You know that moment when the internet delivers up to you, as if by magic, the exact piece of obscure information you’re looking for? This happened to me a while ago when I’d taken a photo of a wildflower I didn’t recognize, a white one with six petals and long, grass-like leaves. I Googled something hopelessly generic like “white six-petaled flower in Ohio” and against all odds the very first link I clicked took me to a photo of my mystery flower and the fact that it was called Star-of-Bethlehem (non-native, unfortunately).
Today I noticed a couple links to promising-sounding insect-ID websites on the sidebar of one of the nature blogs I’ve been following, The Little House in the Not-So-Big Woods. Hmm. Could one of them perhaps tell me what those interesting little black wasp-like insects with the gold patches on their backs I’d been seeing on the trails recently were? I went to the BugGuide site, navigated through to a page of photos of dipterans, and bam, there it was! The golden-backed snipe fly, identified within a minute of clicking on the link.
Just in case any of my coworkers had been wondering about the same critter, I posted a link to Facebook, only to have someone I went to college with comment to tell me that she’d noticed the same insect in her own patch of Ohio woods an hour’s drive away and had been curious about it as well.
The fact that the internet is a powerful tool for a curious naturalist is so obvious it should go without saying, and yet somehow this ability to get so quickly from “a black flying insect with a gold patch on its back that I think is a wasp or a fly” to “golden-backed snipe fly, Chrysopilus thoracicus” never ceases to amaze me.