Snow

It is well into February and I am tired of the snow.  The weather forecast is for temperatures above freezing and sunny skies next week.

time to shovel

I can hardly wait.

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San Diego Bugs

I recently spent a week in San Diego California for a course that was required as part of my work.  Since it was below freezing when I left, and snowed here in Iowa while I was gone,  I was sort of amused by the weather reporters complaining about how cool it was there.  It got down to 40 degrees F at night and in the day the highs were in the sixties.  I wore a sweatshirt at night and jeans and a short-sleeved shirt during the day.

One of my co-workers asked me if I had seen any butterflies there (because he knows just how weird I am).  The thing is, I did watch for butterflies and for other pollinators.

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I saw one monarch and three honeybees.  And that was all.  No syrphid flies, no other bees, no other butterflies, nothing.  I did see one hummingbird though.

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The places I went were all covered with asphalt, concrete, buildings, and roads.  There were some small flower gardens that mostly had wood mulch in them.  And I was there when they had unseasonably cool temperatures.

Even with the cooler weather, there should be more insects in the environment.  It is possible to almost entirely eliminate them.  And in spite of what many people think, that is not a good thing.

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Indoor Critters

Insects are not so common outside now that it is winter, but we still have a few inside.  I am not sure where this paper wasp, Polites metricus came from, but it was crawling around in the house.  It did not sting anyone, and it did not live much after its discovery (I didn’t kill it but another family member did).

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I am ready for summer.

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Some Prairie Flowers

I have been trying to trudge through this winter and have been looking for winter photo opportunities.  But it is cold outside, and it gets dark soon.  Plus, I recently saw a web site with a number of prairie flower photos.  And it made me feel good.  So here are some flower pictures, for no particular reason.

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Of course, most of my flower pictures are pictures of bugs sitting on the flowers.

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So, in another five or six months we will be seeing a little bit of color.

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I can hardly wait.

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Idiots from the West

One of the idiots that is occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, LaVoy Finicum, has reported that four foster children were removed from his care by local authorities.

The story is here.

Now I hate to see family tragedies and I don’t know what the children think of the situation.  But he is unlawfully occupying a federal building.  What does he expect?

When he was interviewed, he complained that the children were his main source of income, and the cows just cover the cost of the ranch.

From the outside, it looks like he is more concerned about the loss of income than the loss of the children.

The Malheur Occupation is a greedy land grab, by greedy people.

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Time For a Little Impatience

Donald Trump recently had an event where he initiated kicking some non-violent protesters out into the cold and advocated stealing their coats.  He did all of this in front of a cheering mob and a bunch of flags.

Now some flag-waving heavily armed protesters have taken over a federal building and so far the response by the feds has been to let them set up camp and get comfortable.

Why are they waving the flag while they are trashing the federal property, my federal property?  I do not approve.

Now I am all in favor of keeping a cool head if it avoids violence.  But they need to be kicked out.  Turn off the electricity, water, heat, and internet, for God’s sake.  Block the entrances.   Charge them with the appropriate crimes.  Drag their butts out.

The inaction is pretty hard to justify.

Time for some pushback.

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Wildlife out the Window

Living in a rural area like we do, we occasionally can see wildlife up pretty close.

Deer come up into our yard to eat the pods that come from our locust trees.  I took this shot and then something spooked them.  The bars are the railing posts on our front porch.

With the snow cover, they seem to look for the bean pods for food.

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Best of the Year, 2015

I take a lot of photos every year, and this year was no exception.  Most of my photos are closeup photos.  I looked through my pictures, and came up with ten that I like the best.

These are my favorites, and a large part of how I judge them is how much fun I had taking them.  So if you look with a critical eye some of the photos might not be really good.  Those are the ones I had the most fun taking.

In no particular order….

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I took this photo of a bee fly, probably Bombylis major, on my birthday and at The Ledges State Park.  The day was cool but sunny, and I spent a majority of the time there watching redbud trees for any sign of Henry’s elfin.  I was unsuccessful in that endeavor,  but was diverted long enough by this fly to get its photo.

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I found this pearl crescent near our reconstructed prairie on a cool cloudy morning.  It seemed an unusual color, and for a while I thought it might be some other rare butterfly.  This is a very common butterfly, but this color form is less common.

This male dance fly, Rhamhomyia longicauda  had captured another fly for a nuptial offering.  While these flies are fairly large and easily seen, I don’t remember seeing them until this year.  When I did a little research on them, I found out that the females inflate their abdomens with air in order to appear more desirable to the male.  Of course, I had to photograph that.

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The females were fairly easy to find–their legs have rows of hairs on them, giving the appearance of feathers.  But they do not inflate their abdomens during the light of the day.  In order to see the behavior you have to wait until twilight.  Then you can barely see the flies and they are a challenge to photograph.

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I found this bee-like robber fly, Laphria flavicollis near Medora prairie.  It has captured a true bug as prey, and there is a small fly feeding opportunistically on the prey.

6-14-150012 In June we had some very hard rains.  One day, within a few minutes after one of those rains I walked along the gravel road by our house.  The vegetation in the ditch had mostly fallen over because of the intensity of the rain.  There I found this least skipper, drying out.

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Question mark butterflies were especially common this year, and quite colorful.

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I was able to take a trip to Wisconsin this year, looking unsuccessfully for the Poweshiek skipper.  I did find Baltimore checkerspots there, and they were quite common (unlike their status in Iowa) and colorful.  I enjoyed the trip immensely, and was able to tag along on a scheduled butterfly walk as well.

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This was the third “life” butterfly that I was able to photograph this year, a Hayhurst’s scallopwing.  I climbed a steep hill, and wandered through a prairie with full grown big bluestem.  Had there not been a mowed path, the eight foot tall grass might have been impassible.

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People who have seen my blog have mixed reactions to this photo, but I contend it was the coolest thing I saw this summer.  This is a group of fungus fly larva moving from one location to another.  The entire group looks like one large slug, complete with slime.  I had not seen this before, but had read about it.  I saw this on the walk outside our house as I was headed to work one morning.  Of course, I had to stop and take pictures.

So there you have it–my favorite photos of 2015.

Have a happy new year.

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Snow and Ornaments

We have had a warm December–lots of rain and green grass.  Today we got some snow, and I took a photo of some berries on a small tree.

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Merry Christmas.

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Don’t Know Much about Chemistry, Don’t Know Much Biology

I do know a little about chemistry and a little about biology.  But entire libraries have been written about both subjects.  Scientists know lots about both, and the subjects overlap. The thing is, though, that once you wade through enough to see the end of what is known, you get to the place where you can see some of the unknown.  How much is unknown is unknown.  The knowledge and the models break down.

But we can understand some things by understanding the models.

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Take water for example.  We know that water is two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen.  Electrons have properties of both matter and energy–chemists used to talk about electrons orbiting a nucleus–beginning science classes still do.  But current models talk about electrons setting up standing waves, so that they occupy a particular statistical space around the nucleus, or around the nuclei in the case of a covalent bond.

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The hydrogen atoms have a weak positive charge, and the oxygen atom has a weak negative charge.  So the molecules attach to each other, and form what are called hydrogen bonds.  But the kinetic energy of heat present in the water knocks the molecules around and breaks those bonds.  The molecules continually attach and detach from each other.

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That explains how water flows, and how it is also able to bead up.

There are models that go into incredible detail to explain how it happens, and there are mathematical equations that back up those models.  The math gets pretty intensive, but the model allows a visual approximation.

On the molecular scale, water is pretty sticky.

So you can understand how it works, but do you really understand it?

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