Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Of course when you get a freeze only occasionally (mostly for 2 days in January), our insect friends are with us year-round and are quite visible. I still see butterflies mating, caterpillars crawling and this week I was passing by goldenrod going to seed when I was drawn by bright redness on the top of one of them blowing in the breeze.
I got closer and saw a nymph gang of Leaf-footed Bugs (Leptoglossus spp. likely phyllopus). I half expected them to start snapping their fingers and humming da doo da doo daaaaaaaaaa, da doo da do da do da! to dramatic music as they slinked along.
This particular species of L.F. bugs can be a pest on citrus and berry producers as they suck the juices out of the fruits and cause premature drop or withering. I generally let nature take its course and hope that some bird or spider will come along to tend to this type of gang mentality. Thus far, my lemons escaped unscathed (6 years). A good thing about a gang of pest insects is that it is relatively easy to flip them into some soapy water as a means of control. No pesticides needed.
Behold the Green Lynx Spiders (Peucetia viridans) who as they age will acquire their “colors”. While technically spiders are not insects as they have 8 legs (they are Arachnids), most of us refer to them as bugs. I’ve seen the Green Lynx snare the leaf footed bugs, so I guess we know which bug gang will get the grip on my front yard territory.
When they get bigger, IPM at its best!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
The cloudless sulphur caterpillar quickly turned into a beautiful butterfly. Here's a short, "From Caterpillar to Freedom", video slideshow:
It took considerably less time than I anticipated. Only 6 days from chrysalis to emerge. SPEEDY!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Finding a caterpillar is always an exciting thing. Unless of course you find it gnawing through the leaf of the LEAFLESS BEAKED ORCHID (Sacoila lanceolata--Threatened-State (FL)) you saved while on the plant rescue mission with the Pine Lily Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
Behold, the Yellow-striped Armyworm (Spodoptera ornithogalli), who apparently has discerning taste. Armyworms turn into moths and I really don't mind the unheralded of our insect population, but I do take umbrage with them eating a species that is having a hard enough time fending for itself due to habitat loss. The Orchid is still in a pot waiting to be placed in the ground. Now that moisture is, pretty much, guaranteed every day, that will be soon since it will give it a good start. Seems it has gotten over the shock of the dig-up and has put out some pretty magnificent green leaves. I feel it is ready to find it's new permanent home. Back to those green leaves. The dang caterpillar chewed completely through at the base of one of the leaves. Needless to say, he has a new home in a display container with that leaf. Might as well watch his full transformation, while ensuring that he doesn't finish off my threatened plant before it gets a chance to move in.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I taped it to the side, trying to maintain the correct orientation. An attempt at a photo of the tiny "speck" proved futile and since I had already taped the screening over the case, I just plain gave up. A couple of days later (I vigilantly checked daily), I was rewarded with a beautiful Checkered Skipper butterfly (Pyrgus spp. likely albescens) known as the white checkered. I quickly took a few photos and then released the little beauty where it happily flew off in the direction of the Spanish needles, where I took another few pictures. After he flew off into the sunset (ok, maybe it was a different time of day, but you know what I mean) I headed inside to the computer to see the results of my encounter.
CURSES…pictures all blurred. Usually I get at least one halfway decent shot but these were all blearily unrecognizable. I checked the camera and sure enough, I had the wrong setting. I usually leave my point and shoot camera with the macro setting on and I don't usually check it because I "always" return it to macro setting after taking a distance shot. Of course, except in this case :(
Luckily these butterflies use plants in the mallow family (Malvaceae) as the larval host and in my garden that means fanpetals or indian hemp (sida spp.). of which there are plenty. So, this may be a different butterfly who came visiting today, but at least you can clearly see how pretty these black and white guys are. It pays to have the camera set correctly.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
It was late when I let the dogs out for the last trip of the night. I turned the light next to the door on and was very excited to see a beautiful green colored insect. Could it be that I finally would see an emerald moth. I'd found the caterpillar on Bidens alba a.k.a. Spanish Needles, its larval host some time ago, but never got to see a resulting adult.
I grabbed a camera and took several shots from my rather disadvantaged perch. I reached overhead and clicked and clicked and clicked some more. I ran into the computer to check on the quality of my shots. BOO! Horrible, barely discernable.
Back with the camera I went and luckily, the insect was still positioned on the siding. I put the flash on, clicked a few shots and ran inside to again check the quality. Eureka! Not the best shots, but clear enough to identify.
Hmm, doesn't look like any moth I've ever seen and the antenna are all wrong. Off to the yahoo search engine. "green cricket Florida". I scanned a few results and none of the pictures came close. I checked whatsthatbug.com but couldn't find my specimen. Off to bugguide.net. "bright green Florida". Up pop the photographs of bright green insects. THERE IT IS!
I click on the matching photo and oh HORRORS! It is a Green Banana Cockroach (Panchlora nivea). I immediately shudder and a creepy, itchy feeling came over me. I think, "Ok, it's just a bug, let's find out what it's doing here." In the information tab I read:
"Also known as the Cuban cockroach, this is an invasive species that first got to the US on shipments of fruit from the Caribbean. Like most cockroaches, it is nocturnal. It is a strong flyer and is drawn to bright lights at night. This species does not breed in houses and prefers to remain outdoors if possible."
Whew, although invasive, it isn't going to try to live in my house. I did a little more research and learned that some people keep these at pets because of their beautiful green color, which brings me to my next question on this fella. Is he called a Green Banana Roach because he likes green bananas? Or because he looks like Kermit?
