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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

How to conduct a Spokane bug census

A professor of entomology at WSU once told me that those wanting to know what sort of insects live near their home should just leave a peeled banana in the backyard for a few days. 

Video: Moose gives birth to twins in backyard

WILDLIFE WATCHING — "Only in Alaska," says Levi Perry in posting a YouTube video of a cow moose giving birth to twins —  in the backyard of his girlfriend's home on the east-side of Anchorage.

The video captured Sunday by Victoria Hickey and Sarah Lochner recaps the birth of one calf and the loving attention of the mother to clean up the youngster. Minutes later you realize that while she was tending to the first-born, she was nonchalantly giving birth to the second calf.

It only takes minutes for her to get them looking clean. The little ones waste no time testing their legs and moving in for dinner.

Tiz the season of renewal! Wildlife watching at its best.

A pet peeve you are welcome to share

When people refer to wasps or yellow-jackets as "bees."


Let's make honey.

‘Tis the season for ticks

HIKING — If you're heading out to explore the lowland natural areas around Eastern Washington, be warned that it's time to be using some DEET insect repellent on your neck and cuffs of shirt and pants, and going "nerdy" by tucking those pant-legs into your socks.

Tick season is in full bloom.

I've plucked off a few while hiking with my dog near Fishtrap Lake and while strolling the soggy trails at Slavin Conservation Area.

Here's another outside report from Sunday:

Don’t know how many tick reports you’ve gotten, yet, but they’re definitely out at Saltese Uplands Conservation Area.

— Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Video hatches new perspective on aphids

Awakenings from brian plonka on Vimeo.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — It will be months before another crop of aphids tries to take over our gardens, orchards and landscaping while nourishing birds and other creatures.

But Brian Plonka, former S-R photographer turned freelance cinematographer, created this short, mesmerizing feature during an aphid hatch around Hauser Lake that makes me long for the day the bugs will return.

Latest buzz from the field: Yellowjackets still bugging campers

CRITTERS — Stinging insects haven’t eased their attack since the newspaper reported on the season of the wasp two weeks ago.

 “The bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets are as bad as I've seen in my life on the Coeur d’Alene River,” said fly fishing guide G.L. Britton. “I expect to be stung every day out!”

Pesky yellowjackets drove Steve and Carol Weinberger out of Sam Owen Campground to eat a peaceful meal at a Lake Pend Oreille restaurant. “A waiter at the Beyond Hope resort said it was so bad on the restaurant deck they called an exterminator,” Steve said.

“A road construction flagger said she had been stung five times last week.”

Chuck Dunning set a personal record this week near Fruitland, being stung nine times in a day: “My hand feels like someone hit it with a hammer!”

Britton has found at least one ally: “I’ve seen pics of hummingbirds tongue lassoing wasps ahead of the stingers and slicing off the danger.

“Last week, a rufous hummer took a paper wasp 3 feet from my face. After five seconds of squealing with action so fast I couldn't discern the strategy, the bird was swallowed the wasp.”

Moths are cool, with a week in their honor

NATURE — Moths come in a stunning spectrum of colors and varieties, and there's no better time to set your radar for them than now, during National Moth Week.

The authors of “Moths of Western North America” estimate that 7,000 to 8,000 named species of moths live in the west, with another 3,000 unidentified species potentially left to discover.  Compare that to the 200-plus species of butterflies that live in Northeastern Washington and you get an impression of their sheer diversity, says Chris Loggers, wildlife biologist for the Colville National Forest.

"Folks have reported some interesting moths in the past week, one being an Elegant Sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina) …and the other a Great Tiger Moth (Arctia caja).

"Both finders took good photographs with their cellphones, which helps immensely with identification."

To learn more about moths, check out:

Loggers also recommends a great book on moths in our area, “Moths of Western North America” by Powell and Opler. 

"If you find a moth that piques your interest, bring it by (to the office in Kettle Falls); I probably won’t identify it for you but you can grab a book and explore their diversity.

  • Email photos of moths and where you found them to Loggers at cloggers@fs.fed.us.

How often do you see June bugs?

It seems as if there are two kinds of people here.

Those who encounter June bugs all the time at this time of year.

And those who are skeptical about whether they actually can be found in the Spokane area.


If insects bother you, please look away

This was the July 12, 1976 cover of Time magazine.


After dealing with some yellow jackets building a condo on our garage last night, I can report that they have arrived.

You know you are a Spokane native if…

You take for granted the fact that you can hold open your front door for a moment after dark without worrying that your home is instantly going to be invaded by 63,000 flying insects attracted by your porch light.

Heat wave puts the buzz on turkey hunters

HUNTING — Before last weekend, I had no trouble sitting still waiting for a gobbler to work its way in to a call.

But Wednesday it was taken by surprise with the hatch of mosquitoes triggered by the recent warm spell.

I didn't have repellent. 

