Monday, September 28, 2009

Impatiens and Parthenocissus

The time is ripe for the harvest of jewelweed fruit. Jewelweeds, sometimes called Touch-me-nots, are tall succulents that form colonies and have interesting yellow or orange flowers, depending on the species. The one above is Pale Jewelweed, Impatiens pallida. And this specimen has perfectly ripe fruit ready for the picking.

Here's the booty, if you are a careful harvester. Each fruit contains a few brownish rugulose seeds, but one must use special procedures to pluck them. The walls of the fruit are under tension, and when one jostles a fully ripened specimen, POP! Out they explode, as the fruit essentially explodes under pressure, hurling its tiny charges up to several feet away with astonishing speed.

So, just grab the entire container in your hand as if you're seizing a jumping bug that you don't wish to escape. The explosion will then occur within your closed fist and you'll have the tasty seeds. That's right. Tasty. As in freshly shelled walnuts, because that's what they taste like, to me at least. You'll work for a meal, though - it probably takes 943 of these wee seeds to fill up an average humanoid.

One of our more conspicuous and beautiful plants at this season is Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. I suspect the fruit are much less noticed than is the foliage, but as you can see creeper inflorescences are a thing of remarkable good looks, the blue berries contrasting almost jarringly with the red pedicels.

Virginia Creeper is a high-climbing vine, easily capable of ascending to the tops of tall trees. Here it clambers up an Eastern Cottonwood, Populus deltoides. This common plant turns a gorgeous scarlet-red in autumn, and heavily festooned trees glow with its foliage and can be seen from afar. Sometimes people will confuse it for Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, but that plant does not turn such a rich red, and of course it has leaves of three leaflets; not the five of this species.

A tree well cloaked in creeper. Strongly adhesive discs at the end of prolific tendrils allow Virginia Creeper to scale to great heights. We do have another, much less known species, called Woodbine, Parthenocissus vitacea. It lacks the adhesive discs and thus can't seem to climb nearly as well. Thus, it typically forms a scrambling ground cover. For a wonderful treatment of these two species, see my friends in Indiana. Finally, the urban Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, is a frequent sight climbing the brick halls of academia and other buildings, but it, fortunately, does not jump the fence and escape to the wild.

Enjoy the colors of creeper and other fall foliage will you can; it'll be gone before we know it.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tongue of a flicker

The entrance to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, one of the country's best such museums. If you haven't been, put it on your itinerary.

Last Friday night marked the kickoff of the museum's annual Explorer Series of lectures, and I was honored to be the inaugural speaker. Beforehand, the Native Plant Society of Northeast Ohio had their annual meeting, above. I am a longtime member of this group, and sat in. What a cool room to have a meeting in! The surrounding dioramas depict various North American ecosystems. It takes a long time to fully inspect the contents of this place, visit the planetarium, and do everything else that there is to do.

About 260 people attended the evening lecture, and I gave a program about some of the best remaining natural areas in the state, including one in the Cleveland region. There's a wonderful slate of upcoming Explorer Series programs; if you live in the area or want to devise an interesting trip, consider attending one of the lectures and touring the museum beforehand. The sensational Cleveland Museum of Art is only a few minute's walk away, too.

Bright and early the next morning, Andy Jones and I led a bird/nature walk at Dike 14, on the shores of the Cleveland lakefront. Dike 14 is a large former dredging impoundment - the perimeter is a mile long - that has now reverted to a wild state and can be fabulous for birding in migration. That's the distant downtown Cleveland skyline as we look west from the dike.

Fifty-two people sjowed up at 7:30 for our hike - quite a crowd when you're trying to ferret out furtive fall warblers! All told, several hundred people visited Dike 14 this day, as it isn't normally open to the public, at least not yet. There would have been many more visitors, no doubt, but the skies opened around 9:30 and it really poured. Up until then, it was great and we had a number of warblers and other migrants, some interesting insects, lots of plants, and even a few snakes.

Here's Andy, quizzing folks about a very distinctive set of feathers. We later saw the rest of the bird.


And here it is, a recently perished Northern Flicker, one of the most beautiful woodpeckers in the world, especially up close and personal like this. It's a shame that the flicker met its demise, but it also opened up a great learning opportunity.

