Friday, June 21, 2024

City Nature Challenge 2024 Recap

The April 26-29 weather forecast for the Greater Kansas City metro area was not promising, so I had low expectations of finding subjects to document for the 2024 City Nature Challenge occuring during that time. We were also going to be out of town for one of those days, further limiting opportunities for making observations. While it was mostly overcast with some periods of rain, it wasn't a complete washout by any means.

One of the best finds was an Orangeback syrphid fly, Pterallastes thoracicus, at Weston Bend State Park, Missouri.

I am fortunate to have the relative luxury of self-employment, able to take time to fully engage with events like City Nature Challenge. Not everyone has that privilege, so I want to thank everyone who made time to participate in this global event. Each year we collectively accrue more data for scientists to gauge trends in biodiversity and abundance, and take action accordingly to protect, conserve, and attract other species to our urban islands.

The diversity of ichneumon wasps alone at our house was amazing. This is a female Limonethe maurator.
A spectacular female Rhysella humida
Wow, a big female Dolichomitus irritator.
A very small Cymodusa distincta.

Friday, April 26, was spent looking for organisms around our home in Leavenworth, Kansas, a municipality included in the Kansas City project on iNaturalist. Well, the entire county is included, which means there is potential for rural observations. I like that the project encourages participation by inviting outlying commuinities, so the tradoff is worth it.

Triangulate Combfoot spider, Steatoda triangulosa.
Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa.

I always make sure to look in our detached garage for spiders and other arthropods, and the cooler, cloudy weather in the morning meant there was not much to see in the yard. I did document birds, squirrels, and plants, too. In the garage I uncovered the obligatory Brown Recluse, Loxosceles reclusa, plus two cobweb weavers (Theridiidae) and a cellar spider (Pholcidae).

Cuckoo wasp, tribe Chrysidini.
Marbled Fungus Weevil, Euparius marmoreus.
Ribbed cocoon-maker moth, Bucculatrix sp.
Privet Leafhopper, Fieberiella florii.
Aw-w-w, a pseudoscorpion!

Outdoors, I discovered more spiders, mostly on the exterior of our house, plus a few flies, beetles, ants, true bugs, moths, and several wasps. The sun even came out for a sliver of time in the afternoon, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was on the wing the rest of the day.

The late afternoon, and the following day (Saturday) found us in another county for an annual spring field trip of professional herpetologists and amateur reptile and amphibian enthusiasts.Sunday, April 28, was spent at home again, and was the least productive day of observations.

Zebra Swallowtail with just a little pollen.

We like to explore the Leavenworth Landing Park, and Weston Bend State Park across the river in Platte County, Missouri at some point during the City Nature Challenge, and we did so on Monday, April 29. The weather was much better, sunny and warm. The most obvious insects were butterflies. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), and Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), were exceptionally abundant, but we saw other Lepidoptera, too. Bees, flies, and dragonflies were also common, and reasonably diverse.

Blue-green Bottle Fly, Lucillia coeruleiviridis.
A pollen-dusted female mason bee, Osmia sp.
Orchard Spider, Leucauge venusta.
Tachinid fly, Epalpus signifer.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail male, Papilio glaucus.

I took advantage of the continuing favorable weather and put out a blacklight and sheet in our front yard Monday night. More moth, beetle, and fly species were attracted. I also prowled around the yard and found a couple other insects lurking in the darkness.

Four-spotted Angle moth, Trigrammia quadrinotaria.
Square-gill mayfly, Caenis sp.
Dance fly, Rhamphomyia nasoni.
"Major" and "minor" workers of the Chestnut Carpenter Ant, Camponotus castaneus.
Large Yellow Underwing moth, Noctua pronuba.
Fungus gnat, family Mycetophilidae.

Statistically, I finished with 374 observations of insects and arachnids, totalling 238 "species," thanks to the help of 90 individuals offering or confirming identifications. I am still unclear as to what qualifies as a species on iNaturalist. I think it considers any unique taxon as a species when it creates the stats. In any event, identifications are a work in progress, so it may be years before a more refined assessment is made.

Grape Berry Moth, Paralobesia viteana.

I am already looking forward to next year's City Nature Challenge. It may be my favorite "holiday," in fact, a celebration of the other species that share the planet with us. The human race could profit by having more such occasions for observing other organisms. It is a good reminder of our obligations of stewardship to the Earth.

Rust fly, Loxocera fumipennis.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

A New Book is in the Pipeline

Apologies for being away for so long, but at least I have a decent excuse. I have been at work on a new book, and only yesterday submitted the manuscript, and associated images and captions, to the publisher. This does not represent the end of the process. I still must respond to critiques from reviewers, evaluate proofs once the design team generates them, and create an index. I also need to get paperwork to friends and colleagues who supplied images, so they can be properly credited and compensated.

I got a professional headshot for the book.

What will the book be about? It will be something of a "field guide companion," with techniques for observing insects in the field. It is also an attempt to generate the same enthusiasm for "bugwatching" that birding currently enjoys. Lastly, I wanted to address diversity, inclusion, and accessibility for demographic categories that are all too often ignored, or actively excluded, from natural history recreation in general. Bugwatching is for everyone, or should be.

I had the privilege of working with a wonderful artist, Samantha Gallagher, who created the most amazing illustrations to complement the photos. Authors do not always get to choose artists, so I was very grateful for that opportunity, and delighted when Sam agreed to do it.

Now that the bulk of work is behind me, I can turn more attention back to my blogs. I hope to get you all caught up on the outcome of the 2024 City Nature Challenge here in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area in the U.S., the results of another prairie bioblitz in Missouri, tell more life cycle stories, and ask whether periodical cicadas are potentially threatened or endangered species, among other topics. I am almost two years behind in editing photos and posting them to iNaturalist, which is usually my first order of business.

Heidi got us both new iPhones, and I like the camera feature so much! Dogbane Beetle, Chrysochus auratus.

Thank you for staying with me through these periods when you hear only "crickets" coming from this website. You are much appreciated. I promise that the next entry here will not be another "proof of life" post.