Skip to content

Are solifugids really predators of bed bugs?

February 11, 2011

Image of solpugid by Arno & Louise Wildlife

Last week I gave a skeptical tweet regarding a segment of “Ask the Bugman” in the San Francisco Chronicle in which somone wrote in inquiring about natural enemies of bed bugs and Bugman included solpugids in his answer. Camelspiders? Sunspiders? Windscorpions? Really? These nasty looking arachnids have been the subject of so much misinformation and bogus claims that I thought for sure this was another perpetuated myth.

Soon, however, I began to feel some apprehension over the possibility that I was too quick to dismiss this, so I wasted yet more of my life on the internet and turned to Google for enlightenment. I quickly noticed that this little sun spider factoid was repeated in many places:

1) – “…some species are more specialised, Solpuga sericea and Solpuga lineata burrow into the soil in order to feed on termites while a Californian species of the genera Eremobates enters bees hives and feeds on the bees and Eremobates pallipes from Colarado is suspected of hunting ‘bedbugs’.”

2) Handbook of Urban Insects and Arachnids, by William H. Robinson – “A California species of Eremobates kills bees, and a small nocturnal species, E. pallipes, is known to prey on bed bugs.”

3) Spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and mites; the ecology and natural history of woodlice, myriapods, and arachnids, by J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson – “The small nocturnal species E. pallipes from Colorado is said to hunt bed-bugs.”

4) And finally, in The Biology of Camel Spiders (Arachnida, Solifugae), by Fred Punzo, I found a reference – “One eremobatid solifuge from Colorado, Eremobates pallipes,  has been reported to feed extensively on the bed bug, Cimex lectularius (Muma, 1967).”

I was able to get a PDF of Martin H. Muma’s paper titled, “Basic Behavior of North American Solpugida” contained in pages 115-123 of Vol. 50 No. 2 of the The Florida Entomolgist, and I  found what appears to be the source of these claims.  From the introduction on page 115:

Excerpt from page 115, Florida Entomologist Vol. 50 no. 2, 1967, Martin H. Muma

OK, so maybe this maybe makes a little sense (my apologies to the Bugman).  However, if it were me, I probably would not  include windscorpions in a list of common bed bug predators.  If you’re going to include solifugids, then you should include every other nocturnal, generalist predator of insects.  In no way am I an expert on the Solifugae, but, from this Florida Entomologist reference alone, I wouldn’t term this species a specialist on bed bugs.  I think the behavior reported in the paper would be more a result of the fact that, in the year 1871, bed bugs were much more common than they are today (even with the recent resurgence of bed bugs in the US), and human dwellings were probably much more accessible to wind scorpions.  Hence, back in the day, Eremobates pallipes and Cimex lectularius shared the same space. These days, I doubt the worlds of bed bugs and windscorpions collide very often, except maybe in extreme circumstances. I’ve never really lived out West in an area where solifugids are common, so I can’t speak from experience, but I have a hard time believing in 2011 they are commonly found in bedrooms. And the fact that in captivity they showed a preference for bed bugs as food doesn’t surprise me.  If I were a predatory arthropod, I would also probably show preference for a bed bug over something like a roach as a late night snack – that would be like having the choice between a juice filled gummy bear or a crust of bread.

Perhaps more telling is the omission of this reference in other descriptions of Eremobates pallipes from other respected sources, such as the University of California IPM Online site, where on the wind scorpion page, there is no mention of bed bugs as prey.  With regard to prey, all that is state is that “wind scorpions feed primarily on living insects, spiders, and other small creatures such as lizards that they catch.”  The same is true for a Texas A&M site on wind scorpions – no mention of bed bugs.

So, yes, windscorpions are predators of bed bugs, but I was only able to find a reference supporting this for one species, Eremobates pallipes, and these days I doubt this interaction occurs with great regularity in the United States.  Nevertheless, I can’t fault the Bugman for his answer.  His response about the pyrethroid insecticide Suspend is another story though…restricted use?  Really?

