Growing up along the outer edge of the Buffalo suburbs, I thought I had a reasonable idea of just how vibrant the world of bugs and insects was. Cornfields and pastures extended right up to our backyard, and when we were kids, my brother and I would encounter all kinds of strange creatures. Kids with sticks will always turn up their fair share of pill bugs and millipedes, woolly bears and ladybugs. Every once in a while we would stumble upon something really cool, such as a praying mantis or a crab spider. Once, we even saw the prehistoric-looking cecropia moth caterpillar and its multicolored spikes.
Yet college, grad school, and young adulthood took me far from the green fields of my childhood home and their many backyard inhabitants. Cities have their bugs, too, but none is very glamorous, to say the least. Nearly all of these bugs are making a living off the many humans and their by-products instead of the wilderness these same humans moved away from.
Last year my wife and I moved back to the countryside after 7 years spent in Chicago. We ended up moving into our farmhouse in early fall; by then the native bug population was sharply curtailed by a particularly dry summer and the inevitable onset of colder weather. A long, snowy winter followed, and when spring finally surfaced, so did a great many of our backyard companions. After living so long in the city, we were truly overwhelmed by all the life eager to make its way after the snows had melted.
Not all of them were people friendly. The first of the season’s mosquitoes were herculean monsters. My wife and I soon discovered that one can lose a tolerance to their bite if one spends long enough unexposed and outside of their world. We soon had frighteningly large red welts that hurt more than itched. We thought they were caused by spiders until we witnessed one mosquito settle on my wife's wrist and strike too quickly to be swatted away, then saw the resulting reaction.
We were inexplicably spared most of the blackflies that typically plague New England in the spring though hundreds of moths had already begun to flock to our windows as soon as the sun set. As June came around the acres of untilled grass that had grown up along the property adjacent to our half-mile driveway would fill with fireflies. A walk outside on an overcast night after 10 p.m. was amazing. A great sea of fireflies, hundreds of thousands of them firing all at once, overwhelmed our senses.
Now in July we've started to spot dragonflies and katydids. The life cycle of our backyard bugs continues on as it always has. Here in the country we're just a curious addition on their turf.
Earlier this year Storey Publishing released The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards, an in-depth, richly illustrated tour of their world. If you were as curious about insects, bugs, and spiders as my brother and I were as children, as my wife and I continue to be to this very day, this book will reveal some of the hidden activities of their world. It will show you where to look and what to look for.
Here, then, is the Secret Life of Backyard Bugs ID Giveaway. Below are five bugs featured in the pages of the text. Be the first to correctly identify all of them in the comments below and win a copy of the book for your own. Get ready, and good luck!
— Doug Riggs, Social Media Administrator