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A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest
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A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest

Published: April 7 Author: Dr. Robert Cannings Published by: Harbour Publishing Price: $ 7.95 USD


This review was written by Nature Canada's writing intern, Gabriel Planas. Accounting for 80 percent of the 1.5 million named species on earth; insects form the backbone of the biodiversity on our planet. I still did not know what a Snakefly was before picking up A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest. I was also unaware that the terrifying bug is considered typical in the Pacific Northwest. To combat this lack of knowledge, DR. Robert Cannings created A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest in the hopes that it would generate more interest and discussion about insects. [caption id="attachment_36344" align="alignright" width="154"] A Field Guide to Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Dr. Robert Cannings.[/caption] The 8-fold pamphlet features 70 high-quality photos with profiles on over 50 different insects.  Though the guide is priced at a steep 7.95, it still provides a good way to introduce yourself to the abundant variety of insects you will encounter in the Pacific Northwest. Being a waterproof pamphlet also makes this guide is also perfect for the hiking trails, grasslands or beaches where you may find these tiny wonders. From the introduction, I was learning more than I had ever known about insects. It hooks the reader with a plea to understand the necessity and beauty of insects. The author takes his time to clarify terms like Moulting, metamorphosis, and pupa in stark simplicity to allow the reader to engage with the material in a very casual and personal basis. The insect profiles are broken up into 19 major groups of insects, providing a brief look into their behavioral patterns, physical characteristics, and eating habits. Many times, the information provided about the insects was enough to pique my curiosity, while enough facts were left out to present further research not only as appealing but also necessary. At times, this was compelling, such as the profile of the Predaceous Diving Beetle that informed me of the air bubble that forms under the wings that allows them to breath underwater. Other times though I was disappointed with the simplicity of the profiles. Rarely did they reinforce the integral role insects play in the environment, as mentioned in the intro. It also seems like the author missed an opportunity to disclose where and how to find these insects, as they can often be tiny and hard to find. Additionally, with minimal color variation throughout the pamphlet, the 19 groups can often be difficult to differentiate and find. This confusion makes a quick scan for an insect one may see in the wild very difficult, if not impossible. While it could have pushed itself further regarding its content and layout, this guide did an adequate job to increase my knowledge and awareness of insects. Given that this was the goal of the guide, I cannot help but concede that it fulfills its purpose. If you are planning to spend time in the Pacific Northwest, this guide can be a fun addition to any other maps and travel guides you may bring with you.
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The Maddening Mosquito: Pesky and Pervasive
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The Maddening Mosquito: Pesky and Pervasive