The specimen was fresh enough that Andy could easily unfurl the flicker's remarkable tongue, which puts even Gene Simmons to shame. Woodpeckers have what is essentially a spool that the they wind their tongue around, as said tongue can extend several times the length of their long, chisel-like bills.

The tip of a woodpecker tongue is armed with small barbules, or little prongs, although they don't show up in this photo. This adaptation allows the bird to rapidly flick its tongue into deep crevices and snare small insects, then rapidly pull them back into their mouth. Flickers are often seen on the ground, as they are inveterate ant hunters. One specimen which was dissected had about 5,000 ants in its stomach! A long barbed tongue is a huge asset if you are a bird that wants to lap up massive numbers of ants.

Thanks to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Dike 14 Committee, and Ohio State Parks for making these events possible.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Midwest Birding Symposium people

I want to share a few more photos from the recent, fabulous Midwest Birding Symposium. Wish I had more, but I'm woefully inadequate in regards to photo-documenting these events. There is too much going on and I get to having too much fun talking to people and doing all of the stuff that needs done to spend much time with the camera.

The Ohio Ornithological Society, Bird Watcher's Digest, and the Lakeside Association joined forces to pull this 800+ person event off, and we'll be back and bigger than ever in 2011. One of the real positives was the $10,000 that we raised for conservation - $5000 from attendees, and a matching $5000 donated by the Ohio Ornithological Society. Go birders!

There were LOTS of people - a massive gathering of birders from something like 20 states and several countries. Wait - Canada is a country, isn't it...? The above photo is but one of the venues we used, Orchestra Hall, and there are nearly 200 people in there for this talk. Three other programs were going on elsewhere simultaneously. The keynotes in Hoover Auditorium had over 700 people at a time.

The ubiquitous Bill Thompson acknowledges a fan at the author's book signing. Bill was a driving force behind MBS; definitely the oil that greased our skids. Behind him is legendary birder and conservationist Paul Baicich.

That's one of the America's premier field ornithologists, Alvaro Jaramillo, in the red shirt. Not only is he the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet, but Alvaro is a MAJOR expert on some of the trickiest groups of birds, such as gulls, flycatchers, and shorebirds. His book Birds of Chile is outstanding and he was good enough to sign my copy. That's me on Alvaro's left. Photo courtesy of Jeanette Weeks.

Even my parents, longtime active birders, made the show and had a great time. They were carting me around long before I had a driver's license to seek birds, and thanks to their willingness to act as chauffeurs, I was chasing rarities long before I could drive. They took me to see such major rarities - unlikely to be repeated in Ohio - as Bachman's Sparrow and Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Photo courtesy of Jeanette Weeks.

Jeff Gordon, front right, and Mike Bergin, front left. That's Bitte Ramirez-Portilla and her husband Renato in the background, two of our friends from Guatemala. Jeff is one of the best bird guides in the business, and gave a great program about incorporating technology into your birding. Mike is a driving force behind spreading the word of birds, birding, and conservation via the blogosphere.


The ever-present Bill Thompson points at the one and only Hugo Haroldo EnrĂ­quez Toledo. We call him Hugo, thus slicing nine syllables off the nomenclature. Hugo hails from Guatemala City, and it was fantastic to have him and our other friends from Guatemala in the house. If you want a great birding trip, consider this country. I was there in 2008, and will be back down in March, 2010 and can't wait. Hugo will be with us and we'll see lots of great birds as a result.

Here's a candid shot of Hugo. Oh wait - that's Jimi Hendrix! Sorry, my bad...

Dr. Amanda Rodewald of THE Ohio State University delivered a wonderful presentation on Cerulean Warblers to a packed house. Amanda is rather unique in that she and her students study ceruleans both on the wintering grounds in Venezuela and here in Ohio, where they breed.

Jim Berry, president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, gave a marvelous program on Roger and his namesake institution on Sunday morning.

Al Batt. The one, the only, the funniest man bar none in the birdosphere. Al spoke Saturday night and had the whole of Hoover Auditorium rolling in the aisles. I'm not kidding - ask anyone who was there. This guy is beyond funny - there are many professional comedians who can't hold a candle to him. His story about his battle with a particularly wily squirrel was beyond funny. If you've heard Al, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't heard Al, DO NOT miss the opportunity the next time it arises.

