Saturday, May 31, 2008

Last Walk in the Woods

Butterfly Weed, 5/31/07 (Jo's photo)

On Friday Jo and I and the dogs took what will probably be our last walk in the woods until late next fall. Our normal daily walk route is a loop that's about 50/50 pasture and woods. A small part of the walk is on old cow trails, but the majority of it is just cross country -- and the country is getting too grown up for comfort and safety. As much as I enjoy being in the woods, walking through waist high grass just isn't much fun. You cannot see your feet to determine what you might be stepping on. You're bound to pick up at least a half dozen ticks along the way. And, between the maturing grass seeds and stick-tights, Rusty and Bucket come home looking like potential Chia Pets.

Jo was the first to suggest that Friday's walk should be our last for this summer. I protested, saying we'd continued walking that loop longer last year. I based my assertion on the fact that there are at least a couple blooming wildflowers (butterfly weed and larkspurs) we'd photographed last years that are not yet in bloom this year. Jo gently suggested that those wildflowers might be blooming later in 2008. I checked last year's photos and Jo was right. (Someday perhaps I'll learn that Jo's always right.) I certainly don't keep enough weather records or know the plants well enough to know why they're blooming later this year, but they are at least a week to 10 days behind.

For the remainder of the summer and early fall, we will take our daily walks up the road and back. There will still be wildflowers and more than enough bugs for us to photography along the roadside and in the yard, but I will still miss our daily trip through the woods.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Whitecrossed Seed Bug (Neacoryphus bicrucis)

Whitecrossed Seed Bug (Neacoryphus bicrucis)

(Note: Finding information on this insect was difficult. If anyone can add to, clarify and/or correct any of the information below, I'd appreciate it.)

Whitecrossed Seed Bugs are true bugs and members of the order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies) and family Lygaeidae (Seed Bugs). They have piercing-and-sucking mouthparts and feed on plant juices, particularly those from the seeds. (The milkweed bugs are close relatives and somewhat similar in appearance.)

Ragwort is often given as a host plant for N. bicrucis. Ragwort is a member of the genus Senecio, a very large genus of yellow-blooming plants in the daisy family (Asteraceae). Whitecrossed Seed Bugs are said to take in alkaloids from the ragworts. These alkaloids make them unpalatable to most would be predators. As with the milkweed bugs, the bright color of N. bicrucis announces that it is a poor prey choice.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

From Butterflies and Moths of North America:

Life history: Males patrol open areas for females. Eggs are laid in late summer on or near host violets. Newly-hatched caterpillars do not feed, but overwinter until spring, when they eat young violet leaves.
Caterpillar hosts: Various violet species (Viola).

Adult food: Nectar from many species of flowers including milkweeds, thistles, ironweed, dogbane, mountain laurel, verbena, vetch, bergamot, red clover, joe-pye weed, and purple coneflower.

Habitat: Open, moist places including fields, valleys, pastures, right-of-ways, meadows, open woodland, prairies.

Range: Throughout most of central and northern North America. (See link above for distribution map.)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

ABC Wednesday: S is for Soldier Fly

Soldier Fly (Odontomyia cincta)

Soldier flies are typically found in the spring or early summer throughout much of North America. Their habitat includes woodlands and fields, usually near water. Adults take nectar and are also sometimes found on dung. Eggs are laid very near water (on reeds, grasses, etc.). Larvae are aquatic and feed on algae.

Source: BugGuide Genus page

Thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt's Place for hosting ABC Wednesday.
Visit her blog to participate.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Jo and I will be spending the Memorial Day Weekend, exhibiting -- and, hopefully, selling -- at the Paseo Arts Festival in Oklahoma City, OK. I had every intention of writing and scheduling several post to run during my absence, but alas, that just didn't happen. Instead, I'll leave y'all with this photo of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that Jo Photoshopped for Mother's Day cards she designed.

