Saturday, June 30, 2012

Olympic National Park

OK, so this first photo was not on the Olympic Peninsula, but it is equally amazing in itself. It is Multnomah Falls in Oregon and we had to turn around and see it after a day of collecting bugs. We took the dogs, (I posted some photos on facebook), but when we got up to the falls where I wanted to photograph them they were getting so much attention that we could hardly do anything. Luckily John could escape off to the side and shoot this.

We then ended up going up to the Olympic National Park to see some cool insects as well as the rainforest! Unfortunately this was our first bad day of rain and that put a damper on the insect collecting. In the morning we were able to get these shots of an AMERICAN RAINFOREST! I love this place and would like to spend more time here. This was the Hoh Rainforest on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.

Kendra and John

Monday, June 25, 2012


Yosemite is an amazing place. The views were outstanding. However, what you don't see in these pictures is that there are TONS of people everywhere. I am very glad that many people wan to see  a national park, but as some point it felt like an amusement park. Yosemite valley was incredibly packed with people. We don't take pictures of people so here are some really cool scenery pictures. The place is breathtaking.

We came into Yosemite from the east on the Tioga Road, near Mono Lake. I would recommend staying in that area. June Lake is a very small fishing town with few people.  But you get the mountains and nice views. Below is Toulumne Meadows near the east entrance to Yosemite.

This is Tenaya Lake it is also near the east entrance to Yosemite. The rain clouds had just rolled in and gave us a neat view.

As you start to drive west you start to get glimpses of the Yosemite valley.  In the background you can see half dome.

We drove up to Glacier point first to get a really good view of the Yosemite valley and there were stunning views after stunning views.

Here is a view of Yosemite Valley you can see all the buildings down there! Lots of people!! :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees!

Again we are getting lots of different Bumble Bees up here! It is great to see so much diversity. However many people get Bumble Bees and Carpenter Bees confused. Bumble Bees have hair on their abdomen and Carpenter Bees do not, their abdomens are shiny like the individuals below. Bumble Bee's have hair on their abdomen.

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa (Notoxylocopa) tabaniformis orpifex)

California Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica)

We love seeing the Bumble Bees up here and the populations seem to be doing well. Even thought several studies have said that populations have decline, from a  fungal pathogen, Nosema bombi.
Other studies have also proven that the abundance of the European honey bee has also caused a decline in the populations because of competition. European Honey Bee's collect the nectar causing a scarcity of nectar in areas for the Bumble Bee. Bumble Bee's respond by sending more foragers to get nectar instead of pollen. This in return leads to fewer offspring of the Bumble Bee. 

There are things that can be done. The Xerces Society is helping land managers create strategies for increasing pollinator numbers. Land managers need these pollinators for wild flowers, blueberries, tomatoes and many other crops. There are also local groups trying to create habitat for bees like Texas Bee Watchers.  You can make your yard more bee friendly as well. Below are some of the Bumble Bee's we have seen along the way.

Nevada Bumble Bee (Bombus nevadensis)
                                        Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)

                                        California Bumble Bee (Bombus californicus)

We also got one of these guys in flight!

Kendra and John

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sierra Nevada Insects!

We are really racking up the insects in CA! They take longer to process and ID so we have not been posting as many. So here are several of our insects that we have gotten in the Sierra Nevada's .

Like most things the smaller these guys are the more amazing they are when you get to see their detail.

Thread wasted wasp, Sphecid family Ammophola sp in honor of our good friend Hook who studies this family in Trinidad. This is guy is from California but still a very beautiful insect.

Lace wings!!! These are always beautiful! Different species than we have in Texas but looks very similar! This is a Green Lacewing (Pseudomallada sp., prob. perfectus)

Ant lions (Myrmeleon sp., prob. either rusticus or timidus) look similar to damselflies but are very different. Their nymphs are not aquatic like damselflies. Their nymphs are actually found in the little funnels in the sand on the beach or any other sand or fine soil that you walk through. They use them as little pit fall traps to catch other insects and eat them. They are a wild looking little creature as a larva!

However they become a very beautiful adult insect! They look similar to damselflies but you know they are not because you can see the relatively large antennae. Damselflies have antennae, they are just very small and hard to see with the naked eye!

Downy Leather-winged Beetle or Soldier Beetle (Podabrus pruinosus) seems to be everywhere we go! He still looks much more beautiful when you get to see him up close and with a lot of light!

Western tent caterpillars (Malacosoma californicum) can be VERY abundant! In fact John came in from outside and about 20 of these moths came in the trailer with him. Yikes we are still pulling these guys out. In fact their was one in the shower this AM.
I love the way the antennae look on these guys, almost like little horns.
In the morning we found these cool eggs from the Western Tent Caterpillar laying on the table. 

Blue Milkweed Beetle (Chrysochus cabaltinus) are a stunning beetle. I swiped this little guy out of the air as he was flying by. They eat milkweed as their name implies but unlike Monarchs do not get toxins from the plant. They actually will cut a piece of the leaf and let the sap (containing the most of the toxins) run out before they proceed eating the plant. The female however will place a protective coating of her feces around the eggs which contains a rather high concentration of the toxin.

There are a lot more pictures on flickr just click on any of the pictures and you should be able to scroll through the rest of the photos if you would like. We have a lot more to ID and process but this is a start!

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Oldest living organisms, OH MY!

