Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider (Paraphidippus aurantius)

Jumping spiders do not build conventional webs. Instead, they rely upon their keen eyesight and quick speed to ambush their prey by literally jumping on them. However, when they do jump, jumping spiders string out a single web filament. That way, if they miss, they have a way of climbing back up that strand to their original perch.

Additional photos:


Two Bucks

A couple of nice bucks Jo saw on her morning walk.

Tersa Sphinx Moth

Tersa Sphinx - Hodges#7890 (Xylophanes tersa)

Caterpillar hosts: Smooth buttonplant (Spermacoce glabra), starclusters (Pentas species), Borreria, Catalpa, and Manettia species.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including honeysuckle (Lonicera).

Source: Butterflies and Moths of North America

White-Lined Sphinx Moth

White-lined Sphinx - Hodges#7894 (Hyles lineata)

Caterpillar hosts: A great diversity of plants including willow weed (Epilobium), four o'clock (Mirabilis), apple (Malus), evening primrose (Oenothera), elm (Ulmus), grape (Vitis), tomato (Lycopersicon), purslane (Portulaca), and Fuschia.

Adult food: Nectar from a variety of flowers including columbines, larkspurs, petunia, honeysuckle, moonvine, bouncing bet, lilac, clovers, thistles, and Jimpson weed.

Source: Butterflies and Moths of North America

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Azalea Sphinx Moth

Azalea Sphinx - Hodges#7886 (Darapsa choerilus)

Larvae feed on leaves of azalea (Rhododendron spp.), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), sour-gum, and Viburnum species. Adults take nectar.


Corn and Squash: We kept the corn and squash covered with wire and protected from the rabbits for as longs as we could, but finally had to remove the wire. Some of the corn and especially the squash were really starting to suffer from the confinement. Besides, with the wire in place we couldn't weed or edge the bed and the weeds were about to get out of hand. So, we removed the wire tunnels and set the veggies free. The squash immediately headed for the aisle where it knows it isn't supposed to grow.

Since removing the wire, we've gotten the two corn beds edged, weeded and mulched. The cottontails have eaten a few of the shorter corn plants down at one end, but the damage hasn't been severe yet. Maybe the corn will make it.

Green Beans: Jo planted a row of green beans to see if we could get in a second crop this summer. We knew better than to tempt the rabbits with those. We immediately covered the beans with part of the wire we'd removed from the corn and squash. The beans are sprouting well, and they aren't getting eaten by the rabbits.

Cucumbers: The cucumbers are still producing like crazy -- many, many more cukes than I can get eaten. Jo has suggested we try drying them and burning cucumbers in the wood stove next winter. That's an idea.

Tomatoes: We've been eating a few tomatoes, especially the cherry tomatoes. We're getting close to getting into our major tomato harvest and doing some tomato canning. The tomatoes are suffering some rabbit damage. The cottontails are knocking off a lot of the lower fruits. They nibble on a few of them, but mainly it just seems as if they get under the plants and then jump up and down knocking the tomatoes off.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Garden Spider

Black & Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)

One of the most common orb weaving spiders. We have several at various places in the garden. BugGuide has an information page with many photos illustrating this spider's life cycle.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bee Fly

Bee Fly (Bombylius sp.)

BugGuide: "Adult takes nectar. Larvae are parasites of solitary bees. Female follows bee from flower to nest, then lays egg in entrance tunnel. (Females are also seen hovering over open, sandy, ground, and they are presumably looking for nests.) Fly larvae feed on the larvae of the bees, pupate in the bee nest, and emerge in spring or early summer."

Airborne Visitors

Parachute Plane

While Jo and the dogs were out on their morning walk, they were treated to a fly-over by a flock of noisy, airborne visitors. Jo said there were four or five of them -- out for a little sight seeing, I suppose. Our camera doesn't do very well at distance shots, but Jo managed to capture this image. Personally, I think that a pair of the C-130s we often have flying over must have fledged another brood.

More and even more on parachute planes, just in case you want to take up the hobby.

Sweat Bee

Sweet Bee (Halictidae) -- Tribe Augochlorini

Sitting on a Black-eyed Susan petal. There are many different species of the little, green, metallic bees which are divided into three tribes. Getting an ID to the proper tribe is often the best one can do from a photograph.

Cow Killer

"Cow Killer" Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis) - Female

Despite the name and superficial appearance, velvet ants really are not ants. They are wasps. There are many different species. The one shown above is the most common. Females are wingless, but males have wings. The males of this particular species look very much like the females, except for those wings.

Cow Killer larvae are parasites of bumble bees. The females locates a bumble bee burrow, digs down and lays an egg. When the egg hatches, the larvae invades a bumble bee brood chamber where it consumes the bee larvae. The velvet ant larvae then pupates in the bumble bee brood chamber and emerges as an adult.