Everyone have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex)

Common Cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex)

Other common names for this plant include oldfield cinquefoil and oldfield fivefingers. (Cinquefoil means five-leaved.) It is common throughout central and eastern North America. Although a native species growing as an understory plant in the tallgrass prairies once covering much of the continent's center, human-made habitat changes have allowed P. simplex to expand its territory. In some parts of the northeast it is considered a weedy invasive because it proliferates and displaces plants native to that area.

Common Cinquefoil's proliferation is easy to understand because of the wide variety of growing conditions and locations it tolerates. According to Illinois wildflowers: The preference is partial to full sun, and moist to dry conditions. The soil can consist of loam, clay-loam, or contain gravelly material. Habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, open upland forests, savannas, gravelly seeps, and abandoned fields. This plant occurs in both disturbed areas and high quality habitats. On our 40 acres of the Ozarks, it grows mostly in the disturbed areas along the road down to our place.

This perennial plant begins growing erect, but soon falls over and sprawls along the ground in a vine-like manner. Its prostrate stems root at the stolons and can grow a couple of feet long. The slender stems and stolons are initially green, but become red with age. Flowers and leaves arise from runners on separate stalks.

Sources and links:
Kansas Flowers & Grasses
LBJ Wildflower Center
Illonois Flowers
2bn The Wild
Missouri Plants


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ABC Wednesday: R is for Robber Flies

ABC Wednesday: R is for Robber Flies
(in this case two male Efferia aestuans)

Robber Flies are in an insect family (Asilidae) where the question "Care to join me for lunch?" should never be answered in the affirmative.

Adult robber flies capture their prey on the wing. Just about any flying insect from leafhoppers to dragonflies to other robber flies is fair game. I have seen robber flies bring down insects two and three times their own size. Large prey they simply ride down to the ground. Small prey they will fly with to a feeding location of their choice. Robber flies stab prey with their sharp beaks and then inject a mixture of neurotoxins (for a quick kill) and digestive enzymes. They then suck out the partially pre-digested body juices of their victims.

Sources and links:
Cirrus Images
Herschel Raney's Random Natural Acts
Norman Lavers Robber Flies of Crowley's Ridge
BugGuide Efferia Page

Thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt's Place for hosting ABC Wednesday.


Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp)

Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp)

Wildflowers of Arkansas says "Individual species are very difficult to identify; 8 have been collected in Arkansas." If I had to take a guess, I'd say that this is Prairie Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium campestre), but that's just a guess. Mostly, I'll just enjoy this pretty little bright blue flower which isn't actually a grass, but a member of the iris family.

Additonal information on Sisyrinchium campestre:
USDA Plant Profile and Distribution Map
Missouri Flora


Common (European) Comfrey
(Symphytum officinale)


Monday, May 19, 2008

Scorpionfly (Panorpa sp.)

Scorpionfly (Panorpa sp.)

Scorpionflies are neither flies nor scorpions -- aside from that, their common name is totally appropriate. They do look something like a fly (especially a crane fly) and the abdomens of the males curl up over their backs something like the tail of a scorpion. Unfortunately, this male was perched down inside a cave of leaves and I couldn't get a shot from the side which would show the details of this interesting creature. If you want a better look, check out the photos on Cirrus Images.

Both adult and larvae scorpionflies are omnivorous scavangers, feeding upon decaying vegetation and dead (or dying) insects. The are found throughout eastern North America and tend to prefer wet and humid locations.

The mating ritual among scorpionflies involves a food offering made by the male to the female. First the male collects a bit of food -- either a dead insect or a short column of a his brown salivary secretion that has become gelatinous after drying in the air. He flies into a new area with his food offerring and emits a pheromone to attract a female that might be in the vicinity. If the female finds his food offerring worthy, they will copulate while she eats. The duration of copulation depends upon the quantity and quality of the food. Occassionally, males will imitate females in order to secure food from other males.

