August 28

At 5 a.m. last Tuesday I got up to see the lunar eclipse.  Savannah got up with me.  Stacey had gotten home late, and skipped it.  It was a little disappointing.  The last time I remember seeing one was at the fairgrounds in Antioch, California, where we watched the whole thing happen during the races.  This time we just got up, saw the moon was red, took some photos, and went back to bed for a fitful hour of sleep. 
The moon as it appeared at 8:53 p.m., Aug 27.  In full eclipse at 5:12 a.m., Aug 28. 

Tuesday I had a couple of my classes out to catch monarchs.  It’s a little early in the season, but we did tag six of them.  Wednesday afternoon we caught grasshoppers again.  It wasn’t quite as hot.  I treated the students to ice cream afterwards, as promised, and all of them showed up for that.  I had book club that night after dinner at Lori’s.  There were a lot of people and it was quite fun. 

One of my FYE students caught a caterpillar crawling across the parking lot.  Once in a lab container, it produced this cocoon–very knobby, with spines and shiny spots.  It’s either a comma or a question mark.

This is the caterpillar that Nancy gave me.  It’s the achemon sphinx, as far as I can tell.  It’s eating grape and Virginia creeper leaves.

Thursday afternoon I drove up to Aurora, Illinois.  The Rock River had flooded into the fields up to a mile out.  They’ve gotten some rain.   I stayed with Vince, who left QU for a job there at the Illinois Math and Science Academy.  Friday morning I drove into downtown Chicago to work with Michael LaBarbera, a biomechanics professor at the University of Chicago.  Chuck had sent him a bunch of cicada killers, and we tested the buckling strength of their hind tibiae.  It was fun stuff.  His lab was well equipped.  He had some high-speed video of cicada killers and dragonflies that was pretty cool.  We were done at 3:30, so I headed out.  It was only about 50 miles back to Vince’s.  It took me two and a half hours, bumper-to-bumper all the way.  Vince and I had dinner at a neat sea food place.  Saturday we went to visit IMSA where he works.  It’s very nice.  We went to a produce market.  Aurora is not Wayne’s World anymore, it’s Juan’s World.  The market had all kinds of obscure Mexican fruits and vegetables (cactus pads!), including some I’d never heard of before.  I took advantage and bought some figs and Anaheim green peppers.  We got Mexican food at a little diner downtown.   I drove toward home via Iowa, and met Stacey and Bill Lloyd at the Hawkeye restaurant.  That was really good food. 

Sunday I drove out to the Wyaconda River to look for dragonflies.  I didn’t see any, but there was plenty of other stuff.  Then I went down to the riverfront in La Grange.  There were lots of butterflies puddling in the mud, and I picked up a bunch of driftwood. 
The grasshopper and spider were in the parking area.

Another pearl crescent and a hackberry butterfly.

The spider lies in wait on the end of a dead blossom.  The black swallowtail on clover.

The snout butterfly: a new species for me!  A variegated fritillary, and a far better pic than I’ve ever gotten of one before. 

A red-spotted purple.  Sometimes they feel like a nut. 

In the afternoon I went up to Shawn and Lorna’s to check out a pupa they had found.  There were a lot of butterflies around, including a monarch on a thistle flower.  I netted it so we could tag it.  I let Lorna apply the tag.  She was a little tenuous at first, afraid of harming the butterfly.  I said, “Lorna, you’re a doctor for Christ’s sake.”  She said, “Yes, I am, and for that reason.”  She put the tag on perfectly.  

A great spangled fritillary was also on a thistle.  Lorna’s horse was in the back yard.

At the Canton riverfront I found this rather large and cooperative question mark.  You can see the punctuation on its hindwing, if upside-down.

We went to a dinner party with some friends.  It was fun, and I pigged out. 

Monday morning I worked on manuscript revisions.  In the afternoon we all went to Quincy.  I stopped at my office to check on my pupae, then we went on to the mall.  We ran into Rick, and caught up on news for awhile.  I caught another two monarchs in the back yard.  Savannah helped me tag them.   I successfully turned Savannah on to figs as well. She’s a real Portagee now.

Aug 21

Tuesday was the first day of classes for me.  It was stressful, but it was also good to see all my old students again.  I cancelled my afternoon lab, which was a good thing because I was swamped with the needs of students and stuff. 

Wednesday was the first day of school for Savannah.  When I got up, I asked her, “Are you wearing THAT?”  Later on, I said, “Are you wearing your hair like THAT?”  I had a great time getting under her skin.  She did look pretty good when she was done dolling herself up.

First day, sophomore year of high school.

