Insects

Assassin bug, Belize

Hummingbird Moth, California

 

Common Green Darner, Anax junius, California

 

During this time when we’re all thrown off our usual paths, most of us are forced, in one way or another, to look at our surroundings in a new light. During Covid, insects may not strike you as enlightening, but then again, they might.

 

Here are a few insects I have seen on hikes and adventures that remind me to stop and take that extra second to observe with whom I am sharing the trail.

 

This is an owl butterfly that we saw in Trinidad a few years ago. At first glance, it looks like detritus, but look more closely and you see a butterfly. Here you can also see the butterfly is extending its proboscis (the curled stem in the head region), not something you can always see.

Owl Butterfly, Trinidad

 

On a bird safari in Belize last year, we saw at least a hundred butterflies puddling near a storage building drainpipe. At first it looked like black dirt in the gravel.

Black Kite-swallowtail Butterflies at base of drainpipe between building and road, Belize

But all that black to the right of the drainpipe, in the gravel, is actually a huge kaleidoscope of black kite-swallowtail butterflies. They’re sucking up the nutrient-rich moisture. Looking closely, you see exotic features like blue legs and a forked tail.

Dark Kite-swallowtail Butterfly, Belize

 

At home, where most of us are staying for now, there are numerous creatures we’ve never seen before.

 

Being aware of insects is not just a pleasant pastime, it can be a good check on your safety, as well. We learn early in life to pay attention to bees, wasps, and other stinging insects.

 

In the dry, chaparral habitat where I live, scorpions (technically an arachnid) live hidden under leaf litter. They have a stinging capacity, though not seriously harmful. They’re ferocious little critters, but only as big as your pinky finger.

Scorpion, California

 

Dragonflies. If you are able to capture a nanosecond with a dragonfly, a whole new universe opens up before you.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, California

 

On a personal note, two weeks ago I slipped on loose gravel on a trail, and ended up in the hospital undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery. I have to spend my days lying flat on my back for awhile, so please excuse sporadic attendance and cryptic comments.

 

When I can walk again, I will be back on the trail. When the world is allowed out again and there isn’t a deadly virus threatening us, we will all be back out again.

 

But until then, I hope you are granted a chance to see new creatures that you never noticed before.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Cicada, Australia

Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar, California

 

103 thoughts on “Insects

  1. Good shots, I enjoy insect macro’s πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing these πŸ™‚ I hope you get the goody back in your ankle. Don’t want to nick name ya ‘Hopalong’ Take care and stay safe out there ~Willy

    • I like that assassin bug because the wings look like stained glass, but yes, their predatory ways are formidable. Thanks for your visit and comment, Michael Stephen.

  2. Very sorry to hear about your ankle, Jet! I hope the healing proceeds quickly and that you will be back on the trail soon.

    The dragonfly photo is beautiful ~ they are so difficult to capture with a camera. I’m afraid to ask how the assassin bug got its name. It has a very striking appearance.

    My 5-year-old granddaughter video-called me this morning, excited about a cicada that kept crawling up her leg. (She was delighted!) Her mother finally helped her transfer it to a tree, where it continued its climb. She loves her local nature walks while staying at home…

    • Always a joy to hear from you, Barbara. Glad you liked the dragonfly photo. Athena spent a long time with snap after snap after snap of dragonflies, at midday on a hot summer day. She was delighted to see that one turned out. Enjoyed hearing about your granddaughter’s excitement with the cicada. We need new generations to keep our declining insect populations alive, and hurray to you and her parent(s) for encouraging it. Thanks, too, for your well wishes…full recovery is expected.

  3. Thank you again for sharing a bit of our world through your wonderful reflections. In a sense, insects rule the world and yet it’s so easy for us to ignore them or try insensibly to push them out of sight. Your words, plus the photos, point to the diversity & beauty insects demonstrate when we slow our movements & open our eyes… So sorry to learn about your fall & the effort it takes to get that ankle back in shape. We hope it heals quickly & puts you back on your feet as summer rolls around!

    • A great joy to receive your warm words, Walt, thank you. Yes, insects are a very big part of this world, and it’s easy to ignore or have disdain for them. But they are the root of our existence. I just read the May 2020 Natl. Geo issue about insects, and it inspired me to pull out some insect photos for today. I was pleasantly surprised to see we had so many insect photos, many more than could fit here. I know you are especially aware of insects and their importance on the planet, as an outdoorsman and fisherman too. Many thanks, my friend.

