Hanging Out to Dry

Yesterday? A downpour day. Two centimetres of the wet stuff. Grey and cold.

This morning? Frozen bird bath and icy steps.

And a clothes line full of raindrops, drying in the sun.

img_1686


September 21, 2016

Advertisements

Sawyer

Most insects avoid us or scuttle out of sight. Not these guys. White-spotted sawyers are big, noisy and show no fear. It’s unnerving when one flies right at you.

This female landed on the steps about an arm’s length away from me. She paused, then opened her hard wing covers (aka elytras) and unfolded her sturdy wings.

IMG_7040 - Version 2
Wing covers open, wings extended. Notice the bent wing tip.

With soft clicking and chuffing sounds she became air-borne again — doing little touch-and-goes on the steps like a novice pilot, each hop bringing her closer to me.

I blinked first: I moved. She ignored me and eventually disappeared into the grass at the end of the step.

IMG_7049 - Version 2
White-spotted sawyers reach body lengths of 20 mm or more (about 0.75 in).

Should you encounter such a magnificent beetle and wish to know whether it’s male or female (assuming you haven’t flown off in a fright), check out the antennae length.

Females, like the one shown here, have antennae about the same length or slightly longer than their bodies.

Males (for whom size seems to matter) have antennae 2 to 3 times their body length. I assure you, you’ll definitely know it’s a male.


White-spotted (spruce) sawyer   Monochamus scutellatus

Doll’s Eyes

Poison lives under the lilac bush in my garden. Just one plant. In the shade, almost out of sight.

Although it has grown there for years it’s never spread further into my world so it’s easy to miss — until the berries ripen.

My baneberry produces glossy red berries though some plants produce white ones. Each berry ends in a noticeable black dot. Looking at white berries it’s easy to see where the nickname doll’s eyes originated.

Baneberry belongs to the buttercup family, along with tall larkspur, columbine and white watercrowfoot. And like several members of that family it’s extremely poisonous, especially the roots and berries.

That said, apparently it’s not so bad for some animals. The berries disappear off my solitary plant each year so something is eating them. Hopefully whoever dined on them didn’t die ruing their menu choice.

 


Red baneberry   Actaea rubra 

Where Is Your Nearest Tree?

Most of us
Most of the time
Live in a manufactured world.

We need to reconnect
With what w
e left behind
Or never knew at all.

To touch not plywood or two-by-four but living tree
Crush needles between fingers, inhale the pine-y perfume
Trace raindrops on an aspen leaf.

We need to rub urban skin over untamed bark
Sit against the trunk
Feel the wind sway us both.

Where is your nearest tree?
Go and say hello.


Aspen poplar   Populus tremuloides

 

Demise

 

Stop, sit, look is a mantra that serves me well.

I was huddled near the end of a rotting log when I spotted a brightly patterned bug just a few inches away. This was quickly followed by a good-grief-what-the-heck? moment when I realized it was “attached” to a large caterpillar. What followed next was fascinating.

The piercing mouthparts of this immature stink bug had seized hold of one of the caterpillar’s hind “legs” (known as prolegs to bugsters) and it was feeding on the still-living larva.

The caterpillar was strong. It pulled that stink bug several inches across the log face. Despite its best efforts, however, it couldn’t break free.

The stink bug’s grip was stronger. In fact, several times the caterpillar swung loose, dangling in air. The stink bug never lost its hold on the log or the larva.

Although the larva was still alive when I left, the end was inevitable — it was lunch on legs for this young spined soldier bug.

The spined soldier bug goes through 5 stages (instars, for the biologically inclined) between egg and adult. Each stage looks quite different than the others. Turns out I found the third instar.

If you’d like to see its life cycle in photos, check out this link at the University of Florida.


Spined soldier bug  Podisus maculiventris
Unidentified butterfly larva

Squirrely

I was walking on moss between the trees. Especially quiet I guess. Suddenly the air exploded — I’d surprised a red squirrel who let off a torrent of verbal abuse.

I stood still and spoke softly. It took a few moments of one-sided conversation but curiousity got the better of the young squirrel. He (or  she?) came closer. And closer.

Finally, figuring I posed no threat, he went back to what he was doing before I’d interrupted. But the “what” puzzled me.

After several minutes I realized he was chewing off all the twigs and sharp branch ends along the fallen spruce, making a path the length of the tree. You need a clear get-away if danger is chasing you.

Clever fellow, that squirrel.


Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca

Gone to Seed

We are rushing through summer. Not long ago I was finding the first flowers of the season. Now those flowers have seeded out.

Shooting star   Dodecatheon radicatum

 

Common pink wintergreen   Pyrola asarifolia

 

Dewberry   Rubus pubescens 

 

Pale coralroot orchid   Corallorrhiza trifida

 

Elephant head   Pedicularis groenlandicus

 

Wild rose   Rosa acicularis