Resistant Bed bugs? Time for HoiHoi-san Insect Killer.

January 25, 2011

A tiny doll-like extermination android should be a part of every good integrated pest management program – enter Interceptor Doll HoiHoi-san, “One shot, one kill!!”

The Pacific Cockroach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica (Coquebert, 1804)

December 31, 2010

Our kids got got an inexpensive metal detector for Christmas this year, and it has turned out to be maybe my favorite thing that Santa brought. It wasn’t my idea, so don’t start accusing me of gifting stuff based on what I deem to be fun rather than what my kids actually want – although, I must admit, I am a little guilty of this to a certain extent with other presents. (Exhibit A: The Fridgezoo Penguin.  This was a Christmas gift for the kids that I brought back from a recent trip to Japan, and it was probably my second most favorite gift after the metal detector.  You put it in the refrigerator, and whenever you open the fridge it says hello, and if you leave the fridge open, it starts talking to you in Japanese.  I think it is really cool, but the rest of my family finds it annoying.)

So anyway, last week we took the metal detector out to Lanikai to hunt for some treasures.  It was a lot of fun, the kids found an old key, some kind of luggage tag thing, some bottle caps, and some other random metal objects; however, for me, the greatest treasure was found on the beach access path as we were walking back to the van – a pacific cockroach!  In all my time in Hawaii, I have only seen this lovely roach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica (Couebert, 1804), on one other occasion (Barbers Point), so it was a real treat.  Even though I was wrangling my sandy three-year-old at the time I spied it, I was still able to scoop it up from amongst some beach naupaka (Scaevola sericea) leaves, and put it in a plastic sandwich bag.  The next day at work I snapped some photos of it during my lunch break before releasing back into the landscape.

Collection site of Euthyrrhapha pacifica: Lanikai, 26 Dec

Pacific cockroach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica

Pacific cockroach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica

Pacific cockroach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica

Despite its designation as the Pacific cockroach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica is considered an immigrant to Hawaii.  According to Zimmerman (1948), it was first recorded from Hawaii by Bormans in 1882.  It is supposedly common on many of the pacific islands and throughout the tropics (Fullaway and Krauss 1945, Zimmerman 1948).  The Catalogue of the specimens of Blattaria in the collection of the British Museum lists Brazil, Madagascar, and Polynesia as its distribution (Walker and Gray 1868).

I found very little information on this roach within the references that were immediately available to me at work and on the internet.  The most descriptive account that I found was in “Common Insects of Hawawii”  (Fullaway and Kraus 1945):  “Euthyrrhapha pacifica (Coq.) Familiy BLATTIDAE. This pretty little insect is probably the most attractive member of the roach family in Hawaii.  The two distinctive orange spots on the wing cases make this species easily recognizable.  It is of wide distribution in the tropics and occurs on many of the Pacific islands.  Found both indoors and out, it breeds in neglected cupboards, rubbish in houses and beneath dead leaves and debris.  The young nymphs emerge from the egg capsule through a hole which they gnaw out.  They are rather dull in appearance in contrast to the adults.  The roaches are active both during the day and at night and may be seen running about in an erratic manner.”  Zimmerman (1948) adds that “it is not infrequently confused with the beetles by laymen.”

I was able to track down a couple of references in the Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society.  In Volume 2, number 4 of the Proceedings (1912) it is written that “Mr. Terry exhibited a specimen of the small roach, Euthyrrhapha pacifica, and one of its egg capsules from which the young had emerged.  He called special attention to the fact that instead of emerging in the usual way for roaches the young of this species gnaw a hole through the capsule resembling that made by parasites, for which it might be mistaken.  Later, in Volume 12, Krauss (1945) reports the first record E. pacifica on the island of Hawaii. 

There are a few random internet references. On the “Ask a Bishop Museum Scientist” site David Preston identifies a Pacific cockroach for a someone and provides some info. You can find a really good of photo of E. pacifica here on Flickr.  And finally, a Facebooker humorously thinks E. pacifica is named after Steven Colbert , rather than French entomologist Jean Antoine Coquebert being the author.


