June 26, 2016

Martha O'Kennon

Summer is truly here, and with it we celebrate Albion's Festival of Humidity. Behind the house where the water hose joins the house an old foxglove blooms vigorously, and the expensive salmon-colored ones didn't even come up in the front bed. How's that for irony? The Stella d'Oro daylilies bloom vigorously in the southern weed-patch, and the black raspberries are finally turning black in all the little weed patches. I can't imagine how quickly we have gone from winter to spring to summer.

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.

Did I hint to you last week that there might be a surprise this week? Well, on June 16, the American toads made a smallish showing: three males and one female came, sang and conquered. The males sang all night and the next morning one of them was mating with the female. Not to stress a point (ha ha), in my vast expertise in toad behavior, I've never yet seen a big pink toad that wasn't a female. The raccoon must have had a better party to go to. All day they mated and the next morning, there, snared in the leaf net that had an edge in the water, were strands and strands of toad eggs and no dismantled toads. If you click on the picture with the strands and click to expand again you will be able to make out the tiny black eggs spaced in the strands like a string of caps. Since I'd just had my sinuses rotorooterotomized, there was no way for me to stay out all night watching for the raccoons, and so all worked out well. The only hitch - the reason I wasn't jumping up and down - was that several days after the egg-laying, I was still not seeing much in the way of tiny tadpoles. But this very morning (June 23) I did spot somewhere between 5 and 10 tiny tiny tadpoles hugging the bottom of the pond at one spot. I don't know if we'll get our usual thousand or so tads, but we have a hope!

Another bulletin! Remember how I was bemoaning the loss of our old redbud's famous two-mark treehopper population? Well, this year first show has been several weeks behind last year's. But suddenly a couple of days ago, I spotted - a TMT nymph on the bottom of a redbud leaf! That's June 18 this year. I went back to look at last year's earliest nymph - and was shocked to see that it was only three days sooner. So I was being a little pessimistic. Sorry! It's still good news. Image two is a nymph on a young branch end, and finally- the one I have been lying in wait for all these weeks (ok, days) - the first view (that I've seen) of a pale green adult just emerged from its nymphal shell! For some reason I feel that a tiny plush model of this little guy would be a big seller at FAO. Note his (its) red eye and two yellow spots are already visible. Funny that the yellow shows up, and then gradually the rest turns black but the yellow turns whitish.


Within seconds, the baby was moving away from the shell, then back, then forward. This little fellow was seen later that day. On the next day, June 23, there were quite a few tiny adults sitting around, wondering "What do I do now?". Here is the first view of an ant amongst a group of thorn bugs. ! Note that I'm taking all these pictures from inside the canopy and hence all is backlit and maybe a bit fuzzy.


Now we go back to the usual survey, starting at "a" for "ant". I went easy on the ones you've seen so often, but here is a large - carpenter? - racing along the neighbor's garage. I was fascinated by the aphids on a goldenrod spike. Most were green, but one was clearly red, the typical red "goldenrod aphid". What they didn't know was that a bit further down the stem was a very hungry spider.

Here is a spider who has already started a nice collection of aphids. And surprise - On June 24 I found that the red aphids had little tiny red aphid babies!

I was so excited by these other stories that I didn't do much bee-watching. But here's a little bumbler who came down just as I was recording the very last red raspberry flower. I can't believe they have already set berries, just on the very day the black raspberries had a few ripe ones for me. This was the only other bee I got on "film", with a label of "tiny mason bee". Just when I think I know what a mason bee looked like, I find another possibility! Anyway, so here I was yesterday afternoon nibbling my way along the ripe black raspberries, and putting every other handful into my pocket. It occurred to me that if I fell down now, someone would come along and dial 911 and say, an old lady has fallen and broken her hip. Terrible dark purple blood!

Of course, just as the raspberries are ripening, our old friend the Japanese beetle comes along and starts making lace out of the raspberry leaves. They seem to really prefer the red raspberries, but aren't too proud to sample the black. Here is our old friend the ladybird beetle. It is as fond of aphids as the spiders, but is also just iconically pretty! This blue-black one could be any of several beetles, but Oberea flavipes was the strongest lead I got from Bugguide before they frassed this crummy picture.

There has been a bumper crop of these little grey weevils. They sure can put a dent into a leaf, and any kind of leaf it seems. Now look - here is a puzzle. What is this thing? It looks like a ladybird, but it has a clear shield all over it. It turns out to be a golden tortoise beetle. Weird! This last one, a kind of long-horned beetle, was a mystery to me last year until after going through lots of pictures, I found it was a "flower beetle", Strangalia luteicornis, I believe. By the way, Richard Grzeskowiak tells me that the ground cover the flower beetle is sitting on is called "gout weed". Now I have a name to badmouth it by.

Now for the bugs. Suddenly it has gotten harder to find the signature treehopper of the thistles! But I'm not going to say they are all gone. This thistle visitor seems to be the nymph of a leafhopper whose surname is Aphrodes. There WAS of course a boxelder bug, not shown. This is either a spittlebug or a leafhopper - the lines are starting to blur for me - and since we can't see the spiky back legs that define a leafhopper, we just can't say. The third one is a very early nymph of an old favorite leafhopper, Coelidia olitoria. This is the one that has the big sad eyes, making it look like Oliver Twist a little later.

Your real old fave, the candy-striper, I'm putting in again so you can look at the spines that are just showing on its back (jumping) leg. And take a look at the legs on this Scapheoideus leafhopper, one of the really fancily flower-patterned ones. I'm sorry it moved when I was trying to get its official portrait.

