Wilderness Underfoot: The porchlight naturalist

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11194633832999.jpg’, ”, ‘The mayfly is one of our most common night visitors – Don’t worry, those aren’t stingers on its back, just harmless tails. Mayflies occasionally swarm so densely around street lights they impede traffic. ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1119463424863.jpg’, ”, ‘Lacewings and ant lions are close relatives – The green lacewing is a great help in controlling aphids, while young larva of the ant lion are aggressive hunters of ants and other insects.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1119463476864.jpg’, ”, ‘It’s not a giant mosquito – The larger insect here is actually a crane fly, and despite its close resemblance to the diminutive mosquito (lower right) it doesn’t bite.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1119463500424.jpg’, ”, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11194635243001.jpg’, ”, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11194636093000.jpg’, ”, ‘Moths, from the beautiful to the mundane – This large green luna moth is a rare and lucky find compared to the more common pink-spotted hawkmoth (second from top) and the armyworm moth (third from top). Larvae of the hawkmoth and the armyworm moth are pests to lawns and some crops. Moths will come to lights at night, but another technique is often used to attract them: painting strips of cloth or the bark of trees with fermented fruit juice or sugary wine. They land and hungrily lap up the liquid.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1119463636864.jpg’, ”, ‘Caddisflies are closely related to moths and butterflies – They look like moths that have lost their wing scales. Many caddisflies spend their juvenile stage under water, in camouflaged cases made of sticks, stones and other debris attached to their bodies with silk.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11194636663001.jpg’, ”, ‘The June bug (or May beetle) – This large beetle is a rather poor flyer, and it seems as if the only way it can end its feeble flight is in a crash landing! Although the larva is a lawn pest, this scarab is related to those honored in art and sculpture by ancient Egyptians. ‘);

Just flip on any outdoor light on a lazy summer evening, relax and let nature’s show come to you

Here’s a fun way for your family to explore nature right outside your back door: become porchlight naturalists. You probably know that many night-flying insects are attracted to lights. To learn more about them up close, all you need is an insect guide or two, a glass jar to hold the bugs for observation, and a magnifying glass. It’s also fun to list your nightly discoveries in a notebook, and to take photos of the insects with a camera.

From the June 22-28, 2005, issue

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