Friday, June 29, 2007

Funereal Duskywing

Funereal Duskywing - Erynnis funeralis

A fairly somber looking butterfly with an equally somber name. These are primarily found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. They are uncommon in Arkansas, but this one was nectaring on the slender mountain mint out behind the garden.

ID Source: Butterflies and Moths of NA

Plant Bug (Mirid)

Plant Bug (Mirid) - Polymerus sp.

We may often call all insects "bugs", but this one really is a true bug, a plant bug. It has a probe that it inserts into plants and sucks out the juices. While that's not particularly good for the plant, it's seldom a real problem unless you get a heavy infestation.

Source: BugGuide

Thursday, 6/28/07

Butterflies: There are lots of butterflies around these days, just waiting to have their photos taken. Now...... If only all those little skippers and hairstreaks wore name tags so I could tell them apart and get them accurately identified.

Cucumbers: The first of the season are ready to harvest. Last year we didn't get a single cuke out of the garden, but that was my fault. The plants were up and doing well. Jo had put some fabric row cover on the squash to let them get a good start protected from the squash bugs. The squash did fine with the row cover over them until they began blooming. Then, the cover had to be removed so they could get pollinated. I asked her to put some fabric row cover over the cucumbers too. She did. The cukes baked to death in one day. Live and learn, I reckon -- and learn to live without cucumbers.

Corn: The corn is doing well inside its wire tunnel, safe and protected from the cottontails -- and I'm still keeping my figures crossed that the rabbits don't find a way into our makeshift enclosure.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gray Pedaltail

Gray Petaltail Dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi)

A gray dragonfly with clear wings perched on lichens and tree bark doesn't make for the most dramatic of nature photos, but at least the Pipevine Swallowtail it's having for lunch shows up well.

ID Source: BugGuide

Wednesday, 6/27/07

Very little rain fell today, only .15 of an inch -- just enough to cut Jo's morning walk with the dogs short. There were several times during the day that it looked as if it might rain but didn't. We are right on the very edge of the weather system that's dumping so much rain on north central Texas and Oklahoma.

Jo picked green beans, but only got a little over three pounds today. Production is obviously winding down dramatically. There are very few blooms or small beans left on the plants in the garden, and the rabbits seem to have escalated their attack. They're not just coming into the garden and nibbling; a couple of cottontails seem to have taken up residence in the bean bed. I chase them out every time I go out to the garden, but they return. Still, Jo's managed to get 29 quarts of green beans into the deep freeze. That's a lot better than we've done in several years.

I cleaned a bunch of leaves out from under our north porch, shredded them with the lawnmower and applied them as mulch in the garden, plus some bed edging and weeding.

The newly emerging corn survived the night thanks to the wire enclosures Jo and I rigged. Those wire tunnels are a nuisance, but they get the job done.


Delta Flower Scarab

Delta Flower Scarab (Trigonopeltastes delta)

This has got to be one of the most colorful and distinctive beetles around. I found this one feeding on some slender mountain mint behind the garden. Because they have little economic importance (i. e. they neither destroy crops nor cause disease), not all that much is known about Delta Flower Scarabs. The adults feed on flower nectar and pollen. Larvae of this family live in decaying wood.

Source: BugGuide

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tuesday, 6/26/07


Thundershowers around off and on all day. We received a light shower early this morning and some heavier rainfall a little before noon. It looked as if another shower was heading our way during the late afternoon, but it went around. All totaled, we only received .4" of rain. More rain is in our forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, an 80% chance, they say. We'll see.


Electric Fence: I used the Weedeater to trim the grass under the electric fence so that it wouldn't touch the bottom wire and ground out the fence. When I trim under the electric fence, I really scalp the vegetation down to bare ground, hoping that it will give up and not grow back. No such luck, though. Were I to accidentally scalp another spot in the yard that badly, the grass/weeds would surely die, but not under that bottom wire. It always grows back.