Sources and additional information:
North Carolina State University
Earth-Life Web


Seed Pods
Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)
Related Post


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Green Lacewing

Adult Green Lacewing

In the family Chrysopidae and probably in the genus Chrysoperla. Internet references are unclear on the diet of adult lacewings. It seems to depend upon the genus and species, although many sources do not clearly make this distinction. I'll play it safe and quote BugGuide: Some adults are predators, others take liquids such as honeydew, and some feed on pollen.

All sources agree that lacewing larvae (sometimes called aphid lions) are voracious predators that eat aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, thrips, moth eggs, and other soft bodied insects. The larvae have a pair of sickle-shaped mandibles which they use to grasp and pierce prey. These mandibles are actually hollow tubes. Lacewing larvae inject enzymes that "pre-digest" their prey. They then suck out the resulting liquified insect innards.

Lacewing Larvae (Photo from July, 2007)

An aphid lion's needle-like mandibles can also pierce and inject enzymes into human skin. For most people the resulting bite will be a minor irritant -- something like a gnat bite. However, as is the case any time foreign protiens are injected into the skin, a few individuals may have an allergic reaction.

Additional sources and links:
LSU Ag Center
Cornell University



Saturday, May 17, 2008

Field Clover (Trifolium sp)

Field Clover (Trifolium sp)

My best guess is that this is Trifolium campestre, but maybe not. According to the USDA, there are 236 genera in Fabaceae (the pea family) and 170 species in Trifolium (clover). Many look quite similar. Regardless, like most (all?) clover, it is an invasive weed. It is native to Eurasia and Africa and was brought to North America to serve as fodder and for soil improvement. Since its introduction it has spread throughout most of the United States and Canada, except for a few states in the arid Southwest. You might as well enjoy its cluster of little yellow flowers because field clover is fully naturalized and is here to stay.

Sources and Links:
Missouri Plants
USDA Distribution Map & Plant Profile
University of Washington Burke Museum of Natural History


Friday, May 16, 2008

Azalea Sphinx Moth (Darapsa choerilus)

(Photo taken 5/8/08)

Azalea Sphinx Moth (Darapsa choerilus) Hodges #7886

Range: Eastern United States, west to North Dakota and Texas, plus across southern Canada from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

Season: Adults fly from June to August in the north (one brood); March to September in the south (two or more broods). In Louisiana there are as many as eight broods, beginning in March, with emergence peaks at 30-day intervals.

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

Life Cycle: One to several generations per year, depending on latitude. Larvae pupate in leaf litter at base of hostplant, binding several leaves together with a few strands of silk to form a loose flimsy cocoon.

Thanks to Eric Eaton at BugGuide for the ID.


Everything you ever wanted to know about Azalea Sphinx Moths (from breeding procedures to photos of pupae and larval stages) can be found on Mr. Bill Oehlke's webpage.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sky Watch Friday: Lee County Courthouse

Lee County Courthouse in Tupelo, Mississippi.

The boyhood home of Elvis Presley.

Many thanks to Tom at Wiggers World for hosting Sky Watch Friday.


Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava)

Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava)

This is native honeysuckle, not the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) which, since its introduction here, has become one of our most troublesome weeds displacing native plants.

According to Missouri's Kemper Center for Home Gardening: "This honeysuckle (often commonly called yellow honeysuckle) is a deciduous, woody, twining vine which typically grows 10-20'. It is a Missouri native which occurs in rocky soils in woods, slopes, bluffs, ledges and stream margins in the Ozark region of the State. Elliptic green leaves (to 3.5" long) are grayish green below and are paired along the stems, with the uppermost leaves on each stem joined at the bases (perfoliate). Two-lipped, tubular, mildly-fragrant, orange-yellow flowers (to 1.25" long) appear in whorls at the stem ends in mid-spring. Flowers give way to round, fleshy, orange to red berries (1/4" diameter) which appear in late summer. Berries are not edible, but birds love them. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers."

Jo and I have found honeysuckle growing in three separate locations around our place. The two growing in the woods at pasture's edge are getting more sunshine and spreading up into the surrounding trees and brush. I love the way the blooms (and later, the berries) emerge from the center of the paired leaves. The blooms around here open bright yellow, but turn more redish-orange over time. The only "problem" with native honeysuckle is that it blooms only once per year and for a relatively short time. Nature requires patience.

