Saturday picture show: Steens bug edition

Ladybird and braaiins

(Click any image to biggify.)

While sitting on a boulder at the edge of the East Rim, I noticed a ladybird beetle right in front of me. It wasn’t until I took the photo and zoomed in on it that I realized how much the lichens around her look like brains. (It’s a zombie ladybird!)

Then I saw another one by my foot. And another by my hand. And then my visual pattern recognition kicked in and I realized that they were everywhere. I carefully put a hand down to avoid squishing any, slowly pulled up a foot, then twisted around to stand — and that’s when I saw that the rock behind me was covered with thousands of beetles.

ladybird beetle convention

This photo doesn’t begin to capture their multitudes, but it’s the best I could do. They were on every stick and twig, and especially in the rock crevices. The shadows under that rock are hiding hundreds more, all jammed together in great clumps. I have no idea whether they blew in or what, but it’s hard to believe that the sparse vegetation up there could support enough prey insects for larval ladybird beetles to feed upon.

big bee, little flower

There were many blooming wildflowers at the summit of Steens Mountain, all of which were tiny and low to the ground. (Better resistance to harsh weather conditions.) At least five different species of butterflies flitted past in the space of twenty minutes, and then there were these adorable yellow bumblebees. They were huge relative to the size of the flowers, and whenever one landed, its weight would take the flower right down to the ground. Didn’t seem to faze them, though. They’d crawl over the flower, get what pollen they could, then heavily buzz to another flower and bonk, down to the ground they’d go.

Steens endemic lupine

Speaking of tiny, low-slung flowers…here is a perfect example. It’s a lupine, usually seen in much taller forms. But this little lupine is endemic to Steens Mountain (meaning it grows nowhere else in the world), and has adapted to the local growing conditions. If that yellow bee were in this photograph, it would be larger than one of the flower heads.

My mother commented that I spent a lot of time with my nose to the ground, considering the gorgeous scenery all around me. I can’t help it; the micro world has always intrigued me. I once read a quote from a naturalist who said he’d spent the whole summer exploring a completely unknown land, and by the end of the season he’d almost made it out of his backyard.

I totally understood that.

(Real life update: as you read this, I’ll be at 30,000 feet, heading home. Have you ever noticed that the closer you are to home, the more you miss it?)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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8 Responses to Saturday picture show: Steens bug edition

  1. Inge says:

    Love the beetle convention shot. I’m going to put it as my wallpaper if you don’t mind?

  2. I’ve always found that the farther I am from home, the more I miss it, actually. 😉

  3. Power Wench says:

    Perhaps this is your ladybird beetle? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippodamia_convergens
    No idea if this is still the case, but I read years ago that many of the ladybugs offered in commerce were this species, collected from their winter aggregations. The problem with this (for the purchaser) was that the beetles are hardwired to disperse widely as soon as they come out of diapause, so unless they are released into a confined area like a greenhouse they just fly away. Thus the usual advice to the home gardener is to provide habitat to attract local beneficial insects rather than buying ladybugs.

    • oregon expat says:

      In the western United States, these beetles may spend up to nine months hibernating in large aggregations in mountain valleys, far from their aphid food sources. In spring, the adults spread out and search for suitable sites to lay their eggs where aphids are plentiful.

      Cool! Thank you for pointing me toward this!

  4. Power Wench says:

    And just making (feeble) connections, how appropriate that you posted this as you were making your homeward journey, like the child’s rhyme: “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…”

    Never mind the rest of the rhyme.

    • oregon expat says:

      I’ll definitely ignore the rest of the rhyme. Fortunately, all was well when I arrived home. The only thing on fire is my mouth, from the chicken piri-piri. 🙂

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