A 1 1/4 inch long female Dogday Harvestfly hangs atop a slender Silverod stem. Dogday harvestflies are a kind of Cicada. Their nymphs which live underground and feed on "root juices" take 3 years to mature. Adults live one season, just long enough to mate and lay eggs. The eggs are laid on the twigs of trees, but soon after the eggs hatch the larvae drop to the ground where they will burrow in and stay hidden down among the roots until they reach maturity.
8.19.11 Drama in the garden! A Braconid wasp injected her eggs into this Tomato Hornworm; the developed larvae spun these cocoons, attached all over the outside of the hornworm, from which they will pupate. Left alone, a Tomato Hornworm can eat its way through a lot of foliage and tomatoes in the course of its development.
The throat of the Willow Gentian in the flower bed was the hiding spot of the white goldenrod crab spider. When the moth visited the flower last night,'the spider grabbed the moth with its long front legs, injected a paralyzing poison and digestive enzymes into the moth. After the spider's enzymes have turned the insides of the insect into liquid, the spider sucks the prey dry until only the exoskeleton of the insect remains' according to Mary Holland in Naturally Curious.
8.17.11 Swampy areas are always enticing to plant hunters. Common Buttonbush, a shrub, may grow in 4 feet of water; today's specimen was growing in open water of unmeasured depth, accessible to me only by the zoom lens on my modest camera. The black, spatulate fungi, called Earth Tongues, were growing in the sphagnum moss at the margin of the swamp. Just a bit inland, this Earth Fan (Thelephora terrestris) was found in the undergrowth of trees.
Carrion Beetles prepare to bury a dead shrew. The beetles laboriously excavate under the carcass, letting it sink slowly into the earth. After it is fully covered the beetles will lay eggs on the shrew and when the eggs hatch the larvae will feed on the remains.
8.08.11 A Velvety Fairy Fan (fungus) and a Moonwort (fern) were two of a wide variety of growth this late summer morning in a damp woodland setting. The Bracted Plantain holds forth in a dry, sandy roadside.
8.04.11 Yesterday I received a call from a very excited grandson: I needed to be sure to come to his house because he had a special bird nest to show me. Indeed, it was well worth the trip and the anticipation. He has a styrofoam deer target propped up at the woods edge; he had been tossing objects to see if he could hit the target when a little bird came bursting out of the target! A chickadee has excavated a cavity in the neck of the "deer", directly underneath the muzzle. The opening is tear-drop shaped, about 1.5 inches in diameter; at the bottom of the 4 inch cavity lay 6 round, white eggs. After a quick survey of the situation, he decided he'd monitor progress from a respectful distance and let the little family have some peace.
The shed nymphal skin of a Dogday Harvestfly - our local Cicada species - was hanging cellophane-like on a spruce tree in my yard, this morning, and this Merganser floated cooly down the West River, enjoying its riparian milieu before the human hordes descended.