Light, warmth and insects to beat the winter cold

By Sean McCann, ESC/SEC blog coordinator and PhD student at Simon Fraser University —— © 2011 S. McCann, all rights reserved It seems that a popular pastime for Canadian entomologists in winter is to reminisce about warmer times and abundant insects. Edmonton bug photographer Adrian Thysse just posted a video of his National Moth Week experience at Devonian Gardens in Edmonton over the summer, and it looks like an entomological wonderland compared to the insect famine that is the Canadian winter. That video reminded me of my own light trapping experiences in much warmer times, namely in the rainforest of French Guiana. I was not actually doing the trapping, but I had the good fortune to do some observation. Guelph’s own Alex Smith and Rodolphe Rougerie were using UV lamps and white sheets to do their sampling, but of course all kinds of amazing insects were coming to the sheets. If you have never experienced tropical light trapping, the video below provides a taste of the sheer biomass of insects coming to a single sheet. Here is a small gallery of images of insects that caught my eye (bonus points if you can ID them in the comments!).

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Human hangers-on were not the only beneficiaries of this insect bonanza. Under the sheet, toads gathered to feast, while bats swooped in from above. The next morning, the diurnal predators took over, with scores of birds waiting above to snatch the tasty morsels from the  air as they tried to fly back to their homes in the trees. Here a Black Nunbird (Monasa atra) shows up on a perch with a gift. This gift-giving was a bit of a theme, with a Black-bellied Cuckoo offering a large katydid to an associate. mag (10 of 19) For an entomologist who studies birds such as myself, the light traps were a wonderful thing to see. Waking up at dawn to see a concentrated slice of bird-insect interaction in the warmth of the tropical rainforest is something I will never forget. As the winter tightens its grip on Canada, its insects, and those who study them, I hope this post helps warm you up!

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