June 9, 2019

Martha O'Kennon

Some new faces among the weeds: The Cranesbill Geraniums fill in between other plants. Horsetails, a plant with roots in the Carboniferous Era, spreads among the weeds and always fascinates me. But my special favorite of the month is the Goutweed, a vile ground cover that took over my yard when my neighbors cut down their big old Bur(r) Oak tree. A couple of years ago I discovered something amazing about the Goutweed: several little creatures I'd never seen anywhere else were attracted to it like a magnet.

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 never fail to surprise me. The Acrobats still love their job picking apart the seams on the peony bud. This one on the goutweed looks like one of the Odorous House Ants, at least by its long long gaster. And last we have one from the Formica genus in a raspberry flower. I love the evil look on its face as it tries to decide which part of the flower to attack first.

This little winged ant was identified as something in the genus Camponotus (Carpenter and Sugar Ants). Second is an ant of genus Myrmica, and probably is the Punctured Ant we saw last week on the Oak leaves. Third is a collection of ants on a goutweed cluster.

There are two Ant Stories that you might find interesting.

First, do you remember last year when we first heard about the Immigrant Pavement Ants? This first image was taken on an oak leaf on June 24, 2018, not too far from now but last year. I'd no idea why it was had the word "Pavement" or "Immigrant" in its name. One of its distinguishing marks is that square head. Well, the other day, I was walking back from my neighbor's yard to mine on the sidewalk. There was one place where ants were boiling out from between two blocks. I certainly couldn't see what kind of ants they were, but they were very busy doing something! I didn't see any winged ants of either gender, but ran home to get a chair. Came back with camera and chair and began pointing the camera at the busiest part of the crack. This second image shows a godzillion ants with square heads. Now we know where they got the word "pavement" in their name.

I took a bunch of photos and finally decided to put it into movie mode. It seems the ants (among other activities) were busy pushing a large weevil around. (Down the hole for a snack? Out of the hole to prevent danger to the nest from what seemed a very large bull in their china shop?) First up is the weevil and second a very short movie of the ants pushing it along. The loop starts with the weevil just right of center and it seems to move to the right.

The second big news involving ants actually is big news about what we used to call "thorn bugs", the thorn-shaped black treehoppers with two spots on their backs. They used to be easy to see on my big redbud tree but the colony must have moved up the tree so that I haven't seen an adult treehopper on it for a year or so. Now one of the annoying things about redbuds is that they tend to proliferate all over the yard. Well, the other day, while I was snapping any ants I could find (starting on the oak saplings, I suddenly spotted a couple or three ants about the size of a Small Honey Ant on one of the redbud saplings. When I was cropping these pictures an hour later, I could see that the ants were not alone. Picture 2 shows you what I saw: a couple of comparatively large ants, which resembled our new friends the Acrobat Ants, and mixed into the picture a number of greyish nymphs. Picture 3 is of an adult Two-mark Treehopper and a nymph of the same species taken on June 24, 2015. So I believe we have found our new colony, just a bit above my eye level, on a new tree. You may wonder why ants and nymphs are so often found together. Apparently the ants "tend" the nymphs, perhaps cleaning them. We do know that the nymphs secrete a sweet sap or "honey-dew", which ants love! Maybe in lapping up the syrup they perform the "clean-up" process. There is some kind of co-evolution going on here!

Bees! They keep saying the bees are getting scarce, but this week the goutweed and raspberry flowers seem to be attracting bees and lots of other kinds of creatures. Here are some of the visitors to the raspberry flowers. First is a kind of smaller bumble bee. I especially like the red blood bee. The third image is a mystery to me.

And here is just a taste of some of the bees on the goutweed. One with stripes, and one with a plain black abdomen. One with wider stripes. And one with iridescent wings and a dusting of pollen. Actually that last one might have been a wasp. We will see more wasps at the end of the alphabet. :-)

There were a few green or greenish bees, most of which were too fast for me to get a great picture of. Last year I suddenly got some good or better ones. This third picture is of a cuckoo wasp. It was the first time I'd ever had a chance to shoot one of them. I'd formerly only admired them as they flew past me! When you expand this picture by clicking twice on its image, you might (like me) be fooled into thinking that little thing on its back is some sort of other insect, but I think it is only a droplet of water! Oh dearie me, I just found another big bee. Some of you may chuckle at this since you may remember that sometimes a bee turns out to actually be a bee mimic, a fly that looks so much like a bee that a potential predator may back off. Its big fly eyes give it away!

There were plenty of beetles here this week too. Here's a black one with fancy red legs. The goutweed attracts several kinds of carpet beetles. This is called the Buffalo Carpet Beetle. Third is (guess what) an Asian Lady Beetle, and fourth is the Fourteen-Spotted Lady Beetle.

