Crane Fly

Bug Bits
Name: Crane Fly
Family: Tipulidae
Native to: Crane Flies are found throughout the world, though individual species may have a limited range.
Date Seen: July 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes: A Crane Fly has a pair of membranous wings, large compound eyes, and very long legs. Many types of Crane Flies do not eat when in their adult stage.

They look like oversized mosquitoes…

Bee Fly – a Pollinator and a Predator

Did you know that over 925,000 species of insects have been identified? Entomologists believe this is only 20% of the total number of insect species in the world. While all insects play in important role in the life cycle of something, the most prolific ones seem to be the ones that are simply a pain to have around. Ants, fleas, hornets, mosquitoes, cockroaches – you can probably add to this list with the ones that invade your home or garden!

Some flies and gnats were sitting on my paper and this disturbed me; I breathed on them to make them go, then blew harder and harder, but it did no good. The tiny beasts lowered their behinds, made themselves heavy, and struggled against the wind until their thin legs were bent. They were absolutely not going to leave the place. They would always find something to get hold of, bracing their heels against a comma or an unevenness in the paper, and they intended to stay exactly where they were until they themselves decided it was the right time to go.
– Knut Hamsun, Hunger –

The Bee Fly is one of those insects that has a good side and a bad side – it is a Pollinator but it is also a Bee Predator.

This Bee Fly was drinking nectar from the flowers of a Spiraea Bush. From a distance, it was just a small black fly. The story changed with the macro lens – two tone wings and big buggy eyes!

Bug Bits
Name:  Bee Fly
Family:  Bombyliidae
Native to:  The Bombyliidae Family of insects are found throughout much of the world. Little is known about them due to lack of research. They are flower pollinators.
Date Seen:  June 2019
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes:  Bee Flies have two membrane-like wings, often with interesting patterns on them. They spread their wings out when they rest. Their bodies are usually covered with fine gray, yellow, brown and/or black hairs. The dark side of it’s life cycle is – bee fly eggs are laid in underground bee nests. The resulting larva feeds on bee stored pollen and also eat bee larvae.

Digital Magic
I ran the Bee Fly through Topaz Studio filters and this is what I got:

Topaz Studio Cartoon Filter
Topaz Studio Kaleidoscope Filter
Topaz Studio Painter filter
Topaz Studio Telb014 filter

What is your tolerance level for insects when a fly lands on your kitchen counter, an ant tries to make off with a crumb from your picnic plate, a mosquito makes a withdrawal from your blood bank or a flea makes your dog itch?

Mosquitoes – What Do they Eat?

We all know that the mosquitoes quest for food ends when they find a source of blood. But did you know that mosquitoes suck nectar too and only the females take a blood meal?

I didn’t know the bit about the nectar.  It does make me think about how many millions of mosquitoes my flowers have fed over the years…

55-mosquito

If only mosquitoes sucked fat instead of blood.
– Unknown –

The mosquito is the state bird of New Jersey.
– Andy Warhol –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Quest.

Hoverfly – Animated GIF

This post is for Mark Armstrong who introduced me to the creative possibilities of Animated GIFs. He suggested I try making a GIF of a bee landing on a flower (he must have seen the photos I did of bugs after I got my macro lens!). The bees were too busy to become involved in this project, but I did have a colorful Hoverfly on a nice yellow flower and it said it would might be interested in participating.

30-hoverflySo I stuffed the Hoverfly into a 295X200 pixel file in Photoshop Elements (it took a lot of  pushing and shoving to get what was actually a big hoverfly into such a small space!) Then I extracted the Hoverfly and saved it as a separate layer.  I did a bunch of other things until I had five layers, four with a Hoverfly in different positions, and one with no hoverfly. Finally, I saved the whole thing as an animated GIF.

TaDa – The Hoverfly visiting a yellow flower, over and over again. Of course, if I was going to do it right, I should have moved the wings and legs a bit to enhance the feel of movement. But at this point, the hoverfly was quite tired of my demands, so I called it a day.

Hoverflies are common throughout the world, and are important pollinators of flowering plants in a variety of ecosystems worldwide.

This is just a simple example of what can be done with Animated GIFs. Much more intricate results can be obtained by manipulating a video. These are called Cinemagraphs,. Some wonderful examples are at From Me to You.

