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Dark colors
            Mourning cloak

Now that we are having some fairly regular warm-ish weather, there is so much more to look forward to outside in Ohio and most of this part of the country. (please send us What YOU Can Do news from your part of the world and we’ll put it up here!)

Even though we may venture out on a low-60’s day with perhaps a light coat on, it is still a little chilly for some BUGS. And especially in the mornings, most Arthropods cannot warm up their muscles enough to be able to fly. BUGS require heat from the outside environment to warm their bodies. We eat a bunch of food (especially sugars!) and use the energy trapped in it to warm our bodies.

Aside: Ironically, the energy trapped in our food is actually trapped in the chemicals in sugars. The sugars are produced by plants during photosynthesis. The energy they trap in sugars comes from the Sun! So, while you could sit on the beach all day and not get a speck of useable energy from the Sun (unless you use a bad sunburn for sympathy!), plants can capture and pass it to us in food. If you eat animals (like cows) they have energy they got from plants who got it from the Sun. So, the energy you use to heat your body actually comes indirectly from the Sun!

Since BUGS can’t get body heat energy from their food, they need to have a bunch of different strategies to get as much heat from their environment as they can. This is one reason they are so scarce in the cold, cold Winter.

One of the most common adaptations BUGS have to get heat from their environment is dark body color. Dark colors absorb sunlight better than light colors (which reflect it). And the colder the weather is in general, the darker it helps to be.

So, when you are out hiking around on these early Spring, warm-ish days, pay attention to the color of the BUGS you see. In fact, you could take a piece of paper and something to write with, and keep track of it. Then send your results to us here!

Here’s what we think you’ll find – at least it’s what P.R. Mantis insists I tell you he thinks you’ll find. Most of them will be dark!

You might see flies and beetles with dark bodies. And, if you are particularly fortunate, and very observant, you may see one of our earliest active butterflies – the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). These guys actually survive through the winter as adults so they can get out there and get a head start on the Spring!

You can follow this link to see some pictures of Mourning Cloaks


Look how dark their wings and body are – great Sun absorbers!

Be sure to let us know what cool colors of BUGS you find!


Repeat Observation: Find your favorite tree

This is also the time to start your Repeat Observation. When you are out exploring your favorite place – maybe even your backyard, find a nice, short tree or bush. Make this your repeat observation tree. You could make a real project out of it if you get a small notebook or sketch pad and draw the end of one of the branches. Try to make an observation and, better yet, a drawing every week until Summer. Watch the amazing transformation! You could even make a guess the first week of what it might look like the next week and then the week after that – maybe even guess what it’ll look like in June. As always, we would love to put your results – pictures and all on our What YOU Can Do website, so send ‘em in!

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