June 16, 2019

Martha O'Kennon

Just as the bugs change faces every week, so do the plants. More strands of the beautiful blue baptisia open each day. The Bladder Campion only blooms on a couple of plants, both on the western side of the shop. I love its pure white and its somewhat ragged petals. Meanwhile, the single peony bud that we have watched for a few weeks being picked open by the ants is now open. What a color! June has been cooler than usual. I just ordered water lettuce yesterday as a place for any baby fish that escape their relatives to hide. The instructions say not to put it into the pond until the water is 65 F. I'm not sure it is. We will see how it is when the lettuces arrive.

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 ants are all over now, and it seems several distinct kinds that I don't recognize. But our new friends the Acrobats seem to be ubiquitous. They opened up the peony bud (here's the photo from last week). They are tending the treehopper nymphs in the Redbud saplings. Here are three babies. And here is an Acrobat on a Raspberry leaf.

I don't think this brown ant is just a figment of the lighting, and I have rarely seen a brown ant (except for the Pavement guys, who are dark brown). So it is something new for me. In the Goutweed I found the hairy ant in picture 2. And in another head of Goutweed was this big-bottomed ant.

Here is a return visit from Polypsocus corruptus, the barklouse we have seen many times but not too lately. Picture 2 shows an old favorite, Graphopsocus cruciatus, which I like to call the "Tiger Barklouse". In picture 3 is an enlarged view of an interesting nymph, which may or may not be one of these two barklice.

Bees are us. Whatever one might say about Goutweed, it is a wonderful place for pollinators passing through. I don't know anything blooming around now that attracts more bees than that "awful ground cover". I'm told that the face with the two vertical bars is a sign of one of the Mining Bees in the genus Andrena. This particular species has distinct white stripes on its black abdomen, and carries pollen in thick baskets on its arms.

Here's a mystery bee (pictures 1 and 2) with a long black butt. In picture 3 there's a different black-bottomed bee on a Raspberry flower.

See if you can recognize this bee before I tell you. What is peculiar about it? Could it be the shape of its eyes? It is. Those are the eyes of a fly that mimics a bee. This one is the Narcissus Bulb Fly.

Here is another amusing trompe l'oeil. This little wasp is actually a bee, called the Masked Bee. Its face does look as if it's covered with a yellow mask. Second is a greenish bee, not very well focused because the bee didn't feel like holding still. This third one has an evil-looking facial expression, doesn't it?

The goutweed is still attracting carpet beetles. This picture shows two variations on the Varied Carpet Beetle. Picture 2 shows another variation, more greyish. Third is the so-called Buffalo or Common Carpet Beetle, and fourth has a brighter red stripe. There is apparently a black species too, but I haven't seen it. According to Google, Orkin is very eager to come kill all your carpet beetles.

Here is a beautiful little beetle, probably a Studded Flea Beetle. The second one looks a bit like it, but I don't believe it is. It isn't studded, for one thing. Third is probably in the same genus (Paria) as the black-headed one from May 30. Fourth looks like many of the red beetles we've seen over the months.

We're still seeing the beetle Valgus hemipterus on the goutweed. But there are also a couple of little weevils that showed up this week. A beige one and a black one. A bluish-grey one.

A beautiful Green Immigrant Leaf Weevil, Polydrusus formosus. A bluish-black weevil. And a Redbud Bruchid.

On to the bugs! You may think this first one is a great example of how good the camera is at zooming in on a tiny bug, but this special Leaf-footed Bug, Acanthocephala terminalis, is HUGE in the bug world. I could see it up on the porch ceiling. Now I'm sure you remember this little Assassin Bug nymph (from last week) but this week I have been following several adults. Each of the next two has its own slight color variation but not to worry - they are all the same species.

I don't have an ID for this next bug, but we know it is a nymph of some bug - you can see the tiny wing buds started. The second bug is in the genus Neolygus. Third is the adult of those little red Mirid nymphs (picture 4 was from May 30).

Did we see any leafhoppers this week? Why yes, here is one, but in nymphal form. It is actually the nymph of one of the Candy-stripers. I was shocked when a colleague Shannon (@feistyone) on iNat ID'ed this second one as a nymph of one of my favorite Leafhopper groups, the genus Scaphoideus. Here is my favorite of that genus, taken in 2015. The thing I especially like about the Scaphoideus group is what looks like a fabric design of a stylized flower towards the back end of the bug. Picture 4 is another one I spotted a couple of days ago. It seems to be a fairly close relative (still a nymph) of the first Scaphoideus.

