Monday, April 30, 2012

Spotted Lady Beetles

It was a nice sunny afternoon and these little spotted lady beetles were out in force. According to the bug guide dandelion pollen is an important early spring food source for these beneficial insects. Their normal food is other insects. I must have come across a dispersing group that had overwintered together because in one area it seemed like every third dandelion had a beetle on it.

 In bloom:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Two Wet Rabbits

This past week has been cold and wet, really putting a halt to the warm dry spring we have been having. It isn't over yet, as we are forecast to have a couple more nights of frost before we get some warmer weather. There has been very little growth of buds and little in the way of flowers or insects to photograph.

Last evening I came across these two wet rabbits enjoying a soggy silflay at the corner of the mowed path around the square. I didn't see any rabbit tracks all winter in this area but now here are two rabbits coming to the area again. I've seen a couple of rabbits get frisky back at the house so I suspect it is mating time for these guys which drives them out to go seek mates away from their winter home territories. That spot at the corner of the path had been a popular rabbit hangout spot in 2010 but in 2011 I rarely saw rabbits there. There is a clear animal path that goes from a hole under the fence along the back of Kimdale St. up the berm towards this area. The thing I don't know is if that path connects up with a larger network of animal paths throughout the area, or if it is mainly just local rabbits that create this path as they go between their favourite spots in their territory.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Red Admiral

The dandelions have started flowering just in time for the red admiral butterflies (Vanessa Atalanta) who are very prominent right now. Biking along the road I must have passed half a dozen before I took this picture.

In Bloom:
Canada Plum (in NE corner: Prunus Nigra)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Click Beetle

I'm no good at beetle identification so I asked for help identifying this non-descript 2cm long, narrow beetle I found sunning itself on a branch of a maple tree.

It is a type of click beetle(Elateridae). There are hundreds of different click beetle species, the common denominator is that they can bend between their prothorax and mesothorax (see diagram). They are able to use this flex to spring into the air and evade predators.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

European Fire Ant

I wasn't sure about my identification of the ant from the previous posting so I went back to see if I could get a better image. The above is the result. I think it is a pretty clear image. You can almost count the segments on the antenna. There should be 12. You can more clearly see the rugged sculpting of the head and thorax. You can clearly see the 2 backward facing spines on the propodeum that is distinctive of the myrmica genus.

I haven't been bitten by them and don't intend to try but it is interesting that these guys are around as the location isn't particularly moist and it is said that they like a moist environment. I had no problem finding them as there were several under a leaf just a few inches from where I photographed the previous one. I suspect the nest is not far, perhaps under a log nearby.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Critters in the litter

millipede and ant

I was uncovering a few baby plants the other day and decided to see how my camera did taking close-ups of insects. Here is a closeup of a small millipede and an ant just hanging out under the old leaves. The camera doesn't do quite a good enough job to identify the little guys but here is my best attempt. (You can see the image in greater detail by clicking on it)

The ant looks like a European fire ant (Myrmica rubra). This is a surprising result as I haven't heard much about european fire ants in Ottawa and as their name implies they are an invasive species, who have a reputation for being aggressive and having a powerful sting. There are native Myrmica species that it could be although they are not considered common in disturbed environments such as this naturalization area. I haven't been stung and haven't encountered any aggressive ants so if another candidate fit the image I would choose that based on lack of identifying behaviour.

The structural details that makes me think it is a fire ant are the following: the two lobed petiole (waiste) which is common to the myrmicinae, the two prominent spikes on the propodeum, the grooved rugged aspect of the head and alitrunk (thorax), the smooth and hairy gaster (abdomen), the dark red color, the large clypeus. An alternative ID is that this is a particularly red pavement ant (Tetramorium species-e). This is another introduced species that is you common black ant on your sidewalk. It also has the same basic body format although the large clypeus is missing as well as the prominent spikes. Another possibility is that it is one of the Spine-waisted Ants (Aphaenogaster)

The millipede is probably also another invasive Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus It is one of the most common millipedes in Ontario There is a similar looking native species in the parajulidae family but the photograph is not good enough to conclusively tell them apart. The non-native is supposed to have longitudinal striations but the resolution can't quite make them out.

It's incredible the number of invasive plants and animals in this roadside environment. It feels like most of the common things you see are all invasives.

In Bloom:
Dandelion (first of season April 7)
Scilla (escapee)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Winter injury to white pines

winter damage to pine tree

The pines from the 2009 planting on the south side of the berm all have significant winter damage. Winter damage is where the freezing and thawing over the winter damages the needles of evergreens. It typically occurs (as in the above picture) on the south western side of the tree where the afternoon winter sun is strongest. The sun warms up the needle enough for it to come back to life. It opens its stomata to breath in some air to start photosynthesis but in so doing it loses some moisture that is not replenished from the still frozen roots. The winter winds dry out the needle and the ends of the needles turn brown. The pines planted on the north side of the berm have very little winter damage though as they get very little winter sun.

Salt from the road is also a potential desiccant that can damage evergreens. These trees certainly have to put up with a bit of spray from Hunt Club Road that could be a contributing factor to the winter damage, but the pines are about 100m from the road and I can tell from the discolouration of the late winter snow that the road grime mostly stays closer to the road.(more information on browning of evergreens)

In the above picture it is interesting to note that you can see from the spacing between the branches on the trunk that it took two full years for the tree to recover from the transplantation. It grew even less in 2010, the year after transplantation than it did in 2009 the year it was transplanted.