June 18, 2017

Martha O'Kennon

"This week was pretty comfortable. You could go outside and spend an hour and a half taking pictures and not get overheated or too tired to continue." Those were my very own words last week. This week was hot and humid. I still spent about an hour and a half at a time looking for the little strangers that wandered into the garden. Then I had to recuperate for another hour and a half cropping any pictures I got. My favorites this week: a lady in town found a lovely spider which she couldn't bear to look at so brought it by. It looked so pleased that we had spiderwort for it to enjoy sitting on in the sun. The woodsy nightshade is blooming already. I find the color and delicacy of the flowers to make up for the space it takes up, climbing the electric meter and anything else that looks viny. The first water lily bloomed on June 15 but since the end of the bud had been nipped off straight across by a raccoon, bird, whatever of our little neighborhood friends likes to invent geometrical designs, it meant the flower had neatly cropped petals.

The ants again were mostly incarnations of carpenter ants, but bees of all kinds, colors, and sizes are now flying about among the new pretty flowers I brought home last week. I bought a lovely book which purports to help the reader identify the bees of the neighborhood. Here are several views (the last one from the very pointy end) of one of the bees. I should start adding the size in milligrams because there are ones that look just alike (to me) but may differ by several milligrams or a centimeter or more. The last image is the rear view I promised you.

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. Or you can click on the image to get to the (usually) larger image. Then the info is displayed in the address line above.

The first one in this row is about the smallest bumble bee I've ever seen. That's what I said. But Adam Snyder on Researchgate pointed out that "It's a Robber Fly or Bee Mimic Fly. Laphria thoracica likely. You can tell pretty quickly by the shape of the head and position of the eyes." Yes, I should have focused on its big fly eyes. And it could be my imagination but it does seem to have some poor prey in its mouthparts. The next two images are of one bee in the goutweed.

This little sweet-faced bee (two images) was on the nice golden coneflower I got last week. The third image is of the bee that I thought was so pretty on the goutweed last week.

I haven't seen this Raspberry Cane Borer (Oberea perspicillata)for a couple of years. In this picture it was sitting right on a raspberry. I looked it up in the Bugguide database and believe it or not, it is far from its usual range. The lady that usually fields beetle pictures has said that she isn't interested in range maps. She usually will verify your guess and then frass (delete) your submission. So the first image is the raspberry cane borer. Next comes (I think) the Red-necked False Blister Beetle (Asclera ruficollis). The third one sat nervously testing its wings while keeping an eye on me. The nice shiny fourth image is awaiting identification.

This first beetle is a basswood leaf miner. I like the beaded look as well as the shades of purple and pink. Next are a pair of lily leaf beetles, in the shade so that their bright red is muted. Finally a Rhinocerus Beetle. Is it possible that it is missing the horn because it is a female?

I took this weird photo a few days ago, but in the process of cropping realized that there was just no way to ID the insect (or whatever it was). For a while I thought "spider", but it turned out upon much file-flipping to be the larva of one of the lady beetles. Then a couple of days ago, one of these things, which I thought must actually be a real beetle larva, came to sit on the shop wall for a little while. Given its colors, maybe it is actually the larva of the hideous photo #1. The "polished" lady beetles (picture 3) are distinguished by a curlicue pattern on their collars, like the "w" or "m" marking on the collar of the Asian Lady Beetles. Click on this picture to see a better shot from July 2016. But I have no clue what this brown beetle, (large when compared to the goutweed flower it was sitting on, except that its elytra (hard wings) look like slices of overbrowned French Toast (American version). December 7, 2020: it is Valgus canaliculatus.

This little beetle seems to be a weevil, but I couldn't get into position for focusing, especially on the head end. But this weevil I've had my eyes open to search for. In its earliest day or days, its snout is yellow like the rest of the body, but (last image) a couple of days later, the snout has turned dark and now the weevil looks a lot like a banana peel.

Finally we get to see the bugs! First up, a green (Zelus luridus) assassin bug shows off its bright red eyes and its raptorial arms - what strong grabbers they must be! I was especially lucky in finding two adults, both labeled "luridus" even though the black form was seen in the south front yard on the 13th while the greener form appeared on the 15th in the south back yard. I don't know how the actual species are discovered - both of these adults have red eyes (though the greener one's eyes are redder).

Another favorite - the white-margined burrowing bug showed up in several places this week. It was also one of the bugs that clung to the goutweed. Next is probably some kind of leafhopper or spittle bug, and the last I would say looks even more like a leafhopper.

More leafhopper candidates! The first one may or may not be a true leafhopper. The second one is a popular player these days, the 4-spotted Agallia. And the multicolored Candy-striped leafhopper will be a fond friend throughout the summer.