Fullaway, D. T. and N. L. H. Krauss. 1945.  Common Insects of Hawaii.  Tongg Publishing Company, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kruass, H. L. H.  1945.  Proc. Haw. Ent. Soc. 12(2):309.

Terry, F. W. 1912.  Proc. Haw. Ent. Soc. 2(4):145.

Walker, F. and J. E. Gray.  1868.  Catalogue of the Specimens of Blattaria in the Collection of the British Museum.  Printed for the Trustees of the British Museum, London.

Zimmerman, E. C.  1948.  Insects of Hawaii (Vol. 2).  University of Hawaii Press, Hononlulu.


Pagan: 16 July 2010

December 20, 2010

The helicopter and airplane were due to arrive in the morning, and Mike wanted to have everything ready with the hope that the helicopter could take us up to the “lost world” in the southern crater so camp over night and do some trapping there.  Loyal and Earl were coming in on the plane and Kurt was coming in on the helicopter. Christa and Scott were scheduled to go back to Saipan on the plane, but the helicopter was going to remain on the island for a number of days to shuttle people around.  Since Christa was leaving, she had to spend the morning packing. There was a lengthy and tedious inspection procedure that she had to go through to make sure she wasn’t taking any stowaway critters back to Saipan. It didn’t look fun, but she, like all us, knows the importance of such precautions so there were no complaints.  I went ahead and took down the traps from the Bandeera Peninsula.  While I was up there, both the plane and the helicopter arrived.  When I returned to camp, I learned that Kurt approved our helicopter drop at the south volcano.  The plan was for Mike and Justin to camp on the rim of the crater and trap and collect inside.  Stephan and I were to hike across the saddle to another patch forest where we would set up camp and collect.  We heard that the snail team had found some native snails there.  Stephan and I were both a little nervous since the planning for this trip seemed even more last minute than our previous boat trip to the southern part of the island.

Final group photo: CNN, Christa, Cory, Stephan, Justin, and Mike on the morning of the 16th

The Ento Tent


Mike, Stephan, and Justin prepare for Helicopter drop on southern volcano.

I was also worried about my leg.  It didn’t look like the purple patch had gotten bigger, but my lower leg and ankle seemed swollen and I thought I felt a tingling sensation up the inside of my thigh when I walked. I hadn’t shown it to anyone either, except for Jesse and some of the other camp guys who told me to soak it in the ocean the day before. I decided to show it to Tom, camp manager, before we left on the helicopter.  When Tom looked at it he was very concerned and said we should go talk to Loyal and Earl. Once Loyal and Earl saw it, they almost without hesitation told me that I need to be flown back to Saipan. 

From that point on everything happened pretty quickly –  it was determined that I would be flown back to Saipan the next day where I could get some antibiotics – my Pagan adventure was over.  They were a little disappointed that I hadn’t said something an hour earlier, before the plane left with Christa and Scott, because this meant the plane now would have to come back for me.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but I was secretly a little glad that it happened that way, because I would have hated to have bumped Christa and Scott from that flight.   When I walked back to the ento tent and told the guys, they were surprised.  Mike thought I should still try to go on the volcano trip, but I was a little nervous about this for a variety of reasons.  I’ve heard enough stories about infected wounds that I wasn’t comfortable taking any chances.  Also, I would have to pack and be ready go as soon as the plane landed in the morning, and there was no guarantee that the helicopter would bring us back in time to make the flight. 

So I decided not to go up to the volcano and just focus on getting all my stuff packed and ready to leave the next morning.  As I watched the guys loading all their stuff on the helicopter and then flying away, I was suddenly feeling sad and depressed.  Here was a once in a lifetime experience – to collect insects, spiders, and all manner of other awesome arthopods in area where they had perhaps never been collected before, and it had slipped through my fingers.  At the same time I had a sense of relief that I was not going, because I was little worried about how it was all going to play out.   So I was experiencing some conflicting emotions,  not to mention that I felt like I was quitting in some way – I was going home almost a week earlier than planned, and I was leaving a lot of work undone.  Then again, I was really happy that I wouldn’t have to ride on that boat again.

