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Let’s do crimes!

Late last night, as we were driving back from the airport, we ran into a curious meteorological phenomenon: we entered a dense cloud of thick, chunky material that clunked into our car like a hailstorm and reduced visibility quite a bit. Only I guess it wasn’t meteorological, strictly speaking — it was the May insect hatch. Say, do you think you can read our license plate now?

20130528-083235.jpg

I’m thinking that with our identity obscured this would be a perfect time to go on a crime spree.

I’ll put a closeup below the fold.

20130528-083248.jpg

I’ll spare you one thing. As we were driving, we tried to improve visibility by using the windshield wipers, so this morning the windshield is coated with a lovely green slime. The photos looked genuinely revolting, so I’ll pass on ruining your appetite. This time.

My wife did charge back into the house this morning and tell me that no way was she driving that car to work today, and she gave me a meaningful look. You know, that look. I’ve been trying to figure it out all morning. I think it meant that today I was supposed to go out and take photos of all the cool arthropods adorning our vehicle, in which case…job done!

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    When my wife and I visit the Midwest (we’re from the Puget Sound area), we always notice how much more birdsong we hear than at home. Your license plate shows the reason why.

    Mayflies, perhaps?

  2. blf says

    What the hell are those things?

    [T]he windshield is coated with a lovely green slime.

    Kamikaze peas.

  3. Ben P says

    What the hell are those things? Mayflies?

    Tough to tell from the picture, but the picture looks similar, this is the righ time of year, and mayflies do hatch in giant clouds like that.

    If you live near trout waters the mayfly hatch is a great time to go fly fishing. Even fishing for panfish or perch on a fly line is fun.

  4. says

    Yes, Mayflies. It’s that time of year.

    It doesn’t just benefit the birds. It’s all these lakes — they’re flying fish food.

    Hmm…I could scrape all that protein off the car and come up with some recipes. Maybe that’s what my wife was hinting at?

    Nah, she’s vegetarian. There must be something else I can’t quite decipher.

  5. bbgunn says

    I wouldn’t want to ride a motorcycle in MN late at night in mid-to-late May. I’d spend half a day flossing after that ride.

  6. Sastra says

    Of course you should do crimes. This is the “plague of locusts” foretold in Revelations and Armageddon is now upon us!!1!

    Well, it’s metaphorical, of course. We’re not all a bunch of kooky literalists like those foolish gnu atheists seem to think.

    Welcome back.

  7. tynk says

    @bbgunn #8
    We do it anyway. Besides, there may be a lot of mayflies in late may, but later in the season we get big flying beetles that feel like someone is throwing a rock at you. So far I have only taken one of those to the face.

  8. Moggie says

    A Honda? Obviously she’s hinting that she wants a trophy car, to match the lifestyle.

  9. robro says

    In the early 70s, Florida, already a world leader in bug production, became infested with what they called “Love Bugs”—swarms of flying, mating insects during certain times of year. I’m not sure what they were, or where they came from…I don’t remember them being a problem until then…but it was particularly problematic around Orlando where the mass of dead insects on your windshield could make driving dangerous. Gas stations started charging $5 to clean a windshield, which doesn’t seem like much until you’re having to do it four or five times to get through the area.

  10. kevinalexander says

    Good evolutionary trick, all emerging at once. The birds and beasts and Hondas can gorge themselves and there are still more than enough to get it on and get back to the water to make more for next year.

  11. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    I look at those pics and see spare parts for the makings of a chitenous superbeast the likes of which would strike terror into the hearts of all who beheld it, and you see….lunch? We’re never going to rule the world until you scientists start getting your mad on.

  12. says

    Ah, yes, I also have memories of growing up in South Georgia and the swarms of “Love Bugs” and why the hell did we get a white car if it was going to look like a massacre by the time we got to church, Dad?

    Psst, PZ, check to see if Mary’s gesturing towards a hose. It could be an important clue.

  13. steve oberski says

    So you’re saying that the only thing stopping atheists from going on crime sprees are clouds of (presumably biblical in origin) flying insects ?