But last week's discovery of the little colony of treehopper nymphs being tended by ants has been a galvanizing force for me. I keep looking for new colonies and on the 14th I finally found two or three tiny groups, one at least on a different Redbud. So the little guys are establishing themselves. Picture 1 is of the original locus on the first redbud sapling. Next is a new sighting on possibly a different tree, and last is a reminder of what the adults will be looking like. One of the interesting (to me at least) facts is that I had gotten so interested in ants this year that it was the ant sighting that led to the discovery of the new treehopper loci. It's sort of like "follow the money" but with ants instead of money.

There were quite a few butterflies, moths, and caterpillars this week. One afternoon a Tiger Swallowtail flew across far above my head. This is standard for those strong-flying creatures. But luckily for me, it landed at eye level but at least 10 feet away from me. So I snapped (with my macro lens - I don't have a zoom) as I sneaked (snuk) a foot or two closer and was flabbergasted when I cropped those shots to see that the pictures were a lot better than I expected. Here's the Tiger. Next is a Carpet Moth called the White-striped Black that graced the shop siding, and finally a Pink-barred Pseudeustrotia Moth, also on the shop wall.

Here is a tiny moth that we've seen before. The second one I first thought was a barklouse because it was so small. Third is a Mourning Cloak caterpillar. I was about to grab the rail down from the deck and there was this beautiful caterpillar coming up to meet me! The last picture is of an adult Mourning Cloak Butterfly, taken in March 2015. Why was it out so early? Well, the Mourning Cloaks are funny butterflies - they hibernate but if the weather is a bit nicer they may suddenly come to life and then go back to sleep till spring really comes.

Coming around the corner of the shop, there was a tiny brilliant green damselfly. It is called a Sedge Sprite. What a treat! Then a very bright earwig, very near last week's. There were quite a few harvestmen around this week, but I'll only bore you with this one that seems just about to have achieved its adult colors.

Now the flies. They were plentiful and some very pretty. This first one is a Woodlouse Fly, which means it (or its larvae) eats pillbugs at some stage of development. Next, a crane fly, another creature that I love for its seemingly block-printed abstract repeating pattern. And lastly another crane fly, usually described as one of the Tiger Crane Flies.

Here's an interesting fly for you. It's called a Dance Fly, and its favorite food source is the March Flies, of which I haven't seen any lately. This is the female. Compare it with the male (next). When I saw it this spring, I doubted it was a Dance Fly, because it didn't have the feathery legs. Apparently the males don't. Third is a lovely little green-eyed fly, but the picture didn't pick up the green very well. It needs to be ID'ed, or as they say in the Midwest (some places around here), it needs ID'ed. Last is a fat little fruit fly.

It was a good week for Hover Flies. First is a male Eristalis transversa or Transverse Flower Fly. Second, a far-off (on the other side of the pond) Narrow-headed Marsh Fly (Helophilus fasciatus). Note: Helophilus means "sun-loving", and another species in this genus is already called a ... Sun Fly. Compare pictures 2 and 3. At first I thought image 3 was another Helophilus fasciatus, but it was different enough that I did some looking up and found it is from a closely related but different genus, Parhelophilus - its name is Parhelophilus laetus.

First up, one of those TINY hover flies. This is Toxomerus geminatus. Next, for comparison, is Toxomerus marginatus. Third is a very strange picture, though potentially of two T. marginatus based on the fuzzy view under the wings. It shows two very THIN hover flies mating. There are some things to notice in this picture. The female has bright red eyes, while the male has browner eyes. In many of the hover flies, you can tell the sex because the male is more likely to wear his eyes close together and the female to have widely-spaced eyes. This pair seem to have their eyes almost the same distance apart. It's all right - here is (last) a photo of two T. marginatus flies mating, and the eyes are like the ones in the present picture. Whew!

Here are a few long-legged flies, which are some of the most showy of the simple flies, due to the iridescence of their bodies. First is predominately copper-colored. Then there is a green one, and finally, my favorite - a brilliant blue!

Some odd flies. Not odd as in unusual, but scattered in genus or family. First up, a mosquito which may be of the Aedes genus(some of the real nasties belong to this genus). Then a Moth Fly, a Snipe Fly, and a tiny Robber Fly, first of the season of any genus.

