• Lewis Creek: Converging Ladybugs converge

    by  • May 29, 2011 • Field Trip, Plant Profiles, Spring, Wildlife • 19 Comments

    In May, I decided to take my camera to explore Lewis Creek Trail, just 7 miles south of Yosemite. The creek is named for Washington B. Lewis, one of the Park’s early superintendents and is a few miles of us along Hwy 41 heading north. 

    Part One: The trail and the bugs

    The trail

    This is a favorite walk among locals, who enjoy the pleasures and beauty of this beautiful wide stream and falls without the hubbub of entering the Park itself. There is rumored to be a hot springs near the lower Corlieu Fall, half mile round trip downstream from the trailhead.

    Several rustic bridges criss-cross the creek upstream on the 3 mile easy round trip to Red Rock Fall.  The trail has been improved and a viewing platform over Corlieu Fall was built this year.

    Maybe, now, you will feel that you are with me as I walk the trail.

    Update: In 2015, this bridge had deteriorated to the point that it had to be removed.  Stones were placed to allow crossing here.  No plans for a replacement bridge were made.

    The trail is lined with moss covered pines, oaks and airy blooming dogwoods, giving it a dreamy northwestern atmosphere. Wildflowers are all along the trail and many are unfamiliar to me, which I love! It will be fun to ID them all and learn more about them.

    By June the creek is lower and the ground and mosses begin to dry and fade.

     


    Lewis Creek

     


    I saw a colony of Smooth horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum, along the stream at one point and thought it was the usual thing, a non-native run wild, but no.  I find out that it is a California native.

     

    Smooth horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum

    Smooth horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum

     

    An overcast bright day is the best for photographing the trail, creek and flowers along the way. Red Rock Fall is the reward at the end of the trail, a cool place to have lunch even though there are no tables or benches.. Every photo I’ve seen has that same tree fallen into the stream of water.

     

    Red Rock Fall

    Red Rock Fall, at the end of the trail

    The bugs

    Convergents, looking much like VW bugs

    Convergents, looking much like VW bugs

    On the way back I noticed the ladybugs. It would have been easy to miss them all together, but I was looking sharp for flowers and instead saw these. The Convergent Ladybug, Hippodamia convergens, is the most common of any ladybug. Its head has a white edge and two white lines that “converge,” like two slanting lines. These at Lewis Creek were orange, but they can be red as well and all have 13 black spots.

    Ladybugs, crowding a leaf

    Ladybugs, crowding a leaf

    Their range is throughout the United States and most lady bugs hibernate in garden debris during winter, but if they live in the West, they hibernate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. They lay eggs, the eggs hatch, and the new bugs then fly down to the valleys to voraciously eat as many aphids as they can. They return to the mountains for nearly nine months of the year.

     

    Convergent lady beetles, covering the iris and leaves

    Convergent lady beetles, covering the iris and leaves

    Wikipedia says ladybugs eat aphids by biting the aphid, sucking out the juice, then pump the aphid with more juice and suck it out again.  Yum! Who knows what other horrible things are going on in the garden?

    Convergent lady beetles, Maybe a gallon?

    Convergent lady beetles, Maybe a gallon?

    I was amazed to see these swarming ladybugs on my walk at the end of May. They formed huge masses, known as beds, on the Hartweg’s Iris and on the pine straw. These large concentrations can contain several hundred gallons of beetles, a measure I don’t usually consider when thinking of ladybugs. These ‘beds’ are normally found in the Sierra mountain range near rivers and streams where it is cool, which is exactly the conditions along Lewis Creek.

    Convergent lady beetles, on the forest floor

    Convergent lady beetles, on the forest floor

     

    Lewis Creek eddy

    Lewis Creek eddy, a pond reflecting in a quiet, mossy part of the creek

     

    Part 2  Lewis Creek: The Wildflowers

    If you live in the Mountain Community around Oakhurst, it’s prime time for a day trip to Lewis Creek trail.
    The wildflowers and native bulbs are blooming and after the rain all the moss will be lush and green along the shady trail. It’s 1/2 mile to one waterfall if you go right and 3 easy miles to the other waterfall if you go left on the trail.

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    19 Responses to Lewis Creek: Converging Ladybugs converge

    1. May 29, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Wow! That’s an awful lot of ladybugs. I thought I had a lot of them in my garden, but I don’t have nearly that many!

    2. May 29, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Wow! That’s an awful lot of ladybugs. I thought I had a lot of them in my garden, but I don’t have nearly that many!

    3. May 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      woah re: enthusiastic ladybug eating habits. Wow. I may never look @ one of them the same way again. =) So, where/which is the 13th spot–counted 12 on the wing covers… Thanks for the fun post! =)

    4. May 29, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      woah re: enthusiastic ladybug eating habits. Wow. I may never look @ one of them the same way again. =) So, where/which is the 13th spot–counted 12 on the wing covers… Thanks for the fun post! =)

    5. May 30, 2011 at 6:24 am

      Another absolutely fascinating post, Sue! I am in awe of those thousands of Ladybugs! What a treat it was for you to have been there to witness and enjoy them in those inconceivable numbers. I want to throw a party each time I spot a single one in my garden! Imagine having a visit from all of those!

