July 5, 2015

Martha O'Kennon

It didn't rain today, but the crop of mosquitoes is mighty. There are so many of them that you have to use about twice as much spray as usual, it seems. But what the heck. Saw a few amazing things. The raspberries, as predicted, are large and delicious. The thorn bugs also had a bumper crop. Doesn't that picture above look like the postcard picture with all the little sunbirds lined up in a row?

Remember that there is information in the name of the file for each image. You can see it by mousing over the image - look at the lower left of the screen. Or you can click on the image to get to the (usually) larger image. Then the info is displayed in the address line above. If the image has been cropped so that clicking on it doesn't result in a larger picture, you can always hit control plus at the same time to increase the size.

You may wonder how I pick the order in which to show you the pictures. Well, usually you get a few pretty soothing pictures, mostly of lovely flowers. But this time I couldn't restrain myself. We now have another kind of dragonfly and possibly a different kind of damselfly. The new ones are the common whitetails. They showed up in the side yard (the weed patch) a few days ago. That is, the female of the species came to visit. She kept landing on a pile of brush and disappearing. Here she is, in all her camouflaged glory, pretending to be a pile of brush herself. But a couple of days later, I was out north of town visiting a friend who has a field of milkweed. While peeking inside the milkweed to see its denizens, I spotted the male! He has that glorious chalky white abdomen. No way he could pretend to be just background noise. The third picture shows his two huge eyes. The two dragonflies couldn't be much more different. The male has 2 big dark patches on each wing and a white tummy, while the female has three big dark patches on each wing. This phenomenon of the two sexes looking so different is called "dimorphism" (two forms). This last dragonfly is the one I think of when I think of summer. Its mate (which hasn't yet shown up) is red.

Yesterday two damselflies appeared in the south side of the back yard, where a driveway used to be. They seem to like perching on the tapered leaves of the daylilies. One had some pretty green markings on its head. Can you see in the first picture a sort of horizontal exclamation point? That is the sure sign of a "fragile forktail". And it is a male (they are green whereas the female has similar markings but is blue). At first I thought that this blue one was the female of the same species, but its markings are completely different - almost a uniform blue. Just goes to show that even if two damselflies perch near each other, one needn't be the mate of the other. On Friday this more nondescript damselfly came to perch on a daylily leaf and when I got in close I could tell it was munching on a mosquito. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. one for you damselfly! Finally, here's that drop-dead gorgeous male ebony jewelwing again.

News flash: baby toadlets are coming out of the water. I've been noticing that some of the bigger tadpoles are getting their tiny back legs, but yesterday I saw the first little toadlet walking on the pebbles next to the pond. In a bit I'm going to tell you about my visit to the country, but I thought I'd place this little grey tree frog here. He was hiding behind a leaf but you can see him peeking out with one eye. Here he is in typical tree frog posture. Sometimes the tree frog turns greenish to match his color to the leaf he's on, but this one didn't.

Last year when my woodshop was being built, I had to move my ONE common milkweed plant, and it has obviously not survived to this year. But The other day I visited a friend in the country. She has the most amazing milkweed field, humming with all kinds of life. Here's one of the flower heads with a black bee; and with a honeybee. In the next row, a milkweed bug nymph and a milkweed beetle. Note: several of the insects that feed on milkweed have these red and black colorations, as does the monarch butterfly. Speaking of monarchs, my neighbor brought over her collection of monarch chrysalids to watch while she's away. More on them later! But first this is some of my friend's butterfly weed, a relative of the common milkweed. I don't have any flowering but do have some in a pot where one was last year. Several seem to have sprouted but aren't anywhere near big enough to bloom.