  4. I don’t think you would be surprised to learn, Jet, that I absolutely love your posting about insects and Athena’s photos are excellent. Most of my photographic energy is spent during warm months on these creeping, crawling, and flying little creatures. I love opening up people’s eyes about these little beauties that surround them all the time, even though they often are not aware of them. I am sad to hear about your ankle injury and surgery and hope and pray for a speedy recovery. I know that I would not make a good patient and would not welcome an extended stint on my back. Take your time, Jet, and don’t rush things, no matter how anxious you are to get back on your feet.

    • I cannot tell you, Michael, how MANY times I thought of you during the composition of this post! You are always an inspiration with your endless forays into the wild and your wildlife finds. You have introduced me to many insects I never knew existed, and I have been known to stare for long periods at the subjects your camera captures. Really enjoyed your snake today, too. My warmest thanks for your lovely comment and for sharing the beauty of insects. And yes, I will be back on my feet in no time.

      • Thanks for your very kind words, Jet. When I started my blog almost eight years ago, I had no idea that I would end up using it as a way to express myself creatively in words–I though it would be merely a way to display my photos. As I commented to someone else recently, many of my photos might be able to stand on their own, but their value is enhanced by proving context and commentary. One of the reasons why I enjoy your postings so much, Jet, is that you provide so much added value by the ways that your words and organizational structure of the postings help us to think and understand the issues that you raise. It turns out that words really do matter. πŸ™‚

  5. Oh Jet I am so sorry to hear about your injury! I had just been thinking of you this morning and was wondering if I should send an email to check in. I hope you are healing well with no complications. Dave and I both send our very best wishes for your recovery.
    Your insect post is very much how Dave and I are taking life right now. Enjoying the small things and appreciating what is around us. I will confess it has taken me some time to get to this spot after life came to a screeching halt. Your post is a good reminder to find joy where one can right now.

  6. I bet that hurt! And it will be sore for a long time. But it’s a good thing you didn’t slip on that scorpion. See? Things could always be worse. Beautiful exotic insects, different from many we see here. Take care of that ankle. Hope you can manage to have a nice weekend just the same.

  7. I am sorry about the ankle and hope you’re not on your back for too long. Stay safe during these difficult times. Karen and I went for a walk in a rainforest recently where we saw mini bats and a bird or two up close. Karen my wife is actually doing a guest post on my blog tomorrow and is a better writer than me. Take care Jet.

    • Thanks Eliza. I am enjoying the outdoors from my deck and window for now, and can easily imagine you in your elegant garden enjoying your spring planting.

  8. Interesting post, as always, Jet. Enjoyed the focus on something it is so easy to overlook. Appreciate your pointing out their notable characteristics, too… blue legs, extended proboscis, etc. Heal quickly and completely, dear Jet.

  9. As always, I learn so much from your posts…and this one is really fascinating. Thank you Jet and may your time in lock down continue to reveal all manner of wondrous things. Janet πŸ™‚

    • Yes, it’s surprising how tiny the scorpions are. But they rear up their angry little tails as if they could wollop you! Great to “see” you, Jan, thank you.

  10. Pingback: Insects β€” Jet Eliot | huggers.ca

  11. Not into the bugs but the owl butterfly and dark are really cool.
    Sorry about your ankle, hope you heal quickly without itching!
    My pandemic project is rebuilding our dock — what does Jet and our dock have in common?????

    You both have stainless steel screws:(

    • Wonderful to receive your happy message and kind words, thank you, MB. Athena took nearly a hundred photos to get that green darner result, glad you enjoyed it.

  12. Great to hear from you again, Jet, but I’m sorry to read about your ankle. Love the butterflies and the dragonfly (“shot” one of the latter recently in the Riparian Preserve, my new walking spot) but I could do without scorpions. They can be a real problem here, although if there are any number, you’re supposed to disclose that when selling or renting a house. So far I haven’t seen any and I prefer to keep it that way.

    Take care and recover quickly!

    janet

  13. We wish you a speedy recovery, and we hope there are spiders catching flies up on the ceiling for you to watch. When you’re back on your feet and ready for the trails, don’t forget to check inside your hiking boots…
    Take care!

  14. I though you may have skipped a post. Hope your ankle heals completely and rapidly. We haven’t had many exciting insects yet. The occasional cranefly and some yellowjackets.

