April 28, 2015

Martha O'Kennon

Spring is advancing wonderfully slowly. Each day you can see changes, from accelerated budding of flowers you might have thought weren't up to the winter. Something magical happens after a rotten winter: the perennials seem to burst through the ground with amazing vigor, as if to say, don't count me out yet. This mauve primrose has been in one spot for about 15 years. I don't remember where it came from but each year it is a tiny bit bigger and the color is a tiny bit brighter.

Where to start? I thought that the two or three chilly days where nothing showed its face outside the vegetation meant that we would have less to show and tell about. Was that wrong! I have ended up spending hours and hours looking up the new specimens. I could show them to you in chronological order, or alphabetical order. I could present them to you by order, and maybe that makes more sense. Let's start with the true bugs, the Hemiptera, so called because their outer wing is shortened hence "half-wing". I actually got a much better picture of our friendly neighborhood damsel bug. An old friend from last year also has shown up. Last I saw of him, he was on the flowering goldenrod. He is called mystery bug, because I still haven't ID'ed him.

Now for some real fun. Do you remember the little assassin bug nymph? He first showed up in the April 7 Blog. He was this ghostly grey and white little monster. Well, on April 24, a bigger oranger version of him showed up. I should have known something was fishy about this non-fish. But I convinced myself that one of the pasty ones had turned orange.

But wait! About dusk on April 26 THIS little fellow climbed out of the creeping charlie, that ubiquitous weed. He was a little hard to focus on, so I picked him up leaf and all and set him on a lawn chair. When I put him back down, he wandered away with quite a lot of projected dignity. I'm sure he is actually saying (a la Grover the puppet) "Oh I am so embarrassed...." OK, I decided that the orange one was NOT the later stage of the brownish one. I don't know if you remember, but back last fall we were finding lots of little GREEN ones, all the same shape.The third picture below is of the little greeen one from last year. So I'm now hypothesizing that we have in our yard at least THREE species of assassin bug. It will be fun to try to discover them wherever they go. I've never seen the adult.

That was about it for the bugs. Where to now? Beetles were a bit sparse. This was it. And this was it for the midges.

That was the end of the midges - there were a lot sitting around, but I was after glitzier stuff, if that little midge dressed in fashionable black and white wasn't glitzy enough for you. But the yard was lousy with flies. (ha ha- so far no lice.) I have got to admit, I call it a fly and Bugguide calls it a wasp. But this first one is really recognizable as a fly. Un-ID'ed so far. Then there is this lovely little Marsh fly with the red eyes, followed by two other mysteries.

This next category COULD be flies or COULD be hymenoptera - wasps or ichneumons - something in that order. They say that in order to be good at telling the difference you have to be good at wing venation patterns! I'm not yet.

Here is one that I finally submitted for ID - it was only about a quarter inch (6 mm)long and flew here and there, obviously trying to shake me. Is that anthropomorphism? Every time it lit I got the camera up there and tried to focus. Almost immediately it would start running so some of these pictures were a little shakier than usual. But it was so beautiful I just wanted to see it! Its black thorax with those little scaly yellow ornaments, its golden abdomen with black rear, those wings glistening in the sun. Now to me that black head is shaped like Hymenoptera, but it looks as if it only has two wings, so would be a fly (Diptera). News flash. This critter was just identified as a fungus gnat, which is "fairly common in Eastern woodlands". It's official. This place is a woodland.

I know what you really want. And you won't be disappointed. Here is the weekly roundup of spiders. I sent this one out for ID and it is: a ghost spider! We also had one of those ground crab spiders, the one that looked as if he had been woven by Navajos. As I was rounding the corner from dark to light, there was a new one for me. I was able to look it up and found it was a spotted jumping spider. The spotted part was true. And it did seem to have leapt upon something. The closer I looked, the more it seemed to have been eating one of the "Could-be's" from the earlier section. Remember all these things are between a quarter- and a half-inch long.

All morning this little fellow sat very still on the wall. But when I went to check on it in the afternoon, this is what I saw. It had managed to shed its skin, and was only attached at the tip of the abdomen (up). Later yet, the pretty skin was all that remained, and Spidey was nowhere to be seen. Probably replenishing himself after all that work.

Here are a couple more. You've seen the Northern crab spider before, I think. But this was such a nice sunny picture you can see a little more, for instance some of its eyes. The pirate wolf spider is really taking off. What a beaut. This last one is still an unknown (to me). (I saw long-jawed babies #7 and #8 this week too.)

I've been saving this for last. There was a tiny patch of orange, about 1 mm across. When I finally got any picture at all, it resembled a leaf-hopper or, more accurately, a samosa. All of a sudden it started to unpack itself like a transformer. And turned into a spider! Arnaud sent this link - there are even more incredible so-called micro-spiders. They are not even half the size of the Neospintharus in these pictures. Honest, you will think these spiders are designed by a kid with a zoid construction set.

If you think you can stand it, here are some more pictures of primroses. They are my favorite of the early flowers. Finally the harbingers of May: The redbud tree is heavily budded up and by next week may be in bloom.

Goodbye till next time!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2015