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Two challenges face me this week… insects (crew challenge) and the beach (online book challenge)! The question is, how do I combine these challenges? As I considered the word beach I remembered a book I read last fall called Beach Music. In that hardcover read I was introduced to the plight of sea turtles, and how they slapped mosquitos at the beach. Ergo a good combination would insects at the beach… don’t you think?
Now the insects that one finds at the beach kinda depend on where your beach is. I find more insects readily available on the beach near small lakes. Insects are somewhat less prevalent I find at the beaches from the great lakes, but if you look for them, you’ll find them. It could also be that I’m not paying as much attention as I’m usually at Lake Huron to swim and socialize, not relax and notice nature! 🙂
Insects at the beach that annoy
I know when I go to the beach at Lake Huron the sandflies irritate me! Annoying little pests that go after my ankles. A small fly, they pack a nasty bite. They seem to be worse when the weather is humid, so going to the beach when it’s just slightly chill, or there’s a wind blowing is ideal for avoiding them.
The same goes for mosquitos! A slight wind, and they stay away. And the bonus is, on somewhat windy days, the beach is way less crowded too!
Of course one can use a variety of repellants as well to hold them off. I don’t really like using repellants, particularly at the beach since it just washes off in the water and I’d rather not poison the water critters.
Insects that Delight
Water striders. I will always be fascinated by these crazy insects. They are just too cool floating on the top of the water. You won’t find them on busy beach days at Lake Huron or where the waves are coming in rough at all, but those calm glassy days…the striders will be out! But by smaller lakes and ponds you’ll find them, and in streams going along nature trails you’ll find them in abundance.
I’ve also seen water beetles at our local beach. I freely admit that I don’t know the names to all these beetles, some are water bugs, others are boatmen, some bite easily, others avoid contact at all costs it seems, but they are really neat to observe as they dart around in the water. Again, calm, quiet days are best to observe them. Sometimes I wonder where they go when the waves are rushing in.
Moths and butterflies flit about, as do dragonflies chasing after the mosquitos and sand flies. I thoroughly enjoy watching the dragonflies, they are so quick and precise in their movements. You’ll find all sizes of them, but note, not all that look like dragonflies are, some are actually damselflies. Canadian wildlife will help you tell the difference.
Over the years we have caught several as my lad was quite fascinated with them for quite some time. They don’t keep well in captivity due to their need for food, but to catch and observe and then release, works really well.
OH! I shouldn’t forget the ants. I always find ants at the beach regardless if at Lake Huron or out camping. There are so many different types of ants it’s actually quite amazing. We also find tons of small spiders as well, but they technically aren’t insects what with lacking wings and having too many legs. 🙂
Things to help in your observations
Something you might want to do is make a Pooter… it’s a device you use for catching small insects and spiders. Very simple to make. You just need a jar with a lid and some flexible tubing. Some lung power to suck the insect up and voila! A chance to closely observe insects with the equal ability to let them go free afterwards.
For larger insects like dragonflies and butterflies you’ll need a good bug net and patience. Word to the wise, avoid the kids bug nets… they fall apart so easily and really aren’t worth the money. Get a good quality one and it will last you until your children are no longer interested in insects. 🙂
In fact, if you are going to the beach to just look for insects you’ll want to bring along all your nature study tools, and even a bug collecting tent. We got a lot of use out of this collapsible one and eventually learned to make our own out of old tenting mesh and wire clothes hangers.
If you have a fascination for ants (or your children do) make a formicarium or glass ant farm to keep them in. Keep them well-fed with mealworms and honey and make sure they have water. Catching a queen means it will last far longer as ants need a leader and a job to do in order to live well.
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