Tag Archives: Lepidoptera

Day 15: last day :( and JUMBO JUICES

Just like the flight into Belize, I don’t think it hit me that I was going back home until we got to the airport! I think it was the AC and wifi that did it.

We spent the first half of the day driving to the airport, with a stop at Cheers! With a Tropical Twist for lunch. We had an INSANE lunch budget of 20 USD. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but for reference, my cheeseburger was about 3.50 USD. So we went kind of nuts and got on average 4 items each (may be skewed because of outlier Alessi, who ordered multiple entrees, appetizers, and sides). I personally got a burger, 1 fruit punch, and 1 jumbo watermelon juice, which equalled at least a liter of juice total. IT WAS THE HAPPIEST LUNCH OF MY LIFE. I even took some watermelon juice to go in my Nalgene.

We boarded the plane at around 5, and arrived around 8:30 Houston time. IĀ had to say goodbye to most of the class at the airport, and then Jordan, Mikey, Damien and I (along with Turiez and Scott) took a shuttle back to Rice.

Now that I’m back home, reeking of citronella, sweat, and super old seawater, Houston feels so surreal. Where’s the endless tea and hot water jug, and Clivus, and the squeaking of the mouse in our wall? šŸ™ I’m going to miss everyone on this trip, and I am eagerly awaiting our coral reef/rainforest themed crawls!

Day 14: return of the camera traps

We made the treacherous journey again to retrieve our camera traps today, and it was surprisingly not as horrible as the first time-Scott was right! That may have been because we strategized our route better, so that we didn’t have to walk back and forth over the same trail. Also we didn’t get lost in the jungleĀ at night.

Annnd the fruits of our labor are:

2 ocelots!!!

1 great curacao

several pacas and peccaries

1 red brocket deer

literally thousandsĀ of pictures of grass and our legs

Still, the ocelot pictures were worth it!!

The Daily Moth

Same diversity of moths as always; I’m noticing more and more green eggs, and still the window screens are dominated by Sphingidae! I’m tempted to bring one of those eggs home to see what kind of moth it is.

Note from future self: Don’t worry Belize customs and TSA, I’m completely egg-free

A new lepidoptera that I thought was kind of cool because of the asymmetrical, ruffly wings!

Day 13: lectures in high and low places

We had an interesting time this morning collecting all our pee traps, and then emptying them into a tub, and smelling each other’s day-old pee. It was a real bonding experience. We tallied up the arthropods we caught, andĀ couldn’t draw a solid conclusion because of one outlier: we got 100+ of 1 ant species, while we only got 1 of most other species! However, we could conclude that on both the canopy and forest floor, there was a clear preference for the pee vial over the water.

In the afternoon, we hiked down to the entrance of a cave- we couldn’t go much further because it was closed for archaeological excavation.

But our guides Ronan and John kindly let us do lectures in the cave on Scott’s laptop! Ellie and Isaac’s lectures on amphibians and reptiles were pretty amazing in the pitch black echoey-ness of the cave.

CAVE SNAKE

 

To top that off, we hiked to the (terrifying) bird tower after dinner to listen to Therese’s lecture from 40 feet off the ground at sunset.

Needless to say, those were the coolest lecture settings I’ve ever been in.

After the lecture it was perfect timing for a night hike back to the station. We saw a few big arthropods including a fluorescentĀ scorpions, glue-butt cockroaches (that’s the scientific name I think), and a millipede.

And now for the daily moth report! Whoa! Are you excited yet?!

I feel like this one has been hanging around in the same spot for days.
This one has gained the status of second-favorite moth.

Some pics of the red and white lappet moth in daylight!

I’ve been noticing more and more of these green eggs lately, starting last night. I think they might be Sphingidae eggs, because those are also becoming more and more common on the window screens?

Day 12: presentations, pee, and pelvic exercises

We had a bright start to the day when Scott asked us to pee into 50-mL vials for unknown reasonsā€¦ it was eventually revealed that we were going to use out nitrogen-rich pee to study nutrient availability in the forest floor vs. canopy.

So we hiked out to set out vials of water and our pee at arthropod traps- we reasoned that if arthropods were more attracted to the pee than the water, that would be a sign that nutrient availability is low in a particular area. We hypothesized that nutrient availability would be higher in the canopy since tropical soils are usually low in nutrients. 24 hours until we find out the results!

Since we got lost yesterday and hiked for 5 hours, yesterdayā€™s presentations have been postponed to today, for a total of 8 lectures after lunch (2 for me). Itā€™s gonna be a long afternoonā€¦

Moth update after dinner: there were plenty of moths again attacking everyone during lectures, and my good friend Ceratomia undulosa is still the most common.

