What are you looking at?
Hanging in the spider’s web, about mid-photo, is the carapace of the dog day cicada nymph. That’s one of the reasons why these summer days are called “dog days.”
The original reason, of course, is the sighting of Sirius, the dog star, in the summer sky.
Lovely leaf, not so lovely result, right?
When I first saw this, I thought I knew immediately what was happening. Several years ago, when I was in North Carolina, I heard about a beetle that was ravaging canna lilies there. I thought that this beetle had somehow made its way north (as all noxious things somehow eventually do) and gotten to Connecticut.
It turns out that there is a simpler explanation for all of this.
Yes, it still has to do with a noxious invader. But this time the “invader” is quite well known to us here in Connecticut and has been for some time.
What’s turning these Canna leaves into lace (and it really is pretty, unless these are your plants, in which case, you probably want to scream! I think I might do a little judicious trimming if they were mine) is the all too common Japanese beetle.
As a doctor once told me, sometimes even if you have an unusual presentation, we still look for a common explanation, and not for something rare. That’s probably good advice in gardening too.
It’s getting to be “beetle ” time in the garden. I am not really seeing too many beetles on the plants–I never really do–but occasionally I see the beetles on the screens at night, or hear them thwack into a window while I am reading at night.
Do you remember the Japanese beetle traps? They were popular in the 90s. They were plastic bags with a scent lure designed to attract the beetles. They did attract beetles because of the scent lure–but then the issue became whether they attracted more beetles than they caught?
In any event, after a few years, everyone stopped using them. I don’t think I have seen the traps in years and I can count on two hands each year the number of beetles I see.
So what is the magic in my yard? Boids–as the the Spoiler calls them, otherwise known as birds.
I have written about this topic before. This isn’t news. Birds feed insects to their young. And what are grubs but insects!
Grubs–the larva of beetles–are some pretty protein packed food for young birds. And if the birds get them, you don’t have skunks or moles or voles digging up the lawn either.
It’s all pretty simple. It’s the ecosystem working as it should. But it can only work if you do not use pesticides. Just a thought.
My long-time readers know how much I love ants. I think they are they greatest insects. And while we don’t ever want to go overboard and say, “Oh heck, ants are just like us!,” it’s true that if you want to compare a bug to human beings, ants are not a bad bug to start with and here’s why: they live in communities (that’s what those anthills are all about); they have defined roles (did you know that there are such things as “nurse” ants, “forager” ants and “soldier” ants, for example? In other words, ants have jobs to do just like we do!
And ants are pollinators as my long time readers know. They pollinate all sorts of spring wild flowers. But many of you have probably reaped the benefits of ant pollination in a more practical sense–I know I have.
If you grow grape hyacinth (muscari species) ants actually pollinate those. Ever wonder how or why they suddenly show up in strange places you didn’t plant them? You can thank the ants.
Ant pollination occurs in a rather unusual way. Certain plants have a structure called an eliaosome attached to their seeds. This structure is rich in lipids and proteins and attracts the ants, who pick up the seeds for these eliaosomes.
Once they carry the seeds back to their nests, the seeds are dispersed and the plants are transported–and in the process, pollinated. Pretty fascinating stuff.
I am not going to ask you to put up with ants all over your kitchen. Even I don’t do that. But please, if the ants are outside and safely away from your home, please let them be. This very active ant hill is on the edge of my driveway, bothering no one.
And speaking of that, on Monday, we’ll talk about bees!
I always talk about leaving leaf litter and brush piles so insects can over-winter.
We recently installed a new garage door opener and it has a keypad on the outside of the door. This milkweed bug apparently thinks the keypad is going to make a nice sheltered place to over-winter. I don’t necessarily disagree . I took the photo and shut it back inside safely .
No, this is not some weird, pixilated version of fall foliage. It’s actually a great shot of a window screen with, of all things, one of those pesky fall invaders that are just looking to make a nice home inside your home.
This is the Western Conifer Seed Bug, a leaf footed bug (see how its back two feet have what look to be sort of protuberances on them? They are designed to mimic leaves).
This bug is an invasive species in my part of the world but other than finding its way into homes, it doesn’t seem to do a lot of damage where I live–it’s not like the Emerald Ash Borer or the Asian Longhorned Beetle both of which actually kill trees.
And once they’re inside, they seem to be fairly dumb and slow for a bug. This is one of the ones I always catch and throw outside for the birds. Then again, I’ve never stopped to ask what bugs think of us?
These days, I can’t even park my car overnight without having a spider make a little home for itself. I’ve remarked before that I know the seasons are changing when I start seeing all these spiders all over. There’s a huge one out the back door of my screen porch. It’s body and legs together are larger than a silver dollar. That’s one web–or worse yet, spider–I don’t want to encounter accidentally.
This actually looks almost like a double web. There’s one web that stretches from my car to the outer edge of the mirror, and a second that stretches from the lower right hand corner to the upper. I didn’t notice that when I originally took the photo.
Either way, I always feel bad when I have to get in the car and drive. The morning I took this photo, I used the passenger door so that I could alert the spider that something was happening. I went into hiding behind the mirror. I never noticed what happened to the web, but I am sure it was gone by the time I got to work.
These spiders will be around until the first hard freezes. And then, if it warms back up, many of them will be around until the snows. We’ve had a lot of foggy mornings so far so I fear we will have a snowy winter. But that will mean the end to this punishing drought at least. There are always blessings. I just have to try to remember to tell myself that when it’s snowing!