Hiking through the forest is often meditative for me. The familiarity of the trees, the sound of the birds, and the smell of the plants allow my mind to wander and ponder life. But sometimes I am stopped in my tracks by the unexpected, which reminds me that nature can be unpredictable. On a recent trip to Big Basin State Park, I came upon a huge cluster of ladybugs on the side of the trail. There were thousands of them, all over the shrubs, logs, the ground and me! I have seen ladybugs cluster before, but always during the winter months. It is something they do while overwintering as a way to keep warm. You can see these clusters during the months of November to February at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.
But why were they clustering in the summer? It could have been a response to the unexpected rains in June, but no one really knows. Whatever the reason, it was a pleasant sight to see and reminded me that you never really know what you are going to discover while hiking through the forest.
To find out more about these ladybug clusters watch Ladybug Pajama Party: http://science.kqed.org/quest/video/ladybug-pajama-party/