Before we leave the bugs, let's look at a couple of ones that I haven't been able to ID yet. This first one is just about the smallest creature I've photographed, and like the next one (They seem to be the same individual)is in striped patterns of dark and light pink. The third one was identified by Adam Snyder on Researchgate.net as the nymph of a Green Buffalo treehopper. Thanks Adam! Click on the picture to see an image of the adult from 2016. Number four is the Obscure Plant Bug, Plagiognathus obscurus.

The deptford pink was started from a packet of seeds sent here from my friend Mary-Ann Cateforis from Potsdam, N.Y. She still makes beautiful arrangements for hospice patients. This was the one of many tries at starting wildflowers from seed that survived and continues to be able to fend for itself.. Don't you love the blue feathery naughty bits in the center of a perfect little pink flower? Next: the raspberries are beginning to ripen up. I look forward to having a handful of raspberries each day till they finish blooming and for a while after that from the freezer. Last: a stand of spiderworts that has filled out from year to year and cheers me every day for a while with their shade of bluish purple.

Although I did spot a few tiny damselflies this week, this is the only photo I got of one. Click on it and you can see the real thing (Fragile Forktail - Ischnura posita male) from July 2015. Whether or not you admire earwigs, here is one snoozing in a bunch of lily leaves. And here is a quick shot of some of the pond's fishes.

On to the flies. This little grey one with the reddish eyes is new to me. Last year I found this black and white fly in the genus Anthomyia. These two golden blow flies seem to be saying "Hubba Hubba, baby!" as they do some kind of "get-acquainted" dance.

While we're on the subject of love among the flies, here are a couple of Chrysopilus quadratus flies, male and female in order. They are of course in the Snipe fly family, as is this next one, which is called the Ornate Snipe Fly.

The yellow and orange (tiger) crane flies were a pleasure to snap since they are ALWAYS in a lovely pose and will hold that pose for a long time. On the other hand, this orange one liked to dive under a nest of leaves to avoid the paparazzi. Here is that tiny hoverfly (Toxomerus geminatus) that is also quite reticent about being caught on "film", as we say.

Those beautifully iridescent tiny flies are known as "long-legged flies", when they could have been called any of a hundred more gorgeous names. In the last image you can see how beautiful they are even in the dark.

I still haven't ID'd this first one, but isn't it lovely? This next one may be another of those long-legged flies. The third fly may be another of those dung flies. (A gross name for a rather attractive fly!)

It is so hard to tell friend from foe, especially among the flies. This innocuous-looking fellow is actually a robber fly. Look at the tasty morsel it has caught now.

Let's see, we saw a male gasteruption a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I don't think I've seen another but lots of sightings of a female. For your viewing enjoyment, here's a female with an enormous ovipositor from exactly June 18, 2015!

Let's see if there are any other new sightings on the goutweed. Here's a reddish-orangeish mite. And here's another of those tiny potter wasps, Eumenes fraternus. The third wasp is Symmorphus canadensis, another tiny wasp but not on the goutweed in this image. We may have picked up most of the official goutweed visitors up to now.

But just to finish out the wasps (I know it's a bit early for them, but you have got to have some continuity.) Here's a tiny tiny greenish wasp. Also a blackish one, and also a red and black one. These are all probably ichneumon wasps.

We've had a steady stream of little orthopteran nymphs, especially the little katydids. First here is an unknown nymph, but next is a baby katydid. Finally, two baby katies on one baby petunia. They certainly make an inroad into the flower stuff.

We keep finding new jumping spiders, or at least they feel new. Their big bright eyes together with their very tasteful color patterns may just attract more attention...The first two here are jumpers, then comes a Common House Spider (they really are common) who has its work cut out for it. So much prey, so little time. And now the little grass spiders are becoming more common too.

Here again is the Orchard Orbweaver, growing and growing And another orbweaver I don't recognize. The third one reminded me of the stuff we used to make with macrame. And finally a Pirate spider, Mimetus puritanus, all or all but grown!

We can't leave out one tiny tiny spider. It ran about, camera-shy but I got it a few times. It was able to confuse me a few times as different parts came into view.

So that is it for this week. I can't believe how many new things show up every day. I'm only glad not to be their size, otherwise this blog wouldn't get written often. Best to everyone - and happy solstice really soon now!

PS! A pair of American toads came to the pond a few days ago. The male sang a bit. But I had made up my mind not to drag that heavy chickenwire netting out again. For some reason, and to my great surprise, they laid their eggs in very shallow water, quite a nice set of strands of eggs in gel. I moved the egg mass to the deeper part of the pond. I figured I had set something awful in motion, but the following morning I saw no dead toads anywhere.

I have been somewhat slow about working on the algae in the pond so as not to disturb the tadpoles. It isn't a nice clean pond this year. But somewhere down there are the oldest tadpoles, the later batch and the latest batch. Who knows what will happen? Let's hope we have at least a lot of baby toads to make up for some of the disappointments last year.

Love, Martha

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2017