Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Another Impressive “Opteran”!

The names of the insect orders are worth learning. They’re so much better than the lists that usually have to describe the groups when we try to avoid multiple syllables. For example:

“Lepidopteran” is much more efficient than saying “butterflies, moths, and skippers.” And “hymenopteran” similarly saves us the time and energy of saying “ants, bees, and wasps.”

After you give the root words a little thought, they make sense and therefore are memorable. As an editor, I appreciate precise, efficient, short ways of saying things. But this discussion is for another post.

Anyway, because of my use of upscale terms for insect groups, Sue has started calling every insect an “Opteran”!

So Saturday morning, I was in the backyard, and Sue was in the front. I looked up, and she was hustling past me to get her camera (again):

“A big, neat opteran just landed by the front doors!”

It had flown right past her and landed on the bricks. Based on its impressive flight, Sue guessed it might be some kind of moth.

Naturally I had to look, and then grab my own little camera. Here’s what we saw!

Do you know what it is? I hadn’t seen one before, but I knew right away what it was from the memorable pictures I’ve seen in my insect guidebooks!

It’s a type of beetle (a coleopteran!) in the family Elateridae, the “click beetles.” They’re called “click beetles” because if they somehow end up on their backs, they can flip clear into the air with an audible “click.” If all works well for them, they will land right side up. If they land on their backs again, they simply do another flip.

This individual looked like it had gotten out of a few tough scrapes already. See how its poor right-front leg is amputated in mid-tibia? And one of the antennae has also been halved.

This particular species of click beetle is the famous “eyed elater,” instantly recognizable by its large size and the big eyespots on its thorax. They aren’t really eyes; apparently they function like the eyespots on butterflies and moths (lepidopterans!) to make a potential predator hesitate long enough to allow the insect to escape.

The real eyes are positioned near the base of each beautifully serrated antenna.

Now, although it must have been breathtaking to see in flight, this insect didn’t seem particularly “elated” about anything itself. I haven’t been able to find anything to back this up, but I think the name of the bug and its family refer to the “flipping” behavior. On a fundamental, etymological level, elate is from Latin words that mean “to carry out,” “to elevate,” “to lift up.” It’s related to our verbs tolerate and bear. For an insect that literally “elevates” itself, the name makes sense etymologically and entomologically!

By the way, before you grab your can of Raid, listen up: A few species of click beetles (especially the larvae) are important pests of crops, but this one is considered “beneficial” since its larvae devour the injurious types. Think hard before you kill bugs!

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Sidewalks!

Thanks to the Old Munichburg Association’s CID (Community Improvement District), the 500 and 600 blocks of Broadway are getting new sidewalks, curbs, and gutters this year!

It’s all happening very quickly, and it’s just grand.

They tore out the busted-up old sidewalks on our part of Broadway on Monday; built the frame for the new sidewalk Tuesday, and Wednesday they poured the concrete.

When they left that day, the new sidewalks were set enough we could walk on them!

While the contractor’s in the area, we’ve had our front sidewalk (which is not part of the CID) and our driveway replaced, too!

They put in our new driveway this morning!

It’s been hard to work this week, with all the commotion out the windows!

We’ve owned this house for more than a decade, now, and although I had spent a lot of time at first picking weeds out of the cracks or spraying Roundup, I finally gave up on that. Instead, whenever I finished cutting the grass, I’d set the mower on its lowest setting and mow the sidewalks.

Yes, I’d mow the sidewalks. The driveway, too!

But I can scratch that off my list now! We will always remember 2012!

To celebrate, I want to share with you the song I’ve had stuck in my head all week.