Insects at Eight Mile

It is a blue-butterfly day here in spring
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry
~Robert Frost

It’s late summer and on the southeastern slopes of Mt. Hood a small mountain stream, Eight  Mile Creek gurgles through old-growth, campgrounds, old clear cuts, and meadows. Along its course the goldenrod is blooming fierce, other Cascade flowers compliment its blush: yarrow, pipsissewa, pentsemon, paintbrush, oceanspray, twin flower, asters, and harebells. Needless to say the pollinators and their predators are numerous.

First, I notice the birds. Warblers, chickadees, Townsend’s Solitaires, and hummingbirds glean insects from the flowers, leaves, and twigs of annual, perennial, and shrub alike. But polish your glasses and tighten your focus and the insects just start popping into view. It’s not hard to spot the larger butterflies: Western Tiger Swallowtails, Pale Western Tiger Swallowtails, and Lorquin’s Admirals with their bold stripes and color waft through the woods and clearings. In the woodier spots, the Common Wood Nymphs sweep by, landing briefly on the Doug fir bark. Brightly colored  sulphurs and frittilaries blow across the trail heading from one flower to the next. Crossing the creek, look closely at the muddy margin before you step as blues and skippers alight to sip moisture and minerals from the mud.  If you’re lucky you may see a moth, such as the Riding’s Forester, with bold coloring as if a butterfly.

Then there are the hymenoptera – bees and wasps! Here, you’ll not see a honeybee; that imported European species is rare in this remote higher altitude mountain habitat. But, the native bees and wasps are diverse in size, shape, and color and busy pollinating or preying upon other pollinators. Sit in the meadow and watch  for a while and you might even catch sight of a Townsend’s Solitaire as it takes a break from feeding on huckleberries and grabs a passing insect. It’s eat or be eaten.

This complex web creates a fascinating, peaceful, and violent place. But, darn if I don’t just reel at the diversity here, at 4000′ . And that’s all on one little patch along one little stream on one side of this one big Cascade volcano.

eightmile 149The south face of Mt Hood along the White River and looking up towards the Palmer  snow field (left flank of the mt) and White River Glacier. Eight Mile is off to the right  flank of the mountain, out of the photo.

eightmile 117This is goldenrod, a foundation of food for many mountain pollinators. It’s clusters of blooms are laden with pollen and insects.

eightmile 146Lorquin’s Admiral

eightmile 100 Riding’s Forester (moth) eightmile 133 Native bee (unknown species) scale: each flower is approx .5 cm eightmile 081 Xyelidae Wasp (Xyelid Sawflies). A big one, almost an inch long. This is a herbivorous species that east the pollen of coniferseightmile 131aA skipper eightmile 138Spring azure. That wing damage could be the result of a close call with a predator. eightmile 142A Spring Azure sipping moisture from the streambank.

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