Along our back fence, the garden has really gotten out of control. With the work we’ve been doing on our mom’s houses, we haven’t really had time to give it half the attention it needs and deserves. Consequently, it’s got goldenrod, poke weed, and thistles growing in abundance. Three of our planted perennials are doing quite well, however, including the bee balm (Monarda didyma, also known as Oswego tea or bergamot) and the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) shown here. The other, not yet in bloom, is obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana). All three are native to the area and extremely tough. The bees love them and I followed this common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) for a while as he moved from flower to flower.
Tagged With: Insects
The gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) is in bloom and that generally means I have an opportunity to photograph common eastern bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) like this one. I don’t recommend planting loosestrife unless you really enjoy digging up plants where they appear throughout your garden. It can easily get ahead of you. We sometimes joke about planting two aggressive plants in a container and waiting to see which comes out on top. This has got to be a contender. It does have nice flowers, though, and its attractiveness to bees speaks well of it. Nevertheless, if I could get rid of all we had, I wouldn’t think twice about it.
I stopped on the way home today to take a short walk on Rock Creek Trail. I went over to the creek, where I had been a few weeks ago when the water was so high. There were quite a few insects about this time, including a lot of these pretty little damselflies. This is a male ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata). The females have a conspicuous, white spot near the end of their wings (the “spot” on this one is a reflection, not really a spot). The photo is not as sharp as I would have liked but they don’t appreciate close approach and it’s the best I was able to get. One thing I really like about this picture, though, is that you can see the edge of the leaf through the damselfly’s wings.
The buddleia in the back and side yards is going to be done blooming soon but while there are still flowers on it, the butterflies are making the most of the time they have left. There were dozens of painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) in the yard today, as well as a handful of monarchs (Danaus plexippus). I got a few pictures of both together but since I’ve posted monarch pictures recently and it’s been a few years since I featured a painted lady, I decided to go with this one, which I think shows it off pretty well.
I went out back to see what I could find to photograph this evening. There was a painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly on the Buddleia and I got some reasonable but not great pictures of that. Then I noticed this large, yellow and brown wasp on the steps. This is a large wasp, about 2cm in length. Not as big as the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) but still a pretty good size. As the common name implies, these are native to Eurasia. They were introduced to eastern North America in the 1800s. They are one of the many wasps to build paper nests out of chewed wood pulp.
IN general I try not to post pictures of the same thing close together and especially not two days in a row. However, needs must. I only took a few pictures today and the only pictures worth sharing from today are of a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in our back yard. This one doesn’t have the orange flower complimenting the butterfly but it’s still pretty nice, I think. These are here in pretty good numbers right now, and I’m really enjoying them on the Buddleia and (like this one) the Verbena bonariensis.
We had a short visit from Dorothy this weekend. She flew down to Richmond late Thursday evening and came up here this morning for a less-than-24-hour visit. We went out to the Glenn’s farm (properly known as Rocklands Farm) and while we were there I got some pictures of a monarch (Danaus plexippus) on Anna’s flowers. We enjoyed being outdoors although truth be told, it was a bit warmer than is my preference. Still, a beautiful day.
I decided to take some pictures of plants on the driveway this evening. One that I got pictures of is an elephant ear, otherwise known as taro and more precisely called Colocasia esculenta. After that I started taking some pictures of the pale pink flowers on an autumn flowering stonecrop, probably ‘Autumn Joy’, also known as ‘Herbstfreude’. Although these are often referred to as sedum, they have been reclassified as a Hylotelephium species. As I was taking the pictures, this eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) came and gave me another point of interest.
The skippers are a constant source of attraction pretty much all summer and into the fall in our yard. They may have their favorites but they are generally everywhere, from the black-eye Susans (Rudbekia) as seen here, to the Verbena bonariensis, the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and the Buddleia. They are everywhere and it pretty huge numbers. If you walk along the edge of the black-eyed Susans, they fly off en masse and alight again, further along or behind you. It’s enjoyable just to watch them flitting about, sometimes two or even three on a flower, but not usually for long, as they are so often on the move.
