August 4, 2019

Martha O'Kennon

Fortunately the heat wave is still off, and it has been easier to go out to look for creatures and plants new or familiar. In the flower boxes out back, the Gazanias bloom and die off and then bloom again. Now there are two flowers on this one plant. In the front, the Tiger Lilies have a very few blooms, due to all the damage from those beautiful little bright red Lily Leaf beetles. I tried a very conservative method (picking them off one by one) of controlling them but it was obviously ineffective. These few blooms are just about IT. But in the flower bed leading from the front to the gate, some Phlox are blooming. Sometimes we call this plant Fall Phlox, and it really is one of the first flowers to bloom and a sign of approaching Autumn.

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.

As I was sitting watching the pond trying to regenerate itself after the attacks by raccoons, I noticed a large ant, in this case an Eastern Black Carpenter Ant, walking along very quickly carrying a green-eyed fly almost the size of the ant itself. It ran so quickly I couldn't follow it very far, but maybe its nest wasn't so far from where I was sitting. Those Carpenter Ants form a very large genus. Here's one with a red thorax scurrying along on the shop wall. Last is an image of three black ants running around in the grass in the north yard. I've no idea what they were doing or why they were tumbling over each other because they were running so fast.

There seemed to be a lot of kinds of Barklice this week. Old kinds included our old friend (MY oldest barklouse friend) Metylophorus novaescotiae; the Scaly-winged Barklouse, Echmepteryx hageni; and another old pal Polypsocus corruptus.

Here are some others. Number 1 looks a bit like P. corruptus, but look at its gorgeous black eyes. The others MAY be the same species or even the same individual, but the antennae on number 2 seem fluffier and its picture was taken in the later afternoon, unlike the third one, which was shot about noon.

Late in the afternoon (about 4:35 pm) on the 28th, These two beetles that look like other Lightning Beetles we have seen, were walking along (one walking, the other being dragged it seems). In picture 3, the dragger moves toward the undersid of the leaf and they separate. Picture 4 shows him coming back to ask what happened - was it something he said?

Here we have a Japanese Beetle, and next the damage it can do to a Wild Grape Leaf. Third, an Asian Lady Beetle, and finally, a black beetle that I found in my bedroom. I surely don't remember tracking it in!

The mystery is over. Last week's mystery, the tiny bird with the enormous voice, was identified by Dale Kennedy, Albion's own Troglodytologist, as a House Wren. For those really interested in how a tiny bird (Troglodytes - wren) has the same name as Pan troglodytes (the chimpanzee) and the human cave-dweller, the Greek is troglo- (a hole), and -dyte (goes in), so it's a creature that dives into a tiny hole (a cave entrance or a bird-house hole). So they don't carry around a big stick or fear technology... Funnily this morning on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, King Friday was singing a song to a fake wren on a stick and the first word was Troglodyte!

Since I didn't spot any Assassin Bugs this week, let's start with the Leafhoppers. Here is a nymph. You can see the spikes on the legs, so this is a Leafhopper by the best rule I've heard of for distinguishing them. The next two are the nymph of the Leafhopper Jikradia olitoria, the world's cutest baby bug.

This first leafhopper made me think of genus Scaphoideus, which is fairly common around here. Maybe it is but maybe not too. The next one is another of our favorites, the Candy-striper (red and green form). Third is probably not a leafhopper (spiky-legs rule fails), but looks a little like one.

No more leafhoppers, but here is a relative, the Spittle Bug. In fact this one is the Orchard Spittlebug. Second is the empty skin of some member of the family... Of course we all know this empty Cicada shell, the former home of another close relative of the 'hoppers.

Moving on to Treehoppers, here is one of our Two-mark Treehoppers, moving along from the Mother Tree to a younger Redbud sapling. Who knows where it will establish its next stronghold? Second seems to be an egg (or egg case, I don't know the difference for this kind of hopper) of the Two-mark Treehopper, and the third shows two more eggs at another locus. (The egg cases are on one of the saplings on which we saw our first nymphs of the season.)

Just a couple more bugs. First is a mystery to me. Second is one of the Stilt Bugs with their enormously long legs!

Shall we move alphabetically to Butterflies, Caterpillars, and Moths? I had a very lucky moment the other day. While tracking a little wasp who was flitting from place to place on the Snowberry bushes, I looked up to a leaf right at eye level and found that a Spicebush Swallowtail was using it as a resting place. It was so relaxed it let me get several shots at it. Here is the best. Here is a replay of the Tiger Swallowtail that I got with a macro lens (it was about 10 feet away and I don't know how to change lenses so there!) back in June. I don't have many big showy flowers that attract these gorgeous butterflies so these were very lucky shots indeed. Third is a black butterfly? moth? with white markings hiding from me in the shade.

