Despite the freezing temperatures and winter like weather, there are still insects out and about this weekend. For those of you who like to collect insects, this time of year makes a great outdoor escape, and a fun adventure.
The recent rain has made things outdoors a bit mucky, but that is not slowing down the insects. There are still several species of Hemiptera braving the winter here in Sacramento. There are also plenty of small Diptera out there if you walk slowly.
This time of year makes a great time for collecting galls from Rosebushes, Oak trees, and even Willow trees. We went hunting yesterday and were lucky to find Antron douglasii galls which are featured as the main picture in this article. The small Cynipid wasp Cynips douglasii is responsible for initiating the creation of this small but unique gall.
The apple oak gall is also available this time of the year, and if you have not collected those before then you might be in for a surprise because you can easily store these in a zip lock bag and let them hatch. It is always a mystery as to what will emerge so store them individually in a bag all their own. Several other species of wasp like to burgle the Apple Galls so when they hatch you might just be amazed.
For those of you who are interested in aquatic insects, the naiad should be hatching at any time. It will be possible to find Odonada, Ephemoroptera, Placoptera and maybe even some Coleoptera in shallow slow moving streams. Don't forget to check out vernal pools for rarities like Fairy Shrimp and other temporary water organisms like frogs. Frog spawn might be out also, and that is always fun to raise.
Bees are pretty limited at this time of the year, though there seemed to be a few honey bees working some early blooming poppies and bulb plants such as narcissus. Weather wise we normally get a little warm spell that happens between mid January and mid February and that really signal the first awakening for many insect species. It is not impossible to find early Pompillid or Sphecid wasps out in February. This weekend you might even be lucky enough to find abandoned wasp nest. A helpful tip is to put them in a critter keeper until spring just to make sure nothing is really living in them.
This is a good time of year to look at older dead logs and in brush piles for insects that overwinter by either hibernating or resting deeply. We found a small, boring beetle a few weeks ago that we had not seen before in Sacramento. So right now it pays to find all windfalls and have a look under their bark.
If you are wondering what to do around Sacramento this weekend, take a nature hike and hunt some insects. There are plenty of places along both the American River and the Sacramento River to look. You might even try Discovery Park, the adventure; however, is yours to find.