May is here and I’ve been swimming outside since March, admittedly in some pretty cold water (60o and up). When it was too cold to do laps, I just netted detritus from the top and cleaned out our bottom-cleaning robot. As the water has warmed (it’s a glorious 70onow), life has returned to its waters.
So far this month, I’ve removed three dead voles and a dead rat stuck in the robot (yuck factor there), several frogs, a juvenile snake, and the usual assortment of spiders. I’ve also netted a goodly number of frog eggs.
Our pool area when the weeping cherry is in bloom.
I am always accompanied to the pool area by my two faithful companions, Elijah Moon and Angel, in case you were wondering. Angel walks around on the pool deck, guarding it for me, while Elijah sprawls upside down on the warm pavement with his legs stretched out. Hedonist.
Yesterday, while skimming off the pool, I put my hand into the water and was stung by a bee floating by. I pulled out the stinger, but today my index finger looks like a sausage. I’ve got to be a little more aware of what’s floating by, I guess.
Today while doing laps, I came across two things that told me summer was coming: pink feathers from cardinals, who like to bathe in the water when it’s warm enough, and a water strider.
I have a space in my heart for these little fellows. In order to make money when I was an undergraduate, I took a job feeding water striders kept in a large tank in the basement of Clapp Laboratory at Mount Holyoke College. Three times a week, I’d head down into dark and damp to dump containers of fruit flies on the surface of the tank water.
The Gerridae are a family of insects in the order Hemiptera which includes water striders, water bugs, pond skaters, water skippers, or jesus bugs. Gerrids have the unique ability to walk on water because they are anatomically built to transfer their weight to be able to run on top of the water’s surface.
They are aquatic predators and feed on invertebrates, mainly spiders and insects that fall onto the water surface. So our outside pool is a gourmand’s dinner table for them – it has small flies, ants and spiders in abundance. Last year’s water strider grew to an enormous size before disappearing. Perhaps it was eaten by a large spider, since these also can walk on water for short distances.
Every day is a chance for a new discovery while I’m swimming. Bring on summer.