Monday, July 11, 2011

Cedar Bog....well, it's a fen

This weekend placed me in Dayton, Ohio for the Midwest Native Plants Conference. It was beyond spectacular and I was bombarded with new information everywhere I turned. The conference committee was gracious enough to award me with a scholarship to attend the conference, so I tried to squeeze all the information I could out of the three short days the conference took place. The conference was very well-planned and went smoothly, by the end of the weekend I was exhausted. Really though, I would make sure all my weekends were filled with biology like this one if I could.

The conference hosted some amazing speakers, particularly Steve McKee and Jim McCormac. Steve talked about Botanical Detective Work and his adventures with searching for plants in Richland County that haven't been looked for in over 100 years, which lit a fire under me to go explore Washington County some more. It's amazing what can slip under our noses due to simply not paying attention to what's growing (or crawling!). Jim gave a talk about hummingbirds and the ones we're likely to see in Ohio, very neat stuff. There were some beautiful pictures included to boot.

On the last day of the conference, Sunday, everyone split up into small groups to head into the field. My particular group headed to Cedar Bog, south of Urbana, and I lucked out with who else joined the group: Steve and Jim were both there, with Jim leading it, and we also had Cheryl Harner and Nina Harfmann. The group was in very capable hands. Essentially, if we passed by a plant, one of them would know what it was. Needless to say, I was writing down names like crazy.

Now, Cedar Bog is actually a fen. What's the difference? A bog is acidic, low in minerals, and doesn't really drain. A fen, however, is fed by water, neutral or alkaline, and supports more than Sphagnum moss. But, it was called a bog before it was recognized as a fen, so the name sticks.

Anyway! We found a massive amount of plants and animals during our trek, and it was extremely rewarding. It was the best use of a morning I've had in quite a while. By the end of it, I had taken pictures of 59 different species. That's pretty darn good, I'd say. Having said that, it's time for some pictures.

She has all her limbs, it's just a weird angle, don't worry!

 This beauty descended on a single strand of web and hung around long enough for us to get some nice shots of her. It's a female dark fishing spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus. You can tell it's a female from the sheer size of it: males are smaller. Due to their size, they can take out some pretty sizable prey.

This guy's tricky.

 What at first looks (and sounds) like a bumblebee is actually a robber fly, family Asilidae, Laphria species. Robber flies can be quite large and are vicious when they take down their prey. This one is a bee mimic, which is pretty evident, and if you want to know more about its mimicry, head over to Jim's blog: he's written a good summary of it. Robber flies are my favorite example of why it's important to pay attention to insects. You might think it's a common insect at first, but if you look closer, you'll often be surprised. Something I always look at when I hear a loud buzzing sound from an insect is the eyes. A robber fly's eyes will be very different from what you're used to seeing on a bee's body, so that's the quickest way to separate them. This one happened to be at eye level and caught me off guard after I turned away from the fishing spider. I scrambled for my camera and it flew off the leaf, but thankfully it landed on another one nearby. I'm glad I didn't scare him off, especially since I had already let an assassin bug get away from me a few days before, and later this day a tortoise beetle would escape from my lens. You can't win them all, but when you win one of these huge charismatic flies, you feel a bit better.

This is Michigan lily, Lilium michiganense, and just too beautiful to pass up. This picture turned out very well, and it's such a treat to run across a flower as vibrant as this one.

So that's where the Valentine's Day heart comes from.

Our group reached an open area in the fen and was taken aback by the plants and insects we found hanging around in the sun. I saw my first  Elfin Skimmer, Nannothemis bella, darting around, and also these Seepage Dancers, Argia bipunctulata. The dragonflies were much tinier than what I'm used to, which was super cool. Both species are endangered, making Cedar Bog a very important place for the survival of these two species. 

 Female Nannothemis bella, a wasp mimic not only in color, but in movement.

I still have 54 species to cover, so this Midwest Native Plant Society/Cedar Bog story arc will be elaborated upon in future posts, for sure. The diversity of the place is astounding, it still wrinkles my brain. If you haven't been there before, make sure to add it to your list, it's well worth the trip. 



  1. So nice to have the chance to meet you, Derek, and to spend some time in such a wonderful place, Cedar Bog.
    While you had your camera trained on the entomological world, I had mine trained on you...and managed some decent shots that you might like to hang onto for the bio of a book flap or trip you'll soon be leading...because I know great things are in your future.
    Again, so very glad to have met you.
    Looking forward to crossing paths again!

  2. Thanks Nina, it was fantastic to meet you as well! I would love to see those photos, and I'm looking forward to seeing the photos of the plants and animals from Cedar Bog you took as well in your next entry.

  3. Excellent! I look forward to our careers crossing paths into each other throughout the years. bugs and plants wouldn't be around if not for the other so needless to say our passions are heavily inter-twinned! Glad you enjoyed the conference and especially the field trip!

  4. Great stuff, Derek, a nice synopsis of our day at Cedar Bog along with some great photos!