Sunday, August 14, 2022

Long Legs

I spotted three long-legged insects this week. They all big enough to get noticed a lot, and two of them are frequently misidentified. The crane fly pictured here, for instance, is often mistaken for a giant mosquito. It's not. It's harmless.

The long-legged creature posing on the fading coneflower is an arachnid in the scientific order Opiliones.

It ia not a giant spider. It ia not venomous. Good news, right?
And last a well-known, well-liked, and never mistaken praying mantis looking leggy.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Green Flower

 

A green zinnia showing off nature's artistry. Click to enlarge.

 

An except about green things from Colors Passing Through Us by Marge Piercy

"Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles."

Sunday, July 31, 2022

On the Grapevine

 

Behold my concord grapevine in its summer glory. When I planted it last year it was a leafless and unpromising looking stick. This year it reached the top of its trellis. 

And it's making grapes for the first time!

And word apparently got out to the insect community about it. This appeared. It's a native North American insect that's commonly called a grapevine beetle. Although grape leaves are its main food, it's not considered very damaging.

It has that classic scarab beetle look.

As does the Japanese beetle, famous for eating everything, including grapevines, and is a well-known plant destroyer.

Here's a gang of Japanese beetles having a party on what's left of a hibiscus flower. They remind me of orcs. Note the couple copulating in the lower center of the shot.

Last and worst, there are lanternflies, a newly introduced insect problem. There are a lot of them trying to eat our grapevine. We're controlling them with handheld spray bottles of insecticidal soap. 
All four nymphal stages showed up on the grapevine in successive waves and now lots of adults like the one pictured here. 


Nevertheless, I am looking forward to reporting about homemade grape jelly in September.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Heat Wave


It was 100 F here yesterday. I took a short walk in a hot garden. As I stood looking at this zinnia, I noticed the sun casting shadows: the shadow of the yellow ring on the pink petals, the shadow of the petals on the darker flower behind. Click to enlarge.

And from my files -- vulture shadows.

A fly shadow. It seems to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of something.

 

And the sunflower's petals shading its face.

Here is a poem about the sun by Philip Larken: 

Solar

Suspended lion face
Spilling at the centre
Of an unfurnished sky
How still you stand,
And how unaided
Single stalkless flower
You pour unrecompensed.

The eye sees you
Simplified by distance
Into an origin,
Your petalled head of flames
Continuously exploding.
Heat is the echo of your
Gold.

Coined there among
Lonely horizontals
You exist openly.
Our needs hourly
Climb and return like angels.
Unclosing like a hand,
You give for ever.
 


 


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Look Underneath

 

Here's an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly with its wings spread. A lovely sight.

This is the moment to zoom in for a look under the wings at the butterfly’s body. Although the wings usually get all the praise, a butterfly's body is worth a look.

See. Snazzy stripes! Although humans don’t usually much like insect details, this might be an exception. Pretty, right? Click to enlarge. 


And it's not just tiger swallowtails. This spicebush swallowtail has  polka dots under there!

And the ever popular monarch? Polka dots again. I have a pair of pajamas like that.

So next time you are admiring a butterfly’s lovely wings — take a peek underneath. Here’s a black swallowtail — more polka dots.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Blue Dasher Dragonflies

 

Here is a lovely male blue dasher dragonfly. I just saw him by a pond in a suburban park near my house.You can recognize a male blue dasher by its bright blue abdomen, big green eyes and striped thorax (the middle body section where the wings and legs are attached). Click to enlarge.

I've heard male blue dashers called the peacocks of the dragonfly world!

Female blue dashers are not blue green-eyed beauties, but have instead longitudinal yellow stripes on the abdomen and red eyes.

Blue dasher dragonflies are common and abundant in the United States. They can be found near still water almost anywhere from Mexico through southern Canada. Look for them by a pond near you.