Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dog Strangling Vine on the Border

milkweed bug (Lygaeus kalmii)

Earlier this summer I went for a walk at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden where they have a serious Dog Strangling Vine (DSV) problem. In some places all you could see was Dog Strangling Vine; it shocked and saddened me. Previously, I hadn't worried too much about this new invasive species as I figured it would eventually find its place along with all the other non-native species in the roadside environment. Now I'm concerned that it may invade and come to dominate the naturalization areas.

There is a small patch of the very invasive Dog Strangling Vine about 200m west of the 2011 planting area. Earlier this summer I tried pulling out as much of the DSV as I could find. You can't kill it just by pulling off the stem but you knock it back enough that it is unlikely to produce seed this year. The seed pods on the plants I missed are now opening and releasing the fluffy seeds so it is too late to do anything more this season.

I thought it was interesting to see the milkweed bug feeding on this Dog Strangling Vine plant. Dog Strangling Vine is related to Milkweed and is so similar that monarch butterflies may place their eggs on DSV instead of milkweed. Unfortunately the monarch caterpillars cannot survive on the DSV so it is yet one more threat to the monarchs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A sod webworm moth

Lesser Vagabond Sod Webworm (Agriphila ruricolella)

This is one of the common little moths that flutter up as you walk through the long grass. It's common name refers to the caterpillar stage that lives in amongst the thatch feeding on grass at night (pdf). It is one of the few native bugs that seems to do well in the mostly foreign roadside environment.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Yellow jackets coming in for a landing

Eastern Yellow Jacket (Vespula maculifrons)

A busy yellow jacket nest. Wasps were continuously coming and going.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monarch on a Honeysuckle

Monarch Butterfly(Danaus plexippus)

I finally got a picture of a monarch from closer than 20 feet away. I think this is the first picture of a honeysuckle bush I've taken. This invasive species is all over the place in the 1995 planting area. It is absent only in the darkest areas where little light reaches the forest floor. It doesn't seem to be aggressively invading the new planting areas though. Neither honeysuckle or buckthorn, the other common invasive bush, is present in the 2009 planting area.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Annual Cicada

Annual Cicada(Genus Tibicen)

I've been listening to these guys make their loud electical buzzing sound for a while now. There has been at least one up in a tree somewhere in the backyard for the past few days. The one in the picture above is the first one I've spotted in the flesh. They're huge! At first I thought he was a dried up leaf. He was hanging on to a dried up maple tree in the 2011 planting area.

The 2011 planting area was hit hard by the drought in July. The drought is now over as it has cooled off and we have had rain on and off for the past week but the month long heat wave had already killed off many of the trees that had been attempting to comeback from last year. Some trees survived the drought better than others. The white pines were the most successful conifers. The hackberry, basswood, serviceberry and redbud did quite well, as did the suckering poplars. The maples and oaks in particular seemed to take the drought hard this year. This is the second difficult year for these trees and I'm not sure if they have enough viable buds to make another comeback next year. Maybe some of them will regenerate from the roots.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grasshoppers galore but where are the Orb Weavers?

Red Legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)

In August, every step you take through the long grass causes a wave of grasshoppers to hop away from you. Grasshoppers are just everywhere and in the late summer they are one of the most prominent animals around. The other animal I expect to encounter about this time of year are the Orb Weavers, particularly the Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia). There should be dozens sitting prominently in the middle of large webs spanning gaps in the vegetation, but this year I haven't seen a single one. Where have all the Orb Weavers gone?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Crossing paths at the Goldenrod

Common Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens)

The goldenrod is in flower and their panicles are full of activity. The Bumble Bee above just ignored the nearby mating goldenrod soldier beetles.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle(Chauliognathus pensylvanicus)

This large orange Goldenrod Soldier Beetle isn't much of a threat to these mating Jagged Ambush Bugs. Its face is covered in what it is interested in: goldenrod pollen.

Jagged Ambush Bug (Genus Phymata)

Jagged Ambush Bugs look a bit like chameleons; they have horns on their stubby noses and their eyes look a bit googly like a chameleon's. They hardly move and blend in very well with the goldenrod flowers. Even when I know they are there, it is hard to make out the true shape of their bodies.

Northern Paper Wasp(Polistes fuscatus)

This Northern Paper Wasp seems like a giant compared to the little Jagged Ambush Bug resting below it. Even if the wasp wasn't such an out-sized challenge for the little predator, the wasp would have little to fear from the Ambush Bug: it has already got its arms full with a little fly.

Flesh Fly(Family Sarcophagidae)

Here is another common visitor to the goldenrod: A little flesh fly. Flesh flies deposit their eggs such that the larvae may feed on some insect or dead animal but the adults themselves are vegetarians.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Painted Ladies

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

There were two painted ladies flitting about this Viper's bugloss. To the right is a picture of the other one where you can see the underside of the hind wing and the 5 eye-spots that identify this butterfly as a Painted Lady and not the very similar American Lady which has only 2 eye spots. These butterflies have multiple generations a year. They cannot survive the winter and must have traveled here over the course of the summer from areas to the south that do not have severe frosts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus)

The overflow from the packed house at the goldenrods came over here to this neighbouring patch of birds-foot trefoil. These guys especially like feeding on goldenrod and I suspect this fellow wouldn't usually be found on trefoil except that this bunch happened to be right beside some goldenrod (Where there were many more of his mates having a high old time.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Citrus Flatid Planthopper(Metcalfa pruinosa)

I saw these large planthoppers hanging out on the parsnip a couple of weeks ago; despite their name they are not too picky about their food. It is quite cute how they like to feed together in small groups all on the same stem. They were a bit camera shy and scuttled around the stem to avoid their picture being taken, but they didn't hop away and eventually let me take their pictures.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Eastern Tailed Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas)

You can't see the tail very clearly in this picture unless you click to enlarge it, but one thought I had is that the tail might be a form of camouflage so that predators would not know which way the butterfly was facing. With the large black spot right by the tail being the false eye, and the tail being a false proboscis, the area behind the orange patch forms a crude head. Well, perhaps not a very good likeness, but then it isn't trying to fool Sherlock Holmes.

Mating Milkweed Bugs

Whenever I pass milkweeds I look to see if there is a monarch caterpillar on them. No such luck as yet, but today I did spot these busy milkweed bugs (Lygaeus kalmii) on a milkweed. They were a bit camera shy and didn't have any trouble coordinating their movements to scuttle away from the camera.