(Note: All three photos from 4/28/08.)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stiletto Fly (Ozodiceromyia sp)

Stiletto Fly (Ozodiceromyia sp)

The common name refers to the narrow, tapering abdomens of these relatively small flies. (This one was a little less than a half inch long.) Family Therevidae.

Habitat: Usually found in open areas and often seen resting on foliage or flowers in the sun. (This particular specimen was found resting on a shelf in our booth on the courthouse lawn in Tupelo, MS.)

ID Notes: Usually gray flies with moderately tapering abdomens. Five posterior cells with the fourth sometimes closed. Somewhat elongated 3rd antennal segment. Similar to robber flies, but without the beard. Stiletto flies also have more slender legs and no depression between the eyes.

Thanks to Martin Hauser at BugGuide for the ID.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tupelo, Mississippi

Gum Tree Arts Festival

Friday: Drove over to Tupelo, about an eight hour trip from the house. No way to avoid a trip through Memphis, TN. I hate driving through Memphis. We only saw two wrecks and one load of industrial scrap metal accidentally dump in the middle of the I-240 Loop on this trip through.

Got down to the Lee County Courthouse for setup around four o'clock. Setup for this show is difficult. The area surrounding the courthouse is raised, fenced and slopes toward the street. The only access to our booth location was via seven concrete steps. Using any type of platform dolly or two-wheeled hand truck was impossible. Everything had to be carried up the steps one piece at a time. Bummer!

Jo and I headed back to the motel around 8:30 PM. We got the canopies and fixtures set up and all the pottery and spoons into our booths but left the merchandise in boxes for the night.

The Salvation Army provided breakfast for us starving artists.

Saturday: Back down to the show by 7 AM to finish setting everything up and getting ready for the show to open.

Thunderstorms had be forecast to move through the area mid-afternoon, but the line of severe weather slowed down. That was a good news/bad news situation. It was great that good weather for the show held all day. However, the fellow in the booth next door showed us the mid-PM storm track on his Blackberry. North central Arkansas and southern Missouri were getting pounded.

Entertainment on the back stage included young ladies dancing.

Normally we just close up our booths and leave all the pots on the shelves overnight, but decided to repack all the merchandise because of the bad weather in the forecast. We were late to the Awards Presentation and supper held after the show. We missed all the self-congratulatory BS and arrived just in time to chow down. My heart was broken.

The line of severe weather finally moved into the Tupelo area around 10 PM when we were "safely" back at the motel. Tornado warning sirens blared a little later. The office called, saying we could come to the lobby for protection, but Jo and I decided we were better off in our ground-level room instead of the glass-enclosed lobby.

The storms passed though without any damage in our immediate area.

There was a fake rock wall to climb. I didn't.

Sunday: Back down to the show at 7 AM so we could set the pots back out. No damage to our booth. Some folks that didn't bother battening down the hatches Saturday evening did lose some work.

Sunday sales were slower that Saturday. (They almost always are.) Still, it pretty good show for Jo and I. Lots of last minute Mother's Day gifts sold.

The show closed at five o'clock. It was around 8:30 by the time we finished packing everything up and carrying it back down those seven steps.

A shot of the crowd on Sunday afternoon.

Monday: Made the trip back home. Only saw one wreck and dodged a couple of firetrucks in Memphis. Everything was okay at the house. The worst of Saturday's storms had hit to our north in Missouri.

The main food court late Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)

A female Lone Star Tick in the classic "attack" pose -- ready to snag onto any warm blooded creature that happens along.

Lone Star Ticks are not known to transmit Lyme disease. However, according to the Center for Disease Control they do carry STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness), which has some of the same symptoms as Lyme disease but is not as severe. The pathogen responsible for STARI is not known at the present time. Lone Star ticks can be found from central Texas and Oklahoma eastward across the southern states and along the Atlantic coast as far north as Maine.

