To say the insects of Lovell are the insects of Maine . . . are the insects of New England . . . is too broad a statement as we learned last night when Dr. Michael Stastny, Forest Insect Ecologist at the Atlantic Forestry Centre in Fredericton, Canada, spoke at a Greater Lovell Land Trust talk Mike helped us gain a better understanding of the relationship between trees, invasive insects and climate change in our grand State of Maine.
And then this morning, he led us down the trail on land conserved through the GLLT as a fee property and one held under conservation easement work.
From the get-go, our curiosity was raised and we began to note every little motion above, at eye level, and our feet.
Sometimes, what attracted our attention proved to be not an insect after all for it had two extra legs, but still we wondered. That being said, the stick we used to pick it up so we could take a closer look exhibited evidence of bark beetles who had left their signature in engraved meandering tunnels.
A bit further along, Mike pulled leaf layers apart to reveal the work of leafminers and our awe kicked up an extra notch. Leafminers feed within a leaf and produce large blotches or meandering tunnels. Though their work is conspicuous, most produce injuries that have little, if any, effect on plant health. Thankfully, for it seems to me that leaves such as beech are quite hairy when they first emerge and I’ve always assumed that was to keep insects at bay, but within days insect damage occurs. And beech and oak, in particular, really take a beating. But still, every year they produce new leaves . . . and insects wreak havoc.
Leafminers include larvae of moths (Lepidoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), sawflies (Hymenoptera) and flies (Diptera). I’m still trying to understand their life cycles, but today we got to see their scat when Mike pulled back a leaf layer! How cool is that? Instantly, I recognized a new parlor trick that I can’t wait to share with the GLLT after-school Trailblazers program we offer through Lovell Recreation.
As for today, Mike’s mother-in-law, Linda, tested the wow factor on her granddaughter and we knew we had a winner.
Our attention was then directed to the tussock moth caterpillars, including the hickory tussock moth that seems to enjoy a variety of leaf flavors.
And we found another tussock entering its pupating stage. We didn’t dare touch any of them for the hair of the tussocks can cause skin irritation and none of us wanted to deal with that.
Our next find was a leaf roller, and for me the wonder is all about the stitches it creates to glue its rolled home closed.
Eventually we reached a wildflower meadow where our nature distraction disorder shifted a bit from insects to flowers, including local goldenrods.
There was much to look at and contemplate and everyone took advantage of the opportunity to observe on his/her own and then consult with others.
One insect we all noted was the Silvery Checkerspot Butterfly. It’s a wee one and in the moment I couldn’t remember its name.
But . . . it remembered how to canoodle and we reveled in the opportunity to see such.
Our final insect notification was a bumblebee on the Joe-Pye-Weed. A year ago we had the opportunity to watch the bumblebees and honey bees in this very meadow, but today there were no honeybees because a local beekeeper’s hives collapsed last winter.
Our public walk ended but the day continued and I move along to the Kezar River Reserve to enjoy lunch before an afternoon devoted to trail work.
Below the bench that sits just above the river, I love to check in on the local exuvia–in this case a darner that probably continues to dart back and forth along the shoreline, ever in search of a delectable meal.
Landing frequently for me to notice was an Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly, its body all ruby colored and legs reddish rather than black.
My goal was to slip down to the river level like the local otters might and as I moved along I startled a small snake–a milk snake. Not an insect . . . but still!
Because I was there, so was the female Slaty Slimmer Dragonfly, and she honored me by pausing for reflection.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice her subtle beauty, for love was in the air and on the wing.
Lovell hosts many, many insects, but I certainly have a few favorites that change with the season and the location. Today, Ruby Meadowhawks were a major part of the display.
Note the yellowish-brown face; yellowish body for a female; and black triangles on the abdomen, and black legs.
Our findings today were hardly inclusive, but our joy in noticing and learning far outweighed what the offerings gathered.
Ruby, Slaty, Miner, Tussock, Checkerspot, so many varieties, so many Insects of Lovell, and we only touched on the possibilities. Thank you, Mike, for opening our bug eyes!
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