January 4, 2017

Martha O'Kennon

Man o Man o schewitz. It's Cold. I went to the post office today to mail off a present and the wind kept slamming the car door towards me. It was no mean feat to push it out a bit to get my feet onto the ground. Even though it hasn't frozen hard yet around here, it is trying to do it today. HOWEVER - since December 23, 2016, we have seen a few beasts out there. They must be trying to overwinter underneath the workshop, and all of them have been spotted clinging to the siding.

On December 26, this medium-sized brown Small Honey Ant AND this looooong Smaller Yellow Ant, Lasius claviger, were on opposite sides of the shop. Then on New Year's Day, this little black "ant" with the enormously fat abdomen was out there.

P.S. I got a partial identification last night from Bugguide. The fat black ant probably is really a kind of wingless adult Gall Wasp of one of these possible genera: Acraspis, Philonix, Phylloteras, or Trigonaspis.

We've had a few kinds of beetles/bugs. At this small size it's hard to tell which is which. The first one seems to have clubbed antennae, so I'm calling it a beetle. The next one is definitely a rove beetle, but also very small. The third picture is of a bug, the one I've not been able to pin down all fall. I'm wondering if the silver coating on the bug and the first beetle is due to moisture shining in the light. Sure it is, here's another shot without the silver.

This beautiful little bug nymph was found by Pippa, one of our newer readers. Thanks! It seems to be something like genus Thyanta, so it is probably related to the Green Stink Bug (second image), and its nymph (third image). Actually, these stink bugs go through several instars (phases) of nymph, and in the case of the Green Stinker, its nymphs go from red and black to green and black and finally to the gorgeous green adult.

On December 26, this Crane Fly was found sitting on the blue wall (the blue shop siding). It is the same as one that was hanging around out there way back in December - it could in fact be the same individual. The big Fungus Gnat is also a holdover. The larva (third image) was another of Pippa's finds. Is it a caterpillar (larva of butterfly or moth (or skipper)) or a beetle grub or something else?

We had a couple of frank mysteries (to me at least). This thing looks like something living - a casing for some other mystery? A bit of shiny chitin (bug skin and bones) might be telling us that the thing inside is alive and ready to come out or maybe resigned to rest for the winter. The second image is of the same individual. No clue what the third picture is of...

This wasp? sawfly? was out there on January 3rd - first time I've seen it lately. That and the ants and possible gall wasp are the sole representatives of the Hymenoptera so far.

This golden/copper spider was to be found last year at the southwest corner of the shop, and was there night after night in November, December (2015) and into January and possibly February (20160. It is called Misaurina pisa, a kind of nursery web spider. The second one I would have labeled as a cobweb spider because of its roundish abdomen. But when it turned, the abdomen stretched out so now I'm stymied again.

Now for the big surprise. Do you remember that last year a lovely lichen-colored green orbweaver showed up February, 2016 - last February. Well, on New Year's Day this year, another one was out there, and was still there in the same place on the 3rd. The odd thing is that I've never seen this spider in spring, summer or fall, but this is two winters in a row that it has visited us. How about that? It has a funny name, too, the Humpbacked Orbweaver, and this one is a male.

So we are now safely into the new year. Let's hope it is a nicer one than the past one. Keep looking for the bright and shiny little things - they are out there and just waiting for you to visit them. Happy New Year!

Love, Martha

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