When you find these females velvet ants in nature, they usually remain in constant motion. That's why I had to do a "catch and release" on this female in order to get her photo. Females can deliver a painful sting. In fact the sting hurts so much it is said to feel as if it could kill a cow; hence, the common name. I haven't conducted any personal research into velvet ant stings, and don't intend to.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Robber Fly

Robber Fly (Genus Ommatius)

Perched on a bare twig, a pose typical of males of this genus. The definitive genus characteristic is that all members of Ommatius have antennae that are slightly branched (feathered) like those of a moth, a feature that's close to impossible to see while in the field, but can be seen in one of the photos on Herschel Raney's Ommatius page. Feathered antennae among robber flies are unique to this genus.

Sunday, 7/15/07

Strawberry Beds: Over the past few days we've managed to get the new slab border installed on both the strawberry beds. In the photo above, the job is finished on the nearest bed only. The strawberry beds have always had wooden borders, but those had pretty much rotted away. The new border doesn't really look like much, but it should hold the dirt in the bed for a while. It also gives us a place to anchor the wire tunnels we use to help keep the critters out of the beds. Installing the slabs didn't require too much time and effort. I did have to use a Skil saw to put a more or less straight edge on one side of some of the boards, though.

Mowing: I also got the garden mowed since that photo was taken. Our recent rains have kept the grass growing and prevented me from mowing it.

Okra: We had our first fried okra of the season for supper last night. It was good, and there's plenty more on the way.


Green Lacewing Larvae

Green Lacewing Larvae (Family Chrysopidae)

Green Lacewing larvae are considered beneficial because they are predators, preying mainly upon aphids. They are sometimes called aphidlions. They seize their prey with those pincers, injects enzymes that start dissolving the critter internally and then suck out the juices. They also can bite humans and inject those enzyme. Unless you happen to be allergic, no permanent harm will be done, but it will sting and make a red welt that will last for a few days.

I was told that this is probably the last instar and will soon pupate. Lacewings usually spin a silken cocoon on the underside of leaves. It will emerge from the cocoon as one of the delicate, winged creatures below.


Thursday, 7/12/07

The summer rain
just keeps those mushrooms coming, and we did get another .6" this afternoon. No work in the yard or garden today.

Stink Bug Eggs and Hatchlings

Green Stink Bug (Acrosternum hilare)

Just what the world needs: More of the common green stink bug. These little guys will go through four more instars stages before becoming the foul smelling bugs we all know and love.

Some stink bugs are predators, but the green stink bugs (both adults and nymphs) are plant feeding. They have tubular mouth parts that pierce the plants, inject enzymes and then suck out plant juices. They can sometimes become serious plant pests because their piercing allows entry for pathogenic microorganisms that can kill the plants or damage the fruit.

More stink bug information:
University of Kentucky
Cirrus Digital Images


Wednesday, 7/11/07

Sawmill Slabs: Jo and I drove over to the sawmill near Leslie and picked up some slab, the outside cuts the mill makes to square up the logs before they begin cutting dimensioned lumber. We intend to use the slabs as borders for some of our garden beds. Yes, the slabs will rot. The question is: How soon? Will they last long enough to make the time and effort involved in installing them worthwhile? We'll just have to see.

No Rain: We got a heavy shower that dumped .7" of rain yesterday, but no rain today.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Carolina Satyrs

Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius)

These butterflies are fairly common here in the Ozarks. The larva feed on Broadleaf Carpet Grass and Centipede Grass. Adults feed on tree sap and rotting fruit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Robber Fly

Robber Fly (Taracticus octopunctatus)

Thanks to Herschel Raney for IDing this specimen that showed up under our porch light. Like all other members of Family Asilidae, this little robber fly is a predator.

Black and Yellow Mud Dauber

Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)

Common throughout North America. This female is building a nest on our porch.

BugGuide: "Nests may comprise up to 25 cylindrical cells, which are usually oriented vertically. Typically 6 to 15 prey spiders are placed in each cell, though up to 40 have been recorded. The female may provide the cells with a temporary closure consisting of a thin mud curtain to keep out parasites while she is collecting prey. Once the final prey is placed in the cell, she lays an egg on one of the last prey and seals the cell with a thick mud plug. She may then add more mud to cover the entire cluster of cells."

The species name means "mason, builder of walls" in Latin.

Bee Fly

Bee Fly (Geron sp.)

Bee Flies in the genus Geron are among the smaller members of the Bee Fly family (Bombyliidae) found in the Ozarks region and look nothing like the Bumble Bee from which the family derives it's common name. They do have the hairy bodies and long, slender proboscis that are found in many family members, however. This particular Bee Fly was nectaring on an oxeye daisy during early June. While adults feed on nectar, their larvae are parasitoids or predators on bee larvae, particularly those solitary bees that lay their eggs in burrows excavated in the soil.

