• Lewis Creek: Converging Ladybugs converge

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

    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.


    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.