I needed to cut a 4×8 sheet of plywood into 7 pieces today and as usual i did it on the back patio. It’s relatively flat and it’s a lot less work than getting such a large board into the basement. I took a kitchen towel to wipe rhe sweat off my face and when I was done, it was left for a while on a table in the sun. After I had put everything else away, I noticed that this grasshopper had found the towel and was, I assume, eating the salt from my sweat. It stayed quite a while, slowly moving over the exposed cloth. With the camera resting on the table I was able to get some nice close-up pictures of the grasshopper.
I managed to get outdoors for a little while today and into the woods and upland next to my office building. It was warm but not hot and I enjoyed the break in an otherwise busy day. I got some pictures of a lady beetle on the same stand of yellow ironweed where I took the picture of the leaf-footed bug last Thursday (see Thursday, September 7, 2017). Then when I got out into the sun I was able to get reasonably close to this dragonfly, which I haven’t had time to identify yet. It’s a pretty thing and I particularly like the eyes.
I went for a hike with a friend and his four lovely kids today. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and a perfect day to get a little bit lost. We were never really truly lost but we did miss a turn and ended up further from the car than we had originally planned. We enjoyed the woods and the kids in particular enjoyed kicking over mushrooms (after letting me get down on the ground to get a few pictures first). We also saw a slug and I got some nice pictures of that, if pictures of a slug can ever really be considered nice. This picture is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), one of four subspecies of Limenitis arthemis. This is a very distinctive butterfly and quite a pretty thing. Yes, I know that it looks more blue than purple. It’s been mentioned. The ‘red’ spots (which are orange. I know, right?) are on the lower hind wings (i.e., the other side).
I went out into the back yard this evening to see what I could find. There was a serious buzz around the flowers with dozens (or possibly hundreds, I really don’t know) of bees, wasps, skippers, and flies all moving about. After getting a few pictures of a wasp on the mountain mint, most of which are pretty blurry, I went to see what was happening at the buddleia near the gate. This potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) flew up to the top branches but I could see it was carrying something. Turns out it has a caterpillar. The female potter wasp lays eggs in a mud nest and then provisions it with small caterpillars, as food for the larva.
I went outside a little before 1:00 PM today and it was quite warm and very muggy. I took a few pictures of wildflowers but it looked like I was not going to get any insect pictures. There were plenty about but they were all moving quite a lot, which makes it hard. I also didn’t feel like hanging out in the hot sun any longer than necessary. As I was leaving, this female common whitetail (Plathemis lydia) landed on the ragweed just ahead of me. I got a few pictures from where I was and then very slowly moved closer until I was able to get this one and a few like it before she flew away.
I don’t know what sort of wasp this is and I’m sort of doubtful that I could identify it from this or the two other photos I took of it as it moved around the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) this afternoon. It was a sort of lazy afternoon and I hung out with the wasps again, as I tend to do. If I’m going to be out on a day above 90°F, especially if I’m going to be in the sun on such a day, there’s a good chance it’s because I’m hanging with my insect friends. Otherwise, I head for the shade at the very least, if not for the air-conditioned indoors.
This little, dark butterfly was flitting about the black-eyed Susans this afternoon. It’s been quite warm and today was especially so, but the hot sun seems to be exactly what the little flying critters love. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), the black-eyed Susans, (Rudbekia species), the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and what’s left of the coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) were all thick with bees, wasps, flies, skippers, and butterflies. It was nice just to be there with them, hearing the faint buzz and seeing all the movement. This little fellow, one of the spread-wing skippers, took a little stalking to get pictures, but I think it was worth the effort. UPDATE: This has been identified as a wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae).
I came across another new bug today (new to me, that is). This is the twice-stabbed stink bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana), so called because of the two red ‘wounds’ the apex of the scutellum. There were at least three of them on the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) in our back garden, including the two shown here. I had a hard time photographing them because they kept crawling around to the underside of the branches and under the bunches of purple berries. My camera, with a 100mm macro lens and two off camera flashes is a little unwieldy and takes two hands to manage properly. So, I’d use one hand to scare the bugs onto the upper side of the branch and then let go to get the picture. By the time I had found them again through the viewfinder and focused on them, they were half way back to the underside of the branch.
