June 7, 2015

Martha O'Kennon

I can't believe that it is June already. It already feels a bit like summer. Warm to hot in the daytime but at night I turn on the window fan and it cools off as the evening wears down.

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.

Flowers are blooming now, large and small (mostly small). Up to now the major drawing card has been the raspberry flowers, and now that stupid ground cover is also blooming. Surprise! The critters LIKE the ground cover flowers, so I will let them be for a while. The raspberry flowers are almost gone in the back yard though they are hanging on in the side yard. And now the raspberries are forming. The irises haven't done all that well lately. My neighbor had to cut down a huge burr oak tree and now all that shade is gone and the ground cover takes over everything. But this iris was beautiful. This yellow flower is a native wildflower which comes in both yellow and orange, but I'm left with all yellow. Finally the spiderwort has a good start. I love this blue shade. It is easy to keep going as it can fend off any other plant (except maybe for that nameless ground cover).

Something amazing happened Friday. On the stem of a Dutch iris sat an insect I'd never seen before. But when I looked into its little red eyes, I had the feeling it was someone I'd met earlier in a less developed form. In this second picture you can see that it has a little beak under its head. The third is its baby picture - you're right - that was the adult assassin bug! How exciting. The adult has brownish wings,totally unexpected (by me). Bugguide confirmed this ID so it must be true....

. While we're talking about bugs, have a look at some new leafhoppers and treehoppers. On one of our tree class treks, we saw this tiny subtly colored leafhopper. It SOOOO matches the branch of the mulberry tree it's on. Only its pale pink eye gives it away and that not easily. This next little yellow bug - I don't know what it is but i love that color. The next one just looks like a stain on its plant. It's called a scale bug or scale insect. The only giveaway is the pair of antennae sticking out. Finally another little mirid, no black on it. it may be a different species from the red and black ones I've been showing you.

Now for something really wild. It was getting on to suppertime when I spotted these little brown blotches on a thistle. They turned out to be treehoppers. Note the cut-in profile. I was worried that the thistle's bristles would ruin the camera so I backed out. But near bedtime I thought I'd see what they were doing at night. About the time I got out there a couple of big black ants showed up - I'd read about this phenomenon but had never seen it. Apparently the ants tend the little treehoppers. Maybe they get a drop of syrup from them.

It was a good week for unknown moths.

I just checked. That first little grey moth above is almost surely Protoboarmia porcelaria. We're still waiting for the final diagnosis. But here are three more moths, of which only the last one has an ID, Zanclognatha pedipilalis.

There were more kinds of bees than I could keep track of much less photograph them. Here are a few bees and wasps you could have seen if you had been here. First is a small bumble type bee with bright orange saddle-bags for pollen, or maybe most the pollen it has collected so far is bright orange. It is sitting on the newly flowering baptisia, a pea-like flower. The next two are of the same individual, a female sweat bee. Do you remember from last year how to tell the difference in the sexes of this bee? Well, the female is green on the head and on the abdomen, while the male has black and white stripedy trousers. Then we have a couple new wasps. The first is a mud dauber which only let me get some introductory shots, and then comes a mystery wasp.

The flies will inherit the earth. The tiger crane flies are at it again. The flesh flies increased for a while, while a nice dead cat sat in the garbage can - the pickup was late due to the memorial day holiday. This fly, which reminded me of a snipe, is actually what's called a scorpion fly. The next three are: the large hover fly, which sort of buzzes by your head but is harmless to us gargantuans, but which has the right colors for a yellow jacket and so you duck eveyr time! another picture-winged fly, this one seen on a car while taking our trees class last field trip. That same afternoon I saw two others, one at home. Finally a green iridescent fly. Now keep this iridescent idea in mind for the next lot.

I think you got the foreshadowing message. We now look at the tiniest most gorgeous critter on earth. The long-legged flies really are on stilts, but shine iridescently. Sometimes they look golden, sometimes copper, sometimes blue/green. Some of them have all the colors, just depends on your angle of approach. The face view lets you see the two big compound eyes and five or six ocelli (simple eyes) between them. Once in a while you get one that is a couple of millimeters larger than the others. I suppose we will eventually see if that is a sex difference in size. We will be able to follow them around for a few weeks more. These are my favorites of the week!

Let's take a moment for serenity of the flowers. Earlier, under my very eyes, something had nibbled off all the leaves and most of the buds from my favorite blue columbine. But here it is making a comeback! The deadly nightshade grows wild in the weed patch beside the house. It is so lovely I leave it alone. Besides there are moths whose caterpillars just love the stuff. In a pinch they will do in your tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes, all members of the nightshade family! The yellow oxalis or lemon-grass is a real weed and you have to kill most of it. But it is like the cat in "Shrek" when it blooms. Awwwww, i can't kill it at that stage. The very first water lily of the year bloomed this week. A magenta one is still in the bud, show you next week! And finally, the Italian vetch is on display outside the biology building.

I saw again on the wing a tiger swallowtail but again too far and too fast to shoot. I had thought I'd never see another six-spotted tiger beetle-Talk about iridescence. Anyway, as I was walking and stalking around the shop, I saw the tiger beetle jump off the wall and into some low vegetation. When I started to move a few leaves in order to take its portrait, it spread its wings and was gone. Sigh. The ones that didn't get away were the silver-spotted skipper, a new kind of snail, and a grown-up daddy-long-legs. The next two pictures are of the same individual, one showing its lovely red abdomen.

For once, I'm not leaving the spiders to the bitter end. First, my faithful friends,the crab spiders -- They are actually growing - most of them have gone from 2 mm to about 5 mm. That includes the black crabs: doesn't this one look like some kind of mata hari? Two photos of the same individual, I think. The next row has one more crab. This may or may not have been the one that looked like a navajo rug earlier. Finally, two pictures of a lovely new jumping spider.

More spiders! First, two mysteries and one of the bowl and doilies growing fast. The first time you saw one of them it was only about 1.5 mm long (not counting the legs). And on the second row, another bowl and doily, now at least 5 mm. A young common house spider, and last a pair, male (red legs) and female (spotted legs).

A couple of days ago, my neighbor brought home an Eastern American toad that one of the kids found at the school playground. I set it down next to the pond and turned away - when I looked back it was gone! But yesterday I found this one in the side yard. Looks like the first one but then there is a big family resemblance amongst all of them.

Now you'll see what I was saving for the very last. Remember that female damselfly that sat and sat and sat for portrait after portrait, but the male never would? Well, yesterday he sat and sat.... Here they are, side by side. The male almost knocks your eyes out, doesn't it? I swear I didn't post-process this picture.

Have a great next week!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2015