[caption id="attachment_33210" align="alignleft" width="150"]becka-tulips Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Sunday, August 20 is World Mosquito Day! This annual day commemorates a major development in public health—the landmark 1897 discovery of the female Anopheles mosquito as the transmitter of malaria. The person behind this breakthrough was British physician Sir Ronald Ross, who went on to receive the 1902 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his pioneering work on the devastating disease. Thankfully, malaria is no longer found in Canada; however, the disease continues to persist elsewhere—worldwide in 2015, there were 212 million cases and over 400,000 deaths from the disease, disproportionately occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. There are around 3,000–3,500 species of mosquito depending on whom you ask. They belong to the family Culicidae and the genera AnophelesCulex, and Aedes. Over 80 species are found in Canada. The lifespan of a mosquito is mercifully short—ranging from a scant two weeks to six months. swarm of mosquitosOnly the Anopheles mosquito transmits malaria; however, different species are vectors for other grave infectious illnesses. For instance, the Culex variety spreads encephalitis and West Nile virus, while Aedes varieties such as the Aedes aegypti transmit dengue, yellow fever, and both West Nile and Zika viruses. While found mainly in tropical regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, these diseases could be transmitted by mosquitoes in Canada should a local mosquito become infected. For example, the first human case of West Nile virus infection occurred in Ontario in 2002. Although Canada has relatively very few cases of West Nile virus transmission to humans (just 80 in 2015), it is still advisable to take precautions. Regarding Zika virus, the main transmitting species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti, doesn’t live in Canada, as our climate is too cold for them. That said, it is still unknown whether the mosquito species that do reside here could become Zika carriers. Not all species bite. Of those that do, only adult females draw blood, which they use as a protein source for their eggs. (And technically speaking, a mosquito doesn’t bite—more accurately, it cuts and drills into your skin.) Only females have the complex mouthparts used to pierce and pump blood—a long, thin, tube-like structure called a proboscis that contains six needle-like parts that collectively work to locate blood vessels and suck blood. The itchiness and irritation at the site of a bite is caused by an anticoagulant enzyme in the mosquito’s saliva which produces an allergic reaction on the victim’s skin. Mosquitoes are cold-blooded, meaning they like warmer weather. In Canada, they are most abundant from May into July, but can endure throughout the entire summer and then become dormant during chillier times. Some species can be extinguished by below-freezing temperatures. Weather and topographic conditions, including the amount of rainfall and whether that precipitation drains or pools, play a key role in determining their presence and prevalence. With this knowledge in mind, here are three recommendations to help you plan a hike and keep mosquitoes at bay: marsh plantsHike when and where mosquitoes are least active. Mosquitoes can bite at any time of day, but generally in Canada they are most active around dusk and dawn, as well as evening hours after dark, so schedule your hike accordingly. When choosing a place to hike, factor in the area's general geography and environmental conditions. Mosquitoes are largely found in and around still, stagnant water—ponds, swamps, marshes, lake edges, and moist soil—as that’s where breeding occurs. Windy areas are not ideal to mosquitoes because even the slightest breeze will hinder their flying. During daylight, if temperatures are hot, they will congregate in shady areas. Wear protective clothing and minimize your scent. Cover yourself and your kids. Think light colors, loose clothing, and long sleeves. Avoid cotton and linen and choose clothing made from tightly woven fabrics, such as nylon or polyester, which make it harder for the bugs to reach your skin. If possible, tuck your pants into your socks. Keep in mind that mosquitoes fly very close to the ground, so take extra care to protect the lower half of your body. If you are doing more than a casual hike, consider using a netted hat and purchasing permethrin-treated clothing, which although not available to civilians in Canada, is not banned and can be purchased online from U.S. vendors. Reduce or avoid the use of scented hygiene products—shampoo, deodorant, or body wash—before your hike, and do not wear cologne or perfume. Use proven mosquito repellents on both your clothes and your skin. In Canada, only repellents that have been approved by the government for their safety and effectiveness are sold. Visit Health Canada’s Insect Repellents web page for a list of approved insect repellents and recommended concentrations for adults, children, and infants. Repellents are available in several forms, such as sprays, lotions, and moistened wipes. Their active ingredients are DEET, icaridin (known as picaridin in the United States), soybean oil, citronella oil, P-Menthane-3,8-diol, or a mixture of essential oils derived from lemon, eucalyptus, pine needle, geranium, and camphor. Whatever you use, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully and be mindful of age restrictions and potential allergic reactions to ingredients. Acknowledgements: The Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadian Paediatric Society, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Health Canada, MacLean’s, Malaria Journal, National Geographic, Prevention Magazine, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, World Health Organization

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The Insects of Summer
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The Insects of Summer