So I ended up sorting and getting bags and vials together of specimens that I would bring back with me to Bishop Museum so they could begin working on the IDs.  I did a little more collecting in the ironwood forest near the runway and got a few pictures of the old Japanese bomber.  I was going to do some trapping in the ironwood forest, but a big rain storm came through and basically lasted up through sunset. It was by far the heaviest rain we had experience while on the island and there was a lot of flooding and thunder and lightning.  I wondered how the guys were getting along camped up on the rim of the volcano through all of that.  Later that night after the storm, it was very still, so I ran a light trap down near the lower campsite, kind of close to the base of the Miari Cliffs.  I felt like I got a number of new moths that we hadn’t seen before and some new beetles and other intersting insects that I hadn’t seen before.  Finally, around midnight, I went to bed in my stuffy tent and slept my last night on Pagan.

Pagan: 15 July 2010

December 19, 2010

Today was really our first easy day. We spent most of the morning sorting and planning. Mike continues to talk about hitting more pockets of native forest, but I am concerned that we haven’t set up our traps in the other forest types such as the ironwood and coconut forests and in the savannah.  Dinner was particularly good, probably because everyone thought  that Loyal and Earl would be arriving today.  We each were even given a cold Pepsi from the freezer (heaven in a can), so it seemed like a very special occasion. The VIPs never arrived though. That evening we put up the malaise trap, the pan traps, and ran a light trap on the Bandeera Peninsula.  Also on this day I noticed a kind of stinging feeling on my right leg about halfway down from my knee.  I had long pants on, so I kind of shrugged it off without checking to see what the deal was.  When I finally looked at it later in the day, I was shocked to see a dark purple/black festering wound.  A small scratch that I had sustained while camping down south had become infected.  I tried soaking a while in the ocean, but it didn’t seem to help much.  It wasn’t really too puss-filled or gooey in any way,  just swollen and very dark and angry.  A biologist had already been evacuated for a similar infection a couple of days prior, so I was a little worried about it. 

Malaise trap on Bandeera Peninsula with Mt Pagan in the background.

Human Slaves…in an insect nation!

December 18, 2010

One of my all time favorites – Bill Bailey’s Insect Nation:

Another version with orchestra…

Boonie Stomping

November 17, 2010

I was on Guam last week, and over the weekend I hooked up with a group called the Boonie Stompers.  They go hiking every Saturday, and they visit some really cool locations off the beaten path (actually it is not very hard to get off the beaten path on Guam – wherever you are, the boonies are never far away, which is what makes it a great place for outdoor exploring).  On this particular occasion, they hiked Agfayan Falls in the southeastern part of the island  (You can read about this hike and all the others scheduled for November at their site HERE.) 

First falls encountered on Agfayan River, Guam

Cane Spider (Heteropoda venatoria?)

Lynx spider (Oxyopes sp.?)

A second waterfall area on Agfayan River

Hiking up Agfaya River.

A third waterfall area on Agfaya River.

Leaving Agfayan River.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my own rental car on this trip, so I had a coworker drop me off at the Chamorro Village with hopes that I would be able to catch a ride with someone to the trailhead.  It was a little embarrasing when, after everyone (approx. 30-35 folks) was assembled and the brief on the day’s hike had been completed, the leader asked if anyone could give me a ride, and no one volunteered.  I guess it would be a little wierd to give a complete stranger a ride to a remote trailhead, so I don’t really blame anyone, but I felt a little awkward.  The leader actually ended up giving me a ride in his vehicle, which ended up being great because he turned out to be the manager for the Cultural and Natural Resources on Andersen Air Force Base, so we had a lot to talk about.  He was super nice and had an interesting perspective on the military on Guam since he is a long time resident and considers Guam his home. 

