterpillars) although a minority prey on beetle larvae.

Potter and mason wasps use mud to line, partition, or construct their solitary nests. For those that nest in pre-existing cavities, partitioning the cavity with mud results in individual cells or rooms in which a single larva develops as it feeds on the cache of prey provided by their mother. Free-form mud nests are either single-celled (ex. potter wasps in the genus Eumenes) or contain multiple cells, comprised of multiple cells adjoining one another.

Video 1 caption: A female works the wet mud bolus with her mandibles to add an additional layer of mud to the edge of a partially completed cell.

For those mason or potter wasp species that construct free-form mud nests, a significant amount of time and energy is allocated toward water and soil collection to make mud. Mud is used to make one or multiple cells/enclosures that house a number of caterpillars, and eventually the developing wasp larva. To make mud, the wasp female first finds a water source, imbibes the water storing it in her crop, then searches for the perfect soil type to begin collecting soil particles. Each mason wasp can have their own unique soil preferences, some preferring sand, while others may seek out sandy loam soil. Perching on the ground, she scrapes and gathers a ball of soil particles in her mandibles and simultaneously regurgitates some water to form a mud bolus. When the bolus is sufficiently moistened and large enough, she carries it back to the nest held in her mandibles.

A female spends the night in a newly formed mud cylinder/cell. She’ll complete construction and provisioning of the cell the following day.

This month in my garden, I found a Walden's mason wasp female (Ancistrocerus waldenii) constructing a free-form mud nest on the side of a rock. This wasp species prefers to construct its nest attached to a hard surface such as a rock, concrete, or even on the side of a terra cotta flower pot! The rock in my garden that she selected has multiple concave indentations; these convenient divots helped form the back wall of the mud cells. After selecting the nest site, nest initiation begins with the construction of a single mud cylinder, and each layer of mud that forms the cylinder requires several mud-collection foraging trips. Once the cylinder-shaped cell is large enough to hold several moth caterpillars, the wasp female lays a single egg, suspended from the roof of the cell by a silken thread. Many solitary wasps lay their egg on one of the prey cached in the cell after they have fully provisioned the cell; eumenids, however, typically lay their egg in an empty cell prior to provisioning the cell with prey.

A closeup of an Ancistrocerus waldenii female peering out of an incomplete mud cylinder. This unfinished cell provides a convenient enclosure for her to spend the night, rest, or avoid inclement weather.

Providing food for her future developing larva comes next. She hunts for moth caterpillars on plant foliage, captures one, stings it to cause paralysis, then carries the caterpillar clutched beneath her. She fills the cylinder with multiple immobilized caterpillars, an average of nine, seals off the end of the cylindrical cell with mud, then begins the construction of the next, adjoining mud cylinder. Her egg, safely suspended from the roof of the cell, will hatch in the next few days and the tiny, first instar larva will drop onto the cache of caterpillars and begin feeding. The venom that paralyzed the caterpillars also keeps them alive for several days, long enough for the developing wasp to have a fresh and live supply of food while it develops.

An Ancistrocerus waldenii female returns to her nest with a bolus of mud held clasped in her mandibles. She is adding an additional layer of mud over multiple fully provisioned cells.

An Ancistrocerus waldenii nest can have multiple mud cylinders/cells, constructed adjoining or on top of one another. After all of the cylinders are complete and provisioned with prey, the female adds an additional thick layer of mud over the entire nest to help seal it off from predators and help prevent the nest from breaking down before the wasps inside emerge as adults.

Here are a few tips for identifying Ancistrocerus waldenii females although if you find a similarly-constructed mud nest attached to a hard surface, that will help narrow down your identification to a few species. Wasps in the genus Ancistrocerus have a prominent transverse carina [ridge] on the base of their first abdominal segment (T1, for tergum one, the first visible dorsal plate). Ancistrocerus waldenii has white (less often yellow) markings. The female has a spot on the top of the sixth abdominal segment (T6) and complete apical bands on the first through fifth abdominal segments (T1 to T5). The female also has entirely black antennae (many mason wasps have yellow or white markings on the underside their antennal scape [first long segment of the antenna, nearest face]).

