This year has been an odd one, with lots more rain than usual and very high temperatures with jacket days interspersed. Our flowering plants have put on quite a show as a result but at the same time, insects have been scarce. I’ve seen a single Monarch but no other butterflies. No mosquitos, one moth, a few flies, but nothing like a typical Quebec summer cadre of insects. And NO spiders. I typically get to play with small jumping spiders and we normally end up with a bunch of web-building Theridids around our yard. Not this year.
But one species that comes and goes like clockwork are the excavators. These huge yellow and orange beasts trundle around Quebec City like they own the place, digging holes here and there, dragging a stream of orange traffic barrels in their wake. They show up ever spring. They start to die out when it turns cold.
As a biologist I’m always interested in the life cycles of organisms and excavators are no exception. The adult shown above is a prime example of the type. I drew this one several years ago and confess that anyone who believes urban sketching should be done quickly would take offense to the couple hours I spent drawing this one. There are several things to note beyond their overall size. First, its feet are huge as are its muddy footprints. Second, its head is sized to hold a single human and its small relative to its huge, elongated body that swings a long beak here and there.
While walking on my river, I came across a baby excavator. It was hiding next to an apartment building being built along my river. You can immediately see that it’s an infant. Notice how large its head is relative to its body. Its body is short and pudgy and its feet aren’t as developed as the adult versions. If you see these little guys operate you’ll notice it bouncing around and rocking back and forth, unlike the adults who move steadily. I wonder if they simply grow larger with age or maybe there’s a metamorphosis that takes place, maybe during the winter season. More study is required.