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I leave you with this short video of Al, letting us know that he's just signed a contract with HBO. Think he said it was only $15 a month...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goldenrod Crab Spider

As perhaps I mentioned before, I have been paying special attention to goldenrods this summer and fall, making many photographs for an upcoming program on the subject of these most interesting of plants.

Pay enough close attention to goldenrods and you're sure to see lots of other stuff. Insects galore are attracted to these yellow beauties, as are insect-eating arachnids.

The beautiful golden pyramidal inflorescence of Rough Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa. I came across a colony of this plant of dry sandy soils in Vinton County, and couldn't resist the opportunity to thoroughly photograph various aspects of the plants.

Although the flowers are showy and conspicuous en masse, each flower is tiny - among the smallest of any of the goldenrods. Thus, it was necessary to whip out the macro gear and move in close.


Whoa! A Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia! These little critters are common but you'll not often see them - no explanation needed! They blend so well with the goldenrod flowers that they frequent that it is practically impossible to spot them without closely inspecting the plants. This individual is a female, and her body might be 8-10 millimeters in length. That's not very large, and you can see how tiny the goldenrod flowers are by using her as a benchmark.

Up close and personal. Oh, the joys of being an innocent nectar-loving flower fly or some other harmless six-legger. What fates await. You'd never see it coming. Ever so patient is the crab spider, not moving a muscle, just waiting for some hapless bug to bumble into range. When the victim nears, the spider will lunge and seize it with those powerful, enlarged forelegs. We're close enough in this shot to see her fangs, which will administer the coup de grace, injecting a lethal dose of venom into the once-happy bug. After sucking the contents out, the spider will leave a dessicated husk to drop to the soil, and will resume the waiting game, seeking the next meal.

Misumena vatia can also be stark white in coloration. While probably found most frequently on yellow flowers, goldenrods in particular, they also hunt on white blossoms. The ability to manipulate colored pigments allows these spiders to change color, a la chameleon, to match their substrate and more effectively ambush prey. Interestingly, the stimulus for the spider to change color is visual - signals from visual cues cause the spider to either flush the outer cells with yellowish pigment, or purge the yellow to become white. Tests have shown that spiders that were blinded did not change coloration to match their backdrop.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Orbweavers

"Tis the season for big hairy spiders. I like them; find spiders intriguing, actually. Peak numbers and diversity seem to reach a crescendo in fall, about this time, and a lot of the cool jumbos are easily found now.

Nighttime is the right time for spider-seeking. Most of these eight-legged arachnids are nocturnal, and stay holed up and out of sight during the day. Come the blackness of night, and they emerge to tend their webs, capture prey, and do the things that spiders do. This

bruiser is a Furrow Orbweaver, Larinioides cornutus.
This one had built its web on a spider-rich stop sign. That hole to its right is one of the perforations in the sign post to which the sign is attached. Bet you'd find all kinds of goodies hiding inside there during the day! I've gotten a bit close here - like two inches away with my macro lens - and she has assumed a defensive posture.

There are two common Neoscona orbweavers in Ohio, and this is one: Variable Orbweaver, Neoscona crucifera. We're looking at her underside, through the web. You've probably seen these large thick-bodied spiders in their big, circular webs. I had a beautiful specimen build a large web on my porch two summers ago. During the day, I could look up under a certain shingle, and there she'd be, all eight eyes glaring at me from the shadows. Come dark, and out she'd come, patching up the web and awaiting some hapless victim.

There is something hardwired into our systems that cause us to fear spiders; or we are taught that fear early on. That's too bad. Most are completely harmless, and all are remarkable silk-spinners that rank high among nature's premier architects. With a close look, many spiders are quite showy as well.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Midwest Birding Symposium!

Wow! What a last four days it has been! We just wrapped up the 2009 Midwest Birding Symposium today, and the whole affair couldn't have come off any better than it did. Major props to all of the organizers and the legion of people who volunteered on tasks too numerous to describe. It is a TON of work to pull off a multi-day event for over 800 birders. To everyone with Bird Watcher's Digest, the Ohio Ornithological Society, and the Lakeside Association, thanks for coming together to make MBS '09 a reality. And thanks to everyone who attended.

