Underneath It All – Hoh Rainforest
To explore nature & its Crtrs, you just need to hike a little slower. Heck, sometimes it’s a stop & go kind of hike, but it’s all worth it. In most cases, Crtrs are hiding all around, above, & underneath it all.
Some people like to hike pretty fast so that they can make it to their destination or just cover as many miles as they possibly can. I can understand that. As for me, when I finally have time off from society & I enter nature’s doors, I take it slow & low, quite literally. It’s the best pace to explore nature & its hidden treasures, as I did on my first hike exploring the Hoh Rainforest. Open your eyes wide & think like a Crtr. Where would you hide?
Hiking & Exploring The Hoh Rainforest
Our very first Washington trip, Scott (Forest2SeaAdventurePhoto) & I chose hiking & exploring the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park. This rainforest can easily hypnotize you with its lush, green beauty & clean air. As you travel on its gorgeous, breathtaking trails into this fairy tale paradise you can’t help but want to take things a little slower & stop to take it all in.
One of our favorite things to do is to visit spots where there’s water. At one of those stops we took a break to photograph a certain section of the river. While Scott was shooting away at the scenery, I took a stroll around to Get My Crtr On!. Just because the area was mostly water surrounded by gray dirt & pebbles doesn’t mean there aren’t any Crtrs around. Remember, take the time to see what’s underneath it all. That’s just what I did.
Underneath It All
As I step a little further away from the water I found these trees that were no taller than 7-8 feet. I was searching on their branches, their trunks & on top of their leaves, but couldn’t find a Crtr, until I lifted a leaf.
My first Crtr of the day was a pupa belonging to what seems to be some kind of Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae) & an alien looking exoskeleton shed belonging to some tiny Hemipteran Crtr accompanying it. Of course, my job is to interrupt the photographer so he can switch his focus on my awesome find!
Bite Size Factoid:The pupal phase is where larvae form into the adult phase & before its final imago (maturity) phase. In some species, the casing can have movable antennae, legs & wings, but its main temporary “home” continues to stay inactive during its pupation period.
As for the lifeless hemipteran (true bug) next to the pupa, many invertebrates go through a moulting process called, Ecdysis. This process involves some insects to shed their body part, often their outer shell/exoskeleton.
The exploring continues to another leaf nearby where I met 3 hungry stooges! Scott captured them munching away & pooping together. Possible siblings? Bite Size Factoid: Not sure of the exact species of these Crtrs, but it’s quite obvious these larvae like to grub on plant matter before they go onto their next journey entering the pupal stage. Some species of these herbivorous Crtrs can be beneficial in that they help control the population of invasive weeds.
The last leaf I turned over we found 3 kewl Crtrs! They were a Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae) pupa, what seems to be some type of Miridae hemipteran nymph, & what looks like a young Tussock Moth caterpillar (Lymantriinae). Score!
Slow & Low, Low, Low
Scott resumed his position to photograph the Hoh’s moving crystal blue, glacier water while I took myself to the gray, pebbled substrate. Just when I was about to give up on that area, I spotted something green & shiny. Once again, I gleefully called out to the man! He was already sneaking a shot of me playing with the Crtrs.
There were several of these green beauties called Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle (Cicindela patruela). They were scurrying around looking for mates. It was a riot to watch.
Bite Size Factoid: Many species sport colorfully bright & metallic bodies which includes the cream colored patterns seen here. The fastest species can run up to 5.6 mph & are quite aggressive predators of other small arthropods.
Even though they have large & intimidating looking mandibles, they are harmless to humans. While running they use their antennae fixed firmly in front of them to avoid obstacles & sometimes you can find them doing something like a double take dance when approaching their prey maybe to refocus since things can come up as a blur when running too fast. Wonder how their joints feel after such fast sprints. Phew!
A Visitor Wants To Join The Fun
While Scott & I were photographing & watching the orgy of mating pairs of Northern Barrens Tiger Beetles (Cicindela patruela) another Crtr visitor wanted to join the fun & check out the scene. It hopped right onto my leg! What a sweet surprise to meet a beautiful Treehopper (Membracidae).
I have spent a considerable amount of time looking to ID this multi-colored beauty, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. The closest I got was one that looked similar to it, a Platycotis vittata. Most of these Crtrs sport a horn, like a rhino, but even the hornless ones didn’t quite match up to our little find. I’m really curious to find out which species this is!
Bite Size Factoid: Many Leaf & Treehoppers sport the most elaborate head-pieces that would put royalty to shame. This Treehopper has a long helmet (pronotum) adorned with pastel colors. Simple, but just beautiful!
Like Aphids, some species of these Crtrs develop a beneficial relationship with ants in providing them with the honeydew they secrete from grubbing on plant sap they pierce with their beaks. In exchange for honeydew grub, ants offer them protection from predators.
Other species form mutualistic relationships with wasps & even geckos where they’re found communicating via vibrations of their abdomen. Membracids are social “birds”. They are great parents, sticking around protecting their eggs & immatures. Fascinating Crtrs! I hope to meet many more species in the future.
After a fun day shooting nature’s hidden treasures & not so hidden treasures, I just couldn’t grasp that I had found that many kewl Crtrs just by taking a peek underneath & taking myself to their level…low, low, low. If you take the time to open your eyes a little wider & of course, think Crtr, focus on just how important each one plays a role in our natural ecosystem, you may just chase those jitters away, give respect & Get Your Crtr On!
More photos from our Hoh River hike: