Springtime: It's Enough to Drive You Buggy
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Alfred Lord Tennyson famously observed that in spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. So finally tonight, in this first week of spring, our fancy turns not to love but to the small creatures that flitter about, creep and crawl.
For our Science Out of the Box segment this week, we called Ted Williams, who writes the Earth Almanac feature in Audubon Magazine. Williams gave us a glimpse of the secret lives of two species emerging this time of year, beginning with the mourning cloak butterfly. You can find it pretty much anywhere in the U.S. except Florida and the Gulf states. You'll recognize the mourning cloak by its chocolately wings bordered with blue dots and a wide edging of yellow.
Mr. TED WILLIAMS (Audubon Magazine): We see it now in March. How could it have hatched so quickly? It didn't hatch. It hibernated. Some butterflies hibernate under bark, under boards, and when it warms up, they fly around and they drink sap that's been running from where deer have broken off branches or an ice storm has cracked them. But they're one of the most widely distributed butterflies and probably one of the first you'll see in spring.
ELLIOTT: Moving from field to pond, we encounter a Jacques Cousteau of the insect world.
Mr. WILLIAMS: A whirligig is a small, black beetle, a water beetle. When they dive, they actually bring a bubble between their hind feet and use it as a scuba tank; they breathe underwater from that bubble.
ELLIOTT: And they're pretty agile on the surface as well.
Mr. WILLIAMS: They have oar-like feet, and you know, if you drop a needle into a glass of water headfirst, it sinks. But if you lay the needle carefully on the water sideways, it'll float. The surface film suspends it. And this is what whirligigs use.
ELLIOTT: So now that our program has come to an end, you can put on your duck boots and get out there with your magnifying glasses.