A particularly fortuitous happening was the discovery of a Kirtland's Warbler ten minutes away from MBS central, discovered by Jim Lindway and crew. They got word out quickly, and over the course of Friday, many dozens of birders got to see it; a lifer for many. Yours truly also bagged the bird, after my second run over to the site. Number 360 for Ohio and a real milestone for me, reaching the 360's. And what a bird to get there with!

Another wonderful byproduct of MBS, thanks to the generosity of our attendees, was the $5,000 that we were able to raise to support education and conservation. As most of the OOS board was there, we were able to convene and unanimously vote to match that number out of the OOS conservation and education fund, upping the ante to $10,000. The money will go to support the Black Swamp Bird Observatory; the Roger Tory Peterson Institute; the Lakeside Association; the Black Swamp Conservancy; and The Alliance for Appalachia. All do great work, and your money could not support better causes.

MBS '09 took place on the grounds of Lakeside, a gorgeous, tranquil village on the shores of Lake Erie on the Marblehead Peninsula. There is no better place in Ohio to host such an affair, and Lakeside's Director, Kevin Sibbring and his staff were topnotch and supported us in every way and then some. Almost everyone in town this weekend was a birder, which was pretty cool, and Lakeside is compact enough that one could walk to all of the various venues.

The lobby of the massive Hoover Auditorium, where the keynotes and other main events took place. Everyone funneled through here, as this was ground zero for registration, raffles, the bird checklist, and where Jen Sauter and Ann Kerenyi, the two top commanders running the show, were based.

The MBS vendor's hall was packed, both with purveyors of nearly every product known to birders, and the birders themselves. This was an excellent place to meet new people, catch up with old friends, and find lots of goodies to help with the lightening of wallets.

The darkened bowels of Hoover Auditorium during one of the keynote presentations. It was cool indeed seeing over 700 people in there. Also rather intimidating if you were one of the speakers! Bill Thompson - emcee par excellence! - and the crew at Lakeside had rigged a neat setup with the main projection screen in center stage, and two big side screens. Two cameras projected images of the speaker on the side screens, among other things. Within the next week or so, audio recordings of all of the presentations will be available on the MBS website should you wish to hear any of them.

We took advantage of every possible venue on the Lakeside campus for our various sessions. This is the innards of Orchestra Hall, the only movie theater in Ottawa County. Here, 200 people cram in to hear a wonderful presentation by Julie Zickefoose. Towards the end of her program, husband Bill Thompson III joined her for several songs. It was a hit!

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I'll leave you with this snippet of video from Kenn Kaufman's wonderful keynote performance. Here, Kenn has enticed a youthful volunteer, Sarah, up on stage to act a part. She plays a disinterested female Mourning Dove, completely rebuffing Kenn's strutting audacity as the male dove. We were indeed fortunate to have many speakers of this caliber, and lots of laughs and memorable moments.

We'll be back in 2011 for the next MBS, and I hope you are there!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Riddell's Goldenrod

Everyone should have a favorite goldenrod. I certainly do, and it is unequivocally Riddell's Goldenrod, Oligoneuron riddellii, a true star of the prairie.

A note before we move on: if you dabble in botany on any serious plane, you'll note that I use Oligoneuron as the genus - not good old Solidago, which is what you've likely learned. The large catch basin of Solidago has been sliced and diced, and a few "new" genera have spewed from the taxonomists' spout. Most of our species are still Solidago, but we've got to learn about Oligoneurons and Euthamias, too.

On my way up to Lakeside today, it was impossible to pass right by Caledonia Prairie and not stop by. This long, linear strip of unplowed virgin prairie sod is bookended by a set of railroad tracks and a country road. If left unmolested, and particularly if the soil is not disturbed, native prairie does a remarkable job of fending off invading plants that don't belong. Caledonia Prairie, although small, may be the best remaining example of the original vegetation of the once vast Sandusky Plains wet prairie.

Easily the most charismatic plants in this scene, a pair of Riddell's Goldenrod jut from the tangled snarl of prairie species. The big leaves down low, already fading to brown, are those of Prairie-dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum.

I have been on a quest to photograph goldenrods. I am to give a lecture on all of the wonderful attributes of their lot, both biological and aesthetic, at next year's Midwest Native Plant Conference. This is a fun assignment, as goldenrods are among the most interesting and valuable of our native flora.

