Sunday, December 13, 2015

When the bough breaks ...

I just stepped outside, in the middle of the night, to see if my Christmas decorations had blown away. They're fine. The night is clear and still, the street still gleaming wetly, but the sky is empty; I can see the beacon blinking on the far side of the channel.

A few hours ago, the wind was howling and tossing sticks at my window. Under the carport, the car was dripping with side-blowing rain. Leaves were piling up on the doormat; I stepped, barefoot, onto a cluster of holly leaves.

And the day before? Sunny and warm, blue skies, pink sunset. But the streets and sidewalks were littered with branches brought down by the previous day's storm. The weather gods have their schedules all scrambled.

I stopped by a stand of Douglas fir to collect cones to make Christmas decorations with. Right beside the car, a 5-foot branch lay on the grass; I threw that in the car, too. It would give me enough greens for a wreath to hang on the door.

At home, I laid the cones out to dry in a basket, and spread the branch on the table, started clipping off short branches to make my wreath. Springtails scattered every which way, fat, hopping globular springtails, mostly. I hadn't expected that, from a branch fallen from a tall tree. I wonder how many ended up on the back seat of my car.

And then, something red left the shelter of a branch and ran across the table. A ladybug! In mid-winter!

A very small ladybug, spotless.

I was surprised to see her*; she may have been overwintering in a crack in the bark before her home came crashing down. But I was also intrigued by the pattern on her pronotum (the black and white "collar" behind her head). Discover Life has a key for identifying ladybugs; I plugged the clues into their boxes and came up with Cycloneda munda as the only match. This is a new ladybug for me.

However, C. munda is found east of the Rockies, not here. Another Cycloneda, polita, redder than the C. munda, but otherwise similar, lives here. Cycloneda polita, aka Western Blood-red Lady Beetle, it is.

These ladybugs are natives, spotless, and noticeably smaller than the common Asian Multicoloured, Harmonia axyridis.

I transferred her to a tray to take a few photos, and then planned to take her outside to find a place to hide. But, alas! She quickly flew away.


And though I looked and looked, I could not find her anywhere. So she'll just have to overwinter in my nice warm kitchen. Although she may think it's springtime, and go looking for a mate. She won't find one; they're all sleeping.

*Female C. munda have black faces. Males have white faces. I'm guessing C. polita is similar.


  1. Awww - maybe she'll show up again - you'll see her somewhere or catch her flying. What are springtails? Nice photos as always. Her color is a good one for Christmas.

  2. Susan, I guess I'll have to do another springtails post. They're tiny, so photos may take a bit of time.

  3. I don't see that many around here even in the summer. - Margy

  4. Beautiful lady beetle. I've seen her eastern cousin and was surprised by how tiny it was.


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