The first part of the hike traversed some grassy hills and then slowly descended down to the Agfayan River.   There were some falls at the first point where we encountered the river, but there were also a few more falls as we hiked upstream, so I wasn’t  exactly sure which of them was the “Agfayan Falls.”  At the first falls, we took a long break and everyone swam.  Some folks were sliding down the falls into a small plunge pool, and it looked like a lot of fun.

I had my camera, so I was off looking for insects and spiders to photograph.  This drew a few strange looks from the boonie stompers, but that was really the main reason I went on the hike – to look for insects.  So while everyone else was frolicking, I was nerdily poking around the riparian zone with a big camera dangling around my neck.  Unfortunately, becuase the camera and lens had been in my ice-cold hotel room for a few days prior, there was a lot of condensation inside the lens and camera body, and it was screwing up my pictures.  In particular I was unable to get a good shot of a dragonfly (which I’m pretty sure was Diplacodes bipunctata)  that was buzzing around.  I got a couple of decent spider pics though.  Now that I’m looking at the images, the cane spider’s right legs look slightly deformed – perhaps there was something not quite right with this spider. 

We hiked up the river, which was a lot of fun and very refreshing.  The river was waist deep in some places, and ever deeper in various spots where the water had formed pits in the rocky substrate.  Some of these spots were deep enough such that some of the folks were doing cannon balls into them.  Although I wasn’t very social with anyone in particular, I felt like by the end of the hike I was a little more accepted.  A couple of people actually offered to give me a ride back to the hotel.  While I didn’t see any particularly interesting insects or spiders, I still had a great time and was treated to some great scenery.

Pagan: 14 July 2010

October 26, 2010

At the first hint of sunlight, sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 am, the flies reappeared.  Mike and CNN left even earlier to begin their quest to get inside the volcano crater.  I was really glad the CNN ended up coming with us to South Pagan and took my place on the journey to the lost world, I’m pretty sure there is no way I could have made that hike with Mike and been able to get back down to the pick up spot by 5:00 pm.  The new plan now was for the rest of us hike back up to the upper plateau and cross the saddle to another cliff line where there was another megapode transect.  Evidently there was also some decent forest there, and on some earlier snail surveys some of the biologist supposedly found some native snails in that area (you can find an account of the snail surveys in a blog called “Tropical Depression” by one of the snail biologists, or rather, malacologists, I should say). 

We got a pretty early start also, around 7:30, so it was much cooler and the steep climb up to the plateau was not nearly as bad as the day before.  We also took a better route up this time.  I forgot to bring my GPS, and I was wishing I had it, but that’s another story.  We all made it up to the plateau without too much difficulty.  Unfortunately, to get to the transect we planned on sampling, we had cross a kind of valley that was choked out with overhead sword grass.  It was nasty stuff – seemed more like saw grass than sword grass.  Jess had told us the best way to get through that is to look for an animal trail and just follow it as best you can.  I found what looked like a little trail, so I tried that and charged ahead through the grass.  I only got a few feet in when I discovered that I had plowed into a paper wasp nest.  I didn’t really see the nest itself, but one wasp was stinging me on the stomach near my belly button and I saw another 4 or 5 buzzing around my chest.  I don’t recall screaming or anything, I just remember dropping my net and running, and falling, and then running a few more steps.  I don’t think the other guys really knew what was going on until I explained what happened. Fortunately I was only stung once.