A Cornell University webpage list tick bite preventative measures (stay out of the woods during tick season, avoid game trails, spray yourself with DEET, perform frequent personal tick inspections) and the proper tick removal procedure: "Using thin tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull gently and slowly away from the skin." Cornell warns against using any of the numerous methods or substances often recommended for making the tick pull out and release. According to Cornell: "These methods are not effective and may cause the tick to regurgitate into the bite wound."


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Springfield, MO

Artfest on Walnut Street

Saturday morning began mostly cloudy and a bit nippy, but the sun soon broke through. The weather for the bulk of the weekend was beautiful. Plenty of folks came out to enjoy the sunshine -- a few even bought art.

There were two main entertainment stages plus numerous street performers like this juggling and percussion combo that performed for tips across from our booth. (I like percussion, but after a couple of hours of non-stop drumming, I longed for the peace and quiet of our Ozark holler.)

Few of the old houses on this section of Walnut Street remain single-family dwellings. Most have been converted to shops, offices or apartments. Walnut is right on the edge of the ever-expanding Missouri State University campus.

A booth shot of Jo's pottery for Lisa at Greenbow.

Not all the residents of Walnut Street participated in the hustle and bustle of the art fair. A few were engaged in more sedentary activities.

It is with deep regret that I must announce that work is beginning to interfere with my computer time. (Bummer!) Last Friday's thunderstorms frying the modem on my computer didn't help with my keeping current with posting and commenting either. Jo and I are right in the middle of our spring art fair season. Between traveling to shows, trying to replace some of the inventory we've sold and making minimal attempts at routine yard, garden and housekeeping chores, there just isn't enough time left for as much blogging as I would prefer. I'll post and comment as time allows, but will probably be a bit scarce online between now and the first weekend in June.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wild Blue Phlox

Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

Phlox is one of the most common wildflowers in our woods. However, until I begin researching for this post, I never realize that our blue phlox and white phlox were the same species. According to Missouri Flora, blue phlox can range from blue-purple, to rose to white. Around our place, blue phlox has been blooming for about a month and it is scattered throughout the woods. White phlox is just starting to bloom and is much more confined to specific locations. Live and learn.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Hairy Phacelia

Hairy Phacelia (Phacelia hirsuta)

Other common names include Fuzzy Phacelia and Fuzzy Scorpion-Weed. It is a native annual. The USDA Distribution Map shows this wildflower growing in a cluster of six south-central states plus two counties in far eastern Pennsylvania. (I'd love to know the story behind the inclusion of two PA counties.)

Kansas Wildflowers says it can be found in: "Open sites, woodland edges, low bottom ground, and along ledges and ravines; sandy soil." The cluster of plants Jo found is in a small open area surrounded by woods on a rocky ledge. The soil is anything but sandy, though.

White flowers are rare according to Missouri Flora, but I'm not enough of a botanist to know if the flowers we found would be considered truly white or just a pale variation of blue. The cluster we found had white and blue flowered plants growing mixed together. (The ant was non-committal on the subject.)

Last year's post of the same flower found near, but not in the exact same location as this year's.

In the immortal words of Willie Nelson: We are On The Road Again.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wired Sunset

South Texas Sunset (by Jo)

Many thanks to Tom at Wiggers World for hosting Skywatch Friday.



Spiderwort (Tradescantia sp)

There are three species of spiderwort that could be growing here in the Ozarks. My best guess is that this is Tradescantia ernestiana. T. virginiana is supposed to have slightly narrower leaves and T. ozarkana has lighter colored flowers. Without doing a side by side comparison, I couldn't begin to tell them apart, especially since flower color of T. ernestiana can vary from rose-red to blue to purple anyway.

Spiderwort is typically found in moist woodland valleys, ravines and slopes and prefers moist, acidic, humusy soils. It forms clusters of flower buds, but individual flowers open up only a few at a time and last for only one day. This native perennial blooms in April and May here in the Ozarks.

When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes thread-like and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name.