This blog post is a continuation of Summer Nature Notes, touching on the other aspect of summer – insects. It was written by Nature Canada member Steve Gahbauer and edited by Sam Nurse. There is, however, another side to the summer’s heat and humidity: it produces hordes of swarming insects. The air is humming with the buzz of all kinds of these critters, some of them the annoying stinging and biting type, like mosquitoes, sandflies, horse and deer flies, and nasty gnats. Nobody really knows for sure how, when and where insects have emerged and evolved. It was only 23 years ago – in 1994 – that paleontologists, who probed the fertile fossil beds in Western Australia, discovered a 15 cm long cockroach-like amphibian (now named kalbarria) that may be the ancestor of all insects. Whatever their origin, they now are bountiful; insects outnumber humans by approximately 200 million to one. Yes, a few of them are pesky beasties that seriously detract from enjoying cottage life, camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. That is why we dislike them, but that sentiment is misplaced because they are indispensable in preserving the wilderness we treasure and deserve more respect than they get. [caption id="attachment_23164" align="alignleft" width="413"]Northern myotis bat clinging to a surface, species at risk The Northern Myotis bat (Myotis septentrionalis) is an endangered species in Ontario and across Canada.[/caption] Blackflies, for instance, are a barometer of good water quality, and there would be major consequences for stream productivity if they were eliminated. Mosquitoes fill an essential role in the food chain, both as nutrition for other species and as pollinators for grasses, goldenrod and orchids. They are also an important food source for many bird and bat species. Bats consume 3,000 or more mosquitoes and other insects every night. (According to The Texas Gardener, they are also responsible for up to 95% of the seed dispersal essential to the regeneration of forests; so don’t dismiss bats!) Insects have developed astounding and sophisticated systems of chemical warfare and communication about 348 million years before humans even entered the world stage. Yet, this amazingly diverse and complex group of insects has been vilified, pilloried and, in many cases, exterminated for no other reason than they bug us. They are misunderstood creatures that play a vital role in ecosystems but many suffer from our intolerance – we swat and zap them at will. Less than 1% of all known insect species are considered potential pests; the other 99% suffer from negative stereotyping when they should actually be lauded. These marvels of evolution and adaptation are powerful creatures that can lift 50 times their own weight, wear their skeletons like armour, smell with their antennae, hear with their abdomens or front legs, and breathe through a series of minuscule holes in their body walls. Our repulsion is totally misguided. Rather we should marvel at them. The summer also brings creatures with a huge appetite to many of our trees: very hungry gypsy moth caterpillars that prefer chomping on the leaves of choke cherry, oak, maple, spruce, birch and aspen. They have a natural breeding cycle that peaks about every 7 – 10 years. This summer appears to be one where they will reach high infestation levels, according to Matthew Cutler, a spokesperson for the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. He says that normally there would be about 10,000 gypsy moths in the space of a hectare, but at peak infestation there may be that many in just one tree. To deal with the expected problem, the City will approve some spraying by helicopter of bacillus thurigiensis, as well as some ground spraying, tree injection, and mass egg removal in some areas. The moths are an invasive species that was first introduced to North America from Europe in 1869. [caption id="attachment_26830" align="alignright" width="408"]Image of a Canadian Goose and turtles Rouge Park[/caption] To end with here are some good news about our beloved Rouge National Urban Park, now a full 79.1 square kilometres. After five years of work to ensure that the park has the level of protection needed, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) celebrated the passage of Bill C-18 by the House of Commons and Senate. The Bill received Royal Assent on June 19. Now nature will be the top priority of the park's management by law. This is the first National Urban Park in Canada, proclaimed in May 2015, and Nature Canada, CPAWS and friends of the Rouge fought hard to ensure it has strong conservation measures, so when the model is replicated in other parts of Canada, nature will always come first. Good news indeed! On your summer hikes remember that it behooves us to develop a proper conservation ethic. However, in an imperfect world you may be forgiven for swatting a few pesky critters; after all, there are enough of them around.  S.G. Sources: Canadian Wildlife Federation, Ontario Nature, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Toronto Metro, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and field notes. Earlier Nature Notes are archived and accessible on www.rougevalleynaturalists.com by clicking on “Nature Notes”.

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The Lovely Ladybug: Natural Pest Controllers for Your Garden
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The Lovely Ladybug: Natural Pest Controllers for Your Garden

[caption id="attachment_33210" align="alignleft" width="150"]becka-tulips Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Has a Ladybug ever landed on you? You’re in luck because many consider this occurrence a sign of good fortune. As long as you allowed the Ladybug to rest as long as it wished, that is, you didn’t brush it off, the brilliantly coloured beetle will take away your troubles when it finally flies away. ladybug-on-fingerWhether this superstition holds true, the Ladybug is nevertheless a fascinating insect. Also known as a Ladybird or Lady Beetle, most of the Ladybugs we are familiar with belong to the beetle family Coccinellidae. The classic recognizable type stands out on greenery with its distinctive bright red-orange body and black spots. However, Ladybug species vary in colour, with a range of reds, yellows, oranges and browns and some do not have spots at all. There are around 6,000 known species of Lady Beetles worldwide. Of these, more than 150 occur in Canada. Ranging in length from a mere 1 millimetre to over 10 millimetres, females are typically larger than males. The two-spotted (Adalia bipunctata) and thirteen-spotted (Hippodamia tredecimpunctata) species are two examples of common ladybirds found in Canada. There is also the pervasive multicoloured Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), a non-native species introduced to North America in the 1970s by the U.S. government as a biological pest control agent. First sighted in southern Ontario in 1992, it can be easily distinguished from other Lady Beetles by the M-shaped pattern immediately behind its head. If you’ve ever been in contact with a Ladybug, you may have noticed a teeny bit of yellow excretion on your skin afterwards. This is a foul-smelling fluid that Ladybugs release from their leg joints as a defence mechanism—they are warning predators that they won’t taste good! A 2015 study at the University of Exeter found that ladybugs also use colour as a signal to potential predators—those with more brightly coloured bodies were found to have higher levels of the toxin. Thus the more conspicuous the Ladybug, the less likely it is to be attacked by birds. ladybug-on-green-leafThankfully, the Ladybug’s toxin, though sometimes annoying as an odour, is harmless to humans. In fact, Ladybugs are rather an ideal insect for many of us. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and a traditional sign of good luck, they do not transmit disease and act as natural pest controllers. They are a boon to gardens and green spaces, as they enthusiastically feed on more than 50 species of aphids—a single Ladybug can consume up to 500 aphids in one day! Lady Beetles will actually lay hundreds of eggs right in aphid colonies. Once the larvae hatch, they immediately start to feast on the nearby nourishment. Besides aphids, Ladybugs may also consume flower nectar, scale insects, small caterpillars, moth eggs, mealybugs, mites, mould, and in some cases … each other. If usual prey sources become scarce, some species of Ladybugs, both adults and larvae, have exhibited an inclination toward cannibalism, consuming eggs, pupae, and other larvae. On that rather interesting note, how can you encourage these natural pest controllers into your backyard? Ladybugs are known to enjoy the pollen flavour of flowering plants like marigolds, angelica, sunflowers, cosmos, roses, and geraniums, as well as herbs like chives, caraway, fennel, and dill. Favoured vegetable plants include cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. Ladybugs also need water, so leave out shallow bowls (and change often to prevent mosquitos). Acknowledgements: Encyclopedia of Insects, Health Canada, Michigan State University Diagnostic ServicesMother Nature Network, Penn State Department of EntomologyUniversity of Exeter, University of Florida Entomology and Nematology, Virtual Museum of Canada

