April 2, 2023

Martha O'Kennon

Another up-and-down week here. A couple of sunny days. Last night though, while I was in Jackson, news came through that a big thunderstorm was coming. I left while it was still nominally light and took the back roads (the highway slowed to a crawl while I was going Jacksonward, and I pulled off at Spring Arbor to take the back roads.), fighting the bright lights of people who just leave them on all the way wherever they're going. Got home and indoors and heard the biggest BAM I've heard in a long time as lightning must have crashed right above the house! Today it snowed a bit in the midst of the rain. This is April Fool's Day all right!

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 again 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.

But several days were Winter Ant days. The first two Ants here are Winter Ants. But I do believe the third indistinct one is a coming-into-being Nearctic Ant! Even with all its fuzziness, the second segment looks a bit reddish! I haven't seen one of those since Fall!

Yes, there was one of those Western Honey Bees in this thicket of Purple Crocuses. But that is about all I saw this week in the way of Bees. Next is a slightly furry Beetle to add to the ones in the next row.

Now for the THREE Rove Beetles of the week. Our Beetle expert, @borisb, opines that this first one might be in genus Anotylus. The second he says is in tribe Athetini. The third one I haven't had the nerve to send in, as it is so fuzzy.

The Bugs are being a bit slow but we had at least two Leafhoppers this week: first our ever-faithful Erasmoneura vulnerata and then a member of genus Erythridula. And our ever-popular Eastern Boxelder Bug.

There was only one slightly possible Barklouse on the North Wall. This first thing slightly resembles one of those nymphs encrusted in substrate that we watched so eagerly last summer. The second I had thought might be a Barklouse until I cropped it and saw it wasn't. But it might be a Psylloid.

Which brings us to the Flies, the most difficult of all the Orders, due to the number of ones that are hard to distinguish. Another thing that makes this quest difficult is how very SMALL so many of the Flies are. The second fly in this section is actually a Non-biting Midge. I think I was thrown off with its WIP-inspired wings, and called it a Fungus Gnat. Third is another Non-biting Midge. I've learned that the stiff-looking antennae are most likely those of a very young Midge, not a fashion statement.

I think I've gone on enough about how much I love the Gall Wasps - at least some of them - because of their pretty antennae and the subtle coloring of their bodies. Well, this day I got a wonderful surprise. This pair are mating! That has been about the first of this activity for this spring. In case you don't remember these facts from previous blogs, among insects the males are far smaller than the females. If you were to come upon this scene, you might think the tiny version of the upper larger fly was a newborn baby one, but it is a mature male! Picture 2 has enough detail so that you can probably see that the eyes of the smaller (and lower) fly are quite large and round, and that for flies often says "male"!

A couple of days ago, I saw my first Mosquito of the season. Or was it? I asked my favorite Mosquito/Midge expert, Liam Wolfe, otherwise known as @ospr3y. He pointed out that this specimen had no proboscis (the poking device), and even male Mosquitoes have these. If they aren't wanting to draw blood from another animal, they still need to have a proboscis in order to drink nectar from flowers! So I was wrong - I still haven't seen a Mosquito this year. It will be soon enough! This is a Midge.

Here is a Muscid Fly with some prodigious spiky legs. It turns out to be a Root-Maggot Fly. The second Fly is a Blow Fly - actually it's a Black Blow Fly. Third is still a Mystery to me. It has many sharp spikes on its legs, and even its back hairs seem sharp.

Here is a delicate little Crane Fly. I guessed it was related to the tribe Limoniini, but a new friend Stephen Luk on iNat says it is Symplecta cana, a member of the Limoniid Crane Flies.

This creature seems to be some kind of a Moth, but which? Meanwhile, we still have Loopers almost every day. This one was seen near the East-North corner of the Shop. And the Third seems to be an Artistic rendering of yet another Looper.

How about a really short Flower Walk? Here's a still-lovely armful of Purple Crocus. White Crocus bloom by the gate. And in the front yard, little groups like this one of Striped and Purple grow, Every year more gloriously.

The Purple Hellebore is opening daily with more flowers and brighter color. Meanwhile the ONE flower of the White Hellebore is helping to keep Deer out of the yard. Third is a Hyacinth coming up through the ground.

The snowdrops are still blooming like crazy in clumps that grow wider yearly. This is just a sample. Next is a view of a part of the front garden. You can see the crocuses spread out with grape hyacinth leaves in between. Some lily-looking things are interspersed too. All of these bulbs have spread out from a few planted years ago.

Rounding the South-East corner of the Wall, you'll run into a lovely little patch of Squills. Picture 3 shows the grouping between the roots of the old Maple tree in front of the house.

Let's see the Spiders. A new one this week is the Common House Spider. We hadn't seen it since Fall, but it will soon be a daily sight. This one is a nice fat female. Soon we'll see a male -- it will look red all over when it's ready (get it?) to mate.

There were so many tiny little Spiders, some of which (or maybe all of which) are certainly Dwarf Spiders. Here's a black one with banded legs.

Here are some more little ones with solid color legs.

One kind of Dwarf Spider with a color pattern it's hard to forget is the genus Grammonota. They are marked with a gold on black pattern. The third one has a slightly less bright golden color. I believe there were at least two individuals out there yesterday.

This first one seems to be that same Lyric Orbweaver we've been following, the one with the Wasp larva on it. The next two are a repeat of the White-legged Running Crab Spider from a couple of weeks ago.

After a week or so of chasing Springtails, many of which are just above 1 millimeter in length, I managed to find one Elongate Springtail (picture 1) in the order Entomobryomorpha. It was such a fast little thing that I ended up taking a video of its running and then capturing one frame so that you get to see it better. Another Slender Springtail (picture 2) was identified as belonging to the genus Entomobrya. One little fellow of the subfamily Isotominae occupies picture 3. (I don't usually get to see the head stretched out like this.) The last picture is of an unidentified Springtail.

All the rest seem to be Willowsia nigramaculata. I spent a lot of time on my old lawn chair shooting at the bottom foot and a half of those blue steel siding panels on the woodshop. (Soon the Springtails will go into hiding until next Spring, and then I will have my Barklice to study every day.) These Springtails come in all sorts of colors but this week I saw mostly yellowish ones with the same black pattern.

The fishes were much more active today than yesterday. I would love to be able to feed them soon. Maybe it's time to put the new thermometer into the water. If it can come to a stable 55F I can begin feeding them. Anyway here they are today.

I meant to say a bit more about how wonderful it is to have Spring just about to some, when suddenly a strange sight appeared that I haven't seen in months. A VERY LARGE frog was sitting just at the edge of the pond under a large rock. This was my first view of my darling frogs since Fall. They do seem to have flourished down there - what were they eating? I started looking for other Frogs, and finally was rewarded with a second much smaller Frog. One of the fishes (Leopard by name) was sitting quietly (on the left) watching this new miracle! I'm not sure which of the little Frogs from last year was this size, the big one having grown so exorbitantly. I was going to hold back but I knew how excited you would be to know that Nature's way works SOMEHOW!

Maybe this was one of Nature's April Fool's tricks. It made my day if not my year! Somehow every time Spring brings those Frogs back to life above board, it makes me feel more fierce about our home. Come visit soon!

Love, Martha

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