      This was the most gorgeous walk in exactly the kind of setting that speaks to my soul. I truly come fully alive in spaces such as these. I see more, hear more, smell more…all of my senses are keener and I get that overwhelming feeling of not ever wanting to leave, and sulk for a while when it inevitably becomes time to leave. Thank you SO much for sharing all of this beauty with us. I am looking forward to Part 2, but I’ll definitely be back to revisit Part 1 as it is so captivating. Your pictures are really superb, Sue, but of course that’s to be expected from you, being a professional photographer and all 😉

    6. May 30, 2011 at 6:24 am

      Another absolutely fascinating post, Sue! I am in awe of those thousands of Ladybugs! What a treat it was for you to have been there to witness and enjoy them in those inconceivable numbers. I want to throw a party each time I spot a single one in my garden! Imagine having a visit from all of those!

      This was the most gorgeous walk in exactly the kind of setting that speaks to my soul. I truly come fully alive in spaces such as these. I see more, hear more, smell more…all of my senses are keener and I get that overwhelming feeling of not ever wanting to leave, and sulk for a while when it inevitably becomes time to leave. Thank you SO much for sharing all of this beauty with us. I am looking forward to Part 2, but I’ll definitely be back to revisit Part 1 as it is so captivating. Your pictures are really superb, Sue, but of course that’s to be expected from you, being a professional photographer and all 😉

    7. May 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      I can see the appeal of the place. I wonder how many more years you’ll have the log in the waterfall, but until then there’ll be no confusing these falls with any other. It’s been a pretty good year down here for ladybugs, and a lean time for aphids. No complaints here. But as with Gayle I don’t think I’ve seen that many in one place either. I’ve been bitten by one in the past, nothing major, but with so many in one place I’d almost start to get a Hitchcock moment…

    8. May 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      I can see the appeal of the place. I wonder how many more years you’ll have the log in the waterfall, but until then there’ll be no confusing these falls with any other. It’s been a pretty good year down here for ladybugs, and a lean time for aphids. No complaints here. But as with Gayle I don’t think I’ve seen that many in one place either. I’ve been bitten by one in the past, nothing major, but with so many in one place I’d almost start to get a Hitchcock moment…

    9. May 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Gayle, I had just crouched down to photograph something and my eyes focused closer up and I saw that they were all around me. Considering how hungry they’re supposed to be, I kinda wish I had a small container with me. I’d be glad to offer them the aphids converging now on my two roses.

      bb, the 13th spot may be the one where the elytra(wings) join the ladybug head…does look like a spot. Yah, if I did allow the ladybugs on my roses, I don’t think I’d be able to watch the process…not now that I know what really goes on.

      Desiree, you’re a love, and thanks! Yes, it’s a wonderful, place and very doable even for someone who doesn’t particularly like to ‘hike’ After a childhood with hiking parents, I unfortunately see hiking more as forced marches. I like to ‘wander’

      James, it was a bit creepy seeing the ladybugs swarm like that and being surprised at the sheer numbers, which the photos couldn’t capture, but sometimes I wish I had had a gallon bucket, maybe.

    10. May 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Gayle, I had just crouched down to photograph something and my eyes focused closer up and I saw that they were all around me. Considering how hungry they’re supposed to be, I kinda wish I had a small container with me. I’d be glad to offer them the aphids converging now on my two roses.

      bb, the 13th spot may be the one where the elytra(wings) join the ladybug head…does look like a spot. Yah, if I did allow the ladybugs on my roses, I don’t think I’d be able to watch the process…not now that I know what really goes on.

      Desiree, you’re a love, and thanks! Yes, it’s a wonderful, place and very doable even for someone who doesn’t particularly like to ‘hike’ After a childhood with hiking parents, I unfortunately see hiking more as forced marches. I like to ‘wander’

      James, it was a bit creepy seeing the ladybugs swarm like that and being surprised at the sheer numbers, which the photos couldn’t capture, but sometimes I wish I had had a gallon bucket, maybe.

    11. May 31, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      You call them ladybugs. We call them ladybirds. Much nicer.
      We have the same as which you have photographed. But any concentrations are irridescent green. Usually in a dry place.

    12. May 31, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      You call them ladybugs. We call them ladybirds. Much nicer.
      We have the same as which you have photographed. But any concentrations are irridescent green. Usually in a dry place.

    13. June 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Bugs, birds or beetles…I wonder where they got the “lady” part of the name? That’s interesting about the irridescent green…I hope you see them swarming like this, too

    14. June 1, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Bugs, birds or beetles…I wonder where they got the “lady” part of the name? That’s interesting about the irridescent green…I hope you see them swarming like this, too

    15. June 1, 2011 at 11:42 am

      I’m just catching up on your posts. All I can say is….WOW. I thought we had a lot of lady bugs here this spring, but those photos are amazing. Maybe you should submit that photo to lostladybug.org? 😉

    16. June 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      I heard about ladybugs congregating in the Sierra Nevadas years ago before I left CA, but have never seen them first-hand. Funny, I assumed convergent came from their behavior of converging in masses, not two white lines on their pronotum. Their eating style reminds me of what I do with a nearly empty jar of whatever condiment – eat, fill with some water, shake, and eat what remains.

    17. June 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      I thought the same thing, Katie, when I looked up the ID after this hike. It’s fascinating how things get their names, as you well know…..and I’ve added water to a spaghetti sauce jar to get the last bit…glad we humans have such things as spatulas and forks!

    18. Katie
      February 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      An easy 3 miles in the shade. That sounds nice. What a pretty place too. I bet the ladybugs are already swarming this year. They are in my lawn anyway.

    19. February 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Yes, we saw some recently! Down by Willow creek before it goes into Bass Lake. They’re in your lawn, huh? No aphids for your roses, maybe?

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