Friday, August 22, 2014

Six-legged abundance, and how to discover it

margined leatherwings (Chauliognathus marginatus_beetle_P6220530

Despite growing up in an entomological family, and I mean that literally, and later been surrounded by people that know and care about insects, insects, and insects, it is not until this spring and summer where I suddenly felt a real urge knowing the insects in my backyard.  I cared about the plants, the birds, the mammals, the clouds, the rocks... but the insects had just been there and been cool and fun, but I didn't bother so much with the science of them.

But, then I was part of a Bioblitz and everything counted.  I had to beat my sister in the species count on the long-term Bioblitz, so insects became important.  (She won.) A good digital camera made the observations permanent (thanks for the loan, PP).  But the most important help and driver was actually the internet.  The amazing and helpful people on that help me identify everything (from a photo), be it a common stinkbug or a rare beetle.  My Dad, who sends encouraging, insightful notes full of anecdotes via e-mail.  My Mom and sister, keeping up with the butterflies on their end over on the other side of the ocean.  Suddenly, insects have become attainable.

Also, and I have to admit it, Facebook is a great resource for species expertise.  If you just stay away from the entertainment news and junk on Facebook, it can actually be a useful thing.  I have gotten so much help with strange insects from internet people, many of which I have never met, never talked to in person, and have no clue where they live or how they look like.  I reciprocate, of course, telling people on iNaturalist and plant ID groups on Facebook what their unknown plants are when I can.

This is true citizen science, the broadening of biodiversity knowledge to the backyards and driveways of our homes, to people that are just interested and not professionally involved in the science of bugs, plants, and so on.  And all this knowledge is freely shared, no money, no accounts, no subscriptions, and certainly no expectation of accounted returns.  We are just all in this biodiversity knowledge curiosity together...  like a kiddie pool!  Except the whole world's nature is our pool.

So, here are some recent finds from our garden, and some I figured out myself, and others I got a lot of help with. Click on the photos and you can see larger versions of the photos and what the species are on Flickr.  This is just a gallery of insect beauty and biological diversity in a regular backyard in New Jersey, USA.

Redbanded hairstreak P8180860cropped Monobia quadridens - Four-toothed Mason WaspP8180863cropped Robberfly with caught bumblebee P8180810 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail P8170772 red aphids P8170638 Zabulon skipper male P8170596.cropped Toxomerus geminatus P8170614cropped Chinavia hilaris (green stink bug) Hemiptera IMG_6664 Clymene moth Haploa clymene IMG_2798 Harmonia axyridis (Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle)  IMG_6591