May 12, 2019

Martha O'Kennon

The flowers are still changing the guard. These tiny peach-colored tulips live in the back yard, as do the Virginia Bluebells. The Epimedium's many many pale yellow petals border the Hellebores in the front yard and have just started blooming boldly.

The Redbud is blooming almost as fully as it can. That's what I see when I look out my east upstairs window in the mornings.

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. Sometimes the second click will actually display a different view of the original image.

The Week in Ants: I feel a bit less confident about identifying some of the ants running around on the shop siding. We definitely had some small honey ants (Picture 1). But then we had some that I thought would fit right in with the Smaller Carpenter Ants but had more red on their thoraces. Here is a confirmed Smaller Carpenter Ant (Picture 2) and (Picture 3) one of this week's.

But we had one newish kind of ant too. There was one shape I could NOT recognize so I sent it in to iNat and there @Stevenw12339 and @peterslingsby identified it as a generic Camponotus ant, also called Carpenter and Sugar Ant. In other words, all the Carpenter Ants (including the sugar-lovers) are in the genus Camponotus. This one looks too small to be the one that gets into the sugar bowl. (Am I the only one who has these in the summer?) Picture 1 shows this ant with no props. In the next image, the ant is dragging along the leg of some other arthropod (a creature with joints). Don't you hate having to drag your groceries into the house? And in the last frame, the ant is WINGED! I don't know if it is a winged male or a queen.....

Two bees: I was wandering along looking at the front yard flowers when I managed to drop a paper towel that I had had in my pocket onto the ground. Immediately this cute little bee dropped onto it and looked so comfortable that I thought it might have thought this was a nice blanket for bees. It turned out that this bee is called the Neighborly Mining Bee (Andrena vicina). What a perfect name! The second bee I don't know yet.

Many beetles! These first two seem to be two different kinds of Click Beetles. The third is another kind of beetle.

The first beetle here seems to be decorated with tiny black beads. I like the red rims on its "shoulders". But so far nobody has tried to identify it. Second is Notoxus desertus, one we saw a week or two back. And the third is a so-called Sap-feeding Beetle (family Nitidulidae).

This little Flea Beetle seems to have some maroon mixed with its black shiny coating. The last two are Weevils, but one is in Subfamily Conoderinae and the other tiny black one looks more like the ones we've called genus Anthomus.

The number of Bugs is also starting to expand. Here is one of my favorites: an Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus. (Note: here "luridus" doesn't mean "lurid" as we use it today, but just means "green" even though the Green takes on many colors and patterns on its trip from nymph - like this one - to adult. One thing you can count on is that its eyes will always be RED. Click twice to enlarge the eyes.) Second here is our old friend, the leafhopper Erasmoneura vulnerata; and third is the familiar Erythridula vulnerata. The pattern of this leafhopper comes in shades from red to orange to yellow.

The genus Erythroneura contains leafhoppers with several major patterns, which come in various colors like the Erythridula above. The first one here is quite yellow on white, while the second is true red on white. Third is also in genus Erythroneura but with its yellow on white pattern overlaid with three brownish girdles.

Last week I had a beetle that I'd identified wrongly as a White-margined Burrowing Bug. This week the real thing! That's it for the bugs. But here is another orphan picture. This may be a Bagworm. At any rate, the "worm" (really a moth larva) has poked itself out the hole in the top of the bag and seems to be looking around out in the big world.

There were a couple of large Crane Flies this week. The second was very high up on the shop siding but was sitting very still so I managed to capture it digitally!

The flies in general were much more varied and interesting this week than last. First is a tiny Moth Fly, a fly that mimics a moth. Look how much the individual scales on this "moth" look like feathers. Second looks like a Root-Maggot Fly. The last one was identified on iNat as a Tachinid Fly.

This fly was a mystery to me too. But isn't it bold and colorful? The second one is also a mystery. The third one gets the prize this week for the Fattest! And the fourth might be a midge that we have seen lately.

As I was preparing the fly section of this blog, I went out to see if there was anything interesting or pretty to include in this week's collection. There on the siding was a lovely still sleepy Hover Fly of the genus Eupeodes. I believe it is probably Eupeodes americanus. (That is one that has graced our presence before.) In picture 4, look how thin its abdomen is. It is a female as seen by observing how far apart her eyes are.

A few flowers couldn't hurt.. The forget-me-nots are already in full bloom. The Solomon's Seal seems to come out every year just as the hummingbirds are arriving. They enjoy the nectar from the down-hanging little bells. So even if I'm indoors I know that they are out there. My neighbor can see them and will often phone to tell me they're here. This tall yellow tulip with its green edges lives in the back yard - there are only two of them and they always surprise me!

The other day I went out to check on Mother Robin. She was missing - my heart sank. But just then whoosh - she landed in her nest perfectly and was quickly feeding three babies. Here she is keeping them warm as they look around to see what this world is about. I'm not sure how she can stand to have her nest right where the front door swings open as I walk in and out, usually not remembering what a precious family is living right there.

Before we barrel right into the spiders, here are a few more exotic creatures. First is a brown lacewing. Next is something I was terribly excited to see. I had no idea what it was - it had this weird face that looked as if it had been clamped flat. It turned out to be a Flat-headed Psyllid (Livia vernalis) and that there hadn't been any other ones reported in iNat up till now. (A few have shown up in Bugguide.Net.) Usually Michigan is one of the last places to have things reported - this time we are first! It was lucky that I saw it at all. It was on the shop wall and then a half-hour later it wasn't.

