January 14, 2018

Martha O'Kennon

Happy New Year, Everyone!

It surely does seem like a long time since the last blog of 2017, but at least we are going to try to put one out here in January, 2018. We went through a couple of weeks of near 32° F, which is 0° C, and then the temperature gods took some pity on us and we landed in a short thaw, which disappeared quickly. The fellow who shovels the snow off my driveway, sidewalk and car has already been here eight (8) times already! Going out to take pictures of bugs on the shop wall, there does seem to be some relationship. I'll tell you what we don't have: no butterflies, no grasshoppers, hardly anything bigger than 1-3 mm. I was about to say "no ants" but on January 11 I finally found a few of them and they were running like crazy. I was lucky to get an identifiable if not very sharp pictures of the usual little Carpenter Ants. And on the same day, we got a gall wasp or two. If these photos seem a bit fuzzy, I was having a tough time out there trying to take pictures without gloves! You know how that is!

We have finally also started to see beetles. This next one I can't identify to species, but at least we can tell it is one of those "Rove Beetles", a large group of beetles whose elytra (hard wings) seem to be cut off evenly and not cover the abdomen, including the soft wings, properly. We've had quite a few of them in the past few years, and I still haven't identified one to the end. These three images are of the same individual. If you look hard, you can see the soft wings.

Well, that old blue pond heater kicked slight butt (it is at least 3 years old, and that is about their maximum lifespan) but a neighborhood black cat could still find some soft water around the edge of the heater. Here he/she is drinking, looking at me, and looking around behind her as I close the upstairs window.

But 3 years is the limit for this poor old heater. Here you see the footprints in the snow, but that central hole is frozen over. I called up Tractor Supply, who have come through for me in the past, and surely enough, they had a new heater, which I snapped up. So in the next picture, you see the new green heater and the old blue one frozen under the water. It takes it a few hours to melt the snow around it well enough that it can settle down horizontally on the top of the water.

Nope. No bugs, no bees. But I'm going to place this Looper (an inch-worm) into the category of a caterpillar so that it can "legally" follow the cat. In alphabetical order, the next thing we get is a member of the fly order, this time a nice fat golden Fungus Gnat. It's such a juicy-looking animal, I'm betting it's a female. Look at those spiky joints.

Here is what is probably a good-sized egg case. I picked it up to see if it had any legs (no) and so am fairly certain it's the egg case of some mysterious creature. The next image seems to be of an unknown spider perhaps with some prey. The third picture is a mystery structure - poop? eggs? We can bet we'll be finding out in a while!

This is some kind of creature that was alive a month or more ago. It hasn't moved since. Second is one that looks so much like a living creature, but who knows what? The third seems to be an admixture of some plant fossil and some kinds of eggs along its stem.

This one has been here for some time. I still think it's a large spider egg case. We'll have to see. Here we are! A real spider. I think it looks like a jumping spider from its stance. The next image is taken from more of a frontal position.

This seems to be a new kind of spider.

Finally, a bit of a dead leaf with a gorgeous orange and brown pattern. Talk about finding beauty in small places.

We are now vested in this new year and stand in its mixture of snow, ice and mud. How can it not get better and better? Love to everyone and everything!

Love, Martha

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2017