7.31.2009

A Chrysalis of a Different Color

One day, on the bronze fennel in the butterfly garden, a little black swallowtail caterpillar munches away...
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A few days later, it has become a caterpillar with attitude. Note the forked, orange thing protruding from the caterpillar's prothoracic region. It's called an osmeterium and it is a smelly little thing that the caterpillar can extend when it feels threatened.
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A few more days and the caterpillar has grown and my bronze fennel has shrunk. Such little eating machines ;)
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A day or two later and I find the cat in a telltale position down at the base of the plant - time to pupate!
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One day later and the cat has formed its chrysalis. Interesting that this one, while being the same shape as the others in the previous post, is all tans and grays. The better to camouflage itself on the stem of the bronze fennel.
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Now, we wait.

7.29.2009

Dill Worms Revisited

Black swallowtail chrysalises can be quite hard to see, even when you are staring right at them. I knew my "dill worms" were about ready to pupate when I photographed them the other day - they were all nice and fat - so recently I went in search of a chrysalis. Luck was with me and I found two that were about eight feet away from where I had seen the caterpillars feeding. Hopefully the squadron of turkeys that visited the yard this morning didn't find them, too!

 
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7.24.2009

My Frog Fix

 
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Treebeard and I walked the edge of the pond so that I could get a much needed green treefrog fix. Twenty-two frogs withing twenty feet. Not too bad a count.

7.20.2009

Puddle Party

 
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After a dry spell of a week or two we finally had a decent shower. The butterflies certainly appreciated the rain. Primarily Palamedes partying in the puddles.

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Dill Worms

 

 

 
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Seems the black swallowtails (Papilio polyxenes) have been visiting the garden. We found several caterpillars helping themselves to the dill and parsley. Munch on little cats!

7.10.2009

Mortar Mix Madness

No pictures, just a list of lessons learned today.

Lesson one: Mortar mix and concrete mix are two very different beasts with entirely different temperaments. Right now I'm liking concrete more than mortar.

Lesson two: You can't really tell if your mortar mix has too much or not enough water in it until you start your application. While it looked dry in the wheelbarrow, it looked downright soggy when I started constructing my bird bath. Oy.

Lesson three: Eastern pondhawks (dragonflies) are a lot like cats...if you are working on something they like to get either on it or on you, or both. By the time I finished my task I counted no less than a dozen pondhawks "helping" me.

7.09.2009

Now, Back to the Spiders

My apologies for the delay in getting back to explain the handful of spiders pic. Let me just say that work has been quite hectic lately and I was simply too tired to post. Seems I am not the energizer bunny of cyberspace ;)

Now, for the spiders' tale of woe...

On Sunday Treebeard accompanied me to work. He is a park volunteer now and quite handy to have around. Not only is he very knowledgeable about all things natural, he really enjoys sharing his knowledge with others -- a valuable asset! He is also extremely observant. Just before closing time he noticed the spiders floating on the canal and called me over. We fished them out and I immediately suspected we had found the contents of a mud dauber's (or dirt dauber, if you prefer) nest.

If you are not familiar with daubers, let me give you a brief rundown...A dauber is a spider wasp, she builds a nest of mud that consists of a series of individual chambers. The wasp hunts spiders, stings them and crams several into a chamber, laying an egg on the last one before sealing the chamber. The spiders are not dead -- dead ones would decay and that would be a bad thing. When the egg hatches, the young grub begins to munch on the bounty left by its mom. After it eats what has been provided and grows sufficiently, it pupates and then emerges as an adult the next spring. Pretty cool, eh?

If you look at the pictures below you will notice an egg on a spider's leg in the first photo and in the second you will see a grub munching away on a spider's abdomen.

 

 
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How the contents of a dauber's nest ended up floating in the canal is a mystery. Some critter looking for a snack may have broken open the nest or perhaps the wake of a passing boat saturated a nest that had been built under the dock, causing it to dissolve. It's anyone's guess.

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Addendum:

Jason tells me that the terms dirt dauber and mud dauber refer to two very different types of wasps. Dirt daubers use dry dirt and regurgitated water to construct their nests while the mud daubers use actual mud. Jason was afraid I would be offended by his contridiction of my use of the terms -- silly Jason.
My post deals with mud daubers by this definition, so if you preferred to call them dirt daubers, don't. ;)

Check out Jason's most excellent photos on his web page: http://www.xenogere.com
He also has some very nice cats...

7.06.2009

A Handful of Spiders

 
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Yep, they're alive but they have been effectively paralyzed by the stings of a mud dauber. A couple of them waved a leg or two at me, but only weakly. (Still, I bet SIL and FC will both be having kittens if they happen to stop by - hehe)

I'll be back tomorrow to explain how they came to be in my hand...

7.05.2009

Feeling Blue

A male Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea) covered in dew.


A somewhat drier male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).



A morning glory (Ipomoea sp.) that Treebeard left for me.
Yes, I know they are noxious weeds and the bane of farm fields, but I love them anyway. Treebeard trained this one away from the garden and provided a trellis of sticks for it to grow up.
He is such a thoughtful fellow.

7.04.2009

Antlion Anger

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Hey, you!
Yeah, you, Ranger Lady.
Let me outta this box. NOW!

7.03.2009

Spidey Sense

Treebeard and I went for a walk today as I had the day off. We went down a trail that hasn't had much use in a while and as a result it was criss-crossed with numerous spider webs. We did a lot of bobbing and weaving and sometimes outright crawling to avoid destroying the webs. Despite the fact that I am having camera focusing issues at the moment, I did try to snag a few shots of some of the more interesting arachnids to share with you. Sorry they're a little fuzzy...

A spined micrathena (Micrathena gracilis) munching on a yellow fly that got caught in its web. Man, I love it when that happens!! Just in case you are blissfully ignorant of the nature of yellow flies, those suckers BITE. Go spidey!

A personal favorite, the spiny-backed orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis). It is gracious enough to decorate its web with little fluffs of silk making it much easier to see and thereby avoid walking into.


Tucked away in the top of a shrub rather than stretched across the trail, was this labyrinth orbweaver (Metepeira labyrinthea). It has a complex little web, usually with a dead leaf in the center for shelter.

Coolest spider of the day is in the picture below.
Take a look and see if you can spot it before you scroll down to the caption...





Did you see her?
It's a northern black widow (Lactrodectus variolus). Her cobweb was just above the leaf litter beside the trail. We probably wouldn't have noticed her....
...if she hadn't had a web full of little ones!
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