In ecology lab we netted grasshoppers for an hour.  It was blazing hot, but we finished just before a thundershower hit.  This group didn’t seem too motivated, so I said I’d take them out for ice cream if they caught more than last year’s class.  They made it by two ‘hoppers.  On the way home there was a nice, big rainbow following the thunderstorm.  As soon as I got home I grabbed the camera and drove around to get a good shot of it.  It disappeared.  The best I got was the trailing edge of the storm. 

Anvil over the Mississippi.

Thursday was a typical day of class.  I did hire a work-study student though.  I couldn’t get any through all of last year, and now I’m swamped with them.  A mouse got into my cabinets recently.  It was making a good living on the corn and other seeds in there, so I had my new minion clean it up.  When I got home the guy across the street was cutting down a big dead pine tree.  I offered to help him load his brush in exchange for the firewood.  He was agreeable.   The diameter of some of the logs was huge.  I started a new rack in the back yard against the maple tree.  This is not a good job to start before dinner.  I was bonking bad.  A big katydid was banging against the sliding glass door that night, so I let him in.  I took some pics, then fed him to the tokay gecko. 

With the macro lens, I was trying to simulate the effect on Steely Dan’s album cover, Katy Lied.

Friday I had no classes.  I stayed home and telecommuted for awhile.  It rained all morning.  When it quit I went down to the brush dump.  There was a lot more wood there than I thought, but mostly already conveniently cut to length.  It was more humid than hot, but I still ended up soaked with sweat.  I accidentally left my lights on and the battery died in the truck.  I called Charlie Walters and he came down and gave me a jump.  I went back for one more load after that.  I found a big grasshopper, threw it in the back of the truck, and later fed it to the leopard gecko.  Lizard food is in abundance right now. 

This weed was blooming down at the brush dump.  Pretty, unidentifiable thing, the blooms were a bit past prime.

Saturday I cut up the longer logs.  I helped Nancy haul her brush, and picked up some mulch.  Stacey was in the Fire Department softball game.  She got a hit and a sunburn.  In the evening Savannah and I went to the QU soccer game.  We were behind 0-1 most of the game, then scored a goal with 5 minutes left.  There were two overtimes and it still ended at a tie.  We got home much later than I expected.  It cooled down a lot after the sun went down, and for the first time in months, I was cold. 

Sunday I went out to Lowell’s.  We fished a couple of rounds of the lake.  I tried a variety of lures and caught two fish.  We drove around in the mule awhile and saw several turkeys.  We stopped at all photo opportunities.

I’ve gotten this blue dragonfly before, but it’s irresistible.

This flower, perhaps a mallow, is growing in the wetland.

I caught this baby snake crawling through the blazing star meadow.  Could be another black rat snake.

A wildflower (with bonus beetle) in a planted strip.

Savannah worked a lifeguard job for a frat party at the pool.  Naturally, she didn’t let on to the college boys that she was a high school sophomore.  At one point, there was a gathering of anxious people at the other end of the pool and the manager yelled for Savannah.  She came running, thinking that it was a lifesaving situation.  There was a garter snake in the kiddie pool.  So she grabbed it and threw it over the fence.  They didn’t teach her that in lifeguarding class. 

Today I taught my big lab with 31 students.  I had two assistants, however, which made it go so much easier.  They are both excellent.  They looked at a lot of different things under the microscope.  One of them said it was fun.  When I got home I went to the back yard to look for monarchs, as I just got my tagging kit today.  I didn’t see any, but lots of things were active in the prairie.

A Carolina mantis awaits dinner, but the bumblebee is too much for her.

Grey hairstreak, Eastern blue hairstreak

Pearl Crescent.  Forgot to compress this image!

August 16

I worked on the rental house some more.  The medicine cabinet was all rusty.  I took it out and looked for a replacement online.  There was nothing even close to the right size.  So I took apart the old one, sanded, primed, and painted it.  I reassembled and reinstalled it, good as new.  Guess I should open a body shop. 

Tuesday was probably the hottest day of the year.  It was supposed to make 100 degrees.  I don’t know if it did.  (0ur thermometer said 105, but it reads high).  So naturally, I did some chainsawing and logging.  Not for very long. 

Wednesday afternoon I went into the office to work for awhile, then to book club. 

Thursday I had the “beginning of the semester” meetings.  There was good news.  All numbers for QU are UP.  Something like 46% for total enrollment.  I am amazed, and very happy.  The afternoon session was all about our upcoming accreditation visit.  Dull, but very important.  Meanwhile, Savannah was in my office reading in the morning, and in the mall shopping in the afternoon.  I picked her up just in time to go to the theater and see the latest Harry Potter.  It was great, and as faithful to the book as it could be in the limited time.  We ran back to campus just in time for the faculty/staff picnic.  Stacey met us there.  We won a T-shirt in the drawing.  The deposit was made for the Galapagos trip, so it looks like I’m going. 

