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Treebeard's Stumper Answer
22 May 98

Scarcity and Abundance

This has been an interesting year to be a naturalist in California. I've been noticing odd patterns of scarcity and abundance with flowers and mushrooms. Here's one more. We've had record El Niño rainfall of course, but the insects have not been bad. Where are the mosquitoes and flies? I fear the worst is yet to come, and this might be a particularly buggy summer. The puzzle then is that the spring wildflowers are nearly over. Most insects need plants, and most plants need insect pollinators. So how can the insects arrive after the flowers?

I fear and hope that the worst of the insects is yet to come. Bugs are a nuisance, but they are all-important in the food web. I worry that this winter's cool weather and high water has interfered with their natural cycles, just as it has interfered with mine. It doesn't seem possible that summer is nearly upon us! In general, summer insects are more noticeable, but they've been here all along as abundant larvae in many habitats. It's just the survivors that pester us in the summer. And there are summer flowers, especially along the river.

Note: Everything is late and out of kilter in this soggy year, and it's not over yet. We had another 3/4 inch of rain the last week of May, and cool weather persists. Hopefully the insects are just late, and this is not a matter of environmental degradation. I'll update this answer as summer developes

Here are some further thoughts and observations.

Update, 11 September 1998
This was my last stumper before summer, and a September update is in order. I bought an Olympus 320L digital camera at the start of summer, and I managed to get out into the woods nearly everyday taking pictures for a project at my new server at (It's not quite open for business yet, but you can peek in the window to see what I'm up to.) Here are a few random notes about our summer in the Santa Barbara mountains after our very wet El Niño winter.

It's been a summer full of "odd patterns of scarcity and abundance". The forecast is for a cool and dry La Niña winter. It's an interesting time to be a naturalist. It always is!

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