Winter Crane Fly

It snowed on San Juan Island this week.  We were forecast to have LOTS of rain yesterday, but instead we got more snow.   So much snow that this former Texas gal just had to get out and experience the magic of our wooded, winter wonderland.

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I got my coat, hat, and boots on, grabbed my iPhone and a pair of gloves, wrapped a scarf around my neck and set off to walk down our lonely country road.

Hoping to photograph some of our year-round feathered residents, I had my camera phone in hand.  It was really cold outside and yet I couldn’t use the touchscreen wearing my glove.  Off it came.  I could sacrifice cold fingers if I could get a shot of one of the woodpeckers or maybe a Varied Thrush.

Heading down the driveway, I noted the way the limbs of the cedars and firs bowed down under the weight of the snow.  Beneath them, little birds scurried, scratching about in the damp humus or flitting about on lower branches, enjoying a protected shelter from the cold.   It took only a moment to spy a  Dark-eyed Junco near the house on a leafless limb of our cherry tree and the Varied Thrush perched just above my head…perhaps waiting to see if I brought more seed out for them.

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Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

 

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Varied Thrush

 

A bit further down the driveway, I smiled when I saw our little carved bear.  He’s not long for this world.  The carpenter ants and the damp weather are slowly turning him into sawdust….but he rallied under his snow blanket today even though his little black nose was about all you could see.

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Snow Bear

 

Wait…isn’t this post about a Winter Crane Fly?  Well, I’m getting to that part.   I certainly wasn’t anticipating seeing any invertebrates out on a day like this.  While I’ve heard of snow fleas (not really fleas, but tiny invertebrates known as collembolans or springtails) or snow scorpionflies (Boreus spp.) found in winter in our forested area, I’ve yet to see them.   It’s really a mystery how so many of these tiny creatures survive the extreme temperatures, but that’s also what makes them so interesting.

I came across the first of about ten of these tiny, winged “cranes” before I’d made it far down the road.

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Winter “Crane”

We live in a somewhat densely forested area.  Not many houses or development to interfere with the important ecological processes going on in the natural world.  At first, it appeared to be a mosquito.  Go figure. Somehow they thrive in Alaska, Minnesota, even the Arctic…in spite of frigid temperatures!

Looking closer, I speculated it was in the family Tipulidae, a common, but harmless, mosquito-looking, awkward flying, long-legged fly!  I had to do some research to figure it out.  The Tipulids are a genus in the insect order (Diptera) and commonly called “Crane Flies.”  However, a bit of digging into the literature proved I was close to my ID of this creature, but not quite there.

What I discovered is that this is indeed a Crane Fly, but not a Tipulid.  It’s a WINTER Crane Fly in the genus Trichoceridae.  They are found flying on “warm sunny afternoons in fall, winter, and spring in the contiguous U.S., including Alaska and Canada” (Pratt 2003).  In his study, Pratt (2003) observed specimens “swarming above or on the snow in temperatures between 0℃ and 10℃.”  Maybe “warm” is subjective here!

This tiny Winter Crane Fly is very similar to the Tipulids or True Crane Flies with its long slender legs, but it differs in classification because the Winter Crane Fly has three ocelli (https://www.amentsoc.org/insects/glossary/terms/ocelli)  or simple eyes that act as light sensors and are found on top of the head.  The larvae of Trichocerid flies develop in the moist humus and decay of the forest floor and undoubtedly play some ecological role in this environment i.e. in decomposition or nutrient recycling.  At a minimum, they are a nice protein-rich winter meal supplement for the little birds I’ve seen on my walk today.

While I’m not certain of the exact species, in the article by Pratt (2003), adults of one species, Paracladura trichopera, are found flying even in winter in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California.   Perhaps it will suffice to say that I was intrigued at the cold-hardiness of such a tiny creature.  And I DO like the name, Winter Crane Fly!

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Winter Crane Fly Trichocerid spp.

