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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Veracity II

Creatures exist. Oh look . . . there's a crane fly! A noble urge drives me to identify that fly absolutely. Which is a potentially daunting task as I understand there are some 14K named crane fly species in the world. But this is not the wide world, this is my backyard in Orange County, CA. That backyard presents a specific set of environmental conditions that produces specific, well, species of insects. My search pool is narrowed by that, giving hope to my noble urge to identify in black and white terms like those neat labels on plants: "Achillea hybrida 'Moonshine', a very nice grey-leafed yellow flowered yarrow I planted a week or so ago, that I can know not just from my experience, or Sunset, but from the producer of this plant who has been kind enough to label it for me and Home Depot. If only the makers of the insects inhabiting my space were considerate enough to put tiny black and white bar codes on them, so I could scan them into the internet and their names, scientific as well as common and colorful, along with their life histories would pop up atop the Google list and I would be Informed.

Sadly I do not know the species of this crane fly. I was just kidding when I boldly labeled this photo Holorusia hespera; I do not know its species (yet). And by the way, the photo itself was enhanced in Photoshop Elements, that fern is no fern (it's achillea 'Moonshine'), and the day I say the photo was taken is also inaccurate.

But hey, who's counting? Dubiously or even downright incorrectly labeled insect photos are common enough. And that's OK, because there may just be enough bug geeks out there to seek out, argue over and destroy inaccuracies as they occur. But I wonder about th
is: I recently did a search on a species of bug; the #1 and #3 search returns are a lovely photo of something like that species, but not it. Who would blame someone for going with the prettiest picture without asking messy questions raised by checking the other search results? And so misinformation can propagate faster than mosquito hawks with the bird flu, while a species can usually only breed with and produce its own kind.

There is a bar code after all. This crane fly has one, those aphids over there have 'em too. Every critter I see has one. Unfortunately I am unable to scan their DNA and magically know their life histories and the names we have given them. But I do know this: Species do not just randomly appear in my world, like sweet little drawings in an advertising layout. They are here because they live here, they arose here, or they are passing through here because of something real that happened to make them be here in this instant. They are here in full genetic color, even if I am too stupid or uninformed to know their names.

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As to the indentification of the crane fly. The fly was found on that yarrow I bought from Home Depot in Anaheim. The plant was produced by El Modeno Gardens according to its tag. It's plausible the pupating crane fly shipped in the soil with the plant, emerging in my backyard after the yarrow was planted. If that were the case, the number of possible species would expand a bit. El Modeno has growing grounds in Irvine, Hollister, Watsonville, Valley Center, Lake Matthews (Perris) and Imperial County, and in Tyler, Texas. I am almost obsessive enough to call the nursery and find out which location they ship Achillea 'Moonshine' from. Almost. I know this specimen is not the most common crane fly I see around here, which are reddish brown, a bit smaller, with no wing markings, probably Tipula planicornis, also known as common crane fly!

I haven't seen the fly again since May 15 when I took its picture. I hate to generalize, but it could very well be dead, since most adult crane flies don't live very long at all.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Every now and then I get a "bee in my bonnet," (no pun intended) when I see something new or different, and I really want to identify it. And there is definitely a feeling of accomplishment to find out just what kind of bug it is. But often, I am content to admire at them, as if they were works of art, and marvel at their very existence, even if I don't know much about them.