Another few bugs. This little brown and orange bug appears to be an Azalea Plant Bug. I wonder if my neighbors noticed any of these in their pretty dwarf rhododendrons - I never saw it on my regular rhodie. And this red and black bug nymph appears to be a Bordered Plant Bug of the Largus genus. Note:December 25, 2017. The red and black bug is the nymph of the unloved Boxelder Bug! This bug looked like a leafhopper to me, but it is really an Orchard Spittlebug. Apparently it doesn't have spiny hind legs for hopping. Finally, a nice adult Assassin Bug was climbing up the north-east corner of the shop. Looks as if it had been crawlng in the dust.

I hate to admit it, but I missed a couple of (maybe new, maybe not) damselflies this week, one that seemed to be only about an inch long, but I did get this one really blue-marked fragile forktail female - the blue says something about its maturity but it slips me since I didn't write it down. On the 24th, this damselfly showed up on a Deptford Pink (here caught on an aster) in the front garden. I'm still trying to identify it but I think it is one of the forktails, probably the Eastern forktail. The only other damselfly to show up this time was this female ebony jewelwing, who stopped in fairly often.

Here's a particularly attractive earwig. What, you don't buy that? Well, I saw a bunch of them, so for the record... "F" is for frog, in this case this bluish-looking baby grey tree frog sitting on a grape leaf. That, you have got to admit, is cute. Even though he has that Garfield scowl. A harvestman with a really nice clear pattern. Remember they differ from spiders in that they have only one body instead of a head and abdomen.

While we're talking about odd things, sorry harvestmen, didn't mean it that way - but a bird finally gave the porch a chance again for nest-building. Last time it was a pair of house finches who made kind of a fall-down nest - in this fall-down dangerous ledge. Their eggs kept landing on the porch floor. But this time the nest is made of finer stuff, with all kinds of moss and little flower bits in it. I really think it has a chance! I first spotted it on Friday, but this picture - taken Saturday - already seems larger. Cross your fingers for success!

The flies swarmed in! I wonder why they call this delicate thing the Stilt-legged Fly? You've seen a few crane flies recently but I wonder if you saw this one. I believe it's called a Tiger Crane Fly. This is yet another of those hover flies, this one sitting like a snipe fly. And this is a real snipe fly, the Ornate Snipe Fly.

Here are a few relatives,I think. This first one may be another one of those dung flies.

There are a number of little flies that seem to have been painted specially in bright colors though they all share the same shape.

Here is that little Robber Fly that looks so much like the ones in the last row, gnashing his teeth over a little prey. And here is one that just surprised me this afternoon. It is more of what most people think a Robber Fly should look like. It also seems to have caught a good-sized one of those metallic green flies. It surprised me especially when it took flight with the prey fly and landed on my camera, then flew to my shoulder. I was wondering aimlessly if I could count it as a pet when it finally decided it could do better and flew off.

Flower break after all that violence. Here is some honeysuckle. Can't you just smell it? (If you don't have honeysuckle, it is a very sweet-smelling flower attached to a very noxious weedy vine.) The weird pole-like horsetail is one of those Carboniferous survivors. The magenta Monarda or bee-balm is one of my favorites but I have to keep it in a pot as it would be trampled by all the predatory plants otherwise.

Oh. I do have a lovely green lacewing that just appeared out on the glider. I took a lot of pictures as the light was fading. Finally I got a couple of surprisingly lovely views with the fast shutter speed and inherent flash. Many of these pictures were so hard to focus - the second one shows to some extent the moiré patterning of the wings from a frontal view.

A few more Orthopteran nymphs showed up this week. This little whitish nymph looks as if it wants to be a grasshopper or some such animal. I seem to recall when this one showed up last year - it was called a Two-spotted Tree Cricket nymph. This last one is actually recognizable as a Grasshopper.

A couple of moths. This one is the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. I have finally found a grape leaf that might qualify as skeletonized. It is actually leaf-mined, most likely by the larva of the moth, which I think is what we are seeing at the end of the curve, marked by a pinkish blur.

Now this lovely sawfly came by a couple of days ago. It actually let me walk all the way around it and get various views. These are the two best. Aha. It is called a Webspinning and Leafrolling Sawfly. Can't imagine what it really does, can you? It took me till 2020 to get it identified finally by Clarence Holmes of iNat as Onycholyda luteicornis! To me it will always look like a cow!

Since the sawflies belong to the Hymenoptera, also represented by the ants, bees, wasps, ichneumon wasps and other parasitic wasps and probably some other exemplars that I haven't dreamed of, let me segue to the wasps. Here is what seems to be an ichneumon wasp. This blue mud dauber visited the pond but I never saw it do anything but pose on the beach. Finally, I huffed and puffed up to the attic to see how the paper wasps were doing on their little nest in the air conditioner. I was quite shocked to see how large their nest had become. Here it was about a month ago, May 27 that is. And here it was yesterday, June 23. I think one reason they abandon last year's nest is that the inner bits are no longer reachable once the other stuff has been built over it. Does that make sense?

Finally - the spiders! I'm afraid this time I have taken many shots of just a few spiders and friends. But this one I only got one shot of. It was so tiny I almost couldn't see it. Here's a baby orb weaver of some kind. And here the orchard orb weaver. This one I think is a long-jawed orb weaver.

This little yellow job with spots is a variant of the six-spotted orb weaver. You probably remember it as a pinkish brown one. Here's our old favorite, the common house spider or "chs", this time with a captive pillbug. I'll end up with one of those spiders from the goldenrod populated by so many aphids, yes, a repeat.

That was a quick romp through the highlights of the week. That's about it. As I said, last week, there may be some more surprises! Sorry about the last-minute insertion of the lacewings, and the lack of selectivity. See you next week - things are happening fast - hopefully I won't tire so fast and can catch as much as possible of the drama out there around us. If you drop in, I'll make a nice raspberry pie for you!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016