The Oulema Leaf Beetles are still going at it in the lilies and spiderwort. (Not this one). The second one is probably a kind of Soldier Beetle, and maybe a species of Lightning Beetle. This third iridescent green beetle was spotted by Sue and Dave Farley in Bratislava at a cafe. It was immediately identified on iNat as a Forest Caterpillar Hunter Beetle. One reason I like iNat is that it is an international community and there is usually someone who can at least help with identification.

This beetle, Valgus hemipterus, and a couple of others in the same genus are highly attracted to the goutweed. So is the Redbud Bruchid. This last Weevil visited the shop siding for the second day in a row.

Remember those baby Assassin Bugs that we'd been seeing for a couple of months (it seems)? Picture 1 shows one from May 25. Well, this week was the first time I've seen one of the adults. The next two images are (respectively) of one that appeared in the back yard and one that appeared in the front yard. They show some variation, don't they? That's natural (no pun intended).

This leafhopper is a Four-spotted Clover Leafhopper (Agallia quadripunctata). This is the first time we've seen this species this year, or is it? On May 26 I had seen this strange-looking thing dangling at the end of a spider line. It was identified as being in the subfamily Megophthalminae, but it took looking at a picture or two to see that it is the nymphal form of a leafhopper, and that that leafhopper is the Four-spotted Clover Leafhopper. See how very different the larva can be from the adult? Last is a new Plant Bug found in the Goutweed.

This very tiny orange bug was also found on the goutweed this week. It is so small it took three shots to do it justice.

We visited a small group of nymphal Two-mark Treehoppers on a Redbud sapling back in the Ant section. There are apparently 7 or 8 species which were originally able to live on different trees, and ours is definitely in the Redbud species. This next treehopper, Entylia carinata, has been observed on various plants too. In my yard it opts only for Thistle. I haven't seen any nymphs yet, but since there are a number of adults, I suppose the babies will be along sooner or later. Picture 2 shows part of a colony on a huge huge Thistle in 2015. Here we see a few adults and one awesome dragonlike nymph. Finally, picture 3 shows an ant attending an adult. I hear that ants also tend nymphs as they do in the Two-mark Treehoppers on Redbud, but I don't seem to have a photo of this practice in 5 years of observation.

I keep calling little green caterpillars (say "cutworms") "green cutworms", but always get shot down. This week I found this green caterpillar that looks a lot like the larva of a sawfly. Since nothing answered to the name of "green sawfly", I decided not to embarrass myself with this trick this time. I still think it looks a lot like the larva of a kind of sawfly but that species has a black head while the head of mine is orange. So MAYBE it IS a Sawfly caterpillar. My neighbor Deb dropped by with more presents from her elementary school nature collection. Picture 2 is of a LARGE Grey Tree Frog, which she released at the edge of the pond. And #3 is Froggy, our Green Frog, who is growing nicely into a healthy talkative adult frog. As we've discussed before, it is the males of the species that announces his presence with a clear "clump". If you don't answer, he will repeat himself. And if you DO answer, he will keep up the game for quite a while. He is feeling good, having survived the onslaught of the toad orgy. I'm waiting to see if he will eventually start calling for a female, but I've been waiting since 2014, the last time I can recall a male trilling for a mate.

Before heading into the flies, here is an Earwig, just waiting to see what we intend to do (Continue on to the flies!) All right, now to the flies! Picture 2 is some kind of Green Bottle, almost heavier than the goutweed cluster it's sitting on. Next is a Crane Fly, probably a Tiger Crane Fly.

This first fly with its shocking red head is called a Dance Fly. Its picture was taken at such an angle that the legs do not betray their plumes. Picture 2 was taken of this fly on June 9, 2016. That's what the legs are Supposed to look like. The third picture is a Lance Fly. I don't always make them rhyme but sometimes it just happens!

Here is a lovely Hover Fly (Eristalis transversa). And another (Helophilus fasciatus). According to the pictures in BG, I would have thought these two flies were males. And yet, it looked like they must have been females - they were flying around the pond, and doing what female flies do to lay their eggs - dip their tails into the water... Who knows? Maybe they were trading places somehow. I lost my glasses the other day. I'd been outside in the heat of day to take pictures and when I came in I headed for the sink to wash my face. When I got to my bedroom to change clothes, I didn't have my glasses. Three days later I reached for a long-sleeved shirt and found something clunky in the end of the sleeve. Anyway, that's what getting old does to you. Pictures 3 and 4 are the little tiny guys Toxomerus geminatus and T. marginatus.

