01 de junio de 2021

early uses of cochineal insects

Perhaps you knew this and know of other instances, but I wanted to share in case it is new to you. My son is currently part of a project digitizing an early French manuscript of "recipes" from the 1500's. Today, he is in a lab at college making one of these recipes with his boss and team on the project. They have obtained a bag full of cochineal insects and are making a red pigment using the original recipe from the manuscript. Not only do I find this wonderfully, nerdy, and cool, I learned something new and I hope you do too.

Here is the iNat taxon page for cochineal scale insects and it describes the uses of this bug in making pigment: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/202091-Dactylopius

My son sent me a short video from the lab showing how the pigment (in liquid form) was hot pink and then turned a lighter bubblegum color as he added an alum solution to the base. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the process from him as they finish it up.

As of this moment, I cannot remember the details of the French manuscript, but will add that once I hear back. Enjoy!

Edit: manuscript dates from 1500's (corrected above), and it is "Making and Knowing", for more details check out: edition640.makingandknowing.org

Publicado el junio 1, 2021 04:36 TARDE por scubabruin scubabruin | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de mayo de 2021

Oh May, oh my

Hello Wild Ones,

I overdid SLO (on the work side) -- got heat stroke, wore myself out, then played in poison oak to take breaks (every day a new little outbreak). The flowers were lovely and the hills still green. Did you know there are California poppies and there are Tufted poppies? Big surprise for me!

By the time I return in June, it will be crispy brown. A fire there is inevitable, as Andrea has noted, although I'm happy to report that I cleared a few decades of flammable litter...two feet deep in some areas...and limbed up (6-10'). I also got into vertical hoeing by backing the old truck up to elder eucalyptus trees and pulling down loose bark on my tiptoes. Bruised, itchy, satisfied. Next visit will be cutting a path through the eucalyptus forest so I can continue to remove litter and thin saplings.

CalFire was super helpful, spending several hours with me. Interesting to note that while eucalyptus is an introduced invasive and poses a serious fire problem, you cannot fell entire stands. They provide too much important habitat now...monarchs being a key species.

While I was there, a black bear made regular nightly visits (getting a trail cam set-up now). Also, evidence of a big-cat kill (likely mountain lion and deer). The bobcats were around for my sister to see, not me!

This week, I dropped my husband off for a medical procedure in SM and had some time to kill. Went to Temescal @ Sunset. A first for me. Went back again today. Definitely a social gathering/workout zone but I'm so happy to see a creek with life in it.

I'm fully vaccinated now and still wearing a mask around others. I've actually wondered if I'm better off wandering around in my silence. It could be the long isolation along with the dichotomy of humanity and the natural world (noisemakers vs real life) that is playing with my mind. I feel like a hermit in the making!

Hope you are all safe and well. Despite said reservations, I would definitely pull myself out of the cave to wander in exploration with you!

Publicado el mayo 7, 2021 02:13 MAÑANA por redrovertracy redrovertracy | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de abril de 2021

Tipu - Warbler missing link

Some friends and I noticed that some Tipu Trees sometimes attract large numbers of birds, especially warblers. In Spring migration, one patch has had so many birds, we named it "Tipu Corner". Once we noticed this bird magnet, we started mapping out the Tipu Trees in Long Beach, and quickly found that they are almost everywhere. These non-native ornamental trees from South America lose their leaves late winter through spring. However, not all the trees were losing their leaves, and only some trees were birdy. I'm not much of a plant person, so don't know much about the tree. However, I did discover that birds are not much interested in the tree. They are interested in the insects that are infesting them. I knew warblers are insectivores but never saw the insects, until Saturday when I photographed a Hermit Warbler eating little white things. I did some research and also looked back at my photos of the Black-throated Green Warbler I photographed in Tipu trees in February. Sure enough, there were the same white bits and similar leaf damage. I still hadn’t seen the insects. I went and collected some of the leaves at Tipu Corner on Sunday, this time looking for the insect I had now suspected. Mystery solved. Tipu Psyllids Platycorypha nigrivirga in huge abundance, almost invisible until you look for them. They were found in San Diego in 2008 and have spread. They are associated with Tipu Trees. Perhaps they are not as widespread or as well-known as Redgum Lerp Psyllids Glycaspis brimblecombei associated with Eucalyptus (or "lerpy eucs" as we refer to them). The damage caused by these insects can cause the trees to drop their leaves prematurely. Their numbers surge in spring. This explains why some trees lose their leaves at different times and only some trees have birds, because they are infested. I guess the trick is to look for the trees with damage to find the birds.