Be sure to visit Pollination Press, LLC, Heather's publisher, and shop for her books. Her book on wasps is a fine complement to my own; and who doesn't need another guide to native bees? Thank you, Heather, for agreeing to do this guest post.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Thoh-Dah Prairie Bioblitz

Last weekend, June 4-5, my wife and I had the opportunity and honor to participate in a bioblitz of a newly-acquired property of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. Thoh-Dah Prairie is located in St. Clair County, Missouri, U.S.A., and is named for the Osage word for “peace” or “peaceful.” Indeed, it is an idyllic landscape.

Copyright Heidi Eaton

According to MPF, colonialism has been positively brutal to prairies in Missouri. Pre-settlement prairie amounted to roughly fifteen million acres. Today, only about 51,000 acres remain, in scattered patches that are at best tiny refuges of native grasslands. Given the scarcity of such a unique ecosystem, Heidi and I were eager to discover what insects live there.

Carol Davit addresses the crowd before the dedication

An enormous tent was set up to accommodate everyone, and several parties also erected their own camping tents to spend the night. Plenty of resources were provided by MPF, and memberships and merchandise were available for sale along with free publications from Missouri Depart of Conservation.

Ready for the ribbon cutting

The event was kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the parcel, now preserved indefinitely thanks to the generosity of the family that managed hayfields there for generations. We immediately took to exploring, and were amazed by the floral diversity alone. Most of the plants we saw would not be found in your average vacant, neglected field. Many are endemic only to this kind of prairie.

Carolina Rose

New Jersey Tea

Sensitive Briar and Tickseed Coreopsis

Painted-cup Paintbrush

Most of the area we covered in our survey of organisms was subjected to a prescribed burn in autumn of last year. You could scarcely tell, as it was lush and green. Dickcissels and Grasshopper Sparrows called from all directions. Swallows frolicked low over the grasses. The skies remained overcast almost the entire time, and there was a brief, late afternoon shower, but we still found plenty of insects.

Clay-colored Leaf Beetle

Following an afternoon of hiking the gentle slopes, we were treated to a potluck. Each party brought a dish, but some of the MPF personnel fried up some fish, and also cooked quail and venison. There were plenty of salads and desserts, including homemade ice cream. Now that is how you do a proper bioblitz.

Bioblitzing makes you hungry....

....and tired
(photo used with permission)

After dark, a sheet and blacklight were set up. Despite the cooling effect of the earlier rain, several interesting species flew in.

Coffee-loving Pyrausta moth

Pyrgotid fly, Pyrgota undata

Firefly, Photuris sp.

Zebra Conchylodes moth

Sunday, we explored in a different direction, making use of the mown paths that provided avenues for the many, enthusiastic bioblitz participants. Prairies are not all dry and dusty, we learned! There were several wet, boggy areas that proved to be almost entirely different habitats from the surrounding hills that drained into them.

Striped Lynx Spider

A couple of “tree islands,” thick stands of trees and/or shrubs, offered yet another kind of habitat. One larger group of trees surrounded a large pond that we could not comfortably access. The edges of those tree islands were perhaps richer in insect fauna, but such ecotones are well-known for higher diversity.

Azure Bluet damselfly

We got a little carried away, and by the time we returned to “base camp” a little after noon, we found the tent deserted. We are already looking forward to making another trip there to see how the area changes with the seasons, and contribute more data to the MDF for use in education and conservation.

That's all, folks!

Heidi took so many great photos that you can look forward to another blog post of images and captions alone. Meanwhile, please consider membership in the Missouri Prairie Foundation. It has a long, strong record to success stretching over 56 years (since 1966).

Besides identifying, acquiring, and managing remnant prairies such as Thoh-Dah, MDF also encourages rewilding of your own property through the Grow Native! project. This is one of the resources we are using to begin converting our own lawnscape into something much more compatible with the native landscape.

Goat's Rue

Many thanks go to Carol Davit, Executive Director of MPF, Jerod Huebner, Director of Prairie Management, and Erika Van Vranken, Special Projects Coordinator, and Sarah Hinman, board Secretary, for making this event such a success. These are empathetic and appreciative people.