Day 11

Omg. My feet are dying right now. We set up camera traps scattered around Las Cuevas today, in order to compare the amount of prey vs big cat activity on paths vs off paths. (Our hypothesis is that big cats will be more active on paths, and prey will be more active off paths.) So, we hiked 3 hours before lunch, then had lunch, then headed back outā€¦ and got lost in the rainforest just as it was getting dark. Finally we made it back to the station at 7:30 pm, for a total of 8 hours of hiking for the day.

I drank a gallon of water and I think I lost it all via sweat.

Thankfully, Scott has taken pity on us and presentations are delayed until tomorrow!

Taxon sightings in the rainforest include a small venomous snake, several blue morphos, and a coati. And IĀ saw so many cool moths at the station again!

This guy is everywhere. (Sphingidae,Ā Ceratomia undulosa?)
My absolute favorite lepidoptera on the trip, a red and white lappet moth? Look at his little face!

Iā€™m actually wondering if maybe I should study Belizean mothsā€¦ thereā€™s so little information on them, and I think I would be happy staying here staring atĀ moths for a few more years!

Day 10: the nuptial flight of the termites

Today we finally moved in to Las Cuevas! We first stopped at the Rio On swimming hole on the way here, although I just waded and explored because I never want to be in a wet swimsuit again. On the bus we also found out that we are all terrible at BS, because none of us are honest and we love calling each other out on it.

I saw swarms of unidentified black and orange butterflies on the side of the road in dirt clearings, and when we reached Las Cuevas I found about 6 dead swallowtails in the grass.

After putting our bags in our rooms, we had a quick introductory hike around the smallest loop at Las Cuevas. I felt quite stylish in my field outfit of rubber boots, hiking socks, and field pants tucked into hiking socks. Halfway into the hike, as we encountered a steep hill, Scott informed us that we were standing on Mayan ruins! The hill was a pyramid, and a Mayan ball game court was nearby. We all climbed the pyramid, but there was nothing of note at the top.

Notable sightings on the trail were katydids and oropendola, a type of bird that makes sac-shaped nests hanging from trees.

One personal goal achieved today: I ate a live termite! They were having (? is this the correct word) their nuptial flight on the porch outside our rooms, and Scott told us to just grab them out of the air, pick off the wings, and eat them. It didn’t have much of a flavor–I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to having some as a last resort snack in the jungle.

There were lepidoptera everywhere tonight, especially in the classroom where they were harassing everybody during the lecture. My personal favorites:

Arctiini??

“Your taxon is on my leg!!”

They all had amazingĀ patterns, most of them mimicking leaves-the last one even had transparent holes in its wings to mimic holes in dead leaves.

Note from future self: I’m finding it pretty difficult to identify my moths; my main source isĀ this guide to moth silhouettes from bugguide.net.

Day 9: spelunking!

We had an amazing first day of caving. Our tour guide led us through a risky but SO FUN route through the ATM caves, where we had to swim through the underground river and climb barefoot over rock formations. We got inches away from Mayan ceremonial artifacts, like pottery shards and a fully intact skeleton of a 17-year-old girl (or boy?). Deepu also scraped his knee and appeased the rain gods, as we left the cave to a massive thunderstorm.

No pics, as someone dropped a camera on a Mayan skull last year and now they’re strictly forbidden. šŸ™

After lunch provided by the ATM park, we drove to San Ignacio and explored the town for snacks and supplies for the rest of the week. Iā€™m still so happy about the random Chinese people and stores everywhere (and buffets)! I never would have expected to see them in Belize. I bought bug spray from a nice couple from Guangdong and was tempted to get a jar of fermented tofu tooā€¦ so I could import tofu that was imported from China to Belize into Houston.

Then we drove to our luxurious eco-lodge, Crystal Palace, and had a fancy 3-course dinner in the outdoor dining room. I approve of these accommodations!

Oddly, no moth sightings at night, just one unidentified butterfly at the ATM jungle area.

Day 1: travel and freaky moth behavior

Landed in Belize today! This is always one of my favorite parts of traveling, getting to see daily life in another country for the first time.

IMG_0970-2ciaidw

(Warning, do not watch if you get motion sickness.)

On the van ride to the Tropical Education Center, a small lodge connected to the Belize Zoo, we stopped at a convenience store for snacks and supplies. The amount of Belizean candy options was so overwhelming that I only ended up with a can of peanuts. Also, they sell the original Pears soap here! I know some people are really into that.

I saw a confusing amount of Chinese people and stationery products in the store?? I asked the Chinese cashier where he was from but he didnā€™t seem too talkative. How mysteriousā€¦

Note from future self: you really should have gotten extra Gatorade powder! And after doing research at home, I still couldnā€™t find much info about the Chinese in Belizeā€”apparently most are here for logging work or are the descendants of indentured servants from the 1800s. But how did they stay so isolated from Belizean society? A good question for SOCI 319ā€™s future trip to Belize?