And none of their rank can match Riddell's Goldenrod for glamorous panache. It's too bad more gardeners don't know of it, and more nurseries don't sell it. The inflorescence is a large dome-like affair filled with lemon-yellow elfin sunflowers. A happy, well-fed specimen can tower two feet or more; the blooms acting like a vegetative billboard to all pollinators passing by.

A mouthful of multisyllabic botanical jargon shall now tumble from my keyboard: conduplicately falcate. Those two words sum up the leaves, which are the coolest thing going in the goldenrod world. Conduplicate = folded longitudinally; in essence looking as of the leaf has been folded in half from stem to stern. Falcate = sickle shaped. Riddell's Goldenrod leaves have a graceful scimitar curve to them.

This species has major roots in Ohio, if you'll forgive my bad pun. The above is a photo of the original, or type, specimen callected by John Leonard Riddell in 1834 or thereabouts. The goldenrod is one of 98 or so vascular plants that were originally collected and described to science from Ohio. This type is housed at the New York Botanical Garden.

Riddell was living in my hometown, Worthington, and teaching medicine at the defunct Worthington College, when he discovered Riddell's Goldenrod growing in wet prairies somewhere west of Columbus. His point of discovery, which is termed a "type locality", is long obliterated as has been the case with so many plant and animal type localities. I sometimes rue that so many of our most interesting and diverse habitats were destroyed before I - and others - had a chance to see them.

Quite a character was John L. Riddell, and he packed a lot of living into a life truncated in his 58th year. He wore many hats - so broad were Riddell's interests that it scarcely seems possible that he could have dabbled in them all, let alone mastered most. Itinerant lecturer on the sciences; chemist; politician; numismatician; author; medical doctor; and of course botanist - these were some of the pursuits of Riddell.

In 1835 he published the awkwardly titled Synopsis of the Flora of the Western States, in which Riddell's Goldenrod was first published. I have a copy, and it is by turns both fascinating and depressing to page through. How cool it would have been to have lived in an era in which it was still possible to discover such remarkable, distinctive plants as Riddell's namesake goldenrod.

And how depressing to acknowledge that, in the short 174 years since Riddell published his flora, we've wiped out nearly all of the habitats where he collected his subjects.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

A stinger and a looker

A recent foray to southernmost Ohio resulted in many nice finds of both animal and vegetable matter. Two organisms that fall in the former category are detailed below.

Impossibly cute, as caterpillars go, is the Saddleback Caterpillar, Acharia stimulea. Looking like a tiny sea slug draped in a lime-green horse blanket, the little beasts march about the foliage boldly, even in broad daylight.

You see, they have an effective defense, and know it. All of those columns of bristles may look cool, but this is heavy artillery. The bristles are called urticating hairs (Urtica = a genus of stinging nettle), and they pack a whallop. Handle one of these things and you'll get a big dose of experiential learning that'll probably stick - you won't grab another one. Should you suffer this fate, it is allegedly a good idea to find some sticky tape and plaster it over the stinging hairs that are lodged within your flesh. Then rip the tape off and with it perhaps the hairs. The tape-ripping process will hurt, too.

Anyway you slice it, this little 2 cm bag of colorful goo will cause pain should you molest it.

We were very excited to find this orange and black beauty. It's a long-horned beetle, but we all were flummoxed by its identity. And I was with some people that have long explored the haunts that we were in, and only one of us had ever seen one and then only once, but had not figured out what it was.

Searching my guides yielded no good answer, so finally in desperation I tossed a photo out to the boys on Bug Guide.net. The answer came back quickly - we had found a beautiful specimen of the Amorpha Borer, Megacyllene decora. The specific epithet, decora, means showy and the moniker is well deserved.

The borer was feeding on the nectar of Late-flowering Thoroughwort, Eupatorium serotinum. I have always thought of this native plant is rather coarse and weedy, but have revised my opinion. It formed a large stand on the banks of the Ohio River, which is where we found the beetle, and the collective blossoms emitted a pleasant, sweet-smelling aroma. The odor must be a good lure, because the patch was lousy with bugs drawn in by the fragrance.

