Sympathy for a Grasshopper

 

Even when my car’s covered in mud or dust — which happens frequently — I keep the windows clean: the better to see other drivers, as well as whatever might be blooming alongside the road.

Recently, another advantage of clean windows presented itself. While stopped at a traffic light in Fredericksburg, this little gem — a differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) — emerged from the security of its hidey-hole beneath the wipers and stared at me through the windshield.

When the light changed, I felt certain the grasshopper would fly off as I accelerated. Instead, it gripped the glass ever more tightly and stayed put: staring at me through ten, fifteen, and twenty-five miles per hour. By thirty-five, things were getting iffy, and finally, at forty-five, a look of what I imagined to be a combination of supplication and terror crossed the insect’s face.

I pulled over, captured this somewhat unusual view of the creature, and then stepped out of the car. Sensing its opportunity, the grasshopper flew off while I, in turn, returned to the car and drove off: happy for my own unusual opportunity.

 

Comments always are welcome.

White-Lined Sphinx Moth: The Prequel

White-lined sphinx moth caterpillar (Hyles lineata)

When I discovered this gem trucking along a Gillespie County roadside in early May, it appeared to be headed toward a patch of pretty yellow primroses, members of the family (Onagraceae) that includes some of Hyles lineata’s favored host plants.

Their distinctive patterns, rear ‘horn,’ and dotted head and anal plate make identification of these mature caterpillars relatively easy. On the other hand, anyone who’d not yet encountered a white-lined sphinx moth browsing an evening flower garden or shady canyon creek might find it hard to imagine the result of the caterpillar’s transformation. It’s one of those remarkable stories nature’s more than happy to produce.

Adult white-lined sphinx moth feeding on wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) 

 

Comments always are welcome.
For my earlier post devoted to the white-lined sphinx moth in art and science, please click here.

Rest Easy, Rider

Trail’s End

Many of my favorite Texas towns — Vanderpool, Medina, Camp Wood, Leakey — lie along Texas Ranch Roads 335, 336, and 337. Collectively known as the “Twisted Sisters,” the roads serve as a magnet for motorcycle riders.

The 100-mile loop is among the most challenging in the state. The route, following canyons and climbing along the edge of jagged limestone cliffs, is marked by tight curves, shear drop offs, and a significant lack of guardrails.One fifteen mile section contains more than sixty curves: none of which could be called gentle. Even for experienced riders, the route is challenging. At one point, a highway sign warns, “Caution Next 12 Miles — Since Jan. 2006, 10 Killed in Motorcycle Related Crashes.”

Now and then, evidence of unhappy endings appears. At one scenic pull out, two crosses stood near the small parking area as memorials: one made of plain wood with incised dates, the other bejeweled and trimmed with gold.

But at the edge of the cliff, nearly hidden in the grasses, a different sort of marker caught my eye. From the iconography, I’m confident the person it honors was both Texan and Christian. Given the prickly pear’s spines, I know the artist was both creative and brave.

 

 

Comments always are welcome.