So our first night in Yosemite was eventful we are staying in a little town called June Lake which is wonderful because we avoid a lot of the crowds. We got ourselves all settled in at our RV site, placed our 50lb bag of dog food locked in the action packer outside and fell asleep. Well at 4 AM I heard a thudump rump, thudump rump. I woke John up and said listen...... thudump lump, thudump, lump. John got up and walked to the back of the trailer. Our metal basket that has two action packers bolted to it was outside under the bed in the back of the RV. There was a bear trying to break into our dog food. John yelled quick and unzipped the window. The bear was gone but had thrown that 200lb basket around like it was a cotton ball. We decided we should get the dog food and put it in the truck. We decided against the trailer because we figure he could easily break in if he really wanted to. It was dark and as we were going to the back to get the food we heard a low grown.....we shined the flash light and did not see anything. We then realized our neighbors water heater was kicking on and our low growl was just water heating up!
Unfortunately no photos! But this was our "bears oh my", experience so far! Not a total loss our action packer has some really cool scars and may e a bit more ventilated now!
We were lucky enough to visit the Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva) our first day here. They are the oldest living organisms on earth! 4000 years old. It is actually quite unbelievable. It seems like all things that are that old, look dead and struggling. We got to see Welwitschia (Welwitschia mirabilis) when we were in Africa several years ago. It is a very cool dead looking plant as well. Welwitschia is a gymnosperm, seed producing plant. Gymnosperm is actually Greek for naked seed which these plants have. There is not a fleshy or protective covering over the seed. It is the only species in the entire order Welwitschiales. They produce a reproductive structure that looks very much like a pine cone. This individual pictured below is the second oldest living organism at a young 2000 years old!

Our bristle cones are the oldest living organism about twice as old as Welwitschia! These plants are around 4000 years old however they are not very big. They grow slowly and therefor the rings you can use to age are much smaller! You can see the very fine lines that show the age below. This tree died in 1676 and because it is soooo dense it has not rotted or decayed yet.

Here are some photos of the live trees. They are also Gymnosperms and produce pine cones. They look dead but they are very much alive!

These trees were beautiful but the views at 10,000 feet were also amazing.

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Saves the best for last!

The black light was outstanding last night! Fishflies are ALWAYS fun to find. Specifically the California Fishfly (Neohermes californicus). The fish flies are different from ours in Texas because of these long antennae. These antennae are finely serrated and remind me of a hand saw blade. We are hoping this individual will fly for us tonight so we can get some flight shots.

We also got an alate Pacific Northwest Dampwood Termite. This guy is about 3-4 times the size of our typical subterranean termite. Which makes sense, since they have some of the largest trees in the world to take care of!

We also got a very unique (to us Texans) bostrichid beetle also known as powder post beetles. These guys look like the puppy dogs of the insect world, they have a sad dog look to the head. As cute as these guys are they enjoy eating all sorts of oak species. They tunnel into dead or live wood and create a powder (hence the powder post beetle). They then lay their eggs and the larvae hatch and feed on the wood. This is the California Stout's Hardwood Borer, Polycaon stouti , and this species has been known to survive as a larva for 20 years. People have reported them burrowing out of their 20 year old cabinets! Since adults will not burrow into treated lumber the larva or eggs lived for 20years!

We are now on our way to June Lake, near Yosemite! Only a 4.5 hour drive! Below is the map!

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Our Sequoia at home with Sequoias.

California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

We went to Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Park and it was of course amazing. Oddly enough Kings Canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon! Kings Canyon is 8200 feet at Cedar Grove and the Grand Canyon is 6000feet at its deepest point!

Below is the Kings River running through Kings Canyon!

You can actually drive right down into the canyon which is neat but John thought made it not seem as grand as the Grand Canyon. Here is another picture of the Kings River up close. 

Grizzly Falls is actually not in either National Park. It is in Sequoia National Forest. However this waterfall is beautiful, if you could design your own waterfall I think you would make it like this!

We of course got to see several of the giant Sequoias including General Sherman and General Grant, our nations Christmas tree, don't worry though, it does not get decorated, they just place a wreath at its base. Some of these trees are just breathtaking, they are soooo perfect. I have to say that General Sherman (worlds largest tree) was not the prettiest tree but each year he grows the equivalent of a 50 foot tall and 1 foot in diameter tree! General Sherman is a growing machine.We unfortunately did not take General Sherman's picture because the light was horrible and there were about 100 people at the base. This is a picture from 1907 of a man and a couple of horses at the base.

These are a few of the Giant Sequoia's that we saw. Including "The Twin Sisters" which were two Sequoia trees growing together. We saw this a LOT on the trail of 100 Giants in the National Forest. "The Twin Sisters" were very nice and symmetrical.

We looked high and low for a place to photograph OUR Sequoia with the Giant Sequoia's and this was on the way to Grants Grove! I think our Sequoia was happy to enjoy The Great Sequoia National Park. Although it was ready for a rest after the day of mountain climbing and descending. 

We also got to see Tharps Log. Tharp was an early explorer that made a home out of this log. There was a bed frame and a table still made out of Sequoia Red wood in the log! He had a fire place and a nice window! He also had an amazing view.

Finally we went to Crescent Meadow in hopes to get a glimpse of a black bear. No such luck but hopefully we will get to see them in Yosemite!

Kendra and John
- posted from ipad during the international bug expedition 2012

About Me

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John is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin. Kendra is a Professor at St. Edwards University in Austin. John has focused on dragonflies and damselflies in his career. He has two books Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-central United States and The Damselflies of Texas. He is currently working on the Dragonflies of Texas. John and Kendra are also currently both working on revising the Peterson Field Guide to Insects of North America. We have had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Latin America, Africa and other parts of the world where we enjoy taking photos of pretty much anything that will allow us to capture its image. We are lucky enough to be able to teach students about the amazing biodiversity we see and to travel and photograph together.