Today on CSI:Bugs we have two cases. The first involves an apparent accidental overdose - of pollen. I first spotted this beetle in a tulip trying to escape up the sides of the flower. When I went back a few minutes later with the camera, it was gone. But a third inspection a day later revealed the creature(or one like it) had returned to the tulip and died there. The flower was now a crime scene.
I removed the body for closer inspection (of course) and found a very pretty substance covering most of the insect:
At 60 X magnification, the substance appears to be pollen:
As there was no evidence of use of force (no broken legs or antennae), it was concluded that the beetle died after covering itself in pollen (perhaps interfering with the animal's ability to fly) and then was trapped in the closing petals of the flower at night. Unable to find a warmer spot it froze to death (it has the same appearance of bugs I have deliberately frozen - for scientific seasons). Not really an overdose of pollen, but if it hadn't returned it might have lived.
The second case is still an ongoing investigation. In the front of the building we have a plastic container that holds a garden hose and nozzles for the hose. I open it up on a regular basis and have on more than one occasion removed some wasp, bee, or other bug from inside. Today, a mother paper wasp was in there tending to her nest. She had already made 12-14 hexagonal cells and placed a number of eggs in them and was preparing to make more. Not wanting to be stung this summer while retrieving gardening tools, I gently nudged the mother out (luckily she was woozy from the cold) and removed the under-construction nest:
At 60 X magnification:
I toyed with the idea of raising these babies on my own, but soon realized in a few weeks I will have about 10 hungry larvae demanding bits of caterpillar and other insects for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What I will do instead is watch the eggs until they hatch into larvae, take some pics and then release them next to an ant hill. This will be a bit of an experiment to see if the ants will take them. The paper wasp secretes a substance on the stalk of the nest (the stalk is the bit that attaches the nest to a structure from which it hangs) and sometimes on the cells. It is apparently an ant deterrent and protects the larvae from being carried away when the mom's not around. If the ants aren't interested in them, then we'll know that the stuff works. If the ants carry them away, then it means that the substance must be regularly applied.
Since I have kidnapped the larvae, and none are dead yet, then the case is ongoing.
On a completely different topic, I received an e-mail from my high school friend, Welli. She's a married mom of two teenage boys and she recently started taking hip hop dance classes. She told me it's one of the most intellectually stimulating things she's done in a few years. On the surface that might seem a bit bizarre to hear. After all, Welli is one of the most intelligent people I've ever known and she has a career that required a great deal of education. As well, a lot of hip hop music is lost on our generation (actually, every generation has its own types of music lost on others). So why is this type of dancing so intellectually stimulating?
Welli says learning the steps and routines has been a workout for her mind. And that's the key. I have been extolling the virtues of stimulating your mind while you exercise. Simply going through the motions is not enough to maintain or improve brain fitness. Your brain thrives on novel experiences; that's why I tell you to change up your exercise routine, take different routes on your runs or rides or walks, listen to different music or books or radio stations while you do it (not while riding a bike though, that's not safe), even mixing up the exercises you do. Lately, I have been stepping up onto and over the boulders that line one of the paths I regularly walk. This takes concentration and making judgments about where to put my feet at the same time that it is using different muscle sets than just walking. I am also climbing and walking along benches and hanging from monkey bars on my walks. It is the new, different or novel things that our brain pays attention to and those are the things that increase the number of neurons. That is brain fitness. And that is why a hip hop class can be an intellectual stimulator.