Small Wonders
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Small Wonders

[caption id="attachment_27818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Leslie Abram Leslie Abram, Guest Blogger[/caption]

Look closely- You never know what you might find right in your own backyard!

This blog was written by guest blogger, Leslie Abram. You can go on a mini safari right outside your door! Take a look at the little things, like the tiny worlds inside water drops after the rain. Go looking for little creatures. You will have to look very carefully, as many of them, like this grey tree frog, blend right into their environments due to their amazing camouflage. [caption id="attachment_27824" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Grey Tree Frog Grey Tree Frog by Leslie Abram[/caption] Ambush bugs lurk on flowers they know other insects will visit, like coneflowers, yarrow, and goldenrod. They stay so still that their prey don’t even know they are there until they are in the ambush bug’s claws. Ambush bugs can catch and kill much larger prey, such as honeybees. [caption id="attachment_27820" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of an ambush bug and bee Ambush Bug waiting to grab a Honeybee by Leslie Abram[/caption] Assassin bugs also stay perfectly still and wait for their prey to come to them. This Assassin Bug Nymph has sticky front legs, which it uses to catch and hold its next meal. [caption id="attachment_27819" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Assassin Bug Nymph Assassin Bug Nymph by Leslie Abram[/caption] Shiny bronze jewels? Actually, these are Stink Bug eggs! A close look through some asparagus leaves turned up these little gems. [caption id="attachment_27823" align="aligncenter" width="698"]Image of Stink Bug Eggs Stink Bug Eggs by Leslie Abram[/caption] Who’s watching you when you don’t even know it? Take a slow walk through your yard. Look under leaves, observe what’s going on around flowers. Sit still for a few minutes and watch the dramas of nature unfold before you. [caption id="attachment_27821" align="aligncenter" width="700"]Image of a Jumping Spider Jumping Spider by Leslie Abram[/caption] Small wonders are out there waiting to be discovered!
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Catching Nature’s Bug
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Catching Nature’s Bug

[caption id="attachment_21828" align="alignleft" width="154"]Jodi and Noah Jodi Joy
Director of Development[/caption] Last month, while cleaning out a file I came upon a printed copy of our popular Lady Beetle Survey from nearly 20 years ago. It was our organization’s first project involving citizen scientists surveying for native lady beetles in Canada and helped us raise awareness about the importance of insects in the web of life. Low and behold a few days later I got a delightful email from one of our members, Linda asking for a copy of that very Lady Beetle guide. She let me know that she joined Nature Canada because of the wonderful experience of participating in the survey with her children years ago... [caption id="attachment_21800" align="alignright" width="200"]Lady Beetle Lady Beetle[/caption] “I now find myself wanting to initiate my grandson into the wonders of nature and cannot find my poster of the native Ladybird Beetles nor another of similar quality on the Internet. I have not seen a native Ladybird Beetle in several years as the Asian version proliferated by garden centres has rendered them impossible to locate. If you can help me in any way I would greatly appreciate it. I am a monthly donor to Nature Canada and am proud to be a member!” I thought “Wow” – what great timing, I had just scanned a version of the paper copy and could immediately email it to her so she could use with her grandson right away. I thanked her too for being such a dedicated member supporting us for over two decades! But especially for caring so much about nature to pass her love of nature on first to her children and now to her grandson. It just made my heart soar to know that. She replied that: “I'm planning on printing a copy of the poster so my grandson and I can hunt Ladybugs in my back yard. He lives in Toronto and although he has a small yard, it isn't nearly as "buggy" as Grandma’s Napanee yard which borders on a huge green space.  I joined Nature Canada because of an interview I saw on the now long gone "At Discovery.ca", a science based news magazine show from the early '90's. A fellow introduced the plight of the native Canadian Lady Beetle and that started a long and satisfying relationship that has encompassed a worm as well as a frog survey, and I still have the posters for those. My grandson has a lot of nature in store for him thanks to Nature Canada.” I hope others reading Linda’s story today will also consider taking time to get outside to walk hand-in- hand with your child or grandchild to show them all the critters and excitement in nature.