Some Internet sources say that when the female solitary bee goes in search of more leaves or pollen, the Bombylius female hovers at the opening of the burrow. While still hovering, she ejects an egg inside the tunnel with a flick of her abdomen. Maybe ... but I'll believe it when I see it. Another source notes that a female Bee Fly can sometimes be seen sitting in very loose soil, vibrating her butt like mad, so that the dirt is actually thrown outwards. I have seen something like this behavior, but am not willing to accept that she is gathering sand to coat her eggs so that they don't dry out, presumably so that she can chunk them down a solitary bee tunnel without harm. Instead, I accept that the female Bombylius is dipping her abdomen to oviposit, laying her eggs in the soil near a host species. When they hatch the larvae will feed on immature stages of beetles, bees, wasps, butterflies/moths, or on eggs of grasshoppers.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Trash Collector

Sticky Caterpillar (Synchlora sp.)

Caterpillars of some species of emerald moths have a sticky substance on their bodies and adorn themselves with bits of flowers for camouflage.

Image of adult emerald moth here.

Digger Bee

Digger Bee - Svastra obliqua

The common name digger bee is based on the fact that most of the bees in this tribe dig holes in the ground for their nests. Other digger bees nest in wood and some are parasites of other bees. Parasitic digger bees do not construct nests.

Digger bees are also sometimes called longhorned bees due to the especially long antennae of the males. The bee in the photo above is a female.

The velvety fur of digger bees is one of the things that makes them excellent pollinators. All that hair collects a lot of pollen as they move from flower to flower. This particular bee is relatively free of pollen because she had just cleaned herself. When I first noticed her, she was hanging off the tip end of a flower petal by her mandibles and scraping the accumulated pollen off her legs.

Front view

Cleaning off pollen.


Sunday, 7/8/07

A very routine day around the old homestead. Jo worked on pots and I worked on spoons. In the late afternoon I did a little mowing and then edged beds and weeded in the garden. Jo needed to get a bisque firing ready to go so continued working in her studio.

Jo did take a little time out from her busy schedule to play in the sandpile up the road.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sand Mystery

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

A few weeks back, Jo discovered this unusual Black-eyed Susan alongside our road out. We'd never seen a Black-eyed Susan with the red-brown color on the petals. After a bit of online research, we finally concluded that there is a great deal of variability in these flowers. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has a page of Black-eyed Susan photos that shows a wide variety of shapes, petal numbers and colors, including ones like "ours". This variation is normal if not common.

Even though we knew that seeds saved from this plant probably would not produce a new plant with the same color pattern, we decided to save the seeds anyway just to see what happened. Jo marked the plant with a stake with a bit of surveyor's tape wrapped around its top. She figured we'd collect the seeds when they'd dried. Little did we know that her marker would be interpreted as meaning "dump sand here".

I really don't know the whole story about why the sand came to be dumped on top of the wildflowers. All I know is this: Friday morning our neighbor's son, Halan Dean, drove down to ask if we'd ordered any sand. A guy with a dump truck load of sand was up at the top of the hill, but for some reason he wasn't clear as to who'd ordered the sand or where it needed to be delivered. Halan drove down to ask if it was ours in order to save the driver (and us) the hassle of getting a big truck turned around in our yard if we hadn't placed the order, which we had not. That's all I know. Why the sand was eventually dumped alongside the road in the woods, I don't know. I also know that the Black-eyed Susan with the red-tinted petals us underneath that sand pile.

Saturday, 7/7/07

Sunflower out in front of Jo's studio.

Potatoes: Dug our Yukon Gold potatoes today, a total of 63 pounds. We've harvested more potatoes, but it's been a few years. While digging the potatoes, I uncovered a rabbit's nest. No wonder we have so many rabbits in the garden. They're raising their young in there. Or, I should say, they were raising their young. Rusty and Bucket may be lazy house dogs, but when those rabbits broke from the nest, those dogs' instincts kicked in. There are no more bunnies.

Tomatoes: Our first tomato harvest of the 2007 gardening season.

Internet: This morning the phone was working, but our ISP was down. It took a while, but we finally got our telephone and our ISP working at the same time.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Leafhopper Nymph

Leafhopper Nymph (Scaphoideus sp.)

Leafhoppers are a small insects (1/4" to 3/8") that are found throughout the world. There are something like 20,000 different species worldwide and 3,000 in North America alone. All feed by sucking the sap out of plant stem or leaves.

This nymph fooled me with its fake snout, "eyes" and whiskers. Once you note the angle of the legs and determine which end is actually it's head, it does more closely resemble and adult leafhopper. Below is a photo of an adult, though not necessarily one like this nymph will become.


Friday, 7/6/07

A trio of mushrooms growing out in front of the house.

Another rain shower: Today's shower was later and lighter than yesterday's, but still got the grass wet enough (barely) that I couldn't mow. I returned to my shop in the basement and continued making spoons instead.

