Fisherman probably already know how cool caddis fly larvae are, but I didn’t! At an amazing high mountain lake the other day, I saw strange critters moving around on the rocks in the clear water. I hung out over the lake for a closer look. They looked like part mollusk (with an cylindrical shell) and part beetle, and their “shell” (which I’ve now learned is called a case) was quite colorful, with greens, yellows, and some reds. Their bodies were in the cases, and their heads and thoraxes stuck out as they moved.
I spotted an empty case and fished it out of the with a stick. It was made of plant material!
I have since learned that these cases are made by many species of caddis flies in the larval stage. They are ornate and very intricate (including the one I found). Better still, the larvae will use whatever material is handy to construct these protective cases and uses silk that it excretes from salivary glands to bond the material together. The variety, materials, and construction are marvelous works of art.
Once the caddis fly goes through metamorphosis, they leave the case behind. Who knew? Seriously, Google caddis flies. You’ll be amazed too.
There is a lot to see and do in Colorado’s high country and for that I am eternally grateful. One of my all-time personal favorites is a hike to an alpine lake in the summertime. On those lucky days, I keep my eyes out for marmots at higher elevations. They can often be found sunning themselves atop a rock, “chirping” at the entrance to their burrow (as a warning to others), or feeding. There’s something completely endearing about them and I’m always happy to see one, especially because they spend more than half their lives hibernating.
Yes, more than half their lives – about 200 days! They spend the warmer months, roughly April/May to September/October, mating, raising pups, and fattening up again on grass, flowers, insects, and even bird eggs. Once the days shorten and the air chills, they go into their burrows. These social creatures live in colonies of 10-20 individuals and spend the coldest months huddled together in rooms insulated with hay. All the feeding they did before hibernating provides them with fat stores that they use as energy. But most interesting of all is that their body temperature drops to as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit and their heart rate slows to only 30 beats per minute (whereas their active heart rate is 180-200 beats per minute).
Sometimes I wish I could sleep away the winter like that!
Cicadas – they are loud, and this year in many Atlantic states, there will be a lot of them (up to 1.5 million in an acre!). They spend most of their lives underground and when they do emerge, they must find a mate before they die. And so, the males call out – a sound that can reach 100 decibels. By comparison, a motorcycle, jack-hammer, and a trash truck also reach the same decibel level. When there are millions of them emerging and singing at the same time, it’s a bit like a rock concert.
So how do these insects make such a racket? They have tymbals on each side of their abdomen. The tymbals are ribbed, vibrating membranes that produce sound. Cicadas contract and release their tymbals up to 400 times per second. Yes, 400 times per second. Not only that, the abdomen of a cicada is hollow like the body of a guitar, which amplifies the sound. Once the cicadas mate, and the females lay eggs, they die. The eggs will hatch in a few weeks, the nymphs will drop to the ground, burrow in, and the cycle begins again. And for those cicadas emerging en masse this year, they are among the seven of approximately 3,000 cicadas species that emerge only once every 13-17 years.
Today is world oceans day – a day to pause, to celebrate Earth’s oceans, and remember how important it is to protect them. A few facts:
- Life on Earth began in the ocean.
- The oceans cover 70% of the planet.
- 97% of all water on Earth is in the ocean.
- The oceans regulate our weather and climate.
- Microorganisms in the ocean produce over 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere.
- Many medicines have their origins in the ocean.
- The oceans provide billions of pounds of food every year.
Not only that, the biodiversity in the ocean is incredible and it is all connected. From dolphins to coral reefs, and blue whales to anglerfish, each species plays an important role.
Even the strange, yet adorable dumbo octopus is important.
And the red-lipped batfish.
And the pygmy seahorse
And Christmas tree worms.
And vent snails that live in extreme environments near hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean.
So take a moment today (or any day) to celebrate the ocean and its biodiversity…and maybe explore the oceans a little more.
Did you know that trees in a healthy forest are all connected? They are! Below the forest floor lies an extensive, complex network of hair-like fungus threads called mycelium that connects trees. Fungus! The millions of pathways in this fungal network between trees works in much the same way as the internet; thus, it is often referred to as the “wood wide web.”
Trees use the network to share resources. Older trees (sometimes called hub or mother trees) will pass sugars to saplings for photosynthesis, especially needed when small trees are shaded by their taller neighbors. They also pull up water for young trees in times of drought. Trees also share information through the network. If one tree is attacked by insects or disease, it sends distress signals to other trees, allowing them time to bolster their defenses. And when old trees are dying, they dump all of their resources back into the network.
The mycorrhizal network is connected to the root tips of trees. This relationship between trees and fungi is a symbiotic one. The fungi receive sugars and carbon from the trees; in exchange, the fungi release nutrients and water to the trees and provide the trees a communication network. Ultimately, this interconnected network assures the overall health of the forest.
So the next time you walk through a healthy forest, think about what lies below every step you take and how the trees are talking to and helping each other.