This caterpillar? Swollen leaf? Gall? was on a goldenrod juncture. At first it resembled a fat green caterpillar but it was too much like the surface of the regular leaf. Was it really a swelling brought about by some creature from within? Did the leaf act like an octopus and change its texture? Is it Elephantiasis? Will we ever run out of Fall Webworms? Oh say, is that another precursor of Autumn? We have had scads of these hairy creatures this past few weeks. Last, here is that amazing White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, this time on the ground where I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't been chasing something else.

A mystery moth hides out in plain sight near foot level. Another landed on the shop wall near my face. I must be attractive to something! Last is a little moth (the Spindle Ermine Moth aka Yponomeuta cagnagella) clothed like Henry VIII in courtly Ermine. Let's hope it acts as nicely as it looks! The last one resembles one we've seen before but there are so many fine brown on beige patterns!

Now we swing to Crickets, Grasshoppers and Katydids. They are all coming into season now. Here (Images 1 and 2) is one of the Tree Crickets. It was sitting on a maple leaf about two feet from where I saw it last year. Last year it was identified as a Pine Tree Cricket. Let's see what happens as this one matures. I saw lots of kinds of grasshoppers - at least they all looked different to me but they all turned out to be genus Melanoplus, Spur-throated Grasshoppers. I liked this one best with its shocking green and orange dotted eyes.

More grasshoppers, but all Spur-throated (whatever that means), which form the genus Melanoplus.

Here we have the Common Whitetail Skimmer. And second, one of the Meadowhawks. I like the intelligent look on its face. In picture 3, the colors of the dragonfly are reflected in its wings.

Eggs are When I touched this rolled-up bit of leaf, an Earwig ran out. I wonder if the little creatures left inside are actually baby earwigs! The next two images are probably of spider egg cases.

Whose are the little eggs on stalks on this Redbud leaf? Whose eggs were opened on the underside of this Oak leaf? Maybe a kind of Bug? Last, a possible Theridion spider with her egg case.

The Pest Control people took away a raccoon a day for a week, and the pond already is beginning to heal. The fishes come to eat with no hesitation, and two days ago they were swimming around again mating. In fact, the mating dance went on for two days. We had already ascertained that the former Chico (now named Chica, she's the blue one with the red cheek - hence the name Cheeky which morphed into Chico) had become a female after the demise of the one big female fish Fanny. Picture 1 shows two of the little tortoiseshell red fishes chasing Chica closely, while picture 2 is a composite of the two red fish with Chica and other fish chasing one of the little black fish, who also seemed to be fulfilling the female role before. I hope that some of the baby fish will survive the smorgasbord.

Let's check out the flies. We saw a couple of variants on the block-printed design on Crane Flies. The second image is not so clear as the first but you can see some differences in the two patterns. The third fly is one of the Tiger Crane Flies with its distinctive thoracic pattern.

I think these two mating flies are some of the Gall Midges. (The male is the one hanging down from the other.) Third may also be a Gall Midge, but different from the first two.

These are some of the prettier flies I saw this week. (You know how I love teal.) The second one was very very small but its colors even show through the shadows. Number 3 was in a bit of shadow too - it's that stilt-legged fly from genus Rainieria.

This Asian Rock Pool Mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus) is the one I sometimes mistake for on of the genus Aedes. Fortunately it is harmless unless you feel possessive about your blood cells. The Moth Flies have been around for some weeks now. They are another group harmless to humans. Fly #3 looks like a Sarcophagus Fly, a "flesh eater", but that flesh refers to dead stuff left over after other raw flesh-eating creatures are sloppy with their left-overs. So here are three flies in a row that are both rather attractive and also harmless to humans.

We've pretty much reached the end of this week's Flies. This little one with a red abdomen and black and whitish thorax seems very elegant, as do the next two, especially the one with rainbow eyes.

Froggy has been here the longest I've ever had a Green Frog stay. In most other years the Frog of the Year vanishes a couple of months before this and then suddenly in the fall a new one appears. That one spends the winter and disappears in the spring, about the time the Toads come to breed. It's been a strange season in all ways. The baby Bullfrog is now very averse to my presence. Now the only chance I have to take its picture is from an upstairs window that I can't budge open. It seems to know that little click that means the kitchen door is opening and I can just see it jump off the Barley Bale that it enjoys sitting on. So this tiny picture will have to do for now. It does show that the tail is pretty much resorbed.