This sunflower came up voluntarily in the back yard, no doubt a leftover from the bird feeder.

The official common names for the North American cicada killers that I proposed almost a year ago finally were approved and added to the online database.

Go to and search for the genus Sphecius

I’m not enough of a taxonomist to ever name a new species, so this is as close as I’m likely to ever get!

Friday we had a division meeting in the morning, free lunch, and a general assembly meeting in the afternoon.  Saturday morning I had to go in to meet my FYE class.  It was fairly casual, and we had some good discussion.  I had brought along a live male cicada killer, which got their attention, I think.  I went downtown to the farmers’ market and bought a watermelon and a couple of onions.  I saw some butterflies nectaring on the ornamental flowers in the park there, so I ran back to the car.  I thought I’d never get a photo of the Cloudless Sulfur because their usually 20 feet high and moving fast.  These were fairly cooperative.

I met Stacey for lunch, and we caught up on the day’s news.  She went back to class, and I went to the pet store and picked up a couple of mice.  I was talking to Ron while driving down Broadway and the watermelon rolled back and squished the mouse box.  It ripped open and a white mouse started poking his head out.  I related these amusing events to Ron, then pulled over and straightened things out.  The mice made it home intact, where the snakes thought them very tasty. 

I suppose the lack of spots on the male (left) makes them the Cloudless Sulfur.  Female at right.

Stacey brought home Chinese food for dinner.  Savannah and I went out to help bring in the groceries.  I was trying to let Stacey in, so I flicked the screen door open a bit more and gave a little push to the front door.  The screen door sprung back immediately and hit me on the eyebrow.  I don’t think I was ever hit like that in 20 years of karate.  I got a vertical cut, which Savannah says will make a nice dueling scar someday.  Yeah, dueling with an inanimate object.  It must have affected my brain because after dinner I ate my fortune cookie with the fortune still in it.  Though fiber in the diet is good, I eventually get all the paper out of my mouth.

Sunday I hung around the house and worked on lots of little projects that needed to be done.  I rewired the lights in the camper shell of my truck, all of which have been broken for over a year.  In the afternoon I mowed the lawn, for probably the first time since June. 

Monday I took Savannah to work with me for a bit.  We went to the Jade Orchid, where Wanaree gave Savannah a lesson in the woodburning of driftwood.  I brought a nice piece of driftwood that I had picked up earlier in the summer.  The ant colony had left it in the interim, thankfully.  I went back to work to meet with my new advisees.  Lots of tall girls–volleyball, softball, etc.  I went back to pick up Savannah, and we took Wanaree out to lunch.  I thought the grain of the driftwood looked kind of like a dog, but naturally Savannah made it into a cat.  We are all very happy with the outcome. 

The bobcat is looking over its left shoulder.  This piece is about three feet tall.

August 10

I spent some more time working on the rental house, replacing glass, and a few other last-minute things.  My new tenants arrived Friday from Egypt after two days of difficult travel.  It’s not easy going through airports and being muslim.  They’re pretty jet-lagged.  While I was working on the house I noticed some paper wasp nests under the eaves.  I killed them all with spider spray.  The nests came in all sizes.




There was also this toad hanging around.

They call me “Bufo.”

On Tuesday I went into the office and then to someone’s back yard in Quincy.  This was the first infestation of cicada killers I’ve seen around here.  Finally, I have a place I can get my animals.

Here’s a perching male.  One email from a guy this week called them “atrocities of nature.”  As my buddy Jon said, I hope he gets stung and dies of anaphyllaxis.  In the same yard, which was burgeoning with flowers, I shot the first tiger swallowtail I’ve been able to get the camera on.

It’s the melanistic variety: extra dark.  From the underside, you can see the tiger stripes better.

My friend Nancy gave me a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar.  I put him on my spicebush out front.  He rolled up a leaf to hide in, and devoured several leaves.  I kept an eye out to make sure he didn’t completely defoliate the bush.  He has since left it, presumably to pupate.

Those eyespots are fake.  When you poke him, he everts some horns that produce an unusual odor.  I haven’t smelled it since I was a kid, but I remembered it immediately as the same that the tiger swallowtail larva produces.  They say smell memory is best.

We had a tornado watch one night.  It was very exciting.  Nothing hit us, but we got some rain out of it, which was badly needed.  It’s been really hot here; highs in the nineties every day.  Stacey was coming home and saw the cloud rotating and beginning to funnel.  She started her new job this week.  So far, she likes it a lot.  It’s kind of like church without the preaching.  All she does is organize fun things for retired and senior people to do. 

Savannah was at Audra’s in Macomb most of the week, so we enjoyed being childless for a short time.  Now that she’s back, we put her to work.  Friday we combed out Kane, filling a 5-gallon bucket with his hair. 

