February 27, 2016

Martha O'Kennon

Global Climate Destabilization. What I was going to say before the huge wet snowstorm locked us in for a few hours: We still haven't seen much in the way of winter. Meanwhile we are three weeks past the day the average temperature was supposed to hit bottom and start back up. The temperature is mild enough to find a few bugs out that day, especially at night. How strange to be unable to sleep at 3 a.m., get up and put on warm duds and go out and see 3, 4 or 5 spiders out there practising for the real spring. Oh. The first picture above is again of the winter aconites, which I'd never seen before march before or not often. And the second, my next-door neighbor's conifer laden with snow, taken from the bottom looking toward the invisible top. Go back in, crop and lighten the pictures and finally about 4:30 fall back asleep for a couple of hours. There's something comforting about seeing old or new friends out there.

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.

Here are again a couple of Small Honey Ants, which seems to be a faithful resident all Winter.

Is this a barklouse? An aphid? A psyllid? A what? I learned this genus yesterday while looking for barklouses that might get confused with other items. The answer is, I don't know, but it looks as if it has attributes of all of the above (to my unbooked eye). The second one resembles a psyllid, another kind of tiny bug, but in this case, the spots on the wings seem to say no to all the pictures I've found so far. I take the idea of an aphid more seriously, remembering that not too much further in the year past there WAS an aphid out there. So all the picture names are only approximate and actually could be MUCH different from the real names. Remember that last year I didn't know a barklouse but got better during the year distinguishing them from other things. This third image is probably a rove beetle. It has the short short elytra (hard wing cover) and the color matches some of the ones on bugguide.net. But the end of the abdomen resembles one of those fishtail cocktail gowns actresses wore, frayed at the end.. I don't think we're going to get much more info as this image went fairly quickly into the frass bin!

Tess Miller, my amazing flute teacher, found this puppy in her house. I haven't really seen any of the usual gang of suspects (asian ladybirds, boxelder bugs) indoors this winter. But I've been finding dead ones of THESE over at the college on the library back door steps. It is a holdover from late last fall, and is the Western Conifer Seed bug. For comparison, here's a live one from last fall.

This mystery fly may be one of the many gnat species. When you start finding gnats, they amaze you with their size (small but not so small as I used to think) and sometimes their beauty. Remember when we found this one on December 22? (The second one...) And last year on April 26, this gorgeous orange and black one - They're all fungus gnats... They must be quite hard to tell apart.

This little looper or inchworm, that is to say a geometrid moth larva was out with several comrades, and again last night. And it must be time for the stoneflies to come out. I didn't see one for at least a month later last year. I love that they have two patterns superimposed. Underneath there is the play of light and dark, and above the vein patterning, which is so beautifully realized. I wonder sometimes why beauty wins out in the game of selection. And that, my friends, is the end of the non-spider visitors for now.

I suppose I have to break down and tell you that a bit of winter touched down yesterday and last night. When I got up, my car was masquerading as an SUV, and the walk and most of the driveway were nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, while I was out there with my witch's broom, trying to find the sidewalk, a man in a car or truck, it didn't even register which, because he had a plow blade on the front. I got out there and asked if he wanted some work, because I wanted an escape route. He and his son and grandson did a bang-up job digging the car out and scraping the driveway quite clear. I wish I could plunk you right into that scene so you could appreciate the enormity of the snow cover. But have no fear. It seems to be melting somewhat and I'm afraid our big chance at having some wintry weather has retreated for now. However, the snow melt will really help our dehydrated ground when spring arrives.

That said, here are some of the spiders that showed themselves over the past three weeks. Many you have seen, so think of this just as documentation of who's out when. The first is that very common one which must be a cobweb spider. A lot of those have those rounded (or teardrop-shaped)abdomens. (On February 26, 2017, I think I've nailed down this identification - it looks like a Steatoda grossa, a False Black Widow.) I'm doubtful about that ID!!!! We've seen this next one too, but I've never gotten a name attached to it. (Another remark from the future: This middle orbweaver seems to be genus Mangora, species probably placida, we'll see it in February, 2017. Maybe this year!) And the last in this row is probably also a cobwebber, just going by the abdomen. I've not found an image resembling it yet. But it is quite striking.

We've seen a number of these tiny spiders. They resemble some of the orbweavers we've seen in larger sizes, so I'm going to call them orbweavers until I get a better candidate. The second may be the same species - I found it on the east side of the shop the same night. It does look like a very ugly baby doll, reminiscent of the pig-baby in Through the Looking Glass, doesn't it? It even seems to have a human face.

This one MAY be a pirate spider. I've rarely seen them moving around. Mostly I see them in the day time with a very characteristic pose. Here is one we saw in November in that characteristic pose. Here is our new friend in a ventral (tummy facing us) pose.

The long-jawed spiders were out, sometimes, as in this picture, at night. Here is one of the brownish ones - there seem to be many species knocked off from this one basic frame. The next one - one of the green ones - was also out that night and also in the daylight. This is one of my favorites. I have a whole series of shots of another one that was a mystery till I could see its abdomen is somewhat elongated as is the long-jaweds. Of course, another tip-off is the extraordianarily long front arms. Here is one more, this one hanging vertically, but note its loooong arms. I'm not at all sure about the last two pictures.

This next one resembles in all but color the nursery web spider, Pisaurina mira. That's the one that used to pose on the wall just after dusk. Another one that seemed to be out a lot in the night is this tiny tiny one (and I do mean tiny tiny- only a bit more than a millimeter long). Here it is hanging so that we are catching the ventral (tummy) view. This spider seemed to love to hang in a position so thin that you had to be there to see it. Notice its very dark legs, as we will be seeing this one several times, and this may be the clearest way to see that they are all of the same or nearly identical spider.

We continue with the mystery spider (seen in the two last images above). Here it is beginning to get out of that horizontal pose.

Amazingly, in a late night (about 3 am) stroll - Hey I don't sleep much so might as well get some fresh air - I was rewarded for my insomnia by catching another eyeful of that mystery spider from last time - the Humpbacked Orbweaver. Here are a few views. Two views of the critter in interesting poses as it seems to jackknife open. The first jackknife is from February 21, and the second, showing the front of the spider, February 28.

I won't be heading out at 3 am tonight, since I only got the FRONT of the house plowed. The path out the back door, across the deck, and to the steps down towards the shop is all covered in the white stuff. I'm not so sure there will be many creatures that will plow themselves up through the snow and up the shop wall. Winter is here, even though the temperature is still not very low. I plan to enjoy a lot of it indoors. I hope you are all doing well and if anyone from the antipodes wants to contribute some pictures of bugs, birds, flowers I will be very glad to see them and share them with the northern hemisphere folks. Take care, and much happiness to all.

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016