7/27/2022: Termite day at Lake Michigan’s Silver Beach
Last Saturday was a pleasant break from the current bug grind, the intensity of which has been a heavy burden lately. Good company and atmosphere were just what I needed, although the day wasn’t completely free of insect-related activities.
Accompanied by the Michigander bug gang of Will, Brandon, and Kai, our day began with prowling for tiger beetles and Cotinis along the dunes. My personal target was the enigmatic Reticulitermes arenicola, a termite that genetic evidence suggests is a population of Reticulitermes flavipes rapidly adapting to life on the relatively novel environment of the Lake Michigan sand dunes.
I had already cultured this species before, but lost the culture due to negligence/hair-splitting last summer. This initial culture was the progeny of about two dozen mixed individuals found in a pile of cottonwood bark debris, but fortunately the species was in greater abundance this time around. I specifically recall pointing to a chunk of wood sunken in the sand and exclaiming to Kai that it must have termites beneath it, and for once my proclamation was heartily correct.
Bug finds the rest of the day were surprisingly sufficient. Will collected some ant crickets, Kai found a very pretty Cerambycid beetle, and Brandon pocketed a chunky ant lion larva. A few Cotinis zipped by overhead, but powered by off-shore gusts they were literally gone with the wind. Kai did masterfully net a pair of Cicindelidia punctulata, rounding out the day’s major finds.
While Brandon and I took some time to swim and enjoy the surf, Kai and Will worked through one of the few pockets of beach wrack along a pier, finding many nifty bugs that had been deposited there by the winds. An abandoned wet sock on the pier was surprisingly fruitful too, proving that interesting bugs can be found in the least likely places.
Overall, the dune trip was a pleasant casual getaway from the last few weeks’ hardcore bug work while serving as an intimidating reminder that bug season has yet to truly peak.