June 28, 2015

Martha O'Kennon

Another rainy wet week. The mosquitoes loved it. I finally realized the preparation I was using to keep them away was irritating my breathing badly - to the point of huffing and puffing even just holding still. But the up side of all that rain was that the raspberries are ripening and very juicy. Here they are going from green to pinkish to purplish to almost black. Oh - did nobody get the riddle. A black raspberry is black by name; an unripe one is called "green", and at just the right time of this unripe period, the berry is bright red. Only that very dark almost black one is sweet and good.

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.

It was a lousy week in another way too. Remember that intricately patterned tiny beetle (about 3 mm long, not counting antennae) that we saw last week? Well, I looked him up under beetles and that didn't find a picture of it. But a couple of days ago, there were a number (4-ish) of flies with the same coloration and the same pattern down there under the wings. Then I noticed that the "beetle" had wings. I couldn't find the winged ones under flies. so I tried under aphids. At the very end of the aphid files, there it was! An aphid! But when I clicked the picture, it took me to something called a bark louse. The ex-beetle turned out to be the nymph of the ex-fly! And they're both lousy (in name). I later saw one in the redbud tree.

Since we're talking about fly-like creatures, let's talk about flies. Here are two that might look alike at first, but are two different unidentified golden flies. Next is a mysterious fly with supposedly black cutout wings. Actually the wings are clear from the "cutout" section to the tips, and shaped like an ordinary wing. Note: May 2, 2017. I owe a debt of gratitude to Andrea Krautz, a research entomologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania. She identified both these next two flies as Melanophora roralis, a woodlouse parasite The males have entirely black wings while the females have white wing tips!

This first one is another mystery fly. Another yellow one, this one the size and shape of a fruit fly. On the next row, another long-legged fly, just to show you that they are still around. I seem to recall from last year that they hung around for quite a while. This one still has water drips from all the rain we've had. Next, an unidentified crane fly - PLEASE zoom in and in on it to see the amazing stamped-looking designs on its wings. And oh yes, the hover flies are still mating. So far this year all those tiny hover flies are the same species, if my eyes don't deceive me. Note that the one on top has eyes that meet in the center of its forehead, while the eyes of the lower are separated totally. This is one way to tell the males (up) and females (down) of certain species of fly, including the hover flies.

Three more! One larger than a fruit fly, with spotty wings. Another picture-winged fly, seems to be shedding some kind of extra skin. And last but not least, a scorpion fly showing its beak and surprise - a small prey item.

Shall we see what the beetles are doing? First, two weevils: the Black Vine Weevil and the little grey shmoo weevil. And then a little black and red beetle. It might have been a bug but for its nice beetle antennae. So I say it's a beetle - at least for this week. On the next row, Two relatives of the common lightning bug (beetle). They may even be common lightning bugs. But in searching for a definitive answer, I learned that there are dozens and dozens of lightning bugs. Can you see the difference in these two characters? Next is a kind of longhorned beetle - its claim to fame is that it looks very much like a mess of thread when it flies - very pretty. Finally - you've been waiting for this. I always say the Japanese beetles show up about the time the red raspberries start to ripen. There're a little early for that - or i should say the raspberries are coming along a bit late. Often the black ones are almost finished by the end of June. The red ones are a few days later. Who knows? Did I tell you that people are saying this is the most rain in the summer since 1937? Almost every day for a few weeks!

Let's move on to the hemiptera, the bugs that is. The preponderance of bugs seen this week is leafhoppers and treehoppers. Here are some of the leafhoppers. First the candy-stripers, moving themselves to other kinds of plants. This one was on the potted brown-eyed susan. If it does any damage to that plant, they're going to be removed to something I like less. Then a few more leafhoppers. The last one has an amazing design on its wings. To me it looks like a garden scene. Towards the back end there is a starburst flower design. The lower part of the wing picks up a beautiful blue patch. After I finally found one that looked like it, I read the comments about it on bugguide.net. One of the identifiers, seeing that it had occurred in California, suggested the finder report it to the USDA as a possible carrier of a certain plant disease of grapevines. I will have to check that out. But isn't it lovely?

Remember that last week I showed you some pictures of the treehopper nymphs on the redbud? Well they have started shedding their nymphal skins. Here is a picture of a typical adult, followed by typical nymphs. Next is a strangely elongated nymph, which I thought might be preparing to split and allow the adult to emerge. Last but not least, a newley emerged adult - but when they first hatch they are a gorgeous pale green!

The Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) haven't come out much, probably because of the rain. But here is an Aphrodite fritillary on the new orange coneflower I just got this week. I might just as well add in the damselflies that came here yesterday. They look a lot like the bluets we saw a couple of weeks back, but there is more black on them and the blue seems less BLUE. The wings of these ones are so fragile I don't know how they can fly - but they do! Later in the afternoon, while I was picking raspberries, this greenish variant showed up - with a tiny piece of prey in its hands. One more outlier: this little grasshopper (order Orthoptera) fell into a spider's web right after this picture was taken.

The Hymenoptera were a bit more in evidence than the Lepidoptera, though it was difficult to catch them being fairly still but not in the depths of a flower. Here are the tail ends of a European paper wasp and a metallic blue mud dauber. But here is a European paper wasp stripping pulp from a dried stem, and a mystery very small wasp. Can you tell these last two apart?

Well, folks, we are down to the Arachnids. It still seems as if I see a new one almost every day. But first let's see some of our old favorites. First let's look at the Harvestmen - the Granddaddy long-legs. There are a couple species we see over and over. The two of them are in different arms of the tree of Harvestmen, which are in turn off a different branch from the spiders.

On to the spiders. You've seen the bowl and doily spider several times. It is a sheet web weaver. Look at that mess of a web! Compare it with the lovely traditional orb woven by the Cross Orbweaver. These spiders can get very large, though remember how little they are when they first hatch?.

This Leucauge venusta is another kind of orb weaver. If you meet it, you may not recognize it - it is different in each different direction you encounter it. Here it is from the side, from the front (legs toward you), and from the back. The one thing that unites all the views is: the legs are bright green! Now look at this one. Its side view is very similar to that of our friend L. venusta, but its legs are rusty red.

This one reminds me of the six-spotted orb weaver but may have too many spots to belong to that club. Next is a common house spider, but I think the ones that live on the front porch are darker than the ones in the back yard. Here's one with its egg case. Here's a mystery spider. And here's another mystery - with the shadows it looks as if it has an awful lot of legs!. That may do it for spiders for this week.

We go out with some soothing florals. Here's the red-hot poker plant getting some color. I lied - this is the orange coneflower with a small bee which accumulates pollen on its tummy and not just its legs. This may be the mason bee which we discussed last year - oh, it's ok,still soothing - they don't tend to sting! These tiny pink flowers are called deptford pinks. They were brought over for English style gardens, but are now counted as a wildflower. They're biennials, so the plants that have flowers now will fold up and the new plants will have next year's flowers for us. And finally a single spiderwort flower. So simple and yet so beautiful. But I still think the little nearly invisible fauna in this yard are the true decorations! Write to me and tell me what your garden is doing! See you next week!

See you next week!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2015