  14. says

    But we have insect plagues every year! We’ve missed a lot of armageddons, I guess. (I’m back, Sastra, but I’m not taking away your keys. Any time you feel the urge to express yourself, feel free.)

    Later this summer, we’ll also get an infestation of ladybugs from the farmland pest resistance programs. They’ll be crawling all over our walls and ceilings. And then there’ll be the day or two that all the flying ants emerge in a rush, immediately followed by the swarms of dragonflies gorging themselves. This is a very buggy part of the world.

  15. says

    Psst, PZ, check to see if Mary’s gesturing towards a hose.

    She was on her way to work. That’s no time for sex!

  16. David Marjanović says

    I wouldn’t want to ride a motorcycle in MN late at night in mid-to-late May. I’d spend half a day flossing after that ride.

    …How about keeping your mouth closed? It’d dry out rather painfully anyway if you kept it open while riding a motorcycle.

    Hmm…I could scrape all that protein off the car

    I think you’ve understood The Look that far. :-)

  17. says

    “infestation of ladybugs” I was in one of those many years ago in England (though of course they were ladybirds there). Amazing experience (but distressingly crunchy to walk in).

  18. blf says

    Obviously, the bugs worship the Trophy Wife™ who wants her minion to complete the sacrificial offering and burn the carcasses on the high altar.

  19. Larry says

    Obviously, they’re male insects who mistook the Honda for a lady insect and were attempting their best moves on said lady when reality imposed its ugly head at 65 mph.

  20. Sili says

    A Honda? Obviously she’s hinting that she wants a trophy car, to match the lifestyle.

    Odd. The last thing I’d want after seeing those pictures is a convertible.

  21. methuseus says

    @robro:

    I live in Florida, and, from what I’ve been told, the “love bugs” hitchhiked from Georgia on pallets of sod intended for the areas that were being drained of water by Disney and others in making their amusement parks and such. They are still an issue, especially in central Florida, but have been lessening each year of the six I’ve lived down here.

  22. ChasCPeterson says

    A good night to be a toad in Minnesota.

    Good evolutionary trick, all emerging at once.

    It’s worked every year for mayflies for, like, 300 million years.

  23. says

    Chas’ first line at #30 is clearly the beginning of a song. Somebody needs to write the rest; I’m too slow this morning.

    Our mechanic keeps a pin-up collection of critters she has found on cars’ grilles and in air filters. Mostly arthropods — we saw a California dogface butterfly there before we ever saw one alive — but it includes two Anna’s hummingbirds. Yikes.

  24. skevans1963 says

    Wow! I have dreamt for years of experiencing a Midwest mayfly hatch like that. From their size, it looks like they are in the family Ephemeridae. The larvae live in rivers and lakes for a couple of years before emerging as terrestrial subimagos, they will molt one more time and become reproductive imagos. They are beautiful insects! I love ‘em!

  25. otrame says

    PZ, I endorse your suggestion for Sastra to continue writing here. I’ve thought for a long time that she has a lot to say and says it very well.

    As for your confusion about the bugs, don’t worry if you guess wrong. She’ll forgive you. Any woman married as long as she has been understands. My mother calls it Refrigerator Blindness, but my daughter in law prefers Male Pattern Blindness, noting that the effects are more widespread than the inability to find the mustard, even when told what side of which shelf to look for it. Your failure to understand what Mary wants is an example. She’s used to this sort of thing. Believe me.

    Of course, she’ll still express displeasure, so you should still try to work out what she wants. It’s everly more peaceful that way.

  26. shouldbeworking says

    Let us repeat the sacred words of the Man’s Prayer

    I’m a man,
    but I can change,
    if I have to,
    I guess.

  27. frog says

    I live in an part of the country where this sort of thing doesn’t happen. I mean, the yuckiest encounter with a mass of insects I’ve ever faced is walking into a cloud of gnats (which is unpleasant, since it always seems to happen when I’m talking to someone and my mouth is open).

