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When it rains in California, weird bugs start swarming out of the ground. Usually it's just ants, but this storm has brought out some kind of gray swarming thing onto the patio:

Here's what one looks like at 10x magnification:

After getting over the initial revulsion of swarming things, I googled the heck out of it to try to figure out what they were. It turns out they're springtails, a sort of exceedingly common soil-dwelling thing that seems to like rich organic material and moisture. They are called "springtail" because they have some sort of organ under their abdomens that cause them to hop when threatened. Apparently, they're some of the most common macroscopic organisms, exceeding 100,000 individuals per cubic meter of soil. Ew. According to one web site, they "... come in a wide variety of decorator colors, including white, pink, yellow, green, orange, red, blue, and indigo." I'm not sure it makes me feel better to know that my swarms are tastefully colored.

I wish things that belong in the ground would stay there and let me live on in ignorance.
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February 2009

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