Froggy was very vocal this week. Many times I heard him "galump" even when I couldn't see him. Here he is in the traditional frog pose - sitting on a lily pad. The fish have been more active, males chasing females and then everyone joining in the smorgasbord. But I haven't got any nice pictures of them. What I do have is this picture showing how big the toad tadpoles have gotten.


Here are some pillbug pics. Picture 1 seems to have two pillbugs mating. Look how different the two sexes are (if this is really a mating picture)! It was ID'ed as a Common Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare). And here I have been thinking that Pillbug and Woodlouse are the same thing! Maybe they still are! Last is our most common pillbug. Today it's raining and they are out in zillions, especially the really tiny ones.

I haven't wanted to talk about the robins after they lost one nest of babies this year already. But here is a picture of the four newest little ones last week. For days the mother and/or the father Robin has been going crazy every time I would walk out of the front door by the nest. I've carefully slipped past each day. But the painters have been working on the porch and they also have to sneak past the birds to get their work done. On Friday I was leaving for lunch when I noticed that there were no baby birds in the nest. The painters said that they had seen one fly out of the nest onto their truck and from there into the wild blue. When I mentioned this to my friend who keeps my house liveable, she said she had also seen one leave the nest. So apparently ALL the babies survived the predators who have been picking them off (three times last year). The babies were tiny on Thursday. Too tiny to fly, surely. But one of my friends says that she has seen baby robins who looked too small to fly leave the nest just like that. Have I been grieving all last year (three times) and once this year, mistakenly thinking the jays or starlings had got all the babies last year and last time this year when I just didn't know this fact about robins: their babies are tiny when they leave the nest! Maybe, just maybe. I don't mind at all being wrong.

Time for the spiders. I looked through the godzillions of spider pictures from last week and decided not to bore you to death as usual with the likely cobwebbers and just shoot for a few other genera/species that you might not have seen too many of. That leaves the crab spiders, the jumpers, the one Pirate (genus Mimetus) that lurks by the shop, and the couple of orbweavers we have been tracking as they grow. Here are two shots of one of the big Crabs (Xysticus, Bassaniana, etc). It doesn't have that nice dorsal stripe down its carapace (back of the head) that would have almost conclusively identified it as Xysticus - a Ground Crab Spider. So I'm caught on that. Last is that pretty little jumper, Naphrys pulex.

Here's our resident Pirate, which I'm now sure is Mimetus Puritanus because it's in the space occupied by M.puritanus. Trouble is, it's upside down and the part of the abdomen that ordinarily has a big white grin on it is tipped backwards so we can't see the grin. Sort of the inverse of the Cheshire Cat that loses everything EXCEPT the grin. The goutweed attracts many kinds of creatures. Here is a Northern Crab Spider looking for fun. The last picture is of another who has helped to weed out some of those little hover flies.

This is one of the mystery spiders - a hairy grey wonder. Second looks like the shape of a Cellar Spider but with a gorgeous pink marbleized color. Third looks like a sheetweb spider - its web certainly looks sheety - maybe something like a Bowl and Doily Spider?


Here are two shots of the Orchard Orbweaver, Leucauge venusta. The second was in a shady spot so is a bit hard to make out but that's our spider. We have been following it for a long time now and I think we will find a lot more of them in the various bug-filled places in the yard. Oh, I know I said I wouldn't bore you with any more common spiders, but this Common House Spider red male and his big black prey are so lovely together (even if that sounds inhumane) that I can't resist.

Here are some of the small wasps visible this past week. First, one of the Potter Wasps, Ancistrocerus adiabatus, with its happy face design showing this is a female. Eumenes fraternus, the Brotherly Potter Wasp, follows. Then the Northern (Dark) Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus.

Here are some of the Ichneumonid Wasps. They have the ovipositor leading out from the abdomen. One of the prettiest Ichneumonid Wasps, Lymeon orbus. Another with a red abdomen. And let me close out the wasp section with one of the most amazing Ichneumonids that come every year to visit the Goutweed - a Gasteruption! That is also the name of its genus. Maybe the first person to name it thought it looked as if its abdomen were erupting. Who would have believed such an ovipositor could exist?

As we wind down, let's look at some of the flowering plants we haven't seen much of yet. First, a couple of Spiderwort blossoms. Then, the first blooming Water Lily. And a cluster of Hawkweed.

We seem to have coasted to the end of a wet cool early spring week. I don't mind its not being horribly hot, not at all. I hope everyone is similarly comfortable with his/her environment. And especially I wish everyone all the good they can receive and cause.

Love, Martha

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2019