A June bug

June bugs live up to name



I found over a dozen June bugs around my back porch light. They are strange little beetles, and for those of us who are curious, they are edible when roasted. I tried them once. My son described them as a delicious snack prepared in oil. In this country, we are a little reticent to eat beetles, ants and grubs, but in another parts of the world, they are readily enjoyed. Just think of the lobster‘s history. Not too many years ago, it was a food only to be eaten if you had nothing else. In 2017, it is a sought-after delicacy and big business.

June bugs are large brown beetles that gather around outdoor lights in May and June. We notice them mostly when the blunder into lights and screens and whirl about our porch lights on warm, gentle June evenings. I read somewhere where they were described as “hard headed heralds of spring,” and I liked that description.

June bugs have a rather unusual life. Much of it is underground where they begin life as an egg in the soil. In their first year, they live under the soil chewing on fine rootlets. When their first winter approaches, they go deeper into the soil, where they stay until spring returns. In their second spring, life is still underground, where they munch away on roots. For three years, they live underground. At the end of the third summer, they transform into beetles. If they don’t get rooted out by skunks and crows, they emerge as beetles in the fourth spring. That is when we see these fat, brown, rather clumsy beetles at last going about eating succulent leaves on trees. They only live as adult beetles in this last June. It’s a bit like living as a child for 60-some years and then as an adult for two summers.

Friends out hiking on the island trails came across a small salamander called a “red eft” and wondered what sort of creature it was. This is a strange little creature, for part of its life is in the water and another part is on land. It later goes back to the water. The red eft is the land stage of the red-spotted newt.

The temperature of the air and water decide how long life is in the water. The eggs are laid in the water, and life begins there, but after two or three months, the larva transforms into a terrestrial stage and lives for a while on land and becomes an adult, but if the weather is very dry in an area, the larva never leaves the water and retains its gills. If the salamander does change to the red eft and lives on land, it does so for about three years and then returns to the water for the rest of its life. When it returns to the water, it loses its gills and retains its air-breathing lungs. Some individuals never leave the red-eft stage. The red eft is quite pretty, perfectly harmless and interesting to see.

Snapping turtles are out and about, and friends have reported stopping traffic on local roads near Eagle Lake to let a female cross safely. The one my friend saw was a very large female making her way across the busy highway like a fearless prehistoric creature. Females come out to look for good, sandy locations in which to lay their eggs. Each female digs a large hole, deposits her 50 or more ping-pong ball-shaped eggs, covers them up again, releases liquid on them from her body, and that’s the end of her mothering duties.

Other creatures such as skunks, raccoons, foxes etc. often find the nest and eat most of the eggs, which keeps the turtle population under control. Never get close to a snapping turtle or pick them up. They always seem a bit cranky, and their beaks are razor sharp. They are interesting to see, but keep your distance and give them respect, and you move out of the way.

Flowers are blooming so fast all over this island it is hard to keep up with them. Just driving through Bass Harbor, there are nice displays of wild iris, buttercups, daisies and white violets. Going into the woods, fields and swamp lands, you will find many more. When out in a kayak, you should find many of our native orchids if you’re observant. I can just walk along my own dirt driveway and find sundew, one of our native carnivorous plants. It’s quite tiny but colorful and very interesting. If you go on the computer, you’ll be able to see one of these plants eating insects. Just type in “sundew, carnivorous plant” on YouTube.

On some nice day, take one of the boat tours to get a different perspective and enjoy seeing many sea birds, seals and perhaps whales in the waters around this island. We live in a great area for wildlife.

This past week, I had an email about a small bird tapping non-stop on a window in the person’s house. This bird was fighting its own reflection in the window, and the way to stop it is to destroy the reflection. You have to hang something on the outside to do this. Twine or cords hung down will often work, and you can still get light and see out. Sometimes a cut-out hawk silhouette will work when it is stuck on the window. This behavior stops when nesting is finished. The male birds never seem to learn unless you destroy the reflection successfully.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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