Al Campbell, Field Editor

May 26th, 2003

Nuclear Bugs
By Al Campbell

Nuclear bugs? That's what I was thinking when I went to Rapid Creek to look for caddisflies on Wednesday. I only saw a few caddisflies, but thankfully the hatch is starting for the year, albeit about two weeks late. I got a few caddis pictures, but the real prize is this unusual red bug. In all my years of bug observation, I have never viewed anything exactly like this red critter.

I had plans to try to get some pictures of dragonfly or damselfly nymphs, but the puzzle over the red fly got the best of me and I hurried home to try to determine its identity. I'm one of those guys who just can't stand a mystery. I just have to know the answer, and I want it right now. Too bad about those nymph pictures, I was on a mission.

I forgot to stop and pick up dog food, which was my claimed main reason for being away from the lawnmower. I didn't even stop to buy the hound his usual Wednesday hot dog treat. My grocery store list was out of my memory. I had to know what that ugly red fly was and if it's something rare or common.

When I got home, I ran into the house, pulled the card out of the camera and fired up the computer. Then I remembered I left Buford my basset hound in the car; so I ran back outside while the computer was winding up and let him out of the car and into the back yard so he wouldn't interrupt me.

By then, the computer was up and ready, so I ran back into the house and shoved the flash card into the card reader and promptly crashed Windows. I'm guessing the card reader sent a spike up the USB lines and locked up Mr. Gates' curse to mankind. Start over.

While the computer was winding up for the second time, I dug out my old field guide of insects and started earching. Judging by the looks of the bug, I would guess it is from the family Diptera, which is the large family of bugs that has family members of the midge, blackfly and mosquito family and others of the housefly, deerfly and horsefly varieties. I don't know; maybe a marshfly?

I pulled the picture up on the screen and started my textbook comparisons. My field guide is something akin to a dictionary of insects, but after a few hours searching, I couldn't find a match. Not one insect listed in my guide that even slightly resembled my pictured fly had a red body. Internet searches didn't do my research any better than my guidebook had done.

My wife knows me pretty well after all these years of marriage. She knew it was a waste of time to try to get me off the trail of a new bug, so she took matters into her own hands. She started calling for bids on the lawn-mowing job and went to the grocery store for the stuff I was supposed to bring home with me. I'll have to make a stop for dog food on my way to work in the morning. The pet store closed while I was searching for an answer on my bug project.

It is now more than 24 hours since I started my search, and I'm not any closer to an answer than I was on the edge of the stream. Bugs do that to me. If I find one that I haven't observed before, I'll look for hours to identify my new find. In this case, I can't find an answer to my problem, so I'm turning to you for some help.

Can you identify this bug? One of the entomologists out there must have an answer to my search. If you think you know the answer, tell us all on the bulletin board. Don't worry, this isn't a test; and I don't have a clue about the identity of this red critter. However, I'm very interested in any information you might have. Is it the result of toxic waste, nuclear experimentation gone awry, or just a common bug I haven't observed before now? I'll be looking for your answers. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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