Bug Hunters

I finally found the charger for my camera battery, so today when we went to the park we brought it with us. We found several interesting insects and took photos of them. Later at home DD looked through her Insects of the Pacific Northwest book and we sought to identify them.

This little fellow was so small that it was hard to photograph well. It was the first one DD found in her book – its a Long-horned beetle called Brachysomida californicus. I confess I was a bit doubtful at first, but after thumbing through the tome with her it was concluded that she was spot on. Other candidates (based on the irridescent green colour of the carapace) were the Green Ostamid beetle (but the head was too large and ours did not have noticeable jaws), and the Lamellicorn beetle Dichelonyx spp. whose short antennae did not resemble our bug. Later on I privately changed my mind and now think that we found a Green Dock Beetle – the photo in the book made it hard to compare, but I considered the reported sizes (5 mm versus 11 mm for B. californicus); you compare the bug to DD’s thumbnail and see what you think. Regardless, the process of comparing features of these similar-looking species with the bug in our photo was, I feel, what DD got most out of the exercise (without realizing it, lol).

The next bug was immediately recognizable by DD as a Stinkbug, but she already knows from experience that we have several varieties around here. Once again it was she who found the identity of our rather large green model in her book. It’s an Uhler’s Stink Bug which grows up to 14 mm in length. It looks very similar to the Western Red-Shouldered Stink Bug, but on further discussion DD was quite convinced that our bug lacked the characteristic red band across the shoulder seen in the latter species, and instead was a picture-perfect example of the former: “pronotum and abdomen edged with white to pale yellow”.

This final photo is of my personal favorite right now. I first found one on the balcony of our old apartment when I last visited to move out the few remaining items we had left there. It was so large and beautiful, with it’s surprising number of variations on brown. I wished DD had been there to see it. But I’ve since found a couple more on our balcony and today we managed to get a good photo of the creature, though it still doesn’t do justice to the depth of colour variation. I ended up identifying it – my eagerness and enthusiasm beating out DD in this case (and I confess we are closely matched). It’s a Western Conifer Seed Bug, a member of the Squash Bug family. According to the book they are not seen often as they spend much of their life in the tree canopy, but apparently they are not immune to falling out of those trees, one or two of which are within close reach of our balcony (though the same can’t be said of our apartment balcony – still, we discovered that they fly very well).

This type of activity is a perfect example of the joys of homelearning. I seem to have the same mental setup as DD – we love to identify and classify! It’s an activity that I would never take the time to do if not for her lead, but I’m truly enjoying myself. I have to sometimes restrain myself from taking over; I want to let her lead the way. But then again I don’t think it’s so bad to teach her to “share” the learning experience as well!

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