Bugged Trails

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Bugged Trails
By Ernie Bay, Retired Entomologist, WSU Experiment Station, Puyallup.
Ernie is the President of the Foothills Trail Coalition and for years has
done user counts on several portions of the Foothills Trail and the Puyallup
River Trail.  This item is from the September 2003 FTC Newsletter.  Ernie
can be contacted at: bugtrail@aol.com

Bugged Trails
Readers all know that our email moniker is bugtrail, and from our user
counts as reported in our newsletters you know that both the Foothills Trail
and the Puyallup Riverwalk are indeed bugged.  Now it turns out that the
bugs9 are bugged.  As a trail technophile trying to keep a record of users
I find this frustrating, but as an entomologist I find it fascinating.
After finally giving up on our previous trail counter because of problems
with two legged vandals, we have changed to a model that is now beset by six
legged forms. The previous model was too large to reliably conceal, and used
a reflected beam. Our present system has a hollow tube detector probe
slightly larger than a soda straw, and does not require a reflector.
Unfortunately, the hole at the end of the probe is just what a particular
bee is seeking as a nest site.
About a month ago I visited our Riverwalk counter to find the count
suspiciously low. Upon withdrawing and inspecting the probe I laughed in
amazement that a single  bee was able to detect and so effectively seal off
this isolated aperture. Packed within the tube were a series of cells, each
with a developing larva bathed in a paste of honey and pollen, and
partitioned from its neighbor by a silken wall. The bee, of the genus
Prosopus, normally utilizes the burrows of other insects as well as hollow
stems of pithy plants for its nest sites. How does the bee from the first
laid egg at the caboose of the series emerge to the front?
First in last out!
Seeking to prevent further instances of this annoyance/fascination I
bisected the aperture of the probes with fine strands of wire and assumed
the problem solved.  The following week the Puyallup count was again
mysteriously low.  Puzzled , I peered through the probe to witness two small
scurrying spiders that had taken up residence. Next I visited the  Foothills
counter and was again amazed!   Not more than an hour after I had installed
the modified  probe the previous week, another bee had slipped by the
barrier and stopped the count after user number eight!  And I thought
squirrels were smart!
    Ernie Bay


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