 

References:

1. The winter crane flies of North America north of Mexico (Diptera: Trichoceridae)
Pratt H.D. 2003. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 105: 901-914.  http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/16212448

 

 

 

Working Checklist of San Juan Island, WA Coleoptera

This is a checklist I’ve put together of the Coleoptera of San Juan island. Beetles with (*) asterisks are those I have actually seen, photographed, or have in my collection. It is a work in progress!San Juan Island – List of Coleoptera 2016 by Cynthia Brast

 

 

Hopguard, Honey B Healthy and Yummy Smells of Lemon Balm

June 24, 2012

The sun is out today!  We’ve had almost a whole month of gloomy weather that many on the island have dubbed the month “June-u-ary!”    Perhaps the next few weeks will be warmer and the overcast skies will clear.

Last week when I checked my hive, I noticed I had the dreaded varroa mites.  My new queen is doing fine though and the bees have cleared out all of the old drone brood that was the result of my first queen.  I have no idea what became of her, but the operation in place now looks healthy…except for those mites!

Varroa mite

My day today is a full one.  I have been baking and preparing food for my daughter’s high school graduation potluck supper this evening.  While in the kitchen though, I thought I’d take care of some bee hive tasks as well.   Since the jar of sugar syrup I have inside the hive was looking low, I made up a new batch.  This one I made with a teaspoon of Honey B Healthy, a feeding stimulant that contains essential oils that “helps your hives to thrive!”  Did I mention that the lemongrass oil in it made my kitchen smell ten times better than the brownies I was baking?  No wonder my friend and bee mentor, Colleen, who recommended it, said that it makes the bees go crazy.  This stuff smells so good I’d take a bath in it if I could!  Maybe I’m turning into a bee?  They say you end up looking like your pets.  I suppose I might look like a bee when I get my new glasses!

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I also got something called Hopguard from Colleen as well.  Hopguard is a miticide made from organic acids in the hop plant, Humulus lupulus.  It contains 16% potassium salt of hop beta acids and comes in these long gooey strips that are made from food-grade products.  It is safe for my bees and the bee brood, so I don’t have to worry about dangerous chemicals.  All you do is take a sticky strip and hang it over one of your frames draped like this:

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I only hung one strip in my hive since I only have about 5 frames that have been drawn out.   I plan to put in a new strip in about ten days, as the one I put in today won’t work as well as it dries out.  You can read more and watch a video about controlling varroa mites with Hopguard when you visit these sites:

http://www.mannlakeltd.com/hopguard/

http://www.betatechopproducts.com/products/varroa-mite-control

I also put a sheet of sticky paper under the screen in my bottom board.  The mites will fall off the bees and stick to the paper.  It has a grid that makes it easier to count the number of mites, so I can see how heavily infested my bees are as well as an idea of how well the Hopguard strips are working.   I will try a quick check perhaps tomorrow and then again before I put in a new strip.

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Bee back soon with an update!

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Hiving the Bees!

Hiving my First Bees

 

    by Cynthia Brast

San Juan Island, WA

  

They’ve arrived!

The bees came today – April 11, 2012, after shipping from Oroville, CA on April 9.  I picked them up this morning at the Friday Harbor Post after they called at 07:30 a.m. to let me know the bees had arrived.

My package of Italian bees was calm and quiet when I put them into my vehicle, but I noticed more activity as I drove the 12 miles to my house.  Upon arriving, I sprayed the package with a mist of sugar water in a 1:1 ratio.  I was mesmerized by the energy coming from the package.  There was a natural heat radiating from the box, and a rhythm…almost like a heart beating.  I also noticed a sweet, fragrant, bees-waxy smell diffusing from the package.

My plan is to hive the package today after 4:30 p.m.  I am waiting for my daughter to come home so she can observe…and take photos!  The bees have spent the afternoon in the basement area of my house where it is about 60 degrees and quiet.

Unfortunately we’ve had some rain here today.  Outside right now at 4:13 p.m., the temperature is at 50 degrees.  We have a light drizzle.  I misted the bees again about an hour ago.

My hive site is actually up against my house.  Partly for convenience for me and partly because that spot has a good overhang from the roof where the hive will stay dry and also to help the bees stay warmer since we are in the Pacific Northwest.  The added heat will be especially helpful in the cold winters here.

