June 14, 2015

Martha O'Kennon

Only a week till the summer solstice, literally the day the path of the sun stops moving northward. That's the day the sun rises the farthest in the northeast and sets farthest in the northwest. It will remain in the north until September 21, the autumnal equinox. Then it will look in its instruction manual to see what to do from then.

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.

This week the water lilies began blooming. Yesterday we had three different colors of lilies. The pinkish ones have spread from one basket to a pond full of lilies. The magenta one bloomed for the first time three days ago, and the delicately yellow-colored one lights the whole area.

This week two mysteries were solved. The first was the mystery of what insect the baby mirids would grow up to be. The leftmost is the very young nymph, then the intermediate stage in which the wings are growing. Finally, the adult (called a four-lined plant bug), which doesn't seem to resemble stages 1 or 2. But that's the way it goes. Once it makes that final moult of its nymphal skin, then we get to see what the adult looks like: not much like the earlier forms, except for that little face, which is a dead giveaway. Is it like a box of chocolates?

The other discovery was the form of the adult of the little grey-brown assassin bug nymphs. Do you remember that last week we discovered the adult of the little red-eyed green nymphs? Here we once again have been saving those baby pictures in a special little scrapbook. Here is the tiniest (no wings at all), an intermediate stage with little wings, and finally the adult. Last night I was showing a friend how the new workshop attracts all sorts of little things. "What's this one?" he said, and when I looked it was clear that this was the adult assassin bug for the grey family. Apparently the reddish markings on the body say it is a male. The funny thing is that I was so sure THIS last one was it. But upon looking through bugguide.net's database, I found that in reality the last one is NOT an assassin bug, but the Meadow plant bug.

We still have a couple of leafhoppers (yes, they're bugs) to look at. Last week one day I saw a tiny (maybe 5 mm long) yellow leafhopper with two black spots down its back. It may turn out to be a two-spotted leafhopper. But in the Data section of bugguide.net it seems we don't get them here in Michigan. So I'm still hoping to find out what it really is. In the afternoon the two-spotted one was gone but a plain yellow one was there in the same spot. Now either they change their spots or it is a gender (sic) difference and the two are looking for each other. I dunno, just a good item for questioning.

Back in the side yard, I found a number of these little red and blue striped leafhoppers. I surely don't remember their showing up this early last year but here they are now on one of my less favorite weeds. Last year they tended to perch on my two hibiscus plants. They never did enough damage to make me want to do anything but admire them.

This is a hark-back to last week, when we found these little treehoppers (Entylia carinata) colonizing my prize-winning thistle. This time I was able to get a shot that shows their eyes. Look hard, they might not be at the end you expected. Or click on the picture to see the pointer to the eye.

Here are the only two new beetles I saw this week. One's a nice iridescent black one, and the other is probably a long-horned beetle.

There was one little blue butterfly, which I believe is a summer azure. It was not one of the most trusting little creatures, kept moving on each time I got within shooting distance. But the pearl crescent that you see here, front and back, was dead when I picked it up at the gym, so no problems with compliance there. I find the underside very attractive. The last picture is of yet another grey moth. Except for the darker coloring, It looks a lot like the other two grey moths with dainty black markings.

Here a few little mystery critters. The first one I can't even tell yet what family it belongs in. Then an earwig but with little wings that suggest it is a huge nymph. This next caterpillar was quite long, maybe two inches, for a geometrid. (measuring insect or inchworm, but in this case maybe a two-inch worm would be more apropos.) I bought a great big beautiful book on caterpillars but so many look so much alike that I haven't diagnosed very many. I feel apologetic for not having looked up the first and last of these as thoroughly as they deserve.

Maybe this is a good place for some feel-good pictures. Another bee, this time a real big bumblebee on the baptisia. The foxgloves are blooming again. Last year after they finished blooming I dead-headed them and sure enough some of them re-bloomed in the fall. We'll have to remember to look for that. ONE of the many dutch irises I put in a few years ago survived to bloom this week. The squirrels thought the bulbs were delicious. And here's a spiderwort, a faithful friend over the years, giving its best show. They are funny little flowers. You have to take your pictures in the morning because just after noon the cells in the flower break down into flowing protoplasm - very interesting but not very photogenic.

For those of you who still don't love flies, we will get them over with. All the fly-lovers just enjoy! That striking picture-winged fly was everywhere this week. The next one looks familiar, but I haven't ID'ed it yet. It seems not to have much neck with that big head and eyes.

A couple more of those tiny long-leggedy flies. They are extremely skittish, and usually fly up just as you press the "take" button. Then a couple odd ones. Hers's a pair of hoverflies working on the next generation. And who knows what this tiny fruit fly is?

Now on the next row, a stray fly that resembles the march flies in shape and contortion. And a kind of segue into the spiders, the fate of the stranger. I found a similar fly who looks as if he has already been a spider's feast. You spider lovers will be happy to see one more fly gone into the food chain.

Getting closer. Here's a humongous ant, probably one of those huge carpenter ants, all taken care of by a spider. Then to stay in with the hymenoptera, two mystery wasps: one enjoying the nectar of that miserable but lovely ground cover; the other seems to be dead, as one of its antennae seems to have been torn off. I'm sorry, I suppose you could have figured that out for yourselves.

Okay, here they are. Some of these you have seen earlier when they were a bit smaller. (Since April we have seen spiders 1 mm in length grow to 5 mm or more.) The yard is now full of spiders, big ones and baby ones. They keep the other insects down and sometimes they work on their own population. They are ravenous carnivores. They differ in temperament. Most of the jumping spiders run or jump and make it almost impossible to focus on them. Others, like the common house spiders and the pirate spiders, will pose quietly forever (until they spot a nice juicy prey). When they do get some prey, they spin like madmen and are very hard to catch. The little orb weavers sometimes weave so fast round and round that you wish they would take a break. But each one is beautiful in its own way. Let's post them by basic type. So first here are some that are definitely jumping spiders. Quiz: what is the giveaway for a jumping spider? One quick thing is the eyes, two great big "headlights" and smaller ones to the side. The first one was on top of my car and I saw it when I retrieved my cup of coffee that I had set on top of the car to get out a backpack two hours earlier. It passes the test handily. Even though the second one didn't show me its eyes, it moved like a jumper (and is one, Maevia inclemens). It was hard to ID because it turns out to be dimorphic, which means it can have two different forms. This is one of the two forms a male can take. Look at its brushy palps. I thought they looked to be an artist's paintbrush. The third one is the bold jumper, Phidippus audax. Those greenish-blue moustaches give it away. It was also the largest spider I've seen out there lately. Almost 2 cm.

Here is a pack of baby spiders (each about 1 mm not counting the legs) that haven't left the pack to go find their fortunes yet. And a possible sibling already able to spin an orb web. The third one is the only crab spider I saw all week. It has the stocky build of a ground crab spider.

These next three are still mysteries to me. But just goes to show how many many different kinds are out there. I keep thinking the first one is a wolf of some sort but haven't seen a picture of it. The middle one (very pretty and shouldn't be too hard to ID) was hanging on a thread across my favorite chair. When I told it to shove over a little it hid on the armrest support. Finally in order to get this picture, I had to sit down on the very chair with it and it then calmed down to think a bit and I was finally able to get its picture. I must look it up! And the last one is a mystery still but may turn out to be a jumper. It would NOT pose face-forward.

The pirates still haven't been positively identified. There seem to be two kinds (sex difference, I wonder) but they all seem to be related.

I wish you could be here in person to see all the things that pop up unexpectedly in the yard. But until then, this will have to be my way of saying WELCOME!!!!!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2015