January 21, 2017


Martha O'Kennon


Did I say it was cold? Oh, that was last time. It was seasonably coldish. But the past few days here have been warmish - we call this the January thaw. Temperatures in the 40's are not not to be expected. I woke up this morning about 5:00 am, and at 5:30 was skipping through the channels to see if I had recorded anything good. All of a sudden I heard a scraping sound as if the person with the snow-moving equipment was clearing my sidewalk, followed by the LOUDEST explosion I had ever heard, which tapered off into the LONGEST aftershock, making the house feel as if it had been struck by something huge, shaking and shaking till I thought the attic was going to turn into a huge mess of spilled books and all the other stuff up there. So was it an earthquake or a typical spring thunderstorm? I flipped to the weather channel to see that we were in the midst of a thunderstorm, but we never got THAT thunderclap again. Yes, it's a typical January thaw.

A real ant! At least I believe so. The ant in picture 3 occurred in multiple places on the 21st of January.



Remember last time, you saw pictures of a very short fat ant and one of a really long ant. I had submitted both to Bugguide.net but hadn't heard back. Well, a couple of days later, Bugguide identified the short fat one as a wingless adult Gall Wasp of one of the genera Acraspis, Philonix, Phylloteras, or Trigonaspis. Later I got news that the long ant was a Lasius* claviger queen. Here is a discussion of how the Lasius ants take over other ants' nest.



One of the mysterious bugs is still with us. I don't know why it hangs around here when I've never learned its name. On the 21st of January, I saw my first beetle (second image below)for some time now. It seems to be some species of rove beetle. This mystery object looks like a spent blossom - but of what flower? Then one day I spied a Cross Orbweaver, or so I thought. I submitted it to www.inaturalist.org, and another person identified it as Mangora placida, the Tuft-legged Orbweaver, which seems about right - I almost buy it. One other little orbweaver was also out there. This one was here last year too, but so small that I have difficulty seeing it to much precision.



Yesterday, January 21, I saw a fungus gnat, a large (larger than a midge) kind of tiny fly. Then this little spotted-winged fly appeared, only a few mm long, and then another kind of fly red-eyed , the same size and shape as the spotty one, but not a spot to be seen (last two images). I wonder if they are a mated pair with such an impressive dimorphism.



One day I thought I had found a very tiny Cross Orbweaver ()Araneus Diademmata)-- it turned out with the help of iNaturalist.net to be not even Genus Araneus but probably Mangora placida (pictures #1 and #2), a tuft-legged orbweaver. There was actually a plate in my new spider book with several of the Mangora species. One was one I had misdiagnosed in 2015 but was probably Mangora spiculata or M. acalypha. The Mangoras all seem to have a much shorter third leg than the other legs. It tends to have tufts of hair on it, hence the "tuft-legged" part of its name. Picture #3 is the new M. spiculata/acalypha from the back, and picture #4 is the underside with a strange coral patch. Here is Mangora placida from iNaturalist.net. Here is a picture of Mangora acalypha from iNaturalist.net.



Here is another kind of orbweaver, which seems to be in genus Araneus.



I hope you remember that last blog we had discovered the lovely Humpbacked Orbweaver, one of the two green spiders that so far I've only seen in the dead of winter, and never in summer, spring or fall. Well, this week we spotted the "other green orbweaver", this one actually a long-jawed spider with a gorgeous green and yellow color, with a splash of red and eight tiny black eyes arranged in two rows of 4. Thursday in the late afternoon, this more usual brownish long-jawed spider less than an inch long counting the legs was on the wall of fame.



Did I just mention the humpbacked orbweaver? Well, tonight I found another one (maybe the same specimen we saw in the last blog).... Here it is upside down..Turning over...top view...



Sorry to say, that is just about it. In the past two weeks, the bugs have made themselves scarce. But a happy thought = all summer I looked for these beautiful spiders but never saw them. I had begun to think that there was something wrong with the environment - but now think that these spiders had spread out into the untrodden territory behind the shop. So think positively - take a look at the critters seen last January and February. That means, follow the link to 2016 and look at some of the blogs in January and February. Spring will come, and I'm hoping that most of our favorite bugs and spiders are alive out there, just gathering their strength for a full spring and summer 2017.
Love, Martha

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