Corn: The third planting Jo did toward the end of last week is sprouting well. However, the cottontails have been thick in the garden and we figured those tender, young shoots didn't stand much of a chance of not becoming rabbit food. But...... Jo came up with an idea. We had a few welded wire hoops that weren't in use elsewhere. There were two problems with using those hoops on the corn, though. For one thing, we didn't have enough to cover the two corn beds. Also, the mess on those hoops is 2" X 4". A rabbit can get through a hole that big with no problems.

Jo's idea was to use the welded wire tunnels that we had for support and then stretch chicken wire along the length of the beds. We also had 1" mess chicken wire cut to the length of the beds on hand because that's what I use to cover the beds after I get them heavily mulched in the fall. We have to use the chicken wire to keep the armadillos from tilling in the newly applied mulch.

So we installed the welded wire tunnels and rolled the chicken wire out over the top of them. It looks as if this system ought to keep the rabbits out of the corn. If it doesn't work, I'll always think it should have.

This is a temporary installation that will only stay on long enough for the corn to get a little bit of height. Still, I hate having covering the corn with wire. Weeding, mulching, bed edging or even mowing up close to the bed is impossible with the wire in place. If you need to do any of those chores, you need to add about 45 minutes to your time allotted to the project just to get the wire off and then re-installed.

I'll bet the mythical Farmer Brown didn't have so much trouble getting a few ears of sweet corn. Of course, Farmer Brown probably had at least a couple of outside dogs and/or shot every rabbit he saw.

Squash: We had a nice squash vine growing out of the compost pile so I decided leave it and let it grow.

Leaving the squash plant to grow is a mistake. I know I'll regret that decision. The plant will continue growing and growing, taking up more and more space. Soon we won't even be able to get to our compost pile. But this squash plant was so much farther along than what we've recently planted in the garden, I just couldn't bring myself to do away with it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Two Perspectives on a Moth

Polyphemus Moth - Antheraea polyphemus

This Polyphemus moth showed up under our porch light a couple of weeks ago. At first, it insisted upon keeping its wings folded. I took a few photos, but kept hoping it would unfold its wings so I could get a few shots of those cool eye spots. With a wingspan of around 4", the Polyphemus is the largest, and in some ways most impressive, moth in our neck of the woods. I wanted to take some photos showing all of it's features.

On my next trip outside, my wish had been granted. The polyphemus was down on the porch deck with open wings. However, the open wings revealed a moth that had been around for a while. They were faded, scratched and tattered. "So what?" thought I. It's still a grand moth and deserves to have its picture taken, a visual metaphor for faded glory, perhaps.

On a still later trip to see what insects the porch light had attracted, I found that the nesting phoebe with whom we're currently sharing the porch wasn't into metaphors. To her the polyphemus was a concrete example of a super-sized chunk of protein.

That's life in the food chain, I reckon.

More information on Polyphemus Moths at BugGuide.

More Veggies

Cauliflower and Cabbage

Jo harvested our first cauliflower and cabbage of the season on Sunday, and picked another twelve pounds of green beens. She fixed the cauliflower and cabbage for supper, the cabbage with some link sausage and the cauliflower with cheese and macaroni. We also got the beans snapped so Jo can get them in the freezer tomorrow.

Saturday we received a little more rain, another .7". It took all afternoon and a half dozen little thundershowers to produce the rain, but any rain as we head into the heat of the summer is welcome.

Mr. Macho Bird

Summer Tanager

We've had a pair of summer tanagers nesting near the house for a while now. I really didn't keep up with when I first saw them, but at this point their chicks have hatched and are probably getting close to fledging. However, just a couple of days ago, the male tanager suddenly discovered the mirrors on an old car parked nearby. Throughout most of a day, all he wanted to do was fight with this rival for his territory. I finally draped some rags over the mirrors so he wouldn't waste so much energy in combat with himself. He's got a family to feed.

The draped mirrors have put and end to most of the fighting, though I have noticed him sitting on the mirror brackets several times. I reckon he's just waiting for his opponent to emerge from under the cloth. The male tanager has also had several quick bouts with his reflection in the house windows. That reflection doesn't seem sharp enough to keep him interested for long -- just long enough to get our dogs upset about the bird that's attacking our house.

I really have no idea why the male tanager has suddenly become so territorial.

