Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column with bugs on the brain. Not literally, although we did have a staffer report that a stunned wasp flew in through his open car window on the way to work the other day, landing somewhere near his bellybutton and buzzing around in the folds of his shirt. This raised a dilemma: Slap at the wasp and risk a sting, swerve off the road like a maniac and jump out of the car screaming and jumping (like SOME people we know would do) or just sit tight and see what happens. Our staffer chose the latter course, more or less, driving slowly and carefully to the side of the road to pull off at a safe spot, all the while talking gently to the wasp: “There, there, it’s ok, you’re gonna be alright, just sit tight and we’ll get you outta here.”This seemed to work, as the wasp sat still until our animal-loving correspondent was able to gently set it free, letting it go back to whatever it is that wasps do. All we can say is, this wasn’t as bad as when you’re tearing down the trail on your mountain bike, mouth wide open to inhale that fresh mountain air and you suddenly careen into a swarm of gnats that plasters your uvula and invades your esophagus. Man, don’t you hate it when that happens! Still, the whole wasp encounter got us thinking about insects and what their role is in this wonderful world of ours. Take wasps. From what we can see, all they do is buzz around and sting things. It’s not like they even make honey, like their much more kind, gentle and productive relatives, the bees.So as sometime serendipitously happens, we recently acquired a new book put out by Westcliffe Publishers, who specialize in really useful reading materials, like trail guides and what-not. We love their stuff. Anyway, the book they sent us for review is called “Guide To Colorado Insects,” by Whitney Cranshaw and Boris Kondratieff, and it has pretty much everything you wanted to know about the bugs in our state, including the state insect, the lovely indigo and black-colored Colorado Hairstreak, a butterfly that lives in scrub oak habitat. Betcha didn’t even know we had a state insect, did you? Just so you know, there are as many as 35,000 insect species living in our fair state.
As we perused this field guide, we realized that there is a lot we don’t know about insects, in fact, there is so much we don’t know, it could fill a book 100 times the size of this handy little field guide, which we’ve started carrying with us on every hike. So now along with the wildflower guidebook, the tree book, the mammal book, the bird book, we don’t really have room for food or water in our packs, so if you see a mummy-like figure shriveled alongside one of our local trails, it could very well be a Summit Up staffer who got carried away with self-improvement and forgot about the essentials of backcountry survival. But that’s another story. Back to bugs. Turns out that we humans are seriously outnumbered on this front, with some scientists estimating that there are 200 million insects for every human on the planet and that insects make up about 85 percent of the total weight (biomass) of all land animals combined. And, as your probably already knew, insects are incredibly important in terms of pollinating plants … the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees … Aaaahhh, NOW we see how it all fits! We want to tell you about one particular type of insect, and that is the ladybug, familiar to everyone as the little red- or orange-winged beetle with black spots. No ideas why they’re called ladybugs and our new book didn’t say, but we did see that they are voracious hunters of aphids and other garden pests. We kind of already knew that, and a few years ago even bought a box of these little fellas down at Alpine Gardens Nursery in Silverthorne to try and eradicate some not-so-nice bugs that were eating our lupines. It didn’t really work, but they were darn cute, and what other bug can you think of that has its own nursery rhyme?So it turns out that one species of ladybug is called the convergent lady beetle, which heads for the hills in the late summer, sometimes gathering in large masses at higher elevations. We witnessed this phenomenon once in the Sierra Nevada of California on the Hilton Creek Trail, where during a hike we found ourselves surrounded by a seemingly endless stream of ladybugs, all headed west at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. If we’d been birds it would’ve been a feast, but as humans we simply marveled at the swarm as it passed by. We often wondered about that encounter in subsequent years, and now, thanks to Westcliffe Publishers, we have our answer.
So get thee out there and pick yourself up a copy of this fine tome. You won’t be disappointed. We have lots more cool insect factoids to share, but it seems we’re running out of room, you’ll have to check it out for yourself.***We have an Angel Alert!! Angel Alert!! from Jim and Lenora Clewell of Jefferson, Ore. They were driving home from a family reunion in Kansas when their transmission broke a couple of miles outside of the Eisenhower Tunnel. “We had sister with us with a heart condition and a brother who does not handle stressful situations well,” they said. It’s a good thing that some folks stopped and took said siblings to the Super 8 Motel. Then, Dave from Dillon Towing got the Clewell’s rig to Summit Automotive, where the good people there helped the whole posse get back on the road again. After that, Willie Nelson came and delivered a fruit basket to the hotel … wait, that’s not true. What is true is that the Clewells left with a taste of Summit’s best: ” We just want to say thanks not only to those businesses that helped, us but also to the whole area as well,” Jim said. “They were kind to people that they most likely will never see again. You are fortunate indeed to live in that sort of an environment.”***
Another Angel Alert!! Angel Alert!! comes from Tom C. Tom is doing a tile job behind the Lagoon townhomes. He saw a lady walking her golden retriever, and not only was she picking up her dog’s poo, she was also picking up other peoples’ dogs’ poo that was in the area. Tom C. and the crew at Summit up want to say kudos and thanks to this civic-minded heroine – we appreciate the double doo-ty.***It seems the litter bug has bitten a couple of people today. We have yet another Angel Alert!! Angel Alert!! called in for “a blond lady who was obviously going to work.” It seems said blond was sitting in her green Subaru at the stoplight on Dillon Dam Road and Summit Boulevard. Instead of putting on lipstick or singing along with the radio, she decided to get out of her car and pick up some beer cans that were laying by the curb. The caller just wanted to say “thanks for taking the time to take care of our community.”***We out, keepin’ our mouth closed!
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