First here is a neat little fly called Gymnosoma nudifrons. It's interesting that its Greek generic name Gymnosoma means something like "naked body", while its Latin specific name means "naked face". Whatever - as the youth say - the goutweed attracted it. The second fly, Minettia lupulina, is similarly attractive with its yellow abdomen, blue thorax, and red eyes. Third is another Bee Mimic, a fly whose big eyes give its disguise away.

Folks, clap your hands over the kiddies' eyes before this discussion: This pair of mystery flies seem to be doin' it standing sidewise. A new concept in fly romance! They may make Fungus Gnats a new synonym for Adult Movie Stars.

These are called the Picture-winged Flies. The first two were photographed near the Goutweed. I'm wondering if the third is a different species or just a different sex.

I love the bold red and black colors in these Rust Flies, probably Genus Loxocera. Picture 3: Snipe hunt, anyone? Last, this looks like an Aedes Mosquito, one of the bad boy look-alikes. I can tell you this, they have been vicious biters this summer. And scratching, as your mother told you, really really makes it worse.

I'm trying to take fewer Harvestmen pictures, especially since they don't change too much from day to day. Still, here's a pink one. A variegated black and white one. And a combination of these colors.

This yellow flower is on a plant that sowed itself last year in a big old pot. I thought it might be a nettle, but it doesn't tear into you like a nettle. I broke down and bought some annuals for the deck planters. They called this Gazania an annual but I'm not sure it will be reblooming. I never saw them rebloom in South Africa, their country of origin. The False Solomon's Seal has put out shoots of voluminous buds that will turn into bright red berries in the fall. The Bladder Campion is blooming now by the shop.

A few moths. This first one is a Faint-spotted Palthis. The second one is in the genus Apantesis, and is a kind of Tiger Moth. It had a bit of color when its wings were relaxed but then it covered up the color. The third is one I've had here before, but haven't got an ID yet.

I've taken a godzillion photos of spiders this week. Let me see if I can't winnow them down into a reasonable assortment. The first twenty-something are Common House Spiders. Then the other Cobweb Spiders, of which many of them are in the genus Theridion if you listen to my iNat friends Rachel and Matt. The next big division is the Crab Spiders, which are so many and so many shapes and sizes. The tiny Crab Spiders like to sit at a point of plant growth to see if they can't find a meal among the little bugs (leafhoppers, for example, and even smaller things). One of the most common is the Northern Crab Spider, as in image 2, where it graces the Goutweed. Image 3 is also a Crabber, but with a big round abdomen.

First here is another kind of Crab Spider, but with an elongated abdomen and so likely a Running Crab Spider. Second and third show one of the large heavy spiders - maybe a Ground Crab Spider - its femurs are nice and long, and so even though it doesn't have the stripe down its head it probably really is a Ground Crabber.

Let's look quickly at the Orbweavers. (An "orb" is a nice circular spiral weave.) My most common one is Leucauge venusta, the Orchard Orbweaver. They are starting to show up almost everywhere I set a foot. Most of them now have greener legs. Mangora placida, the Tuft-legged Orbweaver, has scattered itself around I think, since I don't have to step around it when I walk past the shop now.

Here's our old friend Naphrys pulex, that beautiful Jumping Spider. There are still so many spiders I don't recognize. Most of the unrecognizables are long (Sheet-web?) and dark colored. This last one is round and orange, but I still don't know who it is.

Let's get somewhat acquainted with some of the wasps that adorn our flowers looking for nectar, or stalking spiders. Yes, there are spider-hunting wasps, but just to make Nature more even, there are also wasp-hunting spiders! The wasps strike me as some of the most attractive creatures in the garden. Here's the Bald-faced Hornet, really a big Yellowjacket. The "bald" as in "bald-faced" really means having a lot of white on it. They make some of the most beautiful nests, with great curved waves going all around the nest. This small wasp (Number 2) is of the genus Ectemnius. The last one on this row is two or three inches long counting the ovipositor, and is an Ichneumonid Wasp.

Here's a new mystery wasp in the Goutweed. It has the wide head of a bee-mimicking wasp (an apoid wasp). The next little wasp may be of genus Ancistrocerus, and last but certainly not least, the Northern or Dark Paper wasps are still around. So far I've only seen females. The males will come end of July when the goldenrod is yellow.

Last week's mystery critter got a bit of discussion on iNat. Go to this PAGE to see what has been discussed.

Everyone, please enjoy what Nature has to offer. (Unless Nature is offering you more than you wanted it to.) Please be safe!

Love, Martha

Back to June 2, 2019

Forward to June 16, 2019

Back to main menu

copyright Martha O'Kennon 2019