Pillow fight!

29 June, 2014               Pillow fight!

Turner and Mackey and I were on the path at Pony Pasture last week when a couple rode past us on their bicycles. One said “it looks like someone had a pillow fight in here!” Couldn’t have said it better myself:

Mackey lying down, Turner sitting, Lola in foreground, Luna leading us onward. Post pillow fight.

Mackey lying down, Turner sitting, Lola in foreground, Luna leading us onward. Post pillow fight.

 I took that picture this morning, when Mackey and Turner and I had the pleasure of Lola and Luna joining us for our jaunt.


As you may have noticed last week (if you saw this blog last week) I’m having lots of fun photographing insects. Here’s one I didn’t put on last week’s post. I learned from bugguide.net that this is a Blue-fronted dancer (Argia apicalis). As you may (or may not) recall from previous posts, this is a damselfly rather than a dragonfly. You can tell because the wings are folded when it’s resting. Dragonflies rest with horizontal wings. I haven’t yet determined the gender of this insect but I’m closing in on that ability. Maybe next week:

Blue-fronted Dancer, Argia apicalis

Blue-fronted Dancer, Argia apicalis

I normally avoid using the same picture twice, but I’m reposting a couple here to show something I’m learning. I’ve mentioned bugguide.net before. I registered for the site so I could upload pictures for help with identification. Here is a picture I put on this blog recently, and only later uploaded to bugguide for ID assistance:

"Waterstriders is the furthest we can go." - BugGuide.net on precision of ID from this image

“Waterstriders is the furthest we can go.” – BugGuide.net regarding precision of ID based this image

To give an idea of the assistance I get, look at this response:

“With this image it is unlikely anyone will be able to identify genus or species. There is a decent Wikipedia article on the family but The first introductory paragraph is inaccurate, it is possible to tell Gerridae apart from Veliidae via external characteristics although it isn’t always possible. They also talk about the hydrofuge hairs that allow them to skate on water, but don’t discuss their pre-apical tarsal claws. The claws are positioned in a way that they do not break the surface tension and it is a distinguishing characteristic of the family.”


That is what I want to learn. This is clearly a person who knows way more than I do about this subject, and I find it very gratifying that they share their knowledge so generously. I later referred to the insects in the picture as “bugs” and asked the same person if I was using that word properly. She wrote: “True Bugs are in the order hemiptera, the family Gerridae is in the order hemiptera, but usually these are referred to as Waterstriders. An individual is an insect or specimen, anything in the class Insecta is an insect, most entomologists hate it when someone says “bug” in reference to anything other than a true bug.”


If you read the response about the water strider picture, you’ll notice the editor wrote that “There is a decent Wikipedia article on the family…”. I read that article; it reminds me yet again of what I continue to learn about life living on life. An excerpt: “water striders: “Gerrids are aquatic predators and feed on invertebrates, mainly spiders and insects, that fall onto the water surface.[9] The water striders are attracted to this food source by the ripples produced by the struggling prey. The water strider uses its front legs as sensors for the vibrations produced by the ripples in the water. The water strider will grab onto the insect, puncture its body with its claws, and then suck out sustenance in a method called suction feeding. Gerrids prefer living prey, though they are indiscriminate feeders when it comes to terrestrial insect type.[12]Halobates, which are found on open sea, feed off floating insects, zooplankton, and occasionally resort to cannibalism of their own nymphs.[9]Cannibalism often occurs, but helps to control population sizes and restrict conflicting territories. During the non-mating season when gerrids live in cooperative groups, and cannibalism rates are lower, water striders will openly share large kills with others around them. Some gerrids are collectors, feeding off sediment or deposit surface.””

I’m aware that the human race has a lot of problems left to iron out. But we certainly have moved a long way past cannibalism to help control population sizes and restrict conflicting territories.

Puncturing and suction feeding and cannibalism – all to pass on their DNA. That’s how evolution and survival of the fittest works. Wow.

I love to communicate with people who know what they’re talking about. Each contributing editor on that site has a bio, and part of this person’s said “…Taxonomy was my favorite subject. I have taken classes in general entomology, taxonomy of immatures and matures, and advanced taxonomy of coleoptera. I’ve actually taken almost every class taught by the department including insect pest management, biocontrol, behavior, ecology, physiology, and medical/veterinary.”

A person who helped me with damselflies has this on  his biography: “I’m a retired biologist now spending time working on the distribution of Odonata in Manitoba. I volunteer at the Manitoba Museum identifying their Odonata.“

If I’ve neglected this before (sorry if this is dull), all dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order “odonata.” “Dragonflies” are in the suborder “Anisoptera” (unequal wings) and damselflies are in the suborder “Zygoptera” (equal wings). Sorry to go more than a little overboard there.

Also (still on bugs, what can I say), here’s another repost. Bugguide.com identified this as a whirligig beetle. The person who identified that on bugguide was called a “contributor” whereas the people who helped with the water striders and the Odonates were referred to as “Editors.” It’s an interesting field. And to ID some bugs you have to capture them, which is not something I’m inclined to do. I enjoy bugs but I’m not an entomologist. Whirligig beetles:


Whirligig beetles

All of this goes back to my attraction to flowing clear water in general and to the James River specifically. No matter how much or how little beauty I see on a given day, the river itself always affords lovely images. Always different, always perfect:

It's so amazing. You just point your camera at it and press the button.

It’s so amazing. You just point your camera at it and press the button.

Lest anyone think (I’m sure no one thinks this) that the only place I see graceful images is in nature, look at the curve of this industrial strength steel:

Industrial scale gracefulness

Industrial scale gracefulness

Enough for this week. The year’s half over! I hope the first half of 2014 has been great for you and I hope the second half is even better. See you in July,




About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
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8 Responses to Pillow fight!

  1. Gilpin Brown says:

    I love the RR track image. Very artful and creative. An the one just before it – the river.


    • Thanks Gilpin! That was one of those images that just appeared out of nowhere. You just look up and there it is, you had no idea. Glad you liked the river picture too. Water is always so relaxing for me. Thanks for the comments!

  2. Clare T says:

    i was going to comment on the RR track photo as well – worth blowing up & framing i would say 🙂 and if you turn your photo on its side (rotating left) it ressembles the facade of an ancient cathedral.

    as always THANKS JAY!

    • Hi Clare! I certainly got lucky with that RR track photo. Normally when I’m taking pictures I have something in mind but that caught me completely off guard. Which is always delightful. I’ll have to rotate it and see what it looks like – interesting effect. Thank YOU for looking at my blog and for the kind remarks. Have a great day and I hope to see you at the river soon,


  3. Cappy says:

    Love the title!

    • Hi Cappy!
      I’m glad you enjoyed it! That couple riding by on their bikes gave it to me. It hadn’t crossed my mind until I overheard the saying it and it was so perfect. I’m always looking for good blog post titles too. Have fun, hope life in Africa is great, much love,


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