Buggy Day at Hills Peak

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) all seem to face the sun.

The darling little flowers of Primrose monkeyflower all seem to face the sun.

Suksdorf's paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

Suksdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) was still quite eyecatching.

After a much-needed rest following the NPSO Annual Meeting, (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I did manage to get out a couple of times last week. On Wednesday, July 20, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, Ginny McVickar, and I headed out to Hills Peak for a leisurely day to see what we could find. There were still lots of flowers out, and we stopped to admire rhodies (Rhododendron macrophyllum) and penstemons (Penstemon cardwellii and P. rupicola) blooming well along the roads on the way to the marshy lake east of Hills Peak, our first stop. Unfortunately, there were lots of mosquitoes, but we still managed to spend a few hours exploring the area. Primrose monkeyflower (Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides) was gorgeous, very small hooded ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) were starting to flower, and the first one-flowered gentian (Gentianopsis simplex) was out. Bistort (Bistorta bistortoides) was in full bloom, but oddly, it wasn’t attracting many butterflies. We did see a number of dragonflies, and Ginny and I spotted a huge bug I’d never seen before. It was around 2″ long with nasty looking pincer-like fore arms. It was hanging out in the shallow water in the boggy area north of the lake.

How surprising to see rhodies blooming so late in the season.

How surprising to see such beautiful rhodies blooming this late in the season.

The first toe biter we saw was hiding in the muck, waiting for something tasty.

The first toe biter we saw was hiding in the muck, waiting for something tasty.

Amazingly, on our way home, we saw another. We stopped at Campers Flat Campground to go down and soak our itchy arms in the river. Not so fast—there was the giant bug swimming right up to the rocks we were sitting on. Ginny and Nancy looked it up on the internet and discovered it was a giant water bug (Lethocerus americanus), sometimes referred to as a toe biter—for good reason as apparently it can inflict a painful bite. It injects toxins into its prey to digest it first, then it can slurp up the juice—sounds like a good subject for a low-budget horror movie. So glad we didn’t put our feet in the water!

I wonder how many of these little toads the toe biter snacked on.

How many of these little toads ended up as snacks for the toe biter?

A toe biter trying to get out of the river at Campers Flat

A toe biter trying to get out of the river at Campers Flat

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