We arrived at the TEC around 5 pm, got settled in, and had our first Belizean meal of rice and beans, chicken, plantains, coleslaw, and juice.

The TEC’s deisgnated leaf cutter ant crossing.

We didnā€™t get the opportunity to see many of our taxons while traveling; I didnā€™t see any Lepidoptera while it was still light out. But I found this little moth on a light outside my room around 8 pm:

I think itā€™s a prominent moth (family Notodontidae), because of its tent-like shape, hairy body/legs, and the forelegs positioned in front of the head instead of to the side.

Later that night I tried to get more pictures and it started doing this really weird thing where it was slowly raising its wings and curling up its body. Anyone know what this is?? Stop-motion sequence below.

Day 8: Back on dry land

We had to say goodbye to Gloverā€™s today and we are currently at the TECā€¦donā€™t tell Adrienne but Iā€™m realizing how much I missed dry land! And never having to wear a dive skin again except on our future EBIO 319 crawl!

We toured a Smithsonian research station called Carrie Bow Island in the morning with the wonderful station manager Clyde, then had one last snorkel in the mangroves, where Therese caught a seahorse.

Poor guy, he looks kind of distressed.

We boated back to Belize City for lunch…

…and then moved in to the TEC for one more night. My single cabana feels like the height of luxury.

Ā Ā 

Around 7-8 pm, we had a night tour of the Belize Zoo. The animals were unbelievably cute!! Highlights include Bullet Head the tapir, a somersaulting jaguar, and an ocelot who purred violently, including while eating.

[no photos, camera died :(]

Lepidoptera sightings of the day:

Lappet moths (Lasiocampidae)

 

Silkworm moth (Bombycidae)

 

Geometrid moth (Geometridae)

 

Ā Ā 

Prominent moths (Notodontidae)

All were found at the TEC after 8 pm, most on lamp posts and a few at an insect lure.

Wrap up

One week in the Rainforest. One week on the coral reef. As different as the two ecosystems sound, in a lot of ways they are similar. Both are hotspots for biological diversity, driven by diverse geography and topographical features which create countless niches to be filled. The niches are filled in fact by huge ranges of organisms that have adapted to suit their microenvironments. For example in both the rainforest and in coral reefs, light penetration plays a role in determining the organisms that will survive and thrive in different locations. High light-need species reach the heights of the canopy in the rainforest; they reside in shallow waters on the reef. Other factors include resilience in inclement weather, particularly in countries like Belize. Belize is affected by tropical weather systems such as hurricanes, which may reshape the ecosystems and the organisms that are not sheltered must be able to survive the effects. This is true in both the forest and the reef, as exposed species in either are at risk.

Another similarity I have noticed is the apparent paradox of high biological diversity in spite of nutrient poor environments. Both reefs and forests support incredible richness and abundance of life. In nutrient poor environments this is made possible by the efficient cycling of the nutrients that are present. In fact, the ecosystems themselves are in a way nutrient rich, in that the nutrients are usually actively being used by the occupants.

This course was what I expected, but better. I had expected to find a bit of direction and to maybe make some friends. I have found such reassurance in this course: reassurance of wanting to pursue biology and perhaps marine biology in particular. And the group of people on this trip are each individually important in creating the amazing group dynamic we had. This also includes the instructors, who are passionate about the material and make me feel passionate about it as well.

My favorite part of this trip was snorkeling the fore reef. I remember letting myself bob in the waves and then someone pointed down. There was a huge spotted eagle ray swimming right below us. Seeing something like that in its natural environment was incredible. My least favorite part of this trip was the itching. Between chigger, tick, sand fly, and mosquito bites, there are more bites on me than I can count. Incidentally I apparently also have a fairly strong reaction to most of those bites. I have never before woken up in the middle of the night due to itching so badly.

Things I have learned:

  1. Sometimes it is easiest to believe that there is a simple right and wrong, but thatā€™s hardly ever the case. This trip reminded me of that. It would be nice to say that all poaching is inexcusable and conservation should be the easy answer. That, however, is not the world we live in. Hearing more about conflicts between Guatemala and Belize have reminded me of that. Iā€™m going to try very hard not to forget it.
  2. I know that in pursuing science, sometimes the answers we end up with are not the ones we want to hear. I will not always be correct. In fact, most of the time I will probably be wrong.
  3. There are a lot of things worth trying to save in this world. I cannot save all of them. I am not in control. So I am going to try and save a small piece of it.
  4. [Bonus] Ocelots/jaguars/a-lot-of-animals sound reallyĀ wierd

Thank you.