After that incident we were all a little apprehensive of plowing through the sword grass, so we decided to look for a better way across the basin.   We ended up finding some high ground a little farther down that minimized our time in the sword grass and made it across to the base of the cliff.  I believe this was transect 11.  We collected on it for a few hours, and then headed back.  At one point, around 10:00, Mike radioed that he and CNN had made it to the crater.  We arrived back at camp at around noon, had lunch, took down the tents, and got all the gear to the pick-up site by about 2:00.  Unfortunately, our boat wasn’t coming until around 5:00 so we had some time to kill.  The flies were very, very bad around the campsite, so I think we were all kind of rushing to get everything ready.  We were hoping to hang out in the water and wait for the boat, but it was like an oven down on the black rocks.  Some good fortune finally came our way, however, because as we were waiting, a boat came up and dropped Scott off. Scott was looking for monitor lizards.  They said they could take two of back to main camp and then another bigger boat would later, closer to 5:00, to pick up the rest, including Mike and CNN.  It was obvious that Christa had to be one of the folks on the first boat since she seemed to be losing her mind to all the flies.  Stephan and I kind of debated a little bit about which one of us should go with Christa.  I ended up going, and I felt a little guilty, but Stephan had the radio and said he had to stay.  The trip back was a little slower, but I was happy nonetheless to be getting back to the luxuries of Main Camp.  Once we made it back, I soaked in the ocean for what seemed to be almost an hour.   Relaxing in the ocean was the only thing that would bring some relief to my heat rash. Eventually everyone made it back to camp and we took the rest of day off.  Mike had some really cool stories about the crater.  He and CNN climbed down in there about 300 ft and then had to use a rope for the last 150 ft.  It was filled with a variety of ferns, but the only bummer was that there were a few goats in there.

Pagan: 13 July 2010

October 25, 2010

At about 6:00am I went up and took down the malaise, pitfall, and pan traps from Transect 3 – I was back by about 7:45.  At 9:00 we were scheduled, to leave on a  boat for the south part of the island, which we had been told has the best native forest.  There had been considerable discussion leading up to this excursion on the previous night.  We debated exactly what we were going to do there.  We were told that there was some native forest on the lower bench, but the best forest was on the upper plateau.  However, climbing to the upper plateau was rumored not to be an easy task and entailed climbing a steep, almost vertical hill.  Furthermore, Mike wanted to hike up to the middle volcano and descend down into the caldera where there was supposed to be native forest, which he named ‘The Lost World’,  that no one had been able to get to yet on these surveys.  Mike was very persistent about getting to the crater, so I volunteered to go with him into the volcano while Christa, Stephan, and Mike went to the upper plateau.  The plan was to for each group to camp overnight, and then we would meet back on the next day near the boat landing.  I was very worried about this and the others were also feeling apprehensive. Overall it just felt like it wasn’t planned out very well.  The biggest concern for me was water and the heat.  Last night, as we discussed the plan, we all seemed to be a little on edge.  When the camp guys heard that I was going to hike the crater with Mike, they were very skeptical and didn’t think I would be able to make it.  Needless to say I was worried and I packed as light as I could – the majority of the weight in my pack was water. 

Still unsure of exactly what we were going to be doing, we packed up our gear, loaded into the boat, and began our journey to South Pagan.  The ride down was beautiful – we saw a group of spinner dolphins and our Captain, Jess, stopped for a bit so we could check them out.  Soon we were once again motoring down the coastline, and after about 20 minutes we arrived at the drop off point. There was no beach, so Jess had to pull up to a rocky outcropping where we all hopped off.  Jess then tossed us our gear, wished us luck, and motored back up to North.  It was a strange feeling seeing him leave and watching the boat slowly disappear, knowing that we were on our own until 5:00 pm the next day.  On the way over we were able to size up the south volcano, and it was clear that we would need a much earlier start, and I would never survive the hike in the heat of the day.  Getting all the camping gear to the upper plateau also looked like a very daunting task, so we decided that we would all set up camp together on the lower plateau. The new plan was to set up camp, then Mike, Justin, and I would hike to the good native on the upper plateau, and Stephan and Christa would set up the malaise trap down on the lower shelf.  Then early in the morning Mike and I would hike the volcano while the rest of group sampled more of the forest on the upper plateau.  Just around that time, another boat pulled up and dropped off our friend, CNN.  He wanted to get some more video footage.  He also wanted to go the lost world, so suddenly I was off the hook. It all seemed to work out very well.  We scouted a good camp site and then set up our tents – unfortunately, the tent Mike and I set up didn’t have a fly, which meant it would probably rain that night. 

