Fan mail from a ten year old reader near Washington D.C.
Readers’ Favorite is proud to announce that “There’s a Bug in my Blossom” by J.C. Donaho is a Silver Medal Winner in the Children – Non-Fiction category in our 2015 International Book Award Contest. J. C. Donaho is pictured receiving the Silver Medal from Mark Wayne Adams at the awards ceremony held in Miami in November.
Freddy Squirrel is asking where did the bugs go? The weather is cold outside. Maybe the bugs have gone inside? Some do exactly that! Ladybugs often go inside warm houses during winter. It is how they cope with cold temperatures.
Then why can’t bugs stay outside in the cold?
An insect’s body temperature is pretty much going to be the same temperature as outside. They are not capable of regulating their body temperature like we can. The fluids in their bodies, their “blood”, can freeze. So, insects have developed strategies to deal with the cold and survive to reproduce and carry on the species.
How do they do that?
There are five ways for insects to survive the winter. Some, like ladybugs, simply move into our warm buildings. Some insects leave or migrate to warmer climates. Some insects survive cold weather by massing in large groups multiplying the tiny amounts of heat each bug generates thus warming the entire group. Other insects go into a state of suspension called diapause or they produce an antifreeze that allows them to withstand freezing temperatures without cell damage.
That’s pretty cool! Or cold! What insects migrate away from cold?
One of the most famous is the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch can migrate over 3,000 miles from Canada to Mexico!
Where else do insects go?
Many insects seek warmer places to hide from the cold. Tree bark, cracks and holes in trees or squeezing under boards, rocks or other hiding places provide many places to wait out cold weather. Some go under the soil and many live underwater waiting for springtime.
What about insects that huddle together for warmth?
You will find ants, termites and bees as examples of insects that group together in hives or underground to maintain warmth. Bees can raise body temperatures by moving their wing muscles. Ants mass underground or above ground in mounds to wait out the cold weather.
The Fire Ants found here on the Texas Gulf coast have another unique way to stay warm. They build their mounds high in cold months to serve as solar collectors of the sun’s rays. The sun warms the mound during the day and helps the ants survive the winter. Some of us wish they did not survive. Imported Red Fire Ants are an invasive species brought into the United States by mistake in the 1930’s. They are now found from Florida to Texas and Oklahoma. They are very destructive because they have no natural predators or diseases in the U.S. to keep them under control. They have also displaced native species like the Red Harvester Ant that is an important food of the Horned Lizard. Without the Red Harvester Ants, populations of Horned Lizards have plummeted in Texas.
What is diapause then?
Diapause is the ability of an animal to go into a state of suspension for long periods. It doesn’t need to eat or drink during this time. Insects go into diapause, then when the weather warms up they resume whatever life stage they are at currently. Some insects go through winter in the egg, some as a chrysalis and some as adults hiding away in warm protected spots until spring.
Insects can use crevices and cracks in tree bark, spaces under rocks or just about any place that shelters them from the cold. Woodpeckers know that bugs like to hide under the bark in trees. Look at all those holes!
The woodpecker found some insects here!
Yes, some insects produce glycerol which prevents the liquid in their cells from freezing. It is a chemical very similar to what we put in our car’s radiator to keep water flowing even in very cold freezing weather. Some insects can even freeze solid overnight, then thaw out the next day as temperatures warm and go about their work as an insect.
So, the answer is that insects go a lot of places, and a lot of them are very close to where you would normally expect to find them.
I am linking to a detailed explanation of how dragonflies are able to detect and then intercept other flying insects. Researchers at Howard Hughes Research Institute installed tiny reflectors on dragonflies to track their body movements while hunting. Those reflectors were then followed by special cameras that send that tracking data to computers for analysis. They found that dragonflies are good hunters because of their ability to anticipate the movements of their prey and calculate accurate interception routes. I found it interesting that dragonflies approach their targets from below to avoid detection. Jet fighter pilots sometimes use that same technique. These behaviors are far more complex than expected in an invertebrate and have implications for the study of human behavior.
The article from is Phys.org is here.
It’s fun when a reviewer understands the concept of the book! Check out what The Children’s Book Review.com has to say.
“..The text is clear and concise and multi-layered in a way that appeals to beginning readers through to advanced readers—or beginning readers sharing in a reading session with a parent or teacher. Large bold type with easy words and short sentences are ideal for an easier reading experience. More advanced readers that are ready for smaller text and eager to digest more information and fun facts on bugs are offered a deeper learning aspect as Donaho delves further into the natural world and shares specifics on the bugs found in each of his photographs..”
New! You can have your signed and personalized copy of There’s a Bug in my Blossom shipped anywhere in the US for $15.00. For more information email us. [email protected]
Clearly this guy is an artist. However, I believe even I could get pretty good at this with some practice. This looks like great Sunday morning fun for parents or grandparents. Thank you Nathan Shields for this great idea and video.
Have you ever tried to watch a butterfly fly? It is very difficult to do. Even the swallowtail, one of the slowest fliers, still flaps its wings in a figure eight pattern five times a second. That’s 300 times a minute! Only by using photography and slow motion video are we able to watch what is really happening.
Flight is achieved via muscles connecting the wings to the thorax. The muscles are tiny yet they can propel some Monarch butterflies on a migration of over 3,000 miles! That is pretty amazing to me.
Look at the King Swallowtail Butterfly in the background of this photo. You can see that there are really two sets of wings, upper and lower, each capable of moving independently. That wing design gives the butterfly the ability to hover or change direction very quickly. The King Swallowtail in the foreground is at rest appearing only to have a single pair of wings. Researchers have found that butterflies in flight make hundreds of tiny wing adjustments each minute. They do this to compensate for wind currents and the turbulence their own wings create. They are complicated flying machines.
This ultra-slow motion video of butterfly flight reveals the figure eight pattern we can’t see in regular speed.
Our butterfly season is nearly over here in Texas. The Monarchs are still moving through on their migration, and we have a few Gulf Fritillaries and Swallowtails coming through.