Mosquito be Gone – Trying out a Few Products

3-mosquito1Apparently some people give off a smell that masks the odour that attracts mosquitoes. Some people  build up a tolerance to mosquito bites and hardly notice they have been bitten. (This would describe my spousal unit.) Some people attract mosquitoes within 15 seconds of stepping outdoors, and the bites they get swell up to itchy red blotches the size of quarters that bother them for a week or two. That would be me.

Mosquito season is just getting into full swing this year, and I am already getting tired of itchy spots. It is clear that I am allergic to these  bites. Yesterday I visited my pharmacist, and she suggested two things. The first is a test run of an antihistamine, in this case Desloratadine. The second is an after bite cream – Hydrocortisone.

Of course, the first lines of defense are repellents, and adequate cover up clothing. The mosquitoes that attack me laugh at both of these things. If there is a square centimeter of unprotected skin, a mosquito will find it. And normal repellents? Not very effective on me for very long.

Friends suggested I try some botanical repellents.  So, today I tried out a new mosquito program. I started out with an anti-histamine. Then I lathered my exposed skin with a hand lotion made with grapefruit and lemon.  I headed out into the bug war zone… Within seconds the first wave had arrived – and they headed right for my husband. They left me alone. Clearly citrus based products were making me invisible to mosquitoes!

Later that morning the lotion must have worn off, because I got my first bite. I was far from home (and my grapefruit/lemon hand lotion), so I tried my nephews bottle of  Off! Botanicals. That worked for a while, but I didn’t like the smell as much. Towards the end of the day, and far from my grapefruit/lemon hand lotion and the Off! Botanical, I tried my daughters Off! Deep Woods. This was reasonably effective, but a bit greasy feeling. By now I had a couple of bites, so I  tried the Hydrocortisone Cream, which was very fast acting and effective. Later that night, I put some more cream on. For some reason it didn’t work at all. The next morning I realized why. My little tube of hydrocortisone was missing, but a very similar looking tube of toothpaste was sitting in its place…

Many studies have been conducted to determine repellent effectiveness. Some of them were very scientific, like the one done by The New England Journal of Medicine. They studied 7 products in a controlled laboratory.  Some studies were less scientific, like the one related at Bug Off! They tested 9 products and lots of beer. And one study, mine, was haphazard at best, but made me feel like I was going to get through mosquito season more comfortably than last year.

3-waspJust when I thought I might be able to get through this summers mosquito season, I disturbed a wasp. It took exception to my presence and stung me. That was two days ago. The area around the bite is now an angry red welt about two inches in diameter. It certainly puts mosquito bites into perspective…

Fly Proof Your House

I have two coats of paint to apply to the walls today in order to see some progress on a renovation that was started in January. This renovation is a continuation of last years project, which took  two and a half months. And this was a continuation of a project the year before, which took most of the summer.

There were two goals to doing this work. From my husbands perspective, we were going to make this house less drafty, and therefore reduce fuel consumption. Note, I said reduce consumption, not reduce cost. From my perspective, we were going to banish house flies from ever entering the house again.

House flies might seem like a minor inconvenience, but when 30 or 40 of them are buzzing around  the room every day, sitting on my supper, and batting themselves silly inside lamp shades at night, they are a real pain.

The first year, The Car Guy bought several cases of sealer, and went around the outside of the house filling every crack and cranny he could find. There was no appreciable difference in the fly population, but it likely helped the draft situation. The next year, we started addressing the problem from the inside, and started with the family room. We removed all the tongue and groove pine wall boards, vapor barrier and insulation. When we identified the places where flies and mice were obviously entering, we filled the holes. Then, we reinstalled the insulation, vapor barrier, and drywall. (And caulked the windows, put down new flooring, replaced the old bar cabinets, etc, etc.)

We were so pleased with the result of this project, that this year we are doing the same thing to the dining room, living room, front entry, stairs, and hallway. We didn’t find any places where the “mickey’s” are coming in, but found a few more crevices that were being used by the flies. Fly be Gone – and now they are. It is wonderful.

There are a few of lifes little unanswered questions in this story. We don’t have any more flies coming into the house, but we also have very few flies outside, either. Is it because they don’t hang around houses that they can’t get into? Or is it because fly populations swell and crash for some reason? Will we ever be completely finished any reno project before we start another one?  How many years from now will the next owner of this house tear of the baseboards in the living room and say, “Oh look, this wall was once painted Autumn Leaf!”?