Tag Archives: insects

Rootless

Somewhere on one of my short runs through the city of Indianapolis I saw a single bagworm sack hanging from the limb of a small, street side, deciduous tree. Was it a maple tree? A pear? Maybe a ginkgo or tulip? I’m not sure. It was a brief image as I passed by on a wintry run. I see it very clearly now, in memory, but I have no idea where it is. I often run out from my office or home in a more or less straight path for two or three miles, but make my way back in a series of dog-leg turns. The little sack, if it’s still dangling from its limb in the wind and ice and snow, could be anywhere on either side of the street for roughly twenty miles of running routes. I doubt I will ever see it again. A woodpecker or crow will likely find it first.

The bagworm hangs suspended in my disjointed memory with tenacity. It does so, in part, because it belongs more in my memory than it does in an urban landscaping tree. Were I a child again in rural Kentucky, I could find hundreds of these in cedar thickets and fence rows. I see them now at eye level, practically in the face, as I tracked various critters through day old snow.

The evergreen bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) in winter is a prickly sack of leather encasing the dead body of a mouthless, headless, wingless, legless female moth. And inside her body, itself really just a sack, the shiny little eggs, tapioca pearls, wait for spring. Most home owners with manicured evergreens will consider the moth to be a pest; it is voracious and unsightly. We trimmed them off our cedar Christmas trees with pruning shears. The gut strings of their bags are so tough that they can girdle a small limb … and in a season or two, choke it out to brown.

Here in Indianapolis, recent winters have been mild. The moth is increasing its northern range. In twenty years of living north of the Ohio River, this is the first evergreen bagworm that I have seen. I am sure that there have been many others, especially in the southern part of Indiana, but I have missed them. This December has been cold. If the coming months are colder, the moth may retreat a season or two to the south. What little, aimless sense I have of home follows.

Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis
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Eight-and-a-half Innings

We took three of the children to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game on Monday. The kids payed little attention to the game. (Hot dogs, cracker jacks, popcorn, and peanuts were on the dollar menu.) It was the second Indians game and probably the fifth or sixth professional game I’ve attended. Back in the very late 70s I saw the Cincinnati Reds play the Montreal Expos in Cincinnati. I remember the van ride, the seats (third base), and hoping for a foul ball. I think Tony Perez was playing. I liked his card.

I almost remember attending a minor league game in Louisville, but in any case, I took a long, uninterested, aimless break from baseball. (I like athleticism and competition, but I am not much for fandom.) I did not see another game until I had my own, uninterested children in tow. Exemplifying the aimless disinterest, my most memorable experience sitting in a baseball stadium has little to do with baseball and much to do with a fondness for insects. I remember one night, nearly a decade ago, at a South Bend Silverhawks game. A lone praying mantis (Tenodera sinensis) rose over the seats and the stadium roof. She seemed huge in the evening light and summer heat. Tilting this way and that and hovering, at once a hulking, opportunistic predator and (had there been a bird nearby) easy prey.

At Monday’s game, I did not see any insects. I remembered the mantis, however, when a mourning dove flew up out of the right field bullpen. While the mantis seemed fragile, but dangerous, the dove appeared to be overweight and a poor flyer. It too flew over the stadium, flapping awkwardly to clear the double-deck seating. It would have been an easy target for one of the city’s pigeon-fed, pet falcons.

The Indians (a.k.a. the “Tribe”–the mascot is neither an Indian nor a Tribe, but Rowdie, a red bear with a baseball for a nose; Rowdie is probably a rodent pretending to be a bear) defeated the Columbus Clippers (they cut a lot of hair in Columbus) 5 to 3. Indianapolis had the lead at the end of the game, reducing game time to 8.5 innings. In their first, beginning-to-end baseball game, the kids were eager to leave in inning six … but we stuck it out.

Here are the all-important game stats: 8 hot dogs, 4 bags of peanuts, 4 boxes of popcorn, 3 boxes of cracker jacks, 3 beers, 2 usher redirects (the kids were standing at the wrong time), 1 bag of chips, and 1 mourning dove.

Fungus gnat

Fungus gnat. Drifting across the cornea of my world view …. What grief, that every year millions die and which one for a whiff of amber? (May 19, 2008)