The first part of the common name of this borer, Amorpha, refers to its host plant, False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa. This woody shrub reaches its northern limits in Ohio, and is thought to only be native along the banks of the Ohio in our state. Populations to the north of that mighty stream are non-native, spread from cultivation or otherwise introduced.

So it makes sense that the beetle would occur where we found it. But I wonder how rare it might be, as it seems hardly anyone has seen one, at least in these parts. It may be that their span as an adult is a short one, and the window is short to go out and find one. Or perhaps they truly are rare here, scattered populations at their northernmost outposts, living where the scattered patches of indigo grow.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Magnolia Warbler boards ship!

Fall male Magnolia Warbler takes a cruise nine miles out on Lake Erie, off Lorain. Mike Durkalec sent along the photos and story of this feathered hitchhiker that sought a free ride south.

While out on a fishing expedition a few days ago, Mike and his buddies were surprised when the warbler flitted aboard and promptly made itself at home. Migrant birds alighting on boats is nothing new, but it is always a cool thing to experience.

This bird is headed out of the cool conifer-dominated boreal forests of Canada, to a very different wintering habitat. "Maggies" overwinter throughout much of Central America, and in the Caribbean, and are far more general in their habitat preferences down there than on the breeding grounds. Crossing the open waters of Lake Erie is nothing for a bird that is headed 1,500 miles or more to get to where it's going. There'll be much more arduous water crossings than this along the way, but you can't blame the guy for stowing away and getting a free ride!

Jumping for a spider. I suppose you could say the bird earned its keep by cleaning up the miscellaneous arachnids that had occupied the vessel.

Here's an interesting fact about this bird's name. The first specimen was collected way back in 1810 by the "Father of American Ornithology", Alexander Wilson. This collection became the type specimen, which is the collection upon which the organism was originally described. Well, Al shot his warbler from the boughs of a magnolia tree, in which the migrant warbler just happened to be foraging in en route to its boreal breeding haunts. Thus, he named it after a southern tree which probably plays no important role in the biology of this bird.

The warbler graciously poses on Mike's friend Mark's cap. A nice passenger to pick up, and here's hoping it makes it to the tropics, and back to our latitude again next year.

Thanks to Mike for sharing these great photos, and the story.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Horseflies

On a recent foray into the deep woods of Zaleski State Forest, jumbo horseflies of the genus Tabanus were the most conspicuous of the insect crowd. That's because they're huge, and roar around you in circles all the while making tremendous, intimidating buzzes. These things are like insectian F-4 Phantoms, latching onto mammalian targets and relentlessly dogging their prey until they've extracted their pound of flesh.

But horseflies are interesting. And beautiful, in their own way. In my ceaseless quest to bring you cool info about astonishing beasts, I didn't immediately swat these savages away. Yep, I took one - quite a few, actually - for the team in order to get some shots. That'd be my leg, above. Denim is no barrier for the rasping swordlike mandibles of these purveyors of pain. I still have welts. But to truly learn, one must experience. Go out and get yourself bit by a gigantic Tabanus horsefly. You'll come to understand them better.

This is a female. They, not the males, are the biters, as blood is an essential ingredient to successful reproduction. I'm not saying that ALL females are thirsty bloodsuckers, but these are. I don't know the exact species of this fly, but it was quite striking with a good look; the huge spacesuit goggle-like eyes are wonders of nature, and the bright orange antennae created a striking contrast to the somber brown hues of the body.

Horsefly in action, courtesy the Nature's Mighty Pictures blog. The mandibles that do the dirty work are essentially tiny serrated swords. The typical horsefly modus operandi is to fly around the victim in circles, quite loudly and rapidly. It's easy to lose track of them, and when the buzzing stops expect trouble. They'll usually land on your back, out of sight but soon not out of mind.

Once the fly has settled on your meaty blood-filled substrate, it goes to work. Jabbing those formidable "teeth" into your hide, it rips, slices, and dices. This is not done with clean scalpel-like precision. Rather, our tormentor blasts its way into your flesh with harsh jagging rips, causing the blood to flow, which then the Dipteran Dracula eagerly laps up. This is basically an insect roadside bomb strategy. No stealth here. Just roar in, blast out a chunk of the victim, suck out as much blood as possible and get out before being swatted into oblivion.

There. I hope you have a great appreciation of the horsefly.

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