    If I were driving through a cloud of things that could coat the car like this, I would have to pull over and freak out, probably shouting into my cell phone and advising my loved ones to seek a well defended compound to hole up in.

    Yeugh.

  28. says

    The closest I’ve seen to this is when the flying ants swarm in KwaZulu-Natal around thunderstorms. A friend of mine forgot to close his window properly and came back to an apartment completely carpeted in flying ants. It was both rather horrifying and fascinating. (They are a very popular delicacy in Zimbabwe. They taste of peanut-butter capsules.)

  29. otrame says

    The closest we come to this kind of thing here in South Texas is some years when conditions are right, the annual migration of little black moths become clouds of them, looking like black snow flurries, especially around highways where the wind from cars swirls them around. The bird love it.

  30. says

    Very tough to read! The numbers are fairly easy, with the digits forming a perfect square! The letters.. HBA? Not that I need to know…

  31. Winters says

    I used to go on an annual fishing trip up on the Otter Tail River in MN. The mosquitos were unreal. We had several friends get Deet poisoning over the years from over usage. Like the birds, the bugs also made for nice fishing.

  32. says

    I’m thinking that with our identity obscured this would be a perfect time to go on a crime spree.

    This is not a recommended strategy. I can pull at least 4 out of the 6 characters, which combined with “light grey Honda” would be quite enough to ID the car. [/completely missing the joke]

  33. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    I see my fellow Floridians have already mentioned Lovebugs. I’ll just say that they’re a problem not only here but in the Louisiana Delta area (I lived there in the early ’80s) and in both places, if you ride a bicycle you learn to breath through your teeth., with barely parted lips. You also wear sunglasses or other eye protection, even if it’s cloudy.

  34. marcoli says

    Entomologist here. I am looking closely, and I do not see Mayflies. I see midges. They will look like mosquitoes, but with slightly plumper bodies.

  35. imback says

    A lot of people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidents and things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. Give you an example, show you what I mean: suppose you’re thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly someone will say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate of shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one, either. It’s all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.

  36. ogremeister says

    Ron Sullivan @ 32:

    Chas’ first line at #30 is clearly the beginning of a song. Somebody needs to write the rest; I’m too slow this morning.

    Will this do?

    [Hope the paragraph breaks work; they didn't seem to in Preview.]

    (To the tune of City Of New Orleans*)

    Living near the City of New York Mills
    Minnesota Central Monday morning meal
    Fifteen toads with fifteen restless tongue tips
    Three river banks and a sunrise that’s surreal
    There on a lifetime odyssey
    Mayflies crawl out of ol’ Finn Creek
    Up toward the houses, farms and fields
    As of yet they have no wings,
    though they’ll molt and grow the things
    But they’re sitting ducks ’til they fly off for the wealds.

    (It’s a) Good day to be a toad in Minnesota
    Of all the anurans, I’m a native one
    I’m the toad that lives near The City of New York Mills
    I’ll have eaten five hundred flies when the day is done

    Eatin’ flies with the other toads along Finn Creek
    Ate many a fly, ain’t no one keepin’ score
    Eat all the bugs that are in reach of my long tongue
    See a thousand more crawlin’ up upon the shore
    And the spawn of a thousand mayflies
    And the spawn of a thousand more
    Provide more food than we could ever dream.
    The gentle sound of buzzing bees
    Carried along by a gentle breeze;
    It’s a good thing that mayflies cannot scream.

    (It’s a) Good day to be a toad in Minnesota
    Of all the anurans, I’m a native one
    I’m the toad that lives near The City of New York Mills
    I’ll have eaten five hundred flies when the day is done

    Night time near The City of New York Mills
    Changing winds all along the creek
    All full now, but will be hungry again by morning
    Wtaer flows through the Minnesota darkness during the hatching peak
    And all the toads and mayflies seem
    To make up some kind of macabre team
    A dance of death shimmering in evening hues
    The water sings its song again
    The diners will please remain
    This toad’s got the disappearing dinner blues

    (It’s a) Good night to be a toad in Minnesota
    Of all the anurans, I’m a native one
    I’m the toad that lives near The City of New York Mills
    I’ll have eaten five hundred flies when the day is done

    (It’s a) Good day to be a toad in Minnesota
    Of all the anurans, I’m a native one
    I’m the toad that lives near The City of New York Mills
    I’ll have eaten five hundred flies when the day is done

    *With deepest apologies to Steve Goodman.

