It’s a bug-eat-bug world
Every day in the garden is a treasure hunt. The treasure isn’t gold or gems or money, though. It’s insects. Not a day goes by that I don’t find some new-to-me species or a new life-stage of some well-known insect, roaming, flying, sucking, munching, or preying its way through the gardens. Most of these insects are common and unremarkable… until they aren’t. Almost every time I encounter an insect in the garden, I am captivated for a time. Sometimes it means I’m pulling them off my plants (as in Japanese beetles eating my beans!), but more often it means I’m watching to see what they are doing, how they are interacting with the plant or other nearby beings, or trying to identify them for the first time.
Later, I tend to do a little research to see if I can learn anything more about them, and often that reveals some extraordinary talent or behavior that helps them survive. Here are a few of the most intriguing insects I’ve found lately…
They are back…I did a post about these crazy Sumac flea beetle larvae last year. Take a look to find out why they are so weird.
The adult sumac flea beetles doing what they do…
This (unidentified) species of duskywing skipper has been a common visitor on the purple coneflowers this year. Notice how ragged that flower looks – likely the result of Japanese beetles, which tend to eat the flower from below the cone so as not to be spotted. Duskywings are difficult to tell apart, but this group of butterflies tend to land with wings spread out, unlike most butterflies.
This metallic green bee is a common visitor on the mountain mint. I think it might be some kind of sweat bee.
The Eastern tiger swallowtail caterpillar builds a little pad of webbing on a tulip poplar leaf. They fold over the leaf and settle into this little pad when not feeding. Looking a bit like a snake or a frog, their false eyes are a good deterrent of predators.
Growing up I always called these June bugs. Actually they are June beetles (true bugs being insects whose wings cross each other forming an X shape on their backs). They tend to show up in July, not June, and will land right in your hair without a care. They also tend to bang into the windows on the back porch, too, which makes me wonder about their eyesight.
I found this cute Green crab spider hanging out on the butternut squash after a rainy day. They usually appear on flowers, and their long front legs are really good at grabbing prey (beetles, butterflies, bees) while they collect pollen and nectar. They do not spin webs like orb weavers.
We watched this black swallowtail caterpillar spin this chrysalis on a dill plant last week. Now we await its emergence as a butterfly.
True to its name, this (blackened) milkweed beetle was perched atop the swamp milkweed leaf. I’ve seen other milkweed beetles and bugs, but this was a new one for me.
One of the absolute coolest finds this week was this dainty little hanging package of goodness. It’s only about the size of two grains of sand, and looks a little bit like a Faberge egg. A consult with Roads End Naturalist and Google identified it as a parasitoid wasp cocoon, probably of the braconid or ichneumon (Charops sp.) variety. These are great wasps to have in the garden as they parasitize caterpillars that eat vegetables.
This very striking fly appeared on our deck chair one day. It took me a while to determine if it was a fly or a bee. Turns out it is a Tiger Bee Fly (Xenox tigrinus). This is another ally of the home and garden. A prolific pollinator (they love the nectar of coneflowers and asters), the Tiger bee fly also is a predator of carpenter bees, which might explain why I found it on our deck. After mating the female searches for a carpenter bee nest and lays her eggs along side the carpenter bee’s eggs. When the Tiger bee fly eggs hatch, they attach themselves to a carpenter bee larvae and drink it dry, ensuring that it never leaves its nest. So if you are looking for an ally to control carpenter bee damage to your deck or home, plant lots of asters and coneflowers to attract these insect friends.
This true bug is some kind of seed bug in the family Rhyparochromidae, I believe. If you can ID it, let me know!
A lacewing larvae, decorated with the corpses of its prey (they eat aphids…Yay!). Gotta love this strategy for keeping predators at bay!!
My elderberries were covered with a marching band of these leaf-footed bug nymphs yesterday. That may explain why I’m getting no berries from my elders. They get full heads of berries, but then the green berries begin to disappear and I’ve yet to harvest a single ripe purple berry from these trees. I guess its time for more soapy water traps!
Oh, and larvae of all kinds are just cool critters. This one – while cute – is not a welcome sight. This is a squash lady beetle larva. He was munching on a squash leaf. But I do love the spiky hairs on his back. The adults look like oversized yellow lady beetles, but unlike lady beetles that eat aphids and other pests, this one IS the pest to squash plants.
So, there’s just a sample of the many tiny insects that show up in our yarden each day. They are always a treat and certainly a challenge, both in identification and management. It’s always a pleasure to learn from them, though. Nature is the best teacher.
Have a buggy day, all. Peace.