April 24, 2016

Martha O'Kennon

I say it's Spring. Apparently each month lately has set a record for temperatures. Flowers are blooming all over the yard. And bees are buzzing in them. Above you see the golden wood poppy just starting to bloom, my favorite mauve primrose, and a bunch of tulips. These tulips, unlike most, have survived at least 15, maybe 20 years and haven't started failing yet. They were from a bag of the world's cheapest tulip bulbs. Ordinarily tulip bulbs begin to rise to the surface and stop blooming because they like to be deeper. But these have multiplied through the years. Amazing!

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. I would try clicking on the image. If the little "+" sign appears, it means you can enlarge again. While it is in "+" mode, click on something you want to see more clearly and it will zoom to that section. 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 to increase the size of the image.

The bugs are definitely coming back. Each day I see something that I haven't seen in a year. What faithful friends! I've never seen such a number of sizes and colors of ants as even today! There were bigger black ones with big heads and bigger red ones and little red ones today. The first big black ant has an enormous head, at the top of the picture. It seems to be an Eastern Black Carpenter Ant, based on its golden abdominal hairs. Next seems to be a Carpenter or Sugar Ant; Third is a red Ant that I don't recognize, and fourth is a Small Honey Ant.

Look carefully at this sprig of pulmonaria. Can you spot the carpenter bee? It is a large bee somewhat like a bumblebee, but much heavier and its abdomen is pure black. Aren't its striped eyes amazing? If the color doesn't help you recognize it, the buzz should. It is a noisy noisy bee, and you might think it is mad at you. But mostly it just wants you out of its way. The second one was also a noisy one that buzzed me at my very own front door. It might be a Mason Bee. Sadly the next day I noticed that one had got squashed by that very door so that only its tail showed.


Moving along alphabetically for a while at least, there were a couple of beetles. There was this little one with fuzzy antennae, and another with beaded antennae. The last one looks to me just like a red turpentine beetle, but only about 2 mm.

This one is one associated with the redbud. It's called the "redbud bruchid". Its grubs eat the seeds inside the redbud pods. The fourth I thought was also a redbud bruchid, but now seems to be another kind of weevil. Keep tuned.

Bugs are definitely back. The assassin bug nymphs are eager to show you their new colors. Here's a tiny brownish one and a somewhat larger lime-green one. I've never seen such a bright greenish yellow little assassin. I'm sure you are glad to see the boxelder bugs. We didn't have any in the house this year (OR those pesky Asian ladybugs).

The stink bugs are also Baaaaack! The little white-rimmed stink bug, which is actually a White-margined Burrowing Bug; the lovely brick-red one; and the dark grey-brown one are all back after a long though mild winter. The last one just happened to look wrong at a spider, who took umbrage and put up a meal for later.

Here are a few singletons - A Mayfly - and here it is with still a week to go in April; Its nymph may have grown up in the pond over the winter, living on old plant matter. A large number of nymphs will be eaten by the fish. This looper has grown from the last time we saw it. What's this? The wooly bears are supposed to be a fall caterpillar! Did this lacewing come out of that case? That's the case the spider was so curious about.

The flies are certainly changing. Although we still see many midges and gnats, other kinds of flies are sprouting up everywhere. Take this tiny fly with the long delicate legs - it seems to be a gall midge; a stocky-looking midge (gnat?) with zebra markings; a greenish version of the same fly type. I really don't know what any of these flies is.


More flies! This one was rubbing its arms together as if cleansing them. This orange Acalyptratae fly is just as plentiful as it was last year. Here's a nice rusty-brown colored fly, probably in the same family as the housefly. And this nice yellow and black fungus gnat is back, right on time. Last year they arrived on April 26.

Spiders are going strong. Here's a familiar little jumping spider. Hard to believe they are only about a quarter-inch long (6 mm). Here he is facing us with his big eyes. You can see the two headlights and also a couple of smaller eyes off to the side. Third is a different species of jumper.

This week we were visited by three kinds of crab spider: the ordinary one with the rounded abdomen - look at its "evil" bright yellow eyes; a running crab with its slightly elongated abdomen, and a large crab spider, with its much sturdier legs and body.

A few more spiders: the tiniest little long-jawed orbweaver I've ever seen. It looks green to me an may actually be Tetragnatha viridis. Here you see it with at least a portion of a web. Here is a cross orbweaver making itself at home above my front door. Third may be a pirate spider. You can see why I sometimes confuse the orbweavers with the pirates. It doesn't help that there is also a pirate wolf spider, which you see, which you see in the last frame.

The big excitement came a few nights ago when the air was balmy. I was out by the pond taking night photos, when all of a sudden I heard a mighty trilling. Looked with a tiny LED light and saw it was a good-sized American Toad swimming around the pond, looking for a mate. It has since disappeared - the air got quite cold that night. Usually I first see a toad around here sometime in early May. So now I'm eager to see the boys and girls come and make noise into the night and start the next crop of tadpoles.

A reminder - I am going to be giving a talk for AAUW with public invited at 7:00 p.m. on May 19 at Bobbitt Auditorium. It's called Nature in the Small for some reason. I'll be giving an introduction to several of the small mini-environments in the yard. For my faraway friends, I'll be posting the pictures and text as a webpage after the talk so people can see it anyway, just without my mellifluous voice. I'm very excited about this. It will be the first time I've talked about the wonderful variety of creatures in the yard and how they interact with the plants and with each other. As I've been preparing this lecture, I've learned so much about the denizens of the back yard. I hope as many of my local friends as possible will come. AAUW always has good food after their programs...

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016