Summer beasts

Tue, 07/03/2012 - 1:23pm

Fireflies, moths, butterflies, beetles, mantids, dragonflies and damselflies are summer’s beautiful beasts. July is the month of long twilight, short nights, and warm still mornings — the perfect time to observe some of nature’s most fantastic winged creatures.

The life cycle of any of the island’s insect species is phantasmagorical, but let us leave the wonder of metamorphosis for another day; just remember, to be an insect the critter must have six legs, three body parts and wings when in the adult stage.

July’s best pyrotechnics occur at full darkness on a still night, when a walk along a path flanked by tall grasses, or through an uncut hay field, or along a swampy edge sparks with fireflies. Such an evening walk is likely rewarded when returning home to a porch light-lit screen door, adorned by moths of all sizes and color — and all with feathery antennae. Look closely, you may find a mottled owlet moth, a pink-tinged sphinx, or a giant silkmoth — nighttime jewels all.

Of course, daytime insects are not to be ignored. On warm, still July days, the island air swarms with dragonflies and damselflies. At rest, dragonfly wings are held perpendicular to the body, and damselflies wings are held parallel to their bodies. In both cases, these flying insects with two pairs of wings demonstrate amazing flying agility. They hover, they accelerate quickly, they change direction (horizontally and vertically) in a nanosecond, and they are known to migrate over vast distances. And, like butterflies, the range of colors and patterns exhibited is stunning.

A July walk, whether in a field, at the beach, through shrub land, or along a water-laden shore line will offer opportunities to witness some of life’s most powerful beasts. For their size, insects are generally incredibly strong and resilient, and of course, are amazingly industrious. Burying beetles can bury a carcass hundreds of times their size in a night. Moths and butterflies can create silky threads and webs that endure weather that would defeat a bivouacked mountain climber.

The following events and Ocean View Foundation programs will provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about the amazing insects of summer.

July Mon. – Fri.: OVF Summer Weekly Programs (look for our weekly ad in the BI Times);

July 11: 9 p.m. Night Sky Viewing at Hodge Preserve, Corn Neck Road;

July 19: New Moth Moon;

July 20: 8 p.m. Sense of Wonder Night Walk, call 401-595-7055 for location and to sign up;

July 24: 9 p.m. Night Sky Viewing at Hodge Preserve, Corn Neck Road;

July 25: 11th Annual Mystery Walk, call 595-7055 to sign up;

July: Jupiter and Venus can be seen in the pre-dawn sky, Mars and Saturn in the evening sky.

* Go to the Ocean View Foundation Face Book page to see more photos of Block Island insects.