March 20, 2022

Martha O'Kennon

Remember how I was whining last week about what a disappointing week it had been? Well, things have definitely improved this week. Each time I went out I saw something that I hadn't seen since last year! First off, the little spring plants were more and more cheery.

Our Snowdrops are once more blooming like crazy. And the Winter Aconites too. The Early light purple Crocus are just starting! And out front the tiny Orange Crocus are starting too.

Something amazing happened this week! The Ants came back! So far I've only seen the Winter Ants, which used to be called Small Honey Ants! Now the question is, if these Ants disappear in the Winter, why are they called Winter Ants? Picture 1 shows the very first one I saw this spring! You do realize that they didn't really leave for the Winter, don't you? They were down in the dirt under the woodshop all this time! But they didn't invite us in for a cuppa Mead, did they?

Maybe a quick look at the things I've been calling Barklice. The brown straw-ish structure that I've been following since October '21 has continued to evolve, and I'm thinking it probably is some other kind of creature (and not a barklouse). I'll try to fill in a few more steps. First is from November 1, 2021; then December 15, 2021; then December 25, 2021.

The next few go from January 5 to February 9 to March 15, all 2022. We can see how the original little brown structure has slowly fallen apart and opened up. I still can't see anything that looks like nymphs but there seem to be LOTS of individual little spheres.

On March 16, this little red Barklouse showed up on the South Wall. It bears some resemblance to Polypsocus corruptus, but I don't see any of the light and dark patterns we usually associate with this species, especially the females. It is an adult so somehow I've missed the nymphal stages. And I haven't seen this one since the 16th. But hey, it's a Barklouse!

A few days ago (March 15) I spotted this probable Barklouse egg case hatching. Too bad I forgot where this case was located. But today (March 20) I found the same case again. It had continued to hatch out more nymphs. In Picture 2 you can see what look like two nymphs (those wings look pretty long) on top of the case, and on the underside of it you can see hanging a red nymph. I don't think the reddish skull has anything to do with anything...

This first picture shows another bunch of eggs with its case splitting, although the contents seem not to be in a hurry to emerge. The others are similar egg cases, with even more sedate contents.

Good thing the Aconites wake up the Honey Bees for their first appearance here since last year. Each little bee looks very different from the others, but when I submitted several of them last week onto iNat, each one came back identified as the Western Honey Bee.

Beetles also starting showing up! Of course you expected the Asian Lady Beetles (picture 1). Then here is a Marsh Beetle. Third is a Rove Beetle (see the short wing covers), but I don't yet know which kind.

This first exotic Beetle is Omosita discoidea. Then you see the Redbud Bruchid. (A Bruchid is a tiny weevil that lives inside the seed pod of a Leguminous plant, and eats the seeds. Did you realize that since Redbuds have seed pods, they are Leguminous, just like beans. Third here is another view of the Redbud Bruchid.

Now here is a Beetle, the Eurasian Red-and-black Melyrid (Anthocomus equestris). Yesterday morning I saw it on my bedroom wall, a terrible picture. Then on the South Wall outside (equally bad), but finally last night I woke up and saw it running about on my arm. I managed to get it into a jar, and from there got quite a few decent pictures.

Bugs too! The Eastern Boxelder Bugs, which we saw aplenty in the fall, have reappeared. Picture 2 shows one with a withered wing, and I recall that we had a few of those in the fall. It made me ask myself if these Bugs overwinter as adults. My friend @kgrebennikov from iNat said, they do overwinter as adults, but not all of them are still alive in the spring. So we were lucky to find these guys.

Of course we have Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. This one was on the wall of my bathtub. Second is the first Leafhopper I was able to get a picture of this year. (There had been another tiny yellow one but it didn't let me sneak up on it.) This one is in the genus Erythridula.

I'll jump over the Fishes to first show you all the Flies that came to visit. This first big healthy Fly is a Cluster Fly. Second is a Midge (non-biting). Third seems to be a Muscoid Fly, meaning roughly resembling a House Fly.

Two mystery Flies. The second one is a Gall or a Forest Midge.

The Flies of genus Suillia are very common these days. I find their color and stance very attractive. They are fairly hard to identify, but I suspect number 3 is S. quinquepunctata (five-spotted).

This one (two shots) I believe to be in genus Trichocera.

There are a lot of loopers (Geometrid Moth larvae). They all look different, but I suspect that there are a lot of Geometrid Moths and they are all making larvae about now. Note: remember Geometrid= "earth measuring", our old favorite Inchworms.

Here are a few more mysteries. This one seems to be related to the Pillbugs. The second was found when I was raking the front beds, and seems to be something that enjoys rotting leaves.

This brings us to the Spiders. They appeared in great numbers and descriptions. Let's see some of the little ones first. This batch is some of the different appearances of the Orchard Orbweaver, Leucauge venusta, one of the great beauties of the summer. In the early spring, they take on many descriptions depending on which way you are looking at them. Picture 4 shows the adult!

There are a lot of dwarf spiders that are very DWARF indeed. One kind has a space in its abdomen where it seems to have a golden light shining through. These are the ones in genus Grammonota, like picture 1 here. Picture 2 is a dwarf, but NOT Grammonota.

A large genus of Crab Spiders is the Family Philodromidae. (You can see the component parts of this name - philo - to love - and drome - as in a hippodrome (horse racing).) All the Crab Spiders have their first and second legs much larger than the others, so that they seem to have big crab claws. The Running Crab Spiders are rather dainty compared to some of the other kinds of Crab Spiders. Picture 1 shows a Running Crab Spider. Then there are four classes of rather huge Crab Spiders: Bassaniana, Ozyptila, Xysticus - the Ground Crab Spiders, and another. I think picture 2 and picture 3 are examples of the "other" kind of large Crab Spiders. I confess, there is a lesson on Bug Guide talking about the rules for deciphering these large Crab Spiders, and if someone wants it I will try harder to find it again!

There is another kind of Crab Spider that looks a bit like the Running Crab Spider, but if you will stare at the face of this one, you might see something that sets it apart rather clearly from the RCS. That is, it seems to have a set of buck teeth on the front of its face. Now here is a bit of gossip from iNat. Someone apparently decided that each genus needs to have an easy Common Name and one of the name-inventors decided to call this group the Octopus Spiders. Actually since Octopus means "eight legs", that isn't such a good name for the group since ALL Spiders actually are born with eight legs.

Finally it isn't too hard to get pictures of our beloved fishes when the sun is right. If you will stare at this picture, you notice that about half of the fishes are black or brown inbred fish, but almost half are brightly colored, usually very pretty combinations of colors.

So we are waiting for the water temperature to rise to about 55 F before singing the foodies song, but the fishes already seem to have some interest in what that huge presence means up there in the air. The thermometer registered about 52 F this afternoon, but it is probably close to 55 (the thermometer's red stuff is sort of scattered into three longish stretches). Waiting through this long slow winter was not easy, and I suppose you all have a similar excitement brewing as the days become a bit longer and warmer. Wish me patience, and I wish you the same!

Love, Martha

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