Striped Lynx Spider

Striped Lynx Spider - Oxyopes salticus - Male

These little spiders do not build webs. Instead, they rely on their speed and agility to catch prey. Hence, the family name "Lynx". They may be quick and agile, but don't even come close to reminding me of a lynx.

More info at BugGuide.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Syrphid Fly

Syrphid Fly - Toxomerus marginatus

These are some of the smallest (3/16" or so) of a group of flies often called Hover Flies. They feed on nectar and pollen and, with their black and yellow markings, seek to mimic bees or wasps. However, syrphid flies cannot sting.

Syrphid flies are generally consider beneficial because the adults are pollinators and their larvae are voracious consumers of aphids, thrips and small caterpillars.

Source: BugGuide

Black Widow Spider

Northern Black Widow - Latrodectus variolus

The other day on our afternoon walk with the dogs, I ventured off into the weeds at the side of the road while trying to chase down an insect. When I returned, Jo noticed this black widow crawling up my sock. Around the house I usually wear cutoff jeans, sneakers and over-the-calf socks. It's quite a fashion statement, but the high socks help protect my lower legs from bugs and brambles since I'm prone to wandering off into the weeds with our camera.

Jo used a rock to brush the spider off my leg before she crawled up my leg and into the cutoffs. (There's never a stick around when you need it, but we've got plenty of handy rocks.) If the black widow had gotten trapped between me and my cutoffs, I'd probably have gotten bitten, an event not likely to be life threatening, but painful enough to avoid. Once we got the spider back onto the ground, I took some photos.

Unfortunately, I failed to flip the spider over and get a shot of her abdomen. That's where the "hourglass" design that signifies a black widow is located. In a Southern Black Widow, the two halves are connected; in a Northern species they are not. One of the people at BugGuide who specializes in spider said he thought this one was a Northern species.

Another feature that identifies this spider as a black widow is that the third pair of legs is short. They have combs at the end and the spider uses there for wrapping webbing around her prey.

Incidently, the old wives tales about a black widow eating her mate is only partially true. Yes, black widows do sometimes eat their mate, but getting eaten is an occupational hazard for male spiders of many different species.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Indian Hemp

Indian-hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Other common names include Dogbane and Hemp Dogbane. Native to the U.S.

The strong, erect, purplish stem of Indian-hemp rises 3-4 ft., with branches ascending from the upper part. Long oval leaves often have a white coating or bloom as found on plums. Small cream-colored flowers are clustered at branch ends or on stalks from leaf axils. Tufted seeds form in spindle-shaped pods.

A. cannabinum is used as "Hemp", made from the twisted fibers of the plant.

Habitat - Open woods, pastures, waste ground, disturbed sites, wooded slopes, roadsides, railroads.

LBJ Wildflower Center
Missouri Plants


Friday, June 22, 2007


Tickseed (Coreopsis palmata)

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden: Easily grown in dry to medium wet, well-drained soil in full sun. Thrives in poor, sandy or rocky soils with good drainage. Tolerant of heat, humidity and drought. Spreads by rhizomes and self-seeding, and in optimum growing conditions will naturalize to form large colonies.

There is a patch of tickseed growing at the top of the first hill along our road out. That spot definitely qualifies as open and rocky.

Plants in the genus coreopsis are often commonly called tickseed in reference to the resemblance of the seeds to ticks.

(A couple of Tumbling Flower Beetles included at no extra charge.)

See also: Missouri Plants

Garden Update

Corn: Jo bought some fresh seed on her trip to town Wednesday and replanted the corn for the third time Thursday afternoon. The third time had better be the charm -- or else, we're going to be getting our corn from the Jolly Green Giant.

Green Beans: Jo (and the dogs) did the first big picking Wednesday afternoon. They picked 18 and a half pounds. That evening, Jo and I snapped them all. (The dogs claimed that not having and opposed thumb made it impossible for them to help with the snapping.) Thursday, Jo got all the beans into the freezer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Corn: We've pretty much decided that our problem with the corn is germination because the few corn plants that did come up haven't gotten eaten. I guess that's what we get for using some seed left over from last year. The seed was stored in the deep freeze, but evidently it has still gone bad. We'll have to get some more seed the next time we go into town. It's getting awfully late to be getting corn planted, though. It will be plenty hot and dry by the time it matures.