[caption id="attachment_21801" align="alignright" width="450"]A child exploring nature A child exploring nature[/caption] [caption id="attachment_21802" align="alignleft" width="300"]Boy looking through binoculars Boy looking through binoculars[/caption]
Linda tells me: “I am trying to impart my life-long love of Nature to my three year old grandson. He has a lust for knowledge and I have a wealth of natural history and many aspects of nature lore to pass on to him as my own mother did to me. It is indeed unfortunate that my mother is not alive to know the joy of her great grandson, but her knowledge and love of all things natural is alive in me and he will know her through me. He is well on his way to falling in love with Nature, not an easy task growing up in Toronto, but, as the saying goes, love will conquer all” If you would like to get a copy of the lady beetle poster by email or want to learn more about becoming involved with NatureWatch please visit our website to learn more.

Variable Darner Dragonfly: Did You Know?
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Variable Darner Dragonfly: Did You Know?

[separator headline="h3" title="From Prehistoric to Modern Times"] [caption id="attachment_19831" align="alignleft" width="150"]Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern[/caption] Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of 20 mm to 19 cm, but in prehistoric times dragonflies were much larger, the largest flying insects ever. The largest member of the extinct Protodonata was the Permian Meganeuropsis permiana with a wingspan of 70-75 cm. That’s the size of a hawk! Odonates, which comprise the dragonflies and damselflies, are among our largest insects with body lengths up to 75 mm. [caption id="attachment_21221" align="alignright" width="232"]Female Dragonfly Female Dragonfly[/caption] Dragonflies are in the sub-order Anisoptera ("unequal-winged") and their major characteristics are: • Hind wings are shorter and broader than fore wings. • Usually larger, strongly-flying insects often observed flying well away from water. • At rest, they hold their wings out from the body, often at right angles to it. • Eyes are very large and usually touch, at least at a point. • Larvae have no external lamellae. The Variable Darner Dragonfly does not go through complete metamorphosis like the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus); the life stages of the dragonflies and the damselflies are egg, larva, and adult. The Monarch butterfly has an additional stage: the pupa. In their larval stage, which can last several years, dragonflies live in lentic water and eat just about anything—tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, other insect larvae and even each other. After a series of moults, the nymph crawls out of the water usually in the early morning when it is safest from predators, then its exoskeleton cracks open and releases the dragonfly’s abdomen, which had been packed in like a telescope. Its four wings come out, and they dry and harden over the next several hours to days. The adult is a voracious predator, as it was as a nymph, and will eat just about any insect it can capture in flight, including mosquitoes. [caption id="attachment_21217" align="alignleft" width="175"]Nymph of Variable Darner Dragonfly Nymph of Variable Darner Dragonfly -- ©DS Chandler[/caption] The Variable Darner is named for its thoracic stripes. The males stripes are either very narrow or broken in the middle into pairs of spots, whereas the females are marked with blue, green, or yellow. This Darner is found into the boreal forest from Alaska and the Yukon Territories east across Canada to Nova Scotia, extending south to California, New Mexico, and northern New York. They can be found near lakes, ponds, and marshes. The adult flight season is early June to October. They fly late in the day, often until dark. Male Darners establish and defend territories along the shores of ponds and marshes. After males and females mate, females fly singly, without the male attached, to lay their eggs on the stems and leaves of aquatic plants. [separator headline="h3" title="How They Fly: Dragonflies Defy Evolution"] [embed]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5vzur_dragonflies-defy-evolution_tech[/embed]

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