Hot Times In The Animal World – Outdoor Journal
New studies have shown more complexity on how the smaller fliers in nature deal with the heat. For instance, the dragonflies (see photo above) love hot weather and you'll see quite a few out there in Western Montana right now.
However, dragonflies still need to control the heat in their bodies. One of the ways they do it is by "obelisking," raising their long skinny body vertically, sort of like a human doing a handstand. That reduces the surface area heated by the sun. That's the usual way to cool for dragonflies that like to perch. However, the dragonflies that constantly fly do the opposite and drop their tail vertically in flight to reduce sun exposure.
Those cold-blooded butterflies have wings that can adjust to the sun's intensity. Recent studies have shown that the wings can reflect the sunlight toward or away from the body, especially for the larger butterflies, such as the Western Tiger Swallowtail (photo below). some butterflies simply go dormant during the heat of summer. That's called a "diapause." They wake up in September, in time to get nourishment for the winter. Montana's State Butterfly, the Mourning Cloak, does that.
Birds are warm-blooded (body temperature is about 104 degrees F.) and lots of them nest in shaded areas to avoid direct sunlight. Adult birds going back and forth from the nests can wet their belly feathers to cool down. Turkey Vultures are among the group that poop or pee on their legs for cooling.
Bob hasn't forgotten wildflowers this week. Heat and drought causes plants to send their roots deeper and produce tougher outer layers to slow water evaporation. If those actions don't work, the wilting starts. Over the years, it looks like sagebrush is better at surviving warm temperatures than wildflowers. A long-term Colorado study showed sagebrush, with extensive root systems, unfortunately are crowding out the flowers.
And if you're out in the heat, drink lots of water, protect your skin and find shade where you can. The Bitterroot Outdoor Journal is heard Wednesday mornings about 7:45 a.m. on the Bitterroot Morning newscast at 1240 AM KLYQ radio or www.klyq.com. Bob has a few websites including imagewildlife.com.