Friday, April 20, 2012


First some updates on things we have been following:

The Falcate Orangetip we have been following has moved up into a later, much more colorful, instar.

Our butterfly weeds have half-grown Monarch caterpillars, or new eggs (or, as in this case, both), hidden in the budding flower clusters at their tops.  What it means is, all the pretty orange flowers won't appear, because they'll be eaten to the nub. But it's not a complete disaster. For one thing, we'll be creating new Monarchs; for another, we have learned that if the flower clusters are eaten down now, they will simply make new flower clusters that will bloom later in the summer.

The handsome paper wasp Polistes exclamans which made a nest on the kitchen window has hatched its eggs and now has a small beginner nest full of larvae, which, if all goes well,  shortly will become workers.

Here is one I had been following, but hadn't mentioned before in this blog. We found this funny shiny little capsule under a blade of grass, and brought it home, and looked it up in our very useful guide to Tracks & Sign of Insects (Eiseman and Charney), where we learned that it was a deer fly egg case.

After we learned what it was, we spotted another one out in the woods in the act of hatching.

Meantime, the one I had brought home I stuck in a plastic container, and when I checked on it some days later, it had hatched, and the bottom of the container was wriggling with hundreds and hundreds of potential deer flies.

Cheryl said I absolutely was not allowed to raise them, so after I had examined them I washed them down the sink. Now, we live outside the city, and down the sink means into our septic tank system. If it turns out these maggots are detritus feeders, our backyard might be unlivable this summer.

Otherwise we have been seeing lots of new things. We spent a weekend up at Lake Norfork staying with our friends Jeff and Sue. We had gone together to a nearby very clear small river that emptied into the lake and were looking at bugs and wildflowers and whatever things were about, when one of us spotted a big snake on a rock out on a small island in the river. We trained our binoculars on it and speculated on whether, with its orange coloring, it was a copperhead, but eventually satisfied ourselves that it was a Midland Water Snake. Sue, who is not as fond of snakes as we are, said "Am I hallucinating? It looks like the whole island is covered with snakes." We looked more carefully, and she was right. There was a large female on the rock on the right and otherwise the island was covered with males all trying to be part of a mass orgy.

Looking down into the clear water closer at hand, we saw more courtship behavior. Two male Northern Studfish were facing off, occasionally nipping at each other. With their bright breeding colors and exotic finnage they were as flashy as any of the tropical fish I kept as a kid.

On this same outing Cheryl took this really nice photo of a Hayhurst's Scallopwing, a skipper about the size of half of a postage stamp.

I'll finish this blog with two reptile closeups from our neighborhood: A young Hognosed Snake doing his hooded cobra act. And a male Broadhead Skink. The snake is harmless; the lizard bites pretty hard.

At this time of year you can't go out the front door without seeing something good.

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