  15. If it’s any consolation, my mother suffered a compound ankle fracture at about age 80, and was the recipient of a multitude of plates and screws. It took a while for her to recover at that age, but within five months she was fully mobile again, without any lingering after effects. As frustrating as it must be for you just now, I suspect your recovery will be far quicker, and just as complete.

    The collection of photos is quite wonderful. Thanks to your mention of the scorpion, I now know that we have eighteen species of the little beasties here in Texas, and that the largest can be about three inches long. At least that one would be easier to spot! Best wishes, Jet — we’ll look forward to your reports of good progress.

    • Wonderful to hear of your mother’s recovery, Linda, always good to hear the success stories. Yes, you folks in TX have your fair share of insects. 18 species of scorpions…wow!

  16. so sorry about your injury Jet. keep mending as i pray for your speedy recovery. thanks for another very informative post, this time about insects. i enjoyed it as always. Athena’s photography is superb! take care.

  17. As someone not overly fond of insects, I thought the worst thing I would read during this post is that after recently reading about the arrival of the “murder hornet” in the United States that there is an insect called the assassin bug, but then I read the news about your ankle. I know how you love being outdoors enjoying nature and I hope the ankle heals quickly so you can be back out on the trails. Wonderful photos, especially enjoyed the owl butterfly, and while I’ve always found it difficult to read and watch shows while recovering from an injury, I hope you have some good books and shows to help the time go faster during the healing. Take care!

  18. Jet we both really do appreciate MOST insects. I am not fond of flies, mosquitoes or scorpions. And I learned the hard way in Nicaragua that scorpions live under piles of leaves on the sides of paths.

    We always look forward to your posts because even though we enjoy the visuals of birds and insects, we always learn something new in your posts. Love that owl butterfly and the dragonflies. Also, gorgeous catepillar.

    Ow that sounds very painful. Wishing you a very speedy recovery and hope you are back on the trails soon.

    Peta & Ben

  19. Wonderful post and photos, as always. I’m very sorry to hear about your surgery! I hope that you mend well Jet and the recovery goes smoothly. Good thoughts for you my friend …… πŸ™‚

  20. I am fascinated by insects though sometimes they scare me a bit–too many stings as a kid–but my mother studied entomology and ornithology off and on and I grew more interested as the years went by. I love these shots–that Dark-kite swallowtail was gorgeous but they all have lovely features. I well appreciate your blog. Heal well, Jet!–And do blog on.

    • Great to have you stop by, Cynthia. I like that your mother studied entomology and ornithology and shared the beauties with you. Many thanks for your warm words and visit.

  21. Sorry to hear of your ankle injury. I had a serious fracture of the ankle about ten years ago. It was just me and the two pups at the time, but the house was utterly handicap accessible, so I scooted around in my late husband’s wheelchair and managed to scan a large collection of old photos from years past. That, and a lovely HUGE jigsaw puzzle and some marvelous neighbors who contributed ‘meals on wheels’ and did a bit of shopping for me got me through. Oh, and the entire Harry Potter series on audio books. Never a dull moment! πŸ˜€

    I didn’t think I’d ever walk normally again, but thanks to some marvelous folks at physical therapy, I hardly remember the episode or its aftermath these days. Hope your recovery is as successful as mine. I’m certain Athena is making it all bearable. Best to the both of you!!!

    • Wonderful to hear that you enjoyed a complete recovery and only have distant memories of your serious ankle fracture, Gunta. I’m in that hobbling and dependent stage, vulnerable, and the whole Covid thing has complicated it. I’m not yet to the PT stage, but it will be only available via video. I am healing, though, and doing very well considering everything, and yes, Athena has made it all work. Great neighbors and friends and family help too. Thanks so very much for your well wishes and encouragement.

  22. Now I see what happened to your ankle– so sorry, Jet. Hope you’ll be out and about soon. I love your post about insects – so many fascinating creatures out there. I worry about the insect decline (among the thousand other things to worry about-especially now. ) Your posts always exude your reverence for nature. Thanks. πŸ™‚

    • Your worries about the decline of insects are understandable, Jane, and it is a very real event we are witnessing. That’s part of the reason I write about them, sharing the beauty that an insect has, and the importance of their presence on our planet. I try to remain apolitical on my blog, so will just say here that we all need to spray less insecticides and be more tolerant of insects, respecting their crucial roles on earth. Thank you for your lovely words, my friend, I’m happy to hear that my posts exude my reverence for nature.

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