February 7, 2016


Martha O'Kennon






Oh my. This winter seems to be stuck in the season-changer. For the past few days, bulbs have been pushing their green leaves up through the ground. It has been above freezing most of the time, and I haven't stopped going out to see who might be poking its nose out and climbing up a few feet on the shop walls. Above: Hyacinths coming up already. And winter aconites blooming on February 7. This is crazed. They say that tomorrow it may get cold. Do I believe that? Yes.

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.

Spiders seem to be the most active of all my little 6- and 8-legged friends. Last night alone, I saw three different kinds of spiders. I'm still going to post the "non-spiders" first. A few days ago, this little blackish ant showed up for a while, and a couple of days before that this small (1-2 mm) mystery had set up shop out there just for a while. I don't have a clue what it might be!


This mystery insect, maybe a bug of some kind, hung around for a day or two. It may be a defunct specimen but even though it wasn't moving, it was still slow enough to get a couple of photos. Same for this beetle (two views, looks a bit like a turpentine beetle)



This tiny beetle/bug was around most of the day on February 2. It may be one of those beetles with a shortened hard shell. I didn't see at first that they might be the same critter in the two different poses.



This mystery fly (I'll have to call it a mystery until I can reconstruct what it was last year about the time I started photographing) appeared on the last night of January. On February 7 this little gnatty fellow appeared on the shop wall. The first picture was taken with flash. I am learning that flash sometimes adds shadows and distorts the image somewhat. The second of the gnat images was taken without flash. These two slugs were enjoying the damp. And lastly, a looper or inchworm, that is to say a geometrid moth larva. And that is it for the non-spiders in the past few weeks.



These two slugs were enjoying the damp. And lastly, a looper or inchworm, that is to say a geometrid moth larva. The darker one was from February 8. And that is it for the non-spiders in the past few weeks.





So we had better bite the bullet and go see the spiders. Many of them I still haven't identified. But I'll show them to you anyway, and hope for a little bit brighter weather so that the pictures come out a bit crisper. The first one is an orange mystery. One day I was moving a few old boards in the shop, and out fell this common house spider. It was the only large spider I've seen in a while - about 6 mm across.


Every once in a while I've seen some really fast runners. They may even be what's called running spiders. I think these two are two different kinds, but the spiders themselves are so small I couldn't tell by looking at them with my bare eyes. And here is a tiny baby long-jawed spider.



Here's a surprise! Remember in the late fall, when this spider could be counted on each evening? Well, on the last day of January, there it was again! Not since then, but I like to think he is down there underground all this time. From the sublime to the ridiculously common - these little round-bellied spiders must be in the cobweb family. They're tiny but I like their translucent abdomens - could they really be filled with syrup? Uh, No. This last little fellow doesn't seem round enough to be a cobweb, but again, it's so small I haven't ID'ed it yet. I think I've seen it before though. Sooner or later we'll get it!



Among the tiniest spiders lately, here is one so small that I almost missed it clinging to a bolt. There were 2 or 3 of them out last night (February 3). Next are a couple more images, last two: the delicate little thing hanging from a thread.



This little orb weaver is SO small I can't make out what species it is, but it is probably in the genus Araneus. I say that because of the fact that most of the orb weavers I've seen so far have been different species of Araneus. The rightmost image is the little orb weaver showing us its underside. Funny how they seem to change to another type just based on the angle from which you snap them.



Last but not least: another greenish spider. I waa pretty sure this was another Araneus, but the people at Bugguide.net convinced me that it is probably another genus of orb weavers, namely Eustala. It might be Eustala anastera, the Humpbacked Orbweaver. Anyway, you know how I love anything with a lovely color and pattern. P.S. (two hours later) The verdict is in - it is indeed the Humpbacked Orbweaver!

Here's a picture of that. By the way, when you follow this link to bugguide, you can have some fun by clicking on "data". You'll see that the only one of these spiders reported in February is ours. :-)

Note: February 8. Tonight just on a hunch I went out after dark and can you believe there was another of those humpbackers! This one was nowhere near so green as the other. In these pictures, the first two were from February 2, the second pair from February 8.




I never thought I'd be stumbling around out there in the middle of February in the pitch dark, trying to find little things alive and plotting their plans for world domination in the spring, which isn't so far from now! A few (maybe 10 or 15) years ago, I made sure to turn on the Lansing CBS channel on telly each evening in time for the weather report. I started in the fall and ran it till spring, about 6 months worth, recording the high and low for the day, the average high and low for the date, and the record highs and lows. I gave this list of data to my computer science students to analyze by plotting the graph, showing each of the three categories. The output looked like a bunch of sine waves. If you then looked to see which day the average lows hit their bottom (minimum) and began to come back up, the date was February 2! Called Groundhog day in the States (tell me if it's done in your neck of the woods), it's the middle of the winter when we begin to look for signs of spring. Well, friends, we haven't even begun with winter, although I can see out there that it has been snowing during the night. Don't get me started on the politicians who can't see with their eyes what is happening to the climate. On that happy note, bye till next time, whenever that might be.

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016