To prepare for my installation, I have one deep super with 9 frames inside.  I am going to mist the frames lightly with the sugar water solution beforehand.  When I am ready to start, I’ll mist the package of bees, turning the box carefully to make sure I’ve covered them.  This will keep them from flying out and also distract them as they will be eager to clean the sugar water mist off themselves.  Then, I will remove the can of sugar water in the package and take out the queen.  I definitely want to check to make sure she’s healthy and look for her mark.  I have a cardboard piece to cover the hole left in the package after I remove the can of sugar syrup so the bees don’t start to escape before I’m ready to put them in the hive.

So, after the queen is out and checked, I am going to take out the cork that seals her queen cage and stick a marshmallow there to allow the workers to release her on their own.  Having the marshmallow there allows the rest of the bees to “accept” the queen while chewing through the marshmallow.  In a couple of days, the marshmallow will be removed by the workers, giving them time to get acquainted with the queen inside and set her free.

The queen cage will need to be hung, marshmallow end up between two of the frames in the deep super.  There is a metal strip that I can bend over the top of the frames, providing a nice, secure hook.  Then, my plan for the best release given the wet drizzle outside is to stack two empty shallow supers on top of the deep and gently turn the box of bees upside down over the bottom deep super.  The shallow supers will allow me to leave the packaged bee box inside the hive overnight and will be kinder to the bees than shaking them out where some may try flying off in the wet weather.  I also plan to put my Boardman feeder jar inside the hive, placing it on top of two wood strips over the deep hive frames.  This is so the bees won’t have to crawl down through the deep super and into the Boardman feeder at the hive bottom tonight, and will make it easier for them to access the sugar syrup after their transition from the package.  I also have a 2nd jar feeder that I am going to place along with the other, giving them plenty of food for the night.

Did I mention???  The bee suit I ordered still hasn’t arrived.  I have a pair of gloves and a veil.  That’s all the gear I will use this evening.  Hopefully the bees will bee-kind!

 

 

How it went!

 

Hiving the package went surprisingly well for me as a new”bee.”   I encountered only one small hitch in the process and actually could have installed the bees sans the veil.  There was quite a hum from the package, but the bees must have sensed the evening was upon them and had clustered pretty well together.

I had all my equipment/supplies at hand:  spray bottle of sugar water, hive tool, the hive supers, a small nail, marshmallow, cardboard, and a small screwdriver.   After misting the bees, I carefully opened the package.  The tape was cumbersome and I took care to peel all of it off the box.  I used the small screwdriver to pry the edge of the feeder can up and carefully removed it, covering the opening with my piece of cardboard while I set the can aside.

Next, I removed the queen.  Her wooden cage was hung in the package with a small metal extension that hooked into a groove at the top of the package.  I slid the metal through the groove and then removed the cardboard makeshift cover over the top to allow me to bring the queen cage out.   I replaced the cardboard over the package opening and set my hive tool on top to hold it in place while I checked the queen.

The queen was in the cage alone with no attendants.  She was active and looked to be healthy.  My “hitch” in the installation came at this point though as I realized she was not marked.  I also did not have my reading glasses on under the veil and it was impossible to see if she was clipped.  I should have taken the time to remove my gloves and veil and go into the house to get my glasses.  It was raining and the gear was cumbersome, the porch had become slippery because some of the mist from the sugar water drifted, so in hindsight, I should have just made sure my glasses were outside and handy.  This is good information for me as the next time I will feel more confident in the process and probably ditch the veil if not the gloves.

I went ahead with the queen installation and removed the cork from her cage using my small nail to pry it out and carefully replacing it with a marshmallow, so the bees will be able to release her themselves.   I hung the queen cage over one of the 9 frames I had spaced in the deep super except that I hung her with the marshmallow side down.  This shouldn’t be a problem as there were no attendants inside her cage to block any exit if they died.

