All the Animals VI

March 2019

Lisa asked me what animals I have seen while hiking or backpacking.  Not at all strange that we were hiking at the time.

I viewed almost all of these creatures while hiking, and almost all of the spied animals are made of living flesh.

Behold the sixth in a series of columns enumerating these critters.

I like animals.


38/1    cicadas

Who the heck knows how these guys return/hatch every 17 years.  No time pieces, no calendar, no ability to read the stars.  Every 17 years.  Or it might be every 13 years, or every year for that matter.  Even without any timepieces, they keep to their schedule.  All of them, they all emerge together.  With everybody singing at the top of their…  tymbals.

If you’ve spent any time in the northern or eastern United States in the spring or the deep summer, you’ve no doubt heard the shockingly loud call of the cicada, which to me sounds like a strap of relentless rising and falling demonic jingle bells.  This drone can get very loud, very loud, up to 100 decibels, which means you can hear it for a mile away, even farther.

However do these little guys produce such an enormous hubbub?  Imagine you could collapse your ribs into your chest, intentionally.  Then expand them so suddenly that they clack into each other and on the inside of the suit of armor you put on just before you read this article.  Also, imagine that your stomach, your abdominal cavity, is mostly empty space, a perfect acoustic amplifier.

The cicada is not built quite like us, but rather it has <tymbals,> a complicated structure containing rib-like pieces and muscles that move them.  Tighten the muscle and the tymbal buckles, loosen the muscle and the tymbal relaxes, producing a click.  Do this fast enough and hard enough and the series of clicks turns into a buzz.

Only the boy cicadas produce sound this way.  The girl cicadas find it attractive.  To each his own, or her own.

38/2    17 Year Periodical Cicadas


39/1    larger elm leaf beetle

Laurel Highlands Trail
Pennsylvania
2007

39/2 soldier beetle

Mount Mansfield
Vermont
August 2013

39/3 little beetles

Erie Bluffs State Park
Pennsylvania
September 2018

39/4 ladybug

Panorama Point
Nebraska
July 2013

A ladybug is a type of beetle, the type that is believed to be the embodiment of Lady Luck.  This is why some parents dress their newborns in ladybug jammies, in the belief that fashion determines fate.

Newlyweds who come upon a ladybug should count the spots.  This informs them of the number of children they will bear, in the belief that dots determine fecundity.

Why ladybug?  In the Middle Ages, some farmers, distressed that their crops were being destroyed by plagues of aphids, prayed to the Virgin Mary to provide them some remedy.  In answer to their prayers, VM sent thousands of ladybugs to kill the aphids, and save the crops.  Hence, the name ladybug, referring to the “beetle of our Lady.”

Some think ladybugs are cute.  But not so much when there are hundreds of them, swarming.  Ladybugs, like most of us, like it warm and sheltered in the colder months.  So you might find a few dozen or a hundred or so of these colorful beetles nestled in a corner of your attic or window well, in their belief that hunkering in your house determines warmth.

39/5 The Big Blue Bug

Providence
Rhode Island
August 2012

For this story, please read http://asiwentwalking.com/nibbles-woodaway-and-friends/

39/6 ground beetle

Sassafras Mountain
South Carolina
May 2013

It’s one of the Beatles!

39/7 banded longhorn beetle

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Pennsylvania
July 2008

39/8    Pennsylvania Dingy Ground Beetle

Charles F Lewis Natural Area
Pennsylvania
June 2016

39/9 world’s largest beetle

May Natural History Museum
Colorado Springs
Colorado
June 2018

Please go to http://asiwentwalking.com/the-worlds-largest-beetle/

39/10    goliathus giganteus

May Natural History Museum
Colorado Springs
Colorado
June 2018

40/1 web

this is their home

Shaped like a vortex, it has to be as big as a Yorkshire Terrier.  I wonder if beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, flies and ants and other delectable and tasty critters get sucked in, like in those bad science fiction movies, or like my socks that go into the clothes dryer but never come out, disappearing into the vortex.