Garlic: Jo braved the wet grass an dug our garlic. This project had been bumped back several times because of the weather, but the garlic tops had died back completely and the bulbs needed to be removed from the damp soil before they rotted. The garlic is now supposedly drying in racks on the porch now, but with the high humidity we've been experiencing, that may take a while.

No Internet: Our phone was out again Friday evening.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Weevil Wasp

Weevil Wasp (Cerceris sp.)

This is another of the many small, parasitic wasps that are very difficult to identify down to the species level using only a photograph. Most Cerceris prey on weevils, although a few prey on solitary wasps and bees. They belong to a larger family (Philanthinae) called Digger Wasps because the females excavates a hole in the soil where she lays her eggs after provisioning the nest with her prey of choice.

Robber Fly

Robber Fly (Triorla interrupta)

Triorla interrupta is one of the more common species of robber flies around here. This female has taken down a grasshopper that's too large for her to fly with, but she isn't about to abandon a juicy meal just because some fool with a camera is taking her picture. Grasshoppers seem to be T. interrupta's preferred food when its in open, grassy areas where hoppers abound, but this species is aggressive and will take on just about anything smaller than a bird. Herschel Raney has some shots of T. interrupta feasting on everything from dragonflies to a large horsefly. That's not too shabby for a robber fly that's slightly built and only about 7/8" long.

Thursday, 7/5/07

This is about how much rain we received today.

We received another one of those just-enough-to-get-the-grass-wet showers this afternoon. It talked about raining for over an hour before the first drops fell. A couple of lightning bolts were close enough that I unplugged the computer, but most of the heavy weather passed to our east. Overcast skies remained after the storm passed. That meant it was cooler and we didn't have to suffer through the steamy heat that would have occurred had the sun returned, but it also meant that the grass stayed wet and we couldn't work in the yard and garden later in the afternoon.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

We don't get a lot of dragonflies up here on Star Mountain, but occasionally one like this male Eastern Pondhawk wanders through.

Stephen Cresswell's excellent dragonfly and damselfly site explains the identification characteristics for male and female Eastern Pondhawks if you're interested.

Wednesday, 7/4/07

Tomatoes: The first tomatoes of the 2007 gardening season are almost ripe. These are a variety of cherry tomato.

Blackberries: Jo decided that today was the day to venture up to our pasture and pick blackberries. We'd been picking a few ripe berries off the plants closer to the house for a few days now. She figured she ought to be able to easily get a couple of quarts from the numerous berry vines that are taking over -- along with honey locust -- what used to be our upper pasture.

Dressing appropriately for berry picking is important. Jo couldn't take on the chiggers, ticks, snakes and berry vine thorns in the shorts and sandals she normally wears around our place during the summer. Instead, she donned tennis shoes, tall socks, long pants tucked into the socks and her green bean picking "gloves". Jo also applied some commercial insect repellent and took along a stick for fending off the snakes. All that garb plus a couple of plastic buckets made for quite a sight. I wanted to take a photo, but feared strangulation by camera strap if I tried, so the berry picking expedition went undocumented.

Jo didn't end up spending much time berry picking. She returned with a couple of dozen blackberries, about a zillion stick-tights of various types clinging to her shoes, socks and pants legs and five tick that were still crawling around looking for a nice, juicy home. It seems the birds and critters had beaten us to the blackberries up on the pasture.

Mowing: I've been doing some mowing and stockpiling the grass clippings so that we can use them to mulch the two corn beds when we remove the wire tunnels. It just isn't worth the effort to remove the wire, mulch and then replace the tunnels. All those grass clipping ought to be in pretty rank condition by the time we get around to using them, though.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fourth of July

Have a red, white and blue Independence day!!!

Graphic by Jo.


Fishing Spider

Whitebanded Fishing Spider - Dolomedes albineus

As their name implies, fishing spiders are most commonly associated with water. Some species will almost always be found in or near the water. (They can walk on the water or dive under the surface when they want.) Other species of fishing spiders -- like this Whitebanded found on our porch -- range farther afield. None build webs to capture their prey, but rely on speed, stealth and their large size for successful stalking of food. This particular spider did quite well at capturing a moth under our porch light.

The fishing spiders are members of a larger family called Nursery-Web Spiders (Pisauridae). The female carries an egg sac containing hundreds of eggs. Shortly before the eggs are due to hatch, she removes the egg sac and attaches it to vegetation. Then, she builds a nursery web around the sac to help protect the newborn spiders, and stands guard nearby. The young spiders live in the nursery web for quite some time after hatching.

Source: University of Arkansas Entomology

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Orange Mushroom

Another of the many colorful mushrooms our wet, warm weather has produced. (I'm not going to get into online mushroom ID, but I think eating this variety would do you in.)