Captain Jess

Spinner dolphins

At the boat landing

After a filling lunch of MREs, my spicy chicken with penne was the bomb!, Mike, Justin, CNN, and I hiked to the upper plateau.  It was the hottest part of the day, right around noon, and the hike up that steep, rocky hillside just about killed me.  I thought at any moment I was going to spontaneously combust.  Of course, my heat rash was also flaring like crazy, that didn’t help.  Once we made it to the top, we did a little sweeping in the sword grass – it was so hot and I was so drained, all I could manage was a few sweeps.  I thing I got a Chinese rose beetle and a few other little things.  Just before I succumbed to heat exhaustion, we thankfully entered the patch of native forest that was supposed to be the best on the island.  Sure enough, it was a very nice area of native forest – no coconut or ironwood was mixed in.  Unfortunately, yellow crazy ant was once again a ubiquitous component of the landscape, so there was still an apparent dearth of insect fauna.  One bright spot for me was that I found some interesting termites.  They were in a very wet portion of a fallen tree.  We also saw a decent sized monitor lizard.  After a few hours we began the descent back down to the camp site.  Mike and CNN went down a different way, but Justin and I opted for the same route we used coming up.  Going down was not nearly as bad as coming up, and it was much cooler. 

Looking South from hill to upper plateau

Native forest on the upper plateau

When Justin and I made it back to camp, we went down the water to soak a little bit. Jess had told us of a little hot spring near the landing area so we thought we would check it out.  There was indeed a small swimming hole in the rocks that was barely separated from the ocean by rocks such that fresh water would come in and out with waves over the rocks.  I jumped in, and it was a little warmer than I anticipated.  I tried to dive down and open my eyes, but the water stung and it seemed the temperature became more hot the deeper I went, so I quickly abandoned the notion of exploring the depths. I could see reef fish swimming around down below, so it couldn’t have been too hot. Although, I couldn’t see the bottom, so that freaked me out a little bit. There must be a thermal vent or something heating the water down below. Soon I started to get paranoid that there was some man-eating critter waiting to drag me into the blackness (I know, I’m an idiot), so I hopped out there. It wasn’t really that refreshing anyway. I was able to lay on the smooth rock where the water passed over, and that felt pretty good.  A little later I found a pretty good spot in the rocks on the ocean side where I was almost half in the water and I could brace myself against the waves. That spot was heaven. I think I sat there for about 1/2 hour. The flies didn’t seem as bad down there either so that was another bonus. Did I mention that the flies seemed to be twice as bad in South Pagan compared to main camp?  Unfortunately I couldn’t stay down there forever, so I went back up to our little camp site for dinner. 

Hot spring

Our evening meal consisted of another round of MREs.  This time I was treated to chicken cavatelli, and I was again very pleased with my choice.  Mike was entertaining all of us by reading the information on the MRE boxes, I can’t remember why it was so funny but he had us all laughing.  It was starting to get dark and we were a little surprised at the number of roaches (Periplaneta americana) that suddenly showed up. They descended in droves down from the ironwoods. That brings up another thing we noticed that was a little curious – we didn’t see a single centipede in the South.  This was surprising since they were so plentiful back at Main Camp  in the North.  However, I did see quite a few of the big cane spiders in the South.  The roaches appeared to be very hungry since they attacked all of crumbs and leftovers.  Mike was particularly disgusted with his MRE mashed potatoes, so he put a dollop on a log to see if the roaches would eat – much to our surprise, even the roaches passed on the mashed potatoes.  What then followed were a series of experiments to see what MRE foods the roaches would eat. I think Mike got some good macro shots of roaches engorging themselves on all kinds of foods – I recall that we all got a particular kick out a roach that had buried it head in some orange powder drink mush.

Descent of the roaches


Once we all tired of watching the roaches, we set up a couple of light traps to collect insects.  We were going to take shifts and Mike and Stephan volunteered to go first. I went into the tent to lay down, which was a mistake because I crashed hard. I didn’t have a sleeping pad and I didn’t even take off my boots – I just laid face down on the floor of the tent and immediately fell asleep.   The night was anything but peaceful, however.  The first time I woke up, I was in the middle of the tent and Mike was huddled tightly against the far side – I felt a little guilty and moved back to my side.  Then, as predicted it rained, so we both jumped out and managed to finagle a tarp over the tent to keep the rain out. Amazingly, even though the tent was wet inside, I still fell back asleep in no time at all.  From that point on, my memories of the night are a little fuzzy…I remember once waking up with my face a few inches from Mike’s face, which was a little weird, and I remember waking up a couple of times and being completely disoriented and not knowing where I was for a few seconds, but that is about it.