Squash: That's winter squash coming up behind the corn. The plan was for it to grow between the two rows of corn. The way it's going now, the squash may end up having that bed all to itself.

Green Beans: Jo still hasn't done that second picking. She says that Tuesday is the day for that. We did get the deep freeze defrosted and cleaned out, getting ready for all thos pints of green beans we'll put into it.

American Snout Butterfly

American Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta)

A little tattered but still flying.

When this butterfly has a chance to get itself completely settled in on a branch the more colorful inner wings are hidden. With only the outer wings showing, it resembles a dead leaf. The snout is also meant to help in this disguise.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers of aster, dogbane, dogwood, goldenrod, sweet pepperbush, and others.

Caterpillar hosts: Several species of hackberry.

Source: Butterflies and Moths of North America


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Juniper Hairstreak Butterfly

Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)

This small little butterfly (1 1/2" or so) was nectaring on some Slender Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium) in the field area behind the garden.

ID Source:


Scaly Bee Fly

Scaly Bee Fly (Lepidophora lepidocera)

Another bee fly. This one nectaring on a black-eyed susan. I don't remember ever seeing one of these until a few days ago. Of course, until I started taking photos of them, I didn't pay attention to most bugs if they weren't trying to suck my blood or sting me.

While the adult scaly bee fly eats nectar, it's larvae is a parasite of solitary wasps. Typically, the female wasp excavates a small burrow in the soil, provisions it with insects she has stung, lays eggs and seals the burrow. The bee fly tries to get her egg into the burrow before it is sealed. When it hatches, the bee fly larvae will consume the developing wasp larvae.

Cirrus Images


Monday, June 18, 2007

Clasping Venus' Looking Glass

Clasping Venus' Looking Glass (Triodanis perfoliata)

A wildflower that grows down in the woods and also around the edges of our yard. It has blue flowers that spiral around the stem. (It is sometimes classified as Specularia perfoliata.)

See Also:
Missouri Plants
LBJ Wildflower Center


Sinuous Bee Fly

Sinuous Bee Fly (Hemipenthes sinuosa)

One of the many larger bee flies that frequent flowers and eat nectar (and maybe pollen). Many of the bee flies have a long proboscis but this species does not.

"Sinuous" is based in Latin and refers to the wavy, undulating border formed by the black area on the fly's wings.

BugGuide: Sinuous Bee Fly
BugGuide: Family Bombyliidae


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Green Beans

We can finally stop holding our breaths and start counting our green beans. For the first time in two years it looks as if we're going to get plenty of green beans to eat fresh and put into the freezer.

Saturday's first picking was light, but there will be a larger harvest in a couple of days. Then comes a couple of stay-up-half-the-night-snapping-beans harvests. These Contender bush beans do tend to get all their production done in a relatively short period of time.

In case you are wondering: "Yes" we did have fresh green beans with our supper. "No" it is not possible for Jo to pick beans without Rusty and Bucket "helping". And, "yes" Jo always wears longs white gloves when picking green beans.

Actually, those aren't gloves Jo is wearing; they're a pair of my old socks with holes cut in toes so Jo's fingers will stick through. Jo is allergic to the green bean plants. Wearing protection on her hands and arms plus washing thoroughly when finished picking is enough to keep her from breaking out in a rash and itching.

Bucket and Rusty are right proud of the green beans they picked.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chalcid Wasp

Chalcid Wasp (Leucospis affinis)

These little wasps are parasitic. Their hosts are mainly solitary bees, less frequently solitary wasps, nesting in a similar way to bees. Their eggs are deposited externally on the host larva or nearby. The first instar larva does not take any food at first but searches the host cell for competitors; in all cases only one parasitoid larva survives and develops as an ectoparasitoid sucking the body fluids of the host larva.

This female was nectaring on the dill weed in our garden.