I shut off the outside light and was thrilled it was gone by morning. Go back to Cuba and your green bananas.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Second brood of bluebird babies starting hatching yesterday and there looks to be all five today, although siblings are covering younger ones to keep them warm until the day heats up, so I can only account for four sets of naked wings.
I saw a mockingbird couple hauling food to a nest in my neighbor's side yard and there are grackles feeding babies that are high up in a young pine, also in my neighbor's yard.
So, plant for the birds and they will come! Then you too can have a fun day, observing mother nature's wonders.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I heard the wonderful music and looked up at the purple martin apartment that I put up a couple of years ago. There was a pair, checking the back and the front. In and out the compartments they went. They teased me last year with their arrival and got my hopes up that I would become a landlord, but it never happened.
The house is situated so they have a clear flight line and it overlooks the pond. There are plenty of "eats", so I think it is the perfect housing arrangement and I hope this year they do too! Although, I'm guessing they will eat my dragonflies, which saddens me, in a way. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I belong to the Florida Native Plant Society. Last fall we did an outreach program at one of the many events our chapter covers in our home county of Osceola. I bring various live insects to draw attention of the importance of the relation of native plants and bugs in a biodiverse world. Children and adults alike are often mesmerized by the critters I bring. One of my friends in this quest is Kattya who seems to have the magic touch in getting my caterpillars to move on to the next step of metamorphosis. This was the second caterpillar that under her guidance turned. This one changed to a chrysalis since it is a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly the other is a moth that we are still waiting on and I'll post when the happy event occurs. Be sure to check out Kattya's blog which is full of fun and useful information!I don't believe in containerizing insects beyond the couple of hours at our outreach programs for the education purposes. Upon return home, I always take a few moments to set the critters back on the branches from which I snatched them in the morning. In these two cases, though, the caterpillars chose their own destiny. I check on them daily as I have since our November event.
Today, I checked in the morning, per usual. I went about my business trying to identify fungi that appeared in some mulch last week. I posted a photo of my mushroom on Facebook to the "Florida Fungi" page and got a prompt response that more details are needed. I went outside to take an additional photo and also to attempt to make a spore print (a subject for a future blog post). When I was looking for a place to protect my mushroom, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flutter of bright yellow. A butterfly is BORN!
Since I had my camera in hand, I snapped a few shots of the poor thing cooped up in a beanie baby container equipped with a screen roof. I undid the screening and snapped another picture before heading out to the closest flowers, which are the coral honeysuckle just feet away. The butterfly seemed a bit disoriented so I reached in and gently removed it and placed it on the flowers, snapping a couple of last shots as it drank some nectar and before it gracefully flew off into the sunset...well, the direction of what will be the sunset when it gets to be that time today.
I always say that I have a guardian angel on my shoulder and my Giant Swallowtail had one on its wing too. On a different day I may not have checked a second time, which is why I generally don't keep critters cooped up for my own amusements. This was a special event that I will hold in my memory....and I'll be checking on the moth 3 times a day from this point forward.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I recently had a visit from a Killdeer, my first encounter of this plover-type bird. I heard it before I saw it, and I haven't seen it since, but I know it still is around.
At night I let the dogs out for their last trip to potty around 10:00 p.m. There is a street light a couple of lots over which is more than enough light for this "Dark Sky" loving individual, but pretty much it is dark in my rural yard…VERY dark. The Irish Setter and Yellow Labrador are free to run on their own at this hour, but my English Setter, Tanner, needs to be on a leash, as he would never come back inside given the choice of searching out wildlife in the garden or coming back inside to sleep. He's a nature lover, as well.
Stomped down grasses with a "hole" at the fenceline from my neighbor's natural area is evidence that I have marsh rabbits that visit the pond at night. The sound of doves taking flight as we walk along the driveway also whets his appetite to stay outdoors. But, nothing has captured his interest as the killdeer (pictured top during the day). The alarm sound of this bird has created a monster in my English boy. At first he merely perked up his ears and got in a "set" position. Now he wakes me faithfully at 4:00 a.m. with pleas of needing to go out. He really doesn't need to go…he just wants to flush out and hear this bird that is using our meadow grasses as night cover. Although sleep deprived, I find it amusing.
I find it more interesting that the bird chooses to stay in the area that the dogs have access to 24/7. Just yards away, on the backyard side of a fence, is my bird "promotion" area which the dogs only have access to when I am with them. Perhaps the killdeer is lying in wait to be amused as well.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
I saw another Common Buckeye today when not much else of the insect variety was showing itself in the cooler temperatures. Somehow "common" doesn't describe them at all...they are quite regal-looking with their numerous eyes on colorful wings.
The photo here is one from after the first freeze in December as I was not quick enough to capture today's brave soul with the camera. You can click the picture to see it full size.
Junonia coenia is the scientific name for this species which uses several different larval hosts in Florida which in my garden include: fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora); toadflax (Linaria spp.); plantain (Plantago spp.) twinflower (Dyschoriste spp.) and bluehearts (Buchnera americana). Based on this long list (there are other hosts too), the caterpillars aren't particularly fussy.
They are a little on the shy side...darting off if you cast a shadow too closely, but every now and again they will be so enthralled in a flower or hanging out in the gravel driveway that you'll get a good photo. And they sure do help brighten a winter day.
Be sure to visit over at beautifulwildlifegarden.com for great ideas on attracting wildlife to your own garden.