  • Kim

Tipu Psyllid

Hermit Warbler

Publicado el abril 19, 2021 07:36 TARDE por kimssight kimssight | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

22 de marzo de 2021


A few tidbits to share.

Super excited about your observations. So energizing.
Just borrowed Art Evans' CA Beetles book and it's so good. Back to being a student. Elytra! Elytron!
Keep obscuring those special/rare/vulnerable observations. Someone posted a chocolate lily in SLO and boom -- someone quickly dug it up. Shitheads. Can't be too careful for our nature friends.
There are some good low tides this week in the afternoon. Heads up.
My biggest recent thrill was finding an endangered slug. Yes!
Took a vernal equinox hike in the Verdugos. Blissful. The clouds bobbed on the hilltops, it misted often, was sunny just as often WHILE misting, dew glistened on abundant greenery, hillsides of blooms, magical. We saw a handful of people (half were masked). One had mega-creeper vibe so my husband had one of those "I won't allow you out there alone" talks. Valid. Gunning for my vaccinations!

Btw, I started playing with all-in-one shots. Like those tide-pool photos that you dissect at home. It's so much harder on hillsides and in valleys but kind of interesting. You just have to make your way around for the closer images. It's kind of like a jigsaw-puzzle shot where the individual pieces are distinct species and altogether there are loads of species. Yeah, not so practical. I might be trippin' 😜.


Publicado el marzo 22, 2021 11:49 TARDE por redrovertracy redrovertracy | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de marzo de 2021

Quote about Wild Women

I have added this quote to the project description

“Wild women are an unexplainable spark of life. They ooze freedom and seek awareness, they belong to nobody but themselves yet give a piece of who they are to everyone they meet.
If you have met one, hold on to her, she'll allow you into her chaos but she'll also show you her magic.”
Nikki Rowe

Publicado el marzo 16, 2021 12:51 MAÑANA por kimssight kimssight | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de marzo de 2021

Happy March!

Despite the terrifying dryness in our area, spring is on the way. Do you remember the March Miracle last year, a few days of wonderful late season rain that made such a huge difference? I'm so hoping for it!! There's a 73% chance of rain on Wednesday, of 0.24", and possibly a few more drops during the following days. NWS forecast discussion has low confidence this will amount to much, though.

I wanted to share a great compilation of our local aphids, with host plant notes: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/13044-aphids-of-southern-california. I found it because I took a picture of a Convergent Lady Beetle on a California Buckwheat, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/70407687, and discovered the beetle was munching aphids. I googled, and the great iNat list popped up. From now on, a lady beetle sighting will make me inspect the plant more closely.

I don't have any particular March theme in mind, but maybe one of you is chasing something these days we could tackle together?

Stay safe, and be well!!

Publicado el marzo 1, 2021 08:19 TARDE por andreacala andreacala | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

27 de febrero de 2021

I made the news

Publicado el febrero 27, 2021 02:11 TARDE por kimssight kimssight | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de febrero de 2021

February Theme

Hi all,

following up on Laura's question in our last group email, I'd like to suggest "boards, logs and rocks turning" as a potential February theme.
Laura and I have been turning over all sorts of objects in the last few days and explored the life forms we found: snails, slugs, spiders, woodlice, bugs, centipedes, earwigs, ants...
Laura recommended to turn up a log or board while standing behind it, just in case one uncovers an aggressive specimen, like a snake, to have some protection and to be able to quickly put the log or board back down. It might also be a good idea to put on gloves.