  37. frankb says

    Question: What is the last thing that goes though a bug’s mind when it hits the windshield?

    Answer: Its butt.

  38. Ichthyic says

    ID may be assisted by this book…

    I read that as “Intelligent Design”, then realized you meant “identification”, then realized there was still a good joke in there in thinking you actually DID mean “intelligent design”.

  39. Tethys says

    Ephemerellids! I can’t tell which one from the photos, but they are a sign of health for wetlands and lakes.

    Wait until June when the even bigger river species Hexagenia hatches. Cities will use snowplows to clear the bridges, and sometimes the hatch is so thick they can be detected on radar.

    It’s wonderful to see the rivers recover and become full of wildlife. There were no mayflies in the 60′ and 70′s due to using the river as a dumping grounds for sewage, slaughterhouse waste, and industrial chemicals.

    I’m sure Mary was indicating that you should blog about them.

  40. harbo says

    If this is anything like driving into a locust swarm…..You need to pressure hose your radiator VERY SOON.
    You’d make a lousy criminal… remember the back plate.

  41. PatrickG says

    @ frog:

    But what do you do when the insects are actually a biblical swarm?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY-v1r_KnMg

    That video is mild. Nobody’s brushing gnats* out of their ear canals in that video. If anyone is ever on Isla de Ometepe (island in Lago de Nicaragua), make sure you check the gnat schedule with locals first.

    All I’m saying is PZ’s spoiled. Just the car? Pfft. When you’ve got bugs crawling in every available orifice, I might take you seriously.

    * non-biting, fortunately

  42. Ogvorbis: ArkRanger of Doom! says

    Back when I had a Volkswagen Microbus (yes, I had a pony tail, wore tie-died shirts, and got pulled over a lot, why do you ask?) I drove through a mayfly hatch. Just imagine the effect of the mayflies on the brick-like front end of a microbus. It was bad. They were 1/2 inch thick over the entire bumper and front panel. And, aside from the areas the wipers smeared the dead flies, so was the wind screen.

    You have my sympathy.

  43. birgerjohansson says

    So the Lord Of Flies only manifests during hatching time? That is not much of a biblical adversary.
    “Let’s do crimes” -I am bored. Is it too early to joke about blowing stuff up?

  44. jalyth says

    Killing insects with your car is easy (altho I’ve only massacred mosquitoes). I killed a bat with my grill once. Poor thing. I mean, darn dirty blood sucker.

  45. rogerfirth says

    I wouldn’t want to ride a motorcycle in MN late at night in mid-to-late May. I’d spend half a day flossing after that ride.

    That’s what a full-face helmet and riding suit are for. Well, that and keeping all the pieces together when you do the big get-off at 60 mph. (Been there. Done that. I’m a confirmed member of the Church of Aerostitch.)

    I’ve gone through swarms like PZ did, and it’s amazing. You can go from perfectly normal to a perfectly opaque face shield in under a second. I can’t imagine doing it with a bare face or bare arms/legs.

  46. gardengnome says

    It’s when you try to clean the insects off that you discover their circulatory fluid is closely akin to cyanoacrylate!

  47. jalyth says

    North of Seattle. It was a little brown bat, harmless I have no doubt. I have no idea how I hit it with my car – I assume a baby, as I imagine an adult would have better avoidance skills.

  48. neeroc says

    You’re giving me flashbacks! I used to work the midnight shift at a convenience store on the shore and every May the hatch was like some sort of Stephen King story. I also remember driving back from NY one evening and having to stop to clear the carcasses from the rad to keep the car from overheating. Blech!