1. Crickets, because the frequency of their chirping varies with temperature. Check out this Scientific American activity on how to estimate temperature from listening to a cricket. Actually, some crickets chirp faster than others, so it is helpful to know which species you are listening to! At Rasor Park, we have Riley's Tree Cricket, Prairie Tree Cricket, and Snowy Tree Cricket. A recipe for estimating Fahrenheit temperature from the song of Riley's tree cricket is to count the chirps in 22 sec and add 37.
Oil Beetles (a.k.a. Blister Beetles)
Adult beetles, triungulins, Andrena bees in the ground... parasitic inter ...
Sun, Earth, Sky
using sun and shadow
Measuring Earth's Circumference
Estimating temperature without a thermometer
Do you know how to tell time using only the sun and shadows?
On a sunny day, shadows...
Know Your Bees & Wasps?
All of the yellow and black-striped, winged insects below were photographed in Rasor Park. Each of them is a different species. Can you tell which are bees and which are wasps? Click on the images to expand them.
HINT 1: Bees tend to have fuzzy bodies. Wasps do have some hair, but typically look more smooth and shiny. Wasps usually have more elongate bodies, longer legs, and sometimes have a pinched waist, whereas bees usually look more compact. Wasps are carnivorous—they do visit flowers for nectar, but they do not intentionally collect pollen as bees do. If you see a creature busily flying from flower to flower collecting pollen, you can be almost sure it is a bee!
[Thor Hanson, author of Buzz, offers this little mnemonic: Bees are "hippy" wasps—they have more hair, they like flowers, and they are less aggressive.]
HINT 2: This is a TRICK QUESTION in several ways! Some bees are wasp look-alikes ("mimics")—and that is not all...
Photo credits: Rick Ahrens
A. BEE (Longhorned)
B. FLY (Flower fly, mimics a bee)
C. FLY (mimics a bee)
D. WASP (BeeWolf)
E. WASP (Prairie yellowjacket)
F. WASP (European paper wasp)
G. BEE (Sweat bee)
H. WASP (Western sand wasp)
I. MOTH: (Strawberry crown borer moth)
Early-Risers, Check Out This Plant
This oddball plant is Common Madia (Madia elegans), also called Showy Tarweed, or sometimes Gumweed. Unlike most flowers, it opens only at night (or on cloudy days). The petals actually roll up as the sun gets higher and the day warmer, to help the plant conserve moisture. It is pollinated by bees that visit early in the morning.
Madia is in the Sunflower family. It is aromatic, sticky to the touch, and hairy as well. It produces abundant oily seeds that attract meadowlarks, goldfinches, juncos, towhees and sparrows. Tree crickets seem to like this tall, gangly plant, too—we often find them in the madia patches come July and August. Native Americans harvested the rich seeds of madia and ground them into a sticky flour that was an important part of their diet.
Most flowers open in the day and close at night. The bright yellow flowers of one plant that blooms in Rasor Park do the reverse—they close during the day and open at night! This stealth yellow flower can be hard to notice at all during the daytime (right photo).
Visit early in the morning in June-August to see its bright blooms. Can you find this plant? Do you know what it is? Can you guess why it has this peculiar habit? Hover over this box to find the answer.
Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids & Cicadas
Can You Find Any New Bugs in The Park?
Tips for Spotting Bugs
Many insects are most active when it is warm and sunny (though many cannot tolerate extreme heat). Come on a mild, sunny afternoon, or find a patch of sunshine on a cold day.
Stand in one place for awhile.
Dragonflies like to perch to survey their hunting territory, or to bask in the sun. Butterflies like to bask, too. Many insects can be found perching on the stakes in the park.
To find ground nesting bees, look for somewhat bare areas, or sandy soil. Look for their holes and watch for hovering and swarming.
To find beetles or other ground bugs and detritivores, turn leaves or stones or lift a piece of downed wood.
Learn about the specific host plants insects need (like milkweed beetles and bugs), and find the bug near the plant.
Learn about the life cycle and life stages of insects and look for them where they overwinter (such as grubs or caterpillars in soil, or galls or eggs or larvae in dead plant stalks or under leaf mulch.)
Look for tree crickets and cicadas near trees, shrubs, or taller plant stalks.
To photograph or ID an insect, it can be helpful to capture it in a bug viewer jar. Try not to injure it, and let it safely back out when you are done looking.
Be careful around wasps and bees! Watch out for poison oak, too! (See our PO page for more info.)
Now Test Yourself!
Who is making this noise you might hear at Rasor Park?
Chirp 1: Heard at dusk in August
Chirp 2: Heard at noon in August
Chirp 3: Heard at noon in July
Chirp 4: Heard at dusk in March
1. Snowy tree cricket (male)
2. Cicada (male)
4. Pacific Tree (chorus) Frog
Fun Facts & Cool Science in Rasor Park
Who is Singing in the Park?
If you visit Rasor Park near dusk in the late summer or fall, you may be greeted by a chorus of singing and chirping across the park. Grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids are all singing insects of the Order Orthoptera. (They all have large hind legs adapted for jumping, too.) Cicadas are true bugs (Hemiptera) also adapted for singing. Do you know how to tell them apart? Which ones do you think are present at Rasor Park? Check out the gallery below to learn more, and then test your knowledge.
Catching the Vibe...
Male Orthopterans sing via "stridulation"—friction between specialized body parts rubbing together, yielding a distinctive pattern for each species. Grasshoppers rub their wings across row of pegs on the inside of their hind legs. Crickets have pegs on one forewing and a flat "file" on the other and the two wings are rubbed together. Katydids ____ and sound buzzy, raspy or whiney. Cicadas make their buzzy sound using ribbed tymbals—specialized drumlike organs on their abdomens.
Generally it is only the males that sing. Females are silent, except female katydids can sing.