Sitting still required more effort, looking down my shotgun barrel with the blurred silhouette of a skeeter rump on my nose.

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors, expert says

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors

FLORA – Pollination and other services provided to native plants by insects will be explored in a free program by Nan Vance, retired Forest Service research plant scientist, 7 p.m., May 9 at Gladdish Community Center in, Pullman WA. 

Info: (208) 874-3205.

Trying to avoid a case of aphid-lung

Lots of Spokane area bike riders will tell you.

This time of year offers some of the best afternoons for cycling.

But in certain neighborhoods where there is an abundance of trees, there is a challenge for bike riders: Trying not to inhale aphids when rolling through an insect cloud.

The best advice, of course, is the classic all-purpose counsel that has served well in countless situations.

Keep your mouth shut.

Salmon flies a feast for trout

FISHING — Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson could have written all fly fishers an announcement that it's time to come to Montana. 

Instead, he sent this photo of a salmon fly, looking like the cover photo on a gourmet food magazine for trout.

One question for Friday the 13th Eve

Are Inland Northwest entomologists who ride bicycles more able than the average Spokane area pedaler to recognize instantly just what sort of insect has flown into their mouths?


Crab Creek angler becomes traveling feast for ticks

FISHING — A friend to took advantage of Tuesday's window of decent weather for an unplanned trip to sample the fly fishing at Crab Creek in Lincoln County.

Although he'd been to the creek and had decent success two weeks earlier, the water was off-color on Tuesday from the recent rain and the fishing was poor, he said.

"I was going to quit but then caught a nice fish so kept going," he said. "Did not get another."

But that's not to say he got skunked in every department.

"Part way through the day I stopped counting the number of ticks removed from my clothing at 100," said.

Brave guy.  When he was at Crab Creek in March, he picked off dozens of ticks in the field, in his vehicle on the drive, and still found four on his chest back home. Then he left on a ski vacation a week later, and found another attached in his scalp. He figures his car still holds Crab Creek ticks waiting their turn. 

When he got home, his wife told him she found several in the sheets when she changed the bedding.

Be careful out there.

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Local butterflies detailed in free program tonight

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Spokane butterfly expert John Baumann will present a free program about butterflies of the Inland Northwest on Wednesday sponsored by the Spokane Audubon Society.

The rogram is set for 7 p.m. at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave., off Upriver Drive.

Continue reading for detailed directions.

It’s a great time to be bald in Spokane

That's because the gnats, aphids, brain borers, nasal nymphs or whatever they're called are out in force. And they tend to get in your hair, literally.

So, no hair means debugging your person is a whole lot easier when you are about to go back indoors. Sure, they'll still be clinging to your clothes. But you can flick most of those off. Extricating them from your tresses is another matter entirely.

Bug season also raises questions about the advantages of certain hair colors.

If you have dark hair, the bugs aren't so visible that someone 10 feet away can note that you are infested. On the other hand, light colored hair does allow people to inspect themselves with some assurance that most of the uninvited hitchhikers will be detected.

Of course, some of the insects look white. So, in that case, the opposite scenarios would come into play.

In any event, here in a city of ballcap wearers, you might want to think about putting something on your head before you go out.

Just so long as it's not a Texas Rangers cap.

Field trip, seminars planned at Butterfly Conference in Newport

NATURE — Here's an event to make your heart flutter:

Youngsters and novices are welcome to join the fun at the Washington Butterfly Association's 12th annual conference, July 15-17, at the Pend Oreille Playhouse in Newport.

The schedule includes:

  • Friday evening lecture, "Butterflies and Habitats of Northeast Washington," by John Baumann (with help from Carol Mack and other local WBA members)
  • Saturday, full-day field trip
  • Saturday evening, keynote address by Jon Shepard, lepidopterist from Nelson, British Columbia, and author of "Butterflies of British Columbia"
  • Sunday, half-day field trip
Register for part or all of the conference by visiting the WBA website.
Children and novices are welcome.
Special low conference registration rate for first-time attendees.
Local contact:  John Baumann, (509) 327-4827, or email baumann.j56@gmail.com

Another way to relocate good bugs

"Matchboxes," suggested Jeff Ellingson.

"We relocate nearly all the spiders in our house to the outdoors."

Develope a checklist for local butterfly sightings

NATURE — Butterfly enthusiasts have developed a cool Butterflies and Moths of North America website that produces checklists of butterfly species documented for general or specific areas.

For example, by filling in the blanks on the site, one can see the 91 butterfly species that have been found in Spokane County over the years, as well as the list of 158 species documented in Washington.

In case you didn't see my Sunday feature on local butterfly groups, don't miss the "Wings of Beauty" program on butterflies April 14, 7 p.m., at the Spokane County Extension, 222 N. Havana St.

It's free, but sign up in advance by calling 477-2048 or email erik.sjoquist@wsu.edu

Other good sites to explore include: