“Nature is not a place to visit, it is home.”   
–  Gary Snyder

July is just the beginning of what I consider the most interesting part of the year, nature-wise. Birds have fledged a first brood, insects are abounding and plants are showing off their colorful flowers and fruits. Many turtles have laid their eggs, the majority of tadpole species have become frogs and brush foot butterflies are heading into a second breeding phase. AT my property. there are so many tiny toads and wood frogs, I could win a dance contest trying not to step on them.

Day old leaf-footed bug

Canada lilies, Lilium canadense, a native wildflower pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds, blooms at the same time as the native wood lilies Lilium philadelphicum. Both species can be found near woodland edges. Swamp candles are wetland plants with whorled panicles of yellow star-like flowers with red centers. Often they form large stands on wetland edges.

Canada Lily
Swamp Candle Flowers

Eastern wood pewees are medium sized flycatchers related to phoebes. They sit and wait for insects to fly, and then catch them in the air. One was recently following me as I mowed, swooping out to catch whatever moths were stirred up by the mower. Barn swallows will follow mowing equipment as well.

Eastern Wood Pewee

One insect that always is fun to find is the tiny partridge scolops planthopper Scolops sulcipes. In all stages, it has a protuberance on its head that looks like a horn. In adults, it is curved upward. Found in grassy areas with goldenrods, not a lot is known about this insect. Wing venation in adults has striking patterning.

Partridge Scolops Nymph

Blueberries are ripening, and there are plenty of them on many power line right-of-ways, along with native huckleberries. Recently, a female calico pennant dragonfly took a break and rested on some blueberries.

There is always something unusual to find- the excitement never ends, as my nephew once said- and this July has been no different. There was a mass of some type of insect eggs, perhaps a tree hopper, that had perfect little exit holes where the insects had hatched.

Egg Mass Perhaps of a Tree Hopper

Cleft-headed loopers are named for their cleft head, and they always remind me of kitty cat ears. Its moth is the famous peppered moth, which has been written about in textbooks throughout the world due to color variations that enable it to camouflage itself by day.

Cleft-headed Looper- Head on Left
Head of the Cleft-headed Looper

Butterflies have not been especially abundant so far, but the diminutive American coppers seem to be everywhere. The caterpillars are seldom seen, but may be found by looking carefully on their host plants- sheep sorrel or curled dock near where the adults are spotted..

American Copper on a Grass Seed Head

The slender long- horned flower beetle, Strangalia famelica can be seen on flowers obtaining pollen and nectar throughout the summer. There are many other species of flower beetles that look similar and also use flowers as a food source.

Strangalia famelica beetle

This year there have been quite a few walking sticks in varied habitats. Usually found on woody plants, two were in grassy areas with lots of forbs but no woody plants. Wonder what they were eating…

Early Instar Walking Stick

There are a lot more things of interest to discover as the summer progresses. Caterpillars tend to be larger and more colorful and interesting as foliage becomes mature. Fruits and seeds will attract lots of birds, sunrises and sunsets provide more color and interest than most television shows and perhaps all of us will be delighted by something new that we find that is not in a store. As Helen Keller noted “To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Pamm Cooper

July Sunrise

 

 

asian lady beetle

leaf footed bug

This fall has brought a few new residents to my home, and not the invited kind. I have been carefully removing Leaf Footed Bugs and Asian Lady Beetles from the interior of my home as well as my breezeway and garage. Both of these insects spend the winter in their adult stage in a dormant state. In the insect world, it is called diapause, equal to hibernation in animals. No eating or drinking, mating or reproduction happens. Their body functions slow way down.  Both insects are just using our homes for the secure, warm environment providing shelter during the winter. The do not do any damage to our homes, beyond the nuisance of their presence. Although the Asian Lady Beetle will defend itself by emitting a liquid from its leg joints if threatened. This liquid has an unpleasant odor to deter predators from eating them. The Leaf Footed Bug gives off an odor when crushed. All insects in this stink bug family, (Hempitera) lay claim to this offense quality.

Control measures are sealing up cracks and crevices to keep the insects from entering the home. One place they often enter is through attic and ridge vents. These should be covered with window screening. The insects enter the attic then work their way down to the living areas via wall voids, following pipes and wires. Minor infestations can be hand caught. Neither feeds on humans or will bite. They may pinch slightly if touched with the bare hand. Use a tissue or paper towel to pick them up and release outside. Vacuuming is another solution. Empty the vacuum to eliminate rotting and odors inside the vacuum bag.

Asian Lady Beetles feed on soft-bodied insects outside during the spring, summer and fall. Our native lady beetles overwinter in the adult stage also, but prefer to do so in leaf litter or  under rocky outcroppings and loose tree bark. The Leaf Footed Bugs have a piercing sucking mouth part used to feed on the plant juices of leaves. Neither insect will find anything to eat inside our homes unless you have aphids on houseplants or large leafy trees indoors. By November, the feeding phase has stopped for both insects.

I do have another type of creature in my house this fall, earthworms! I recently took the Master Composter class offered through UConn Garden Master program. It was informative and exciting. I know have made my own worm farm for composting indoors during the winter. Four weeks of kitchen scraps and no smell from the bin means the system is working well. Moistened strips of newspaper serve as the bedding. The type of worms best suited to worm bins are commonly called red wigglers. The Latin name is Eisenia foetida. This worm is not native to New England nor will it live over through our cold winters outside unless given added heat. Eisenia foetida specifically likes to live in the top two inches of soil, feeding voraciously on decomposing plant matter. It is not the normal worm found in our back yards. Eisenia foetida can be purchased online at various worm farming sites and sometimes at fishing bait stores. Be specific if purchasing worms for your own bin. Night crawlers (Lumbricus terrestris)  are not the same species, nor do have the same habits. Night crawlers prefer to create undisturbed burrows two feet deep, living a solitary existence, except to mate. Night crawlers will not live long in captivity.

-Carol

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Finished worm castings in a friends worm bin.