Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wonderful Woolly Bears and Water Bugs

I noticed that there were a LOT of woolly bears today, so at one point during my run, I decided to count.  The rate of woolly bears was approximately 1 every 20 (running) steps.  The one pictured was one of the tiniest ones -- about an inch -- but most were big and fat and fuzzy!

Also, check out this awesome water scorpion I caught this morning with kindergarten students.  It was rather a slow day, macroinvertebrate-wise... I was getting the typical dragonfly and damselfly larvae, snails, scuds... but slower than usual.  And then, right at the end -- this fellow!  I didn't even see him (or her) at first, due to his excellent camouflage as a stick. 
Water Scorpions have a name that's worse than their bite... you hear that, you're thinking that the long tail is maybe some sort of poisonous stinger. In fact, it's a sort of snorkel.  These true bugs breathe air, though they live under water!  Another interesting factoid... it looks like a 4-legged insect (which wouldn't be an insect) with some crazy mouth parts.  Actually, those are modified front legs, used for grabbing prey and pulling it in to their mouths.  Said mouths, called rostrums, are like suckers, which pierce prey and inject digestive juices.  The remaining four legs are used for movement, though they're not especially fast or graceful.  Water scorpions spend most of their time clinging to plant material (which those back legs also do) and not moving at all, except when prey (smaller water critters) pass by.  Then those back legs will straighten, springing the scorpion towards its prey with those "pincer" legs.   And that's your aquatic macroinvertebrate lesson of the day!

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