I forgot to mention last time something funny.  Most of the kids at the swim meet write the numbers of their races on the backs of their hands in permanent marker, and many write things on their backs, usually “Eat my bubbles.”  Savannah had “Can-Oka” on her arm (that’s her swim team).  You can still see the “C” on her shoulder where it’s not tanned as dark.  The best one though was “Chlorine: it does a body good.”

Saturday I helped the El-Bermawys move in.  Savannah helped too, and got to drive a couple of times.  It only took three hours.  I couldn’t understand how it had taken so long to move the same amount of stuff down to their storage last year, then one of the kids pointed out that it had been upstairs at both ends last time, plus wrestling the washer and dryer out of the basement and through the doorways.  Meanwhile Stacey was in Jefferson City at a meeting, though she spent much of the afternoon with her dear old friend Michelle. 

Sunday I went out to Lowell’s.  It was probably the hottest day of the year so far, so naturally we start with some healthy logging.  All we had to do was drag a bunch of logs over the the pile, cut them up with the chainsaw and stack them.  There were a lot more logs than I thought.  It took us three hours, including breaks for water and recovery.  It was just plain stinkin’ hot out.  After lunch we made one round of the lake.  I caught one nice bass, but that did not justify further efforts.  We gave up.  I never even took a photo that day.

Monday I worked on the rental house some more.  The middle room needed a door modified to fit, and their were problems with the dishwasher and bathroom.  And here I thought I was done!  No matter.  These little projects kept me busy most of the day.  When I was next to the house painting I noticed a familiar burrow.  It has all the right characteristics: hole size, dirt pile size, dirt particle size.

Could it be a cicada killer nesting next to my house?

I removed this tussock moth caterpillar from one of my milkweeds.  Good thing.  Today I noticed one of my other milkweeds was completely stripped of leaves.  I found this half-grown monarch caterpillar crawling nearby.  I moved him onto my intact ‘weed. 

Royal catchfly is one of the plants flowering in the prairie.  These nymphal bugs were colorful too.

I spotted this crab spider guarding the entrance to a trumpet creeper flower.  This praying mantis has been hanging out in the prairie a couple of days.

Savannah and I drove down to the river today.  At the campground I couldn’t help but notice this lovely 5th wheel trailer, illustrating what NOT to do.

Must have cut a corner too sharp in the Ozarks.

Stacey has a fire meeting tonight.  They get to practice with the new ladder truck.  Nothing like them big toys!

August 6

The tenants moved out of our rental house.  On the one hand, that’s good because they were the worst tenants ever.  On the other, we then had a lot of work to do.  The place was trashed and filthy.  I had to completely repaint two bedrooms.  The rest of the place needed a lot of touching up and patching plaster.  So I’ve spent the last week mostly working on the place, with little time for the usual interesting adventures I usually report here.  While I was photographically documenting the damages (a trick I learned from my brother Mark), I saw this jumping spider.

Savannah helped out one morning, cleaning the kitchen cabinets.  When her friend Audra came over to visit, they both cleaned the bathroom, with much ewwwing, auugghhing, and retching sounds.  Stacey helped clean the hardwood floors.  Mr. Clean Erasers are great for black scuff marks. 

Saturday and Sunday were Swim Championships.  I was a volunteer timer both days.  Saturday was miserably hot and humid.  Still, two things made my day.  A guy told me that the raptor perches had been put up on the Canton riverfront.  I had written the proposal for that over 9 months ago, but we had been hung up on som permissions the last I heard.  The second was that I saw the snout butterfly for the first time ever.  Too bad I had no camera.  Savannah took first in the freestyle relay with three other girls on her team.  Her best individual event was 6th in breast stroke.  I think she took 10th in backstroke and freestyle.  The most interesting part was the mixed medley relay, in which she was matched in breast stroke against Corey Moon, the fastest overall swimmer at the meet.    The results were predictable.  We handed Savannah over to Audra’s mom so she could spend the week with Audra at their house in Macomb.  These little hover flies were hanging around the swimming pool, licking the sweat from people’s arms.  They kept calling them sweat bees.  I tried to educate them in insect taxonomy without being obnoxious.  I think they’re pretty.  Reminds me of an old joke.  Guy in a restaurant says, “Hey, waiter.  What’s this fly doing in my soup?”  Waiter replies…

…”The backstroke?”

Guess who.

It rained a half-inch this morning, to much rejoicing.  We have endured a long drought.  Today we worked on the rental house again.  It’s almost done, thankfully.  I went down and rescued some logs from the brush dump.  Here’s one of the eagle perches.

Next November I expect to see eagles sitting on this thing, tearing apart fish.