Next came the bees.  As outlined earlier, I had two empty shallow supers I set on top of the deep and I inverted the box, slid the cardboard covering the opening away and the bees were able to come out onto the frames.  This went really well.  There were a few fliers, but I gently misted the bees again to keep them from escaping.

After positioning the package so I could leave it in the hive overnight, I then set the jar feeder I had prepared next to the package.  The jar feeder I inverted and set on two small wood pieces that would elevate the jar just enough to allow the bees easy access.  This also went extremely well and I was able to complete the installation by placing the inner and outer cover on the hive.

My last steps were to take my extra Boardman feeder jar and place it on outside holder of the hive.  Originally, I had intended to put both feeder jars inside the hive, but changed my mind in the process.  I had trouble getting the Boardman holder to stay in position and had to wiggle it in next to the entrance reducer.  At first, there were some bees coming out under the Boardman feeder and this allowed me to see that it wasn’t pushed in all the way.  With that corrected and my entrance reducer in place, I had finished and the bees were ready for their first night in a new hive.

Photos

My daughter was great and assisted me in the installation by handing me equipment as necessary, but most importantly, she documented the process by taking photos and video.  Some photos can be found below and are also available to view on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thephotobug.

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With Yvonne at the Friday Harbor Post Office

San Juan Island, WA 98250

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Donning my gloves!

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Removing the Queen Cage

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The Queen!

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Putting the package of bees into the hive.

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Inside view

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All Done!

The End!

It’s a Boy! Love, Cow and Pig

I get all sorts of creative and imaginative inspiration from Cow and Pig…or maybe it’s Pig and Cow.  So here’s another poem for your to enjoy now!

It’s a Boy!  Love, Cow and Pig

Cow and Pig they danced a jig,

And moo’d & oinked with joy,

For after all these years of waiting,

They’d been blessed with a baby boy!

Inside the egg he’d grown so big

Until one sunny day,

A little speck of light came through

The corner he’d pecked away.

All day long he’d worked to free

Himself from that shellac,

That when he finally made it free

He gave a loud “quack quack!”

He fluffed his yellow downy feathers,

And looked up overhead

At his parents who watched over him

Nestled in his bed.

Cow and Pig announced to all

So happy with their luck,

They wanted everyone to see

Their little baby duck.

Bugging You From Friday Harbor…..a “peacock-feathered” moth!

Alucitidae or "many-plume moth" ~ Distinguished from other families of moths by their delicate wings, fringed like the "feathers of a peacock."  They are only 3-13 mm long, gray or brown in color, and lack abdominal tympana.  They have filiform antennae, a well-developed proboscis and are nocturnal.  About 130 species have been described but there are just three species in America north of Mexico.  Read more about them in Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler.Alucitidae or “many-plume moth” ~ Distinguished from other families of moths by their delicate wings, fringed like the “feathers of a peacock.” They are only 3-13 mm long, gray or brown in color, and lack abdominal tympana. They have filiform antennae, a well-developed proboscis and are nocturnal. About 130 species have been described but there are just three species in America north of Mexico. Read more about them in Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler.

San Juan County Fair – It’s gonna be a Razzle Dazzle Wingding!

Catch a ferry and "Hop on over!" San Juan County Fair starts today...it's gonna be a "Razzle Dazzle Wingding" kinda thing!!!!! Get more info at http://www.sanjuancountyfair.org/ See you there!Catch a ferry and “Hop on over!” San Juan County Fair starts today…it’s gonna be a “Razzle Dazzle Wingding” kinda thing!!!!! Get more info at http://www.sanjuancountyfair.org/ See you there!

Flowers

Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolata) seed podPhoto of the Day ~ “Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria lanceolata) seed pod holds promises of colorful blooms for spring!”

Sometimes called “rice root” or “mission bells”, chocolate lillies are found growing in open dry woodlands and in coastal meadows ranging from southern British Columbia to California.

On San Juan Island, WA, the best place to find them is at San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp on the prairie or look for them at English Camp, along the trail up Young Hill.

The bulbs of the chocolate lily are edible and were eaten or used as a trade item by many Coast and Interior Salish peoples.

Read more about them here: http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_fraf2.pdf

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