Speaking lightly as we were about beetles, besides the milkweed beetle these others visited the yard. The Japanese beetles are back! They always seem to show up about the time the red raspberries are ripe. And the very first ones are ripe now - they tend to ripen a week or two after the black raspberries, which are delicious right now. And speaking of raspberries, I looked and looked to identify this black beetle with orange head and thorax - it's a raspberry cane borer! Isn't that a coincidence? Well, no. This last little beetle seems to have some sort of parasites on its head. I just went out and there is one right where the parasitic one was - but with no parasites in sight. Also from this morning: a new kind of bug - beautiful in red and black.

Let's review our flies for the week. This very large mosquito is NOT one of the ones that made me so miserable. It got caught inside the screen door. The next one may or may not have a tiny insect in its mouth. The green one is supposedly an unsavory character, but I'd wear this kind of green.

That mystery tigery crane fly is still around, or one of its avatars. This one is new to me, and seems very pregnant. And this one in pastel blue MAY be a long-legged fly with its wings folded, but I've rarely seen them do that. This little hoverfly is either coming in for a landing or just taking off.

A couple of butterflies that stood still long enough to get "shot" : the cabbage white is so beautiful, but its larvae will just do in your cabbage patch. The Great Spangled fritillary was happy out in the country at the milkweed field. (I have been calling those fritillaries the Aphrodite fritillary for a long time. They are very hard to tell from the Great Spangked without seeing the underside.) And this banded hairstreak was sitting on the euonymous outside the front door.

The bugs were about as usual. As you can see from the top picture, the treehoppers are legion. Some still haven't gone to the adult stage. There was this pretty little bug on the shop wall. In the weed patch, the other treehoppers are still alive (but with diminished numbers) on the huge thistle plant. Here's one with its auntie ant. Ant here's a little herd of treehoppers with something that I had to look up. It's an alder spittlebug. I don't have any alder though, and it seems to have moved on to somewhere that does.

We saw only two of the orthoptera : this 2-spotted tree cricket nymph, and this beautiful green grasshopper on the friend's milkweed.

Time for a scenery break. Here are some lilies and very tall astilbe at the milkweed farm- mine is very short and is just about to bloom. Then comes a hosta blooming in my front (shade) garden, and the pond with three kinds of lilies, one a tiny very deep magenta one. This morning it is fully open!

I thought maybe you would like to see the weed patch I keep talking about. It's full of common day lilies and raspberry vines. And here is some of the trumpet vine about to bloom. The bush will soon be buzzing with hummingbirds. They love the long-throated flowers, and especially red and orange. This vine covers my kitchen window so I can't see out, but I know the hummers are out there because my neighbor will phone excitedly. Actually I just went out and saw that the trumpet vine was indeed starting to open up. A yellowjacket is already checking it out. I believe the northern paper wasp would have stayed around if I hadn't been there. Oh! I forgot to mention the robins must have fledged - no sounds from the interior of the trumpet vine now.

Here are two day lilies that just opened today. And these are ladybells, which was once such an invasive pest that I eradicated it a long time ago. But here it is hiding just off my property line next to my neighbors' house.

Let's check in with the hymenoptera. Finally got a mud dauber to stand still for a moment. And this one with the amazing blue wings is - I think - the great black wasp. The little one here is still a mystery, even whether it's a bee or a wasp! The last two are ichneumons. I was able to ID the first as Ichneumon extensorius, but the last one I still don't know, except that it is a female ichneumon (just look at that ovipositor!).

There wasn't a whole lot of new spider activity this week. But they do seem to be busy feeding and growing. Look how fat this bowl and doily spider is getting. The second one - is it going to grow up to be one of those beautiful Leucauge orb weavers? Compare with the real thing.

Here we have another shot of a black and white [ground] crab spider. And look! The tiny orange orb weaver is bigger and here it has a big piece of prey in its mouth. Could this be a grass spider (we had so many of them last year)? They spin a little "nest" for themselves. This common house spider has an interesting prey. Here is one of those pirate wolf spiders. The granddaddy longlegs are so big now, this one stretches to a total width of 3 inches!

Well, that's about it for now. There will definitely continue to be new things to look at!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2015