Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beetles in "love", a weird moth and other insects

It's getting to be the "buggy" time of year again! I like to go out in the yard and see what kind of 6 and 8-legged critters are lurking! Yesterday I noticed the flowers of my False Spirea bushes were crawling with beetles, flies, ants, wasps, and bees. I grabbed my camera and tripod to take some photos. Have you ever wondered where "baby beetles" (called grubs, by the way) come from? Well, here's your chance to find out! :) I guess I'm shameless when it comes to intruding on "insects' intimate moments", but it is fascinating! Notice in the movie, how the much larger female continues to forage for pollen and nectar as her mate has a one-track mind and is oblivious to all the food nearby! Typical male! ;)

Ok, I hope that wasn't too embarassing! On to other things! Later, I spotted a spotted Asparagus Beetle (right) on my African Daisy on the patio. What a pretty pattern it has! I liked the colors. Some of the other insects on the False Spirea flowers included these large brown ants. I liked the detail on this one (left). These flowers are "magnets" for insects of all kinds. They have a strong, not-too-pleasant odor that insects can't seem to resist. These shrubs have been in my family for over 100 years, they came from my great-grandfather's yard in southern Indiana. My mother had them in our yard in Nashville when I was growing up and I transplanted them here when we moved to Oak Ridge 30 years ago. I guess it could be called an heirloom plant! I photographed a Green Bottle Fly on the flowers too, check out that long mouthpart! To be such nasty insects, they are kind of pretty!

Today I went up to look at the Milkweed plants, they are another good source of insects. I checked to see if there were any Monarch caterpillars, but I'm afraid the ants may have eaten the eggs, there wasn't a caterpillar or sign of them to be seen! I did see a cool female Scorpionfly on a leaf though. The males have a knob at the end of their abdomen that looks like a scorpion stinger, they are harmless though. I always have to laugh when I see these insects, they have such a comical-looking head!

Not much was going on with the Milkweed, so I checked my neighbor's yellow Yarrow. I was excited to see a couple of Plume moths. They are very strange-looking and have such odd wings, it is a wonder they can fly! I guess the little structures behind the primary wings are the "plumes" that give it its name. I also spotted another even smaller moth (right). I don't know what kind it is, I'm working on identifying it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A beautiful beach wedding, wildflowers and birds

We got home Sunday evening after spending a week on St. George Island along the beautiful Florida Gulf coast. Our son Curtis married Jeanie on the beach on May 17, not far from the house they rented. It was a family-only wedding with Jeanie's parents and sister from Washington (state), our daughter Lydia from Nashville, my parents from Milton, FL, my husband and me. Other than being a bit windy, the conditions could not have been more perfect. The hardest part of the week was having to get all dressed up, none of us are "dressy" people! Actually it was kind of fun to see everyone in their "Sunday" (even though it was Monday) best! :) It was so nice to have everyone under one roof for a week.

Curtis and Jeanie love nature as much as Kenny and I do, so we had a lot of fun spending time on the beach looking for crabs, watching dolphins, hunting for shells and other sea treasures, and looking at the stars. Kenny and I had to take Lydia back to the airport on Tue., we took advantage of the opportunity to stop and look at wildflowers on the way back to the island. Hwy. 65 between Telogia and Sumatra turned out to be a spectacular choice! It is a wildflower preserve area loaded with many unusual and some rare species. I was thrilled to find 2 kinds of Grass Pink Orchids, I'd seen them in my Florida wildflower book for years, it was great to get to see them up close and personal! The Grass Pink (left) has larger, darker pink flowers and the Slender Grass Pink (right) has smaller, paler flowers. The roadsides are not mowed during the wildflower blooming seasons, so there are many different kinds. I saw Yellow Colicroot, Blackroot, Purple Flag Iris, Bog Buttons, and Yellow and Sweet Pitcher Plants, Goldcrest, yellow-flowered Harper's Beauty (an endangered plant), Yellow Rhexia, Sundews, Blue Hearts, and many more.

The island also had many beautiful birds. It was interesting to see how different they looked with their breeding colors after seeing them fairly drab when we were in FL in Dec. I was delighted to finally catch a Black Skimmer (left) in action, these birds have a longer lower beak that they run through the top of the water to catch fish. This gorgeous Great Blue Heron was standing on the dune next to the beach on our final day. He will make a handsome mate for a lucky lady bird! :) I had never seen one with the curl of top feathers before.

On Wednesday, we all packed up and drove 1-1/2 hours northeast to Wakulla Springs State Park. Kenny and I had gone there in December on our way north from Sanibel Island. It was interesting to see the difference in the birds this time. There were large numbers of overwintering ducks, grebes, moorhens, herons, egrets, and ibis that time. Many of those birds were not around this time, but we got the joy of seeing many baby birds when we took the boat ride down the river. There were Wood Duck, Common Moorhen, Anhinga and White Egret families either swimming or in nests. The baby white egrets were nearly ready to leave their nest, with 4 of them sharing such a tight space, they are going to be ready to "fly from the coop"! They were so beautiful! I just wish I hadn't been in a moving boat when I shot these photos! Our daughter-in-law (I just love saying that!) wanted to see an alligator on this trip, she has always missed them on previous trips. She was not disappointed this time! We saw several large gators and one cute baby.

The tree frogs and Green Anoles were fun to watch. The frogs would come out and sit near the windows on the deck each evening. I paid dearly for this photo when I got a 1/2" splinter in my big toe from laying flat on my stomach to shoot this little guy with my macro lens! Ouch! I was excited to finally get a photo of a male green anole with his neck pouch (called a dewlap) inflated. I'm not sure if they do that as a sign of aggression, to impress the lady anoles or both. He sure impressed us! :)

On one final note, my heart goes out to the people and animals of the Gulf Coast. I worry about the horrible effects the BP oil spill will have on everything and everyone who lives along the coast. As we savored the fresh shrimp, oysters, scallops, grouper and flounder that were harvested from the bay and gulf, we thought of how the fishermen will soon be out of work when the oil arrives in their area. It is just a matter of time! The oyster beds are so prolific in Apalachicola Bay, the fishermen were busy every morning harvesting them. These are hard-working people, it is sad to think their way of life will be disrupted when the oil arrives. I also hate to think of the millions of crabs, birds, fish, dolphins, and countless other tiny animals that will die or be adversely affected, it's just a matter of time before everything changes. I'll cherish the memories of this beautiful area! :(