It's a fascinating way to explore nature, a bit like shining a light into a pitch black tunnel. You never know if you even uncover anything, and when you do, you have to be quick since many critters scatter or crawl into holes.

After I had posted a bunch of observations from January 31st, I was contacted by a college student who runs a related project for her senior thesis, called BLISS (Biodiversity and Landscaping – Influence on Isopods and Snails and Slugs)


Laura and I will contribute to this project during one of our next outings.

Happy iNatting!!

Publicado el febrero 5, 2021 06:18 TARDE por andreacala andreacala | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de enero de 2021

Hot Winter

Hi Wild Ones!

I dropped out of communication for a bit (overload). Am back on the Central Coast (Suze, love your observations from here). It's funny that I was a nature freak growing up and here I am learning so much about nature still. Thank goodness our brains continue to welcome new information as curiosity waves the butterfly net around.

Peregrines were rare in the 60s and 70s, having been decimated by human actions. Now I'm reliably welcomed by a peregrine in Pismo as I drive north on the 101. It nests on an enormous boulder between the north and southbound lanes.

Otters suffered similar --perhaps greater-- injustices and when they returned to Morro Bay, it was newsworthy. This week I spotted one southeast of Diablo in the SL Port area. Astonishing to me. Yet (and this gives me such hope) a quick iNat search shows they're plentiful to Nipomo now. Here's an informative article about these bobbing bears https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-morro-bay-otters-20170324-story.html

I'm in awe of what I've been surrounded by and either didn't notice or took for granted. Until recently, I lumped many species together. A sparrow is a sparrow. Oh dang, there are so many sparrow species! Gulls, mule deer, alligator lizards, manzanita, limpets, chitons, lichen, moss. Wait, what, we have corals and sponges? What are they anyway? I'm truly amazed. And now I know that there are not just mule deer on our ranch but Columbian black-tailed mule deer, the youngest subspecies.

While the lid of this wonder box is cracked and brightly beckoning, it has been hotter than ever -- hit 91 in SLO yesterday. You had to travel over the coastal range to Paso in August to experience that when I was growing up. It's crispy dry; frightening in [now] year-round fire country. Los Osos/Baywood/Morro Bay are not the fog zones we used to know. Fog is still here but it's greatly reduced and no longer provides a seasonal cooling effect for SLO. Doesn't stay long enough for the dew to truly dampen.

Okay, I'm blabbing. Nerves are inflamed as the 20th approaches. We've divided my house with hubby standing guard in LA and me up here with my mom (who is getting her first vaccination on Monday, hallelujah). I'm thinking of you WW as I take this ALL in. Stay safe and vigilant. Aaaand, although my pics are from a compact, I have several pier piling pics that are loaded with creatures -- if anyone wants to play a game of "seek and ID", I'd be happy to send them along. Otherwise, I'll eventually get to them.


Publicado el enero 16, 2021 02:50 TARDE por redrovertracy redrovertracy | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de enero de 2021

Leaf miners and Gall Wasps

As we continue to go through a rather dry winter, with only very few flying insects, blooming flowers, refreshed lichens, mushrooms and mosses to observe, two groups have left their marks of which some are to see year round: leaf miners and gall wasps.

There's a great project on leaf miners:

Some are easy to ID as their host plant is part of their English name. Examples we should be able to find:
Toyon Leafminer, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/469764-Stigmella-heteromelis,
Poison Ivy Leaf-miner, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/215950-Cameraria-guttifinitella,
Morning-glory Leaf-miner moth: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/214958-Bedellia-somnulentella.

We have 43 Oak Gall Wasp species in Los Angeles County:
Some have dropped off their hosts by now or are so shriveled and dry that they are really hard to find, but a few are observable even now.

In my (limited) experience, if I can see an oak apple in an oak, chances are other gall wasps have used that tree too.

As to IDs, noting the host plant (and/or including pictures of the host plant) seems to be essential for the ID.

Any other tips?

Publicado el enero 8, 2021 11:05 TARDE por andreacala andreacala | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario