Winter in Summerland: snakefly


For the final entry of my brief and unevenly posted series of interesting wildlife found during my stay in the Okanagan, I present a chimera. Well, actually it is a snakefly, a unique insect found within the equally unique order Raphidioptera.

This order is somewhat strange to me, as I was previously taught that they fell within Neuroptera, with the lacewings. Taxonomy aside, they are quite interesting looking although I don’t know a whole lot about them. One interesting fact is the pupae are apparently free-living, and retains use of its mandibles.

This is the first snakefly I have found, and it was quite a pleasant surprise for my final day in the Okanagan. This was found in the Desert Centre of Osoyoos (link below), late April on the opening day of the centre for the year.


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Winter in Summerland: black widow

DSC02320 I am quite delayed in posting this, but better late than never. I should have one more post about what I found in the Okanagan soon after this one.

People say who you work with is more important than the work itself. Well, in my case I had the best co-worker, a black widow spider (Latrodectus spp.) which formed quite a nice web in my lab. I named her Queen of the Dungeon.

It is possible that it may have been a false black widow spider, but I was told that the red mark can be variable within individuals. The large black body told me it was a female, and the abdomen was large suggesting that it was gravid. She may have laid eggs at some point as the abdomen was leaner after a brief disappearance.

Black widow spiders are notorious for having a venomous bite, however bites are rarely fatal (if ever), and they tend not to be aggressive. I’m not sure on the exact species but I think it may have been Latrodectus hesparus (the Western species), since this was found in Western North America.




Winter in Summerland: rare insect #2


This post is long overdue, but back in January I encountered several snow scorpionflies while hiking in the snow in Summerland. Snow scorpionflies belong to the family Boreidae, within the order Mecoptera (scorpionflies), although they may be more closely related to fleas than other mecopterans. They are unique in that they are flightless and seem to thrive in cold climates. Despite being flightless, they move quite quick by jumping, and are apparently called snow fleas.

I’ve never seen these in the Vancouver area, despite looking for them several times. They were fairly ubiquitous around the afternoon when hiking in the snow, although they are once again hard to find now that the snow has melted. I’ve read that they hide in moss and loose soil in warmer times of the year.

Fun fact: the official mascot of the Entomological Society of B.C. is Boreus elegans, a species of snow scorpionfly (



Winter in Summerland: prickly pear

DSC01448The Okanagan has been quite mild lately, melting the snow and revealing the landscape underneath. I recently stumbled across prickly pear cacti (Opuntia fragilis), whose range is the most northern of all cacti. I saw this species when I was visiting Osoyos last summer, as well as the same genus in Mexico in 2013. It is amazing to see how formidable this type of plant can be, ranging from northern B.C. to southern Patagonia.


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Winter in Summerland: rare insect #1


While hiking the Kettle Valley Railway trail by Naramata I found a rare insect: a Grylloblattidae, or rock crawler. These insects are considered extremophiles, and are primarily found on ice and in both high latitudes and altitudes. I’ve never seen one of these before, so I was quite excited to find one.




Winter in Summerland: Intro

I will be working in Summerland for the next four months, so the posts during this time will be focused primarily on nature, ecology, and various adventures I have during my stay. I will resume posting artwork once I have access to a scanner.

This series will be titled Winter in Summerland, and the first few will be about insects I have discovered. I am surprised to have found species I have never seen before in person, despite it being the winter and the unusually large amount of snow the Okanagan received early in January.