Remember last week when we had found a few Globular Springtails on the ground near the Small Honey Ant hill? This week one showed up on the shop wall. Yesterday a red dot on the wall about a half-millimeter across turned out to resemble something living. I've no idea if it is a living being or a piece of very attractive dust. Last picture: this little moth is in the subfamily Lithocolletinae of Leaf Blotch Miner Moths. In other words, their larvae tunnel about INSIDE the leaves of vulnerable plants.

The spiders continue to surprise me. There were plenty of Common House Spiders - growing bigger and bigger. Many times I can tell them from any other kind just by looking at them.

That cobweb spider (Picture 1) we've been watching may in fact be turning into a Common House Spider, but there are many such Theridions. Matt and Rebecca both identified Picture 2 as a Theridion. The Sheetweb and Dwarf Spiders just keep coming too, especially this little Dwarf (Picture 3) of genus Grammonota..

My very favorite Jumping Spider, Naphryx pulex, looks extremely gravid. And the Orchard Orbweaver has more than doubled in size from .5 mm to 2 mm. The third spider, a Ground Crab spider, is so lovely.. It satisfies all the checkpoints to be a Ground Crab by having a thick stripe on its head, by its head getting flatter as we get closer to the abdomen, and by having its femur (the long part of the leg that joins to the thorax) at least 4 times as long as it is wide. These criteria are to be found in BG.

While we're on the subject of Crab Spiders (any member of the superfamily Thomisidea), Here are three members of genus Philodromus of the subfamily Philodromidae (Running Crab Spiders). I had thought all the Running Crabs had long abdomens, but guess what!

This colorful creature is a Thin-legged Wolf Spider, genus Pardosa. It had leapt to the ground as I was approaching it and seemed to blend in so well I couldn't see much of the spider itself. So I cut out its picture and mounted it on some black velvet to see if it would be easier to get a view of. Anyway, Matt spotted it as the Wolfie it is.

That was about it for the spiders. I thought you might like to see a few of the many primroses that line my sidewalk and are in full bloom suddenly and for only a short time. One of the things I love about them are how dormant they go and then how abruptly their leaves begin to fill out and their glorious flowers open one by one and then stay for a week or two. Here is a portrait of the strip on May 3, 2016. They are cuddled among the Pulmonaria, Forget-me-nots, Epimedium, and a Dandelion or two.

Here are some of the individual colors. First is an odd couple. Somehow when I was splitting plants a couple of years ago, I managed to pot two different colors together. I've just separated them for next year. The second is either an old variety or a new one. It's called a Lace Primrose because of the details of the face pattern. Third is a very old one, perhaps an antique variety. It was brought to Albion by the mother, Elizabeth Howe Lincoln, of one of my friends, along with a few other colors. Most of the other colors have died out so this is the sole survivor. I've had such pleasure from these primroses!

Do you remember back on May 1st, on a warm humid afternoon, that this little male American Toad appeared in the pond? I was very much excited by his appearance since that is usually the start of a night of singing and Toad sex. But a couple of hours after he showed up the weather turned stiffly cooler and nothing developed. The morning after, Toadsy was gone, and Froggy, who had waited in the other end of the pond for what he expected to be a very long and noisy evening followed by many quiet pairs of Toads beginning their individual trysts and the laying of strands of eggs. Picture 2 shows Froggy on May 6. The other concomitant event to the beginning of the Day of Love is the sudden sight of a Grey Tree Frog tucked into the brickwork of the front porch, and that Frog showed up on May 2nd, the day after Toadsy came by to check the facilities. As of yesterday, May 11, he/she is still right there, still waiting for the singing to begin. Maybe this coming week!

Speaking of the pond, I have some sad news. I've mentioned from time to time what happened back in 2012, when a curious raccoon pulled on the tubing for a pump that sent water from the pond through an aerator (a stream of water to splash into the pond and promote oxygenation). He/she managed to pull the tubing out so that all the water was removed from the pond, killing all the fish overnight. I cleaned up the pond as best I could and a week or two later bought a couple of new fish. The new fish disappeared quickly and in only a couple of hours reappeared - with one of the original fishes, Pinky, a white fish with a lot of bright red spots, the sole survivor. There must have been an inch or more of water left behind after the catastrophy. Here is a picture of Pinky on April 15th of this year. He had gotten quite large, and I figure if he survived the catastrophe in 2012, he was probably at least a year old at that time, so he must have reached the great age of 8 years, very good for a goldfish! Koi can apparently live even longer, but still... Anyway, I was netting trash from the bottom of the pond a day or two ago, and up came a fish still taking a sporadic breath. I put him gently into a pan of water and he seemed to die gently. He had even outlived the big female Fanny, whom I'd bought soon after all the other fishes died in the Event. Meanwhile, the water lily leaves have begun to cover the pond and I'm sure there will be some flower buds coming up fairly soon. Oh! there is another picture of Pinky in this last photo.

Well, it was a long short week but from time to time very exciting. I hope you all are able to get out into YOUR garden or elsewhere in your imagination. Maybe your photo albums hold a lot of good memories, and maybe your friends do too.

Love, Martha

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