Natural History Museum of the UK


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Longhorned Beetle

Longhorned Beetle (Distenia undata)

One of the many wood boring beetles we have here in the Ozarks.

Source: BugGuide

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moth Mullein

Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

A biennial that can grow as tall as five feet and have either white or yellow flowers. Moth mullein is found throughout most of the United States and grows in fields, pastures, roadsides and other disturbed or abandoned areas. This plant is growing in the garden next to the strawberries, and will have to be removed soon. We've also found the yellow variety down in the woods.

Several online sources (including the USDA) say that moth mullein is an introduced species. Missouri Plants says it is native. I dunno.

Additional Resources:
Virginia Tech Weed ID Guide
Missouri Plants



We're enjoying a lot of fresh broccoli and Jo is getting some into the freezer too.

I reckon we officially finished getting our spring garden planted last Saturday when Jo planted both summer on winter squash. Everything is doing well -- much better than the past couple of years -- except for the corn. Jo has already replanted once and we still only have a few small plants growing in those two beds. I don't know if we're having problems with germination or if something (like cottontails) is eating the corn plants as soon as they sprout -- maybe a combination of the two. We haven't given up on the corn yet, but it's getting awfully late in the season.

Wrens Are Gone

A couple of days after the last photo of the wren's nest was taken, Jo checked the nest and discovered that the chicks had disappeared. I didn't think they were old enough to fledge, but I always think chicks fledge too soon. A day went by without either of us seeing anything of the wrens. However, the following day, Jo saw an adult and three chicks on the porch. She wasn't able to get a photo because I had the camera out in the garden taking pictures of bugs.

I don't really know what was going on. It's possible that something (like a black snake) frightened the female wren into getting her chicks out of the nest a little too soon. I've watched a mama wren vacate a nest because of a snake in the past. The four wrens could have found a safe place to hide on or around the porch for a day, I reckon. Heaven knows there is enough stuff in that area for the wrens to have found a safe nook or cranny. I really don't know what happened, but Jo said the baby birds that she saw could fly and that's the important requirement for fledging.

Just because the wrens are gone doesn't mean that there are no nesting birds on our porch. There's a phoebe with eggs in a nest on top of the window frame across the porch from where the wrens were. This is the phoebe's second brood of this summer in that nest. (I assume it's the same bird.) We also had a brood of phoebes in early spring in a nest above the steps down to the basement.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Clay-colored Leaf Beetle

Clay-colored Leaf Beetle (Anomoea laticlavia)

I found this little fellow (a quarter of an inch or so) on a daisy flea bane leaf right after a thundershower. It is fairly common in the eastern United States and feeds on a wide variety of forbs and shrubs, all of which we have here in the Ozarks. Persimmon Leaf Beetle is another common name.

Clay-colored leaf beetles are members of the casebearer beetle family. Their larvae live in the ground litter and protect themselves by constructing cases made from their own fecal matter and (sometimes) plant debris.

Additional Resources:
BugGuide on Clay-colored Leaf Beetles
BugGuide on casebearer beetles
US Forest Service Insect Images


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wrens Again

The wren chicks are growing. We think there are three, but obviously, there are at least two.

Flower Longhorn Beetle

Flower Longhorn Beetle (Strangalia famelica solitaria)

Food: Adults come to flowers for nectar and/or pollen. Larvae feed on decaying wood of chestnut, oak, birch.

The Ozark variety of this species has an all black pronotum (segment right behind the head).

Source: BugGuide

Syrphid Fly

Syrphid Fly (Syritta pipiens)

Found throughout North America.

Identification: Distinctive feature in both sexes is the apical third of the hind femur having a row of spines along the ventral edge.

Food: Adults take nectar from flowers of a wide variety of herbaceous plants. Larvae feed on wet decaying organic matter such as cattle dung and silage.

Source: BugGuide

Friday, June 01, 2007

Broad-headed Bug

Broad-headed Bug (Megalotomus quinquespinosus)

Food: Juices of plants, especially pea family.

Identification: Large, reddish-brown to yellowish.Part of fourth antennal segment is yellow, contrasting with the dark outer part. Pronotal angles pointed.

Source: BugGuide