While hiking in these southern woods, we see countless spider webs like this one covering the low growth beside the trail.  Our Louisiana spiders spin webs that are decidedly different from those of their northern brethren.  We’re familiar with webs that stretch across the trail or from stem to stem, the typical flat orb web with its spiral threads and radial strands.  Down south, these funnel webs, built among the roots of trees, probably house impertinent, poisonous arachnids frequently in a bad mood.  Spiders we wish not to meet, at least not on their terms.

Driskill Mountain

Louisiana

June 2012

40/2

I’ve come upon a graph that measures the number of legs on the X scale and degree of cuteness on the Y scale, or adorable as a function of number of appendages.  I don’t have permission to reproduce the graph but here is what we learn…

number of legs = cuteness

0 = creepy

1 = unfortunate

2 = pretty normal

3 = unfortunate

4 = awww, adorable!

5 = 1/2 way between unfortunate and pretty bad

6 = worse than creepy

7 = even worse than that

8 = Gaaah!  Kill it!  Kill it!

40/3    maybe a lattice orb weaver

Driskill Mountain
Louisiana
June 2012

40/4 black widow

Driskill Mountain
Louisiana
Yowie zowie!
July 2012

Please read http://asiwentwalking.com/black-widow/

Having summited Driskill Mountain, the highest point in Louisiana, we wander the trails we find up here.  Returning to the summit from one dead end trail, we log another first.  Perched up there, in the shadow of the eave of the signboard, is a black spider with a red mark on the back of its abdomen.  Hmm, let me look closer.  No, not exactly an hourglass.  N’wait, yeah, it is.  Yep, it really is.  It’s a black widow!  A first sighting for both of us!

40/5    some kind of orb weaver or banana spider

Fern Forest Nature Center
Florida
December 2008

40/6 jumping spider?

Shenandoah National Park
Virginia
June 2010

40/7 yellow sac spider?

Shenandoah National Park
Virginia
May 2016

40/8 could not, for the life of me, identify what kind of arachnid this is

the big island
Hawaii
June 2016

40/9 barn spider

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Pennsylvania
July 2018

40/10 daddy long legs

Raccoon Creek State Park
Pennsylvania
July 2017

My backpacking and philosophy buddy Sally always said that daddy long legs spiders smell like cherries.

40/11 daddy long legs

Teaberry Trail
Bear Run Nature Reserve
Pennsylvania
May 2007

40/12 some kind of spider

40/13 spider

Hartwood Acres
Pennsylvania
July 2004

40/14 spider

Tomlinson State Park
West Virginia
September 2005

40/15 spider

Fern Forest Nature Center
Florida
December 2009

40/16 tarantula

May Natural History Museum
Colorado Springs
Colorado
June 2018

40/17 scorpion and family

May Natural History Museum
Colorado Springs
Colorado
June 2018

one of nature’s more disgusting offers


41 Jean-Clawed


42/1 alligator

Myakka River State Park
Florida
February 2002

42/2 alligator

Myakka River State Park
Florida
February 2002

At trailhead is a warning sign that alligators might pop out at us at any moment.  We are instructed not to feed them nor to tease them.  Tease them?  I’m going to tease a leathery 600-pound crushing crocodilian that has teeth the size of my liver?  Umm, okay, no teasing.

42/3 alligator

Everglades Alligator Farm
Homestead
Florida
January 2018

42/4 alligator

Everglades Alligator Farm
Homestead
Florida
January 2018

Lisa can make friends with anyone.

42/5 baby alligators

Everglades Alligator Farm
Homestead
Florida
January 2018

42/6 alligator or frog

Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve
Pennsylvania
September 2014

43    extatosoma popa carlbergi stick insect

May Natural History Museum
Colorado Springs
Colorado
June 2018
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