Tag Archives: winter

Snow midge with yellow halteres

Here’s a snow midge I found a few days ago at Hildacy Farm Preserve. I’m not positive about the species, but perhaps Diamesa nivoriunda. I only saw one, but related members of the genus are reported to swarm during the winter. 

What I’d love to know is why the halteres are yellow. They seem to be yellow on majority of diptera I’ve seen, and I’ve never stumbled onto a paper discussing why that is. All I could find was the sentence “Haltere color is often used to distinguish between species” in a Drosophila book .” If you know of a paper, please send link ASAP. Am dying of curiosity.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Snow midge (Diamesa nivoriunda)

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Small winter stonefly

I was out looking for the elusive snow fly yesterday but found this, instead: an eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta), a member of the Capniidae (small winter stoneflies). At least that’s what I think it is. Larvae are active during the winter, and adults can fly and mate even when temperature is in the teens. Pretty incredible to see them flitting around on a cold day when other insects cannot even move. At Hildacy Farm in Media, PA. Probably emerged from the nearby Crum Creek. 

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta) Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Eastern stonefly (Allocapnia recta)

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Snow fly

If you’re out on a nature walk today, keep your eyes peeled for snow flies. These are essentially wingless crane flies loaded with antifreeze. This one is a male Chionea scita, I believe. Not much is known about these insects, although there is speculation that at least some members of the genus hang out in rodent burrows eating feces. (Don’t judge.) Please see “The crane fly genus Chionea in North America” (Byers 1983) for more details.

You might note that it has halteres, which is interesting because these are organs used in flight (they are modified wings … which is why flies only have one pair of wings). Would be fun to figure out whether snow fly halteres still work, though that would have to be inferred by anatomy and maybe some electrophysiological tricks. Or perhaps they serve a new function. To see photographs of some flies that have lost their halteres, check out the Braulidae (bee parasites) or Hippoboscidae ovinus (sheep ked). I love wingless flies. Did a presentation on them when I took entomology during high school … and have been creeped out and impressed by them ever since.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; snow-fly

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Tis the season to forget your friends’ birthdays

There are hundreds of interesting scientific studies linking winter birthdays to depression and other illnesses, and all of these studies propose cool mechanisms like womb effects and seasonal disease agents. Although I’m sure most of these proposed mechanisms are totally reasonable, I’ve always wondered about the cumulative effect of simply having your birthday ignored. Instead of thinking about you, your friends and family are thinking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka, Kwanza, New Year’s resolutions, and weight gain. And you’re saying, every year, “That’s OK, I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” … suppressing your disappointment year after year, silently throwing dagger eyes at your friends who have exciting birthday parties on the beach during the summer.

So after decades of wondering, I finally did the Google Trends search to see if interest in buying birthday presents dips. The result will surprise nobody with a winter birthday, I suspect:

Winter birthdays depression

So this holiday season, show your December and January friends some love.

By the way: season-of-birth (SOB) studies SHOULD include people who don’t actually know their true birthday (but for some reason the scientists know). I know that’s going to be a small data set, but that would allow the effects of womb and birthing time to be separated from the cumulative (social) effects of having birthdays in different months. There are a lot of factors in addition to just Christmas. Kids who have birthdays during the school year have a much, much easier time getting all their friends to the party (summertime takes people away on family vacations), and often their birthdays are announced on the school intercom — the cumulative effects of that cannot be zero, I claim.

And when people don’t know their birthday, which month do they choose? I’d love to know that.

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