Pagan: 12 July 2010

September 9, 2010

Filming the malaise trap.

Erythrina grove on transect #3.

Hiking to the Shire.

Looking north from the saddle.

Looking east from saddle.

Looking south from the saddle.

View of bomb pitted runway from atop Miari Cliff.

View of camp (my tent is slightly right of center) from atop Miari Cliff.

I was up at 0600 this morning.  I set up the Hiker Biker II, a little one-man tent I picked up at Sports Authority before the trip, yesterday evening with the hope that it would get a little more ventilation than my current tent.  With the fly removed, the Hiker Biker was basically just an all mesh tube, so it served me well.  My plan was that if it rained during the night, I would just hop out and climb into the tent. Fortunately, it didn’t rain, and I finally was able to get a decent night’s rest.  The only thing that worried me was being stepped on by a large ungulate.  On previous nights it sounded like cattle and pigs were coming down into our camp site, so I was concerned that I might get stepped on accidentally.  While it is definitely cooler, the Hiker Biker offers no protection from a misplaced hoof.  Fortunately, I had no such encounters.  I did a little sorting before breakfast, which consisted of hot dog bun french toast and jam.  Continued to sort after breakfast and then prepared for the day’s hike. 

Today we went back to the patches of native forest on transect #3 to do a little more collecting and set up the malaise trap, pitfall traps, and pan traps.  We had an extra member on our crew.  His name was Phil and he is a volunteer who is filming all of the surveys on Pagan and the other islands.  The camp guys have nicknamed him “CNN.”  He has been out here on various islands since the beginning of the surveys – almost a couple of months up to this point.  We set up the traps in roughly the same area we had collected in the day before.  A big centipede crawled out of the netting of the malaise trap as Justing was setting it up and gave him quite a fright – it turns out Justin has a mild phobia of centipedes, so he really jumped.  Stephan and Mike were explaining the malaise trap on film with Phil while I was setting up the pitfall and pan traps.  I guess the stuff I was doing wasn’t as interesting because I didn’t get any film time.  After setting up the traps and doing a little more collecting, we continued up transect #3.  Not far past our site there were some very impressive groves of erythrina.  Eventually the transect took us up to the thin saddle separating the North and South portions of the island.  It was a pretty neat area.  As we ascended to the top of the saddle I felt like we were in one of the Lord of the Rings movies.  Mike must have had the same feeling because he called this area “The Shire.”  I think that was a pretty good name for it since it was basically a big savannah/grassland.  The wind was very strong, and while we took a break I was kind of getting a Sound of Music/Alice in Wonderland vibe.  During our break on the saddle, I collected a roach I hadn’t seen before and a few beetles that looked like tenebrionids.  Mike felt like it would be cooler if on our return hike to camp we stayed on the top side of the cliff and then dropped down at the end.  I was once again reluctant, but Stephan and Phil were OK with it, so I decided to go with them.  Justin and Christa returned to camp the same way we came.  It was much windier on top of the cliff, but it was also in direct sun the entire way so I think it ended up being much hotter.  We stopped in a little grove of Acacia confusa and did some collecting.  I found some interesting larvae packed away inside inside a dead limb – they almost looked like some kind of Hymenoptera. Mike collected some ants, but otherwise there wasn’t much of anything interesting.  Mike and Phil hit it off since Phil was also into climbing, so they talked about climbing for almost the whole way back.  At one point I felt like I was being stung by something, and then I noticed that it was heat rash.  I was feeling slightly bothered that we were up in the sun in the hottest part of the day, and wished that I gone back with Christa and Justin.