The Harvestmen are adults now. We had at least these color combos this week: black on whitish; brown on tan; and black on red.

I was really excited to see this amazing nymph of Something. Then surprised and a little disappointed to be reminded (by iNat) that this is really the larva of a Green Lacewing. Then salved when I went back to see how very many forms these larvae can take on (for different species). Finally, here is a typical Green Lacewing, one of the most exquisite insectivores in existence. They are hell on aphids, but so lovely to the casual observer.

I don't know why I turned over that leaf but the reward was this Scorpionfly. Remember a Scorpionfly is not a Fly! It belongs to a huge group called Winged and Once-winged Insects, which includes the Flies and almost every Insect you can think of. But it is NOT a FLY. It took me so long to stop labeling it "fly scorpion" etc... But I think I've got that straight now. I love their color, shape, and allusion. This snail comes to visit on the shop wall and then sits there. I'm not sure it's alive after a while but it's pretty so I leave it alone. Here's another on the ground on the East side of the shop. That's it for the S-words that don't include the word Spider. You know what that means!

I had finished photographing and was just wandering about yesterday enjoying the late afternoon coolth (what we call coolth these days). When I saw this big spider I had to go in, upstairs, grab camera and come back down. After one shot I got into a cold sweat. It looked to me like a Widow, and sure enough the Widows are at the top of its genus Steatoda (Combfoots). But both Matt and Rebecca said Steatoda borealis, a Northern Combfoot.

So we go on, assured that that big spider is not going to jump us. First, a Cellar Spider of genus Pholcus. Then a Common House Spider with a bigly Fly prey. And another.

This must be the Celebration of Crab Spiders. If you were to stand looking down upon the flower end (whenever that ever happens), you might see a whitish dot. And if you were to wait till that dot resolved itself a bit, you might realize that the dot was the abdomen of a tiny Crab Spider, and probably of genus Mecaphesa, which includes the Northern Crab Spider. Some of that genus are able to change their coloring to match the flower they find themselves standing on. Meanwhile, this spider is beginning to adopt a pinkish tint. Now this last one is pinkish but the arms don't seem to be held the way a Crab Spider holds its arms, especially its front two pairs, usually held together to mimic the claw of a real crab. What's an amateur to do?

Another warning - not all white dots are crab spider body parts. Here is an egg ball laid by some kind of spider, but not necessarily a Crabber. And here is the Common Candy-striped Spider, which we've seen so often lately. This gender is white, commonly with some tiny black dots. White enough to fool you or at least me. But shiny enough to keep us from seeing it as an egg ball.


Most of the Orbweavers we saw this week were either Cross Orbweavers or similar to Cross Orbweavers. Here are some of the "real ones". The first one shows the "cross" quite distinctly. The second image shows the spider extruding her egg sac, so this is a female. By the way, these three pictures are displayed backwards in time.

The next Cross Orbweaver is a male as you can see by the distinct pedipalps. The "cross" is much more distinct in this spider, and its color is different, more brown. The second image shows a Cross-like Orbweaver in the same position in which we saw the first female above. Image 3 was taken in the "bushier" section of the yard. The subject is an orbweaver but I can't tell what species it is. The pink background is my hand, which I had to place behind the subject to help focus. Oh dear, I almost forgot my pet Pirate Spider. It seems to have moved about a few feet per day or two. I love that face!

Our wasp collection was more diverse than usual. The first individual I labeled "Ichneumonid" even though it doesn't have an ovipositor, which it would have had if it were a female. So either it isn't Ichneumonid or it is a male. Are you confused too? (I tend to associate a black wasp with red legs as either Ichneumonid or Braconid.) The third image is obviously a female with a really long ovipositor. It also has a peculiar object by its left hind leg, apparently some kind of parasite. Anyone with information about that, please write to me. Thanks!

Here are a couple more wasps. The first one is a new one to me, but so is the second one (images 2 and 3).

This medium-sized black wasp seemed to be hunting for something in the rocks by the pond. Number 3 looks to me like the Common Aerial Yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria. This "aerial" seems to mean it makes its nest above ground, unlike most yellowjackets. And number 4 is the Bee Wolf, Philanthus gibbosus. The dead giveaway for this ID is the four dots around the back of the head.

What a week! It seemed to me to open more questions than it answered. We're still waiting for the next big season - the blooming of the goldenrod. Last year it happened just after mid-August, and actually still was showing some color in October. This is a time I look forward to because of the new kinds of creatures it brings. Let's refresh our palates and palettes too with some pictures of the beauty that surrounded us during the week.

Until next week, please take good care. This precious world is still spinning! And so are we!

Love, Martha

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2019