We have had a relatively mild August this year. I don’t know if it’s any sort of record or where it stands in comparison to averages but it has definitely been on the cool side. Today, however, it was hot. I went out into the empty lot this afternoon and had trouble because there was standing water in a few places. Once I made my way to one of the drainage ponds I sat in the shade and watched the dragonflies darting around over the shallow water. I happened to see this little rice stink bug (Oebalus pugnax) on a blade of grass and got two photos before he flew away. This species has characteristic spikes at the front corners of their pronotum (sort of at the ‘shoulders’).
I went out to the empty lot next to my building this afternoon. I started by going through the woods on the lower part but then crossed the stream on a tree that conveniently fell across it. That saves me a bit of underbrush getting to the open, higher ground of the northeastern part of the lot. This part has only a few trees, so far, and is mostly filled with a thick covering of ragweed with milkweed and goldenrod scattered throughout. I happened to see this little moth, mostly white with a little orange on the leading edge of its wings. It is a delicate cycnia (Cycnia tenera) and is fairly shy. In the other two Cycnia species found in North America the orange or yellow on the wings is either absent (C. oregonensis) or is darker but doesnot extend to apex (C. collaris).
The skippers are out in force these days. I got one picture with three of them on a single bunch of flowers. They move around a lot, making it a little harder to get a good picture but there are so many of them you can almost pick a flower and wait for one to land on it. They are somewhat plain as butterflies go. The butterflies and skippers are grouped together in the superfamily Papilionoidea under the order Lepidoptera. The other superfamilies (there are quite a few) are all moths.
This little butterfly, an eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas) is a fairly common visitor to our garden and can be seen throughout the region. It’s not the easiest butterfly to photograph, partly because of it’s diminutive size (it’s small) and partly because it’s a fairly shy critter and doesn’t like being approached. But this one let me get close enough for a pretty good shot. It was late enough in the day that the light wasn’t as good as I’d have liked and this was taken with the aid of the camera’s on-board flash. It isn’t the best lighting for small subjects but in this case it worked out reasonably well.
After taking the picture of the lady beetle larva in the woods, I crossed the stream on a fallen tree trunk. I worked my way from there through a fairly dense area of brambles and small trees to the slope that leads to what I call the uplands part of the empty lot. This is about 30 feet higher than the lowlands across the stream and it is mostly clear of trees. It is filled with ragweed and milkweed with a few empty spots that are almost barren, with just bare clay which sometimes holds standing water and other times is baked into a cracked, hard surface. In one of those empty spots, I followed this wasp, which is Cerceris fumipennis, an apoid wasp (Apoidea) in the family Crabronidae. It landed and disappeared into this little hole in the ground. I figured it would eventually come out again so I got down and waited. I was rewarded for my patience when he appeared at the entrance and was able to get a half dozen shots off before he flew off into the distance.
It was a slightly less warm but every bit as humid day today. I went to eat my lunch in the empty lot next to my building, sitting on the edge of a now-dry drainage pond. This pond rarely has more than a few inches of water in it but the water is gone and the mud has cracked and is only damp. I had expected to see more insects there but I suppose it’s dry enough that even they have moved to somewhere with a bit more water. I took some pictures of the flowers of some softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) and this Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) came and landed right in front of me. I was able to get four quick shots before it flew away. In this, the last of the four, its wings are just starting to open.
I’ve been able to get a fair number of flower pictures so far this year but the insects are not out in all their force yet. I’ve seen many around but haven’t been able to photograph many of them. This is my first bumble bee of the summer. It isn’t the best bumble bee picture I’ve ever taken but it makes me happy, with the brightness of the bee balm (Monarda didyma) contrasting with the black of the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). I’m sure there will be many more to come. As for the title of this post, it’s the sort of thing that shows up in crossword puzzles fairly often, two words or phrases that overlap in the middle. Bumble Bee and Bee Balm.