Monday, September 26, 2016


I put that title because some folks need preparation for a discussion of one of the largest families on the planet, insects. Early fall is the time they are most abundant as their food supplies, plants and animals, have reached peak levels. 

I cannot take a walk in the woods without encountering a spider web across my arm or across my face.  I do not do the crazy dance when I run into a web because spiders do not bite humans unless they are cornered...such as inside a shoe or glove. They rapidly climb out of the way when you encountered their gathering net.  Spiders are designed to catch small insects and 99.9% of the time cannot penetrate your skin! "Only about a dozen of the approximately 40,000 spider species worldwide can cause serious harm to the average healthy adult human. In North America, there are only two groups of spiders that are medically important: the widow group (which includes black widows) and the recluse group (brown recluses)." This quoted from an arachnologist who actually has had brown recluses crawling on his arm and studied spiders for decades and has never had a spider bite!  Therefore, avoid putting your appendages into dark places, but do not worry about everywhere else!!  So take a deep breath and look at the beauty that moved from our BBQ when we wanted to use it and had to break its web to outside the window of our dining room.  It spent about three weeks staying there and collecting and eating those nasty stink bugs that crawl on our walls in the fall and early winter before moving on.

I am pretty sure this is a Black and Yellow Argiope that is a common orb web spider. Orb web means it spins a web like a circle.  In the early morning when the dew is still on the webs I can see these webs 20 feet off the ground between trees.  They are so mathematically beautiful and we have them in our gardens as well.  I run into their webs fairly often.  The female can get pretty big and thus scares mankind.

Some spiders are great at camouflage.  There is a spider in this cosmos seed cluster above because it moved when I took the photo.  I cannot find it now as I study the photo!  Anyway, there are tiny spiders and big spiders and if you are outdoors in a good non-paved environment they are EVERYWHERE!  Yet, you are not bitten, are you?  You do not actually see them, do you?  They are very important to us, so call a truce if you are a bit arachnophobic.

These dramatic caterpillars I did declare war on.  They were completely eating all of my milkweed plant, which is the only one I plant for the Monarch larva.  These caterpillars are the larva of a plain brown moth which is abundant.  I would have left them if they only ate a small part of the plant, but no such luck.

This little guy on the petal of the cosmos is some beetle that eats other bugs.  Hopefully he eats bugs that eat my cosmos.  I did not know he was there when I took a picture of this glowing cosmos flower.

And, of course, we all love the butterflies.  No one swats them away or does the crazy dance when they fly in our face!  This little skipper butterfly is in abundance in my yard.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Little Green Guys

I had a volunteer parsley plant appear in one of my pots this spring.  I kept forgetting to harvest to add to my meals and then I went out last week and saw this.

I counted twenty little green black zebra swallowtail caterpillars.  They were hugely busy.  

Then as the plant became more decimated some of the little green guys moved on elsewhere to find shelter for their cocoons, I guess, unless a bird or two picked them off.

They left behind lots of little green peas of poop, which probably are pretty good for that potting soil!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Needs a shave?

Under my husbands 4 foot baby chestnut tree that is a variety (hybrid) of the one America has lost due to disease there were two of these fellows enjoying lunch.  Because the tree is so small we did have to move them somewhere else into the woods.  Perhaps they wandered back as we did not check. 

There were two and they were each about 3 inches long.  I think it is the caterpillar of one of the moths.  

"Polyphemus Moth Larva Larvae reach nearly four inches in length and appear "pushed together" from the ends, making it accordion-shaped. Larvae are fat, pale green, and sparsely covered with hair which are not harmful if touched. They feed on many trees and shrubs including oak, hickory, elm, maple, birch, apple, boxelder, cherry, chestnut, willow, ash, grape, pine, and members of the rose family. The larval period is 48 to 50 days long. In late summer or early fall, the larva spins a rounded, tough, parchment-like cocoon in the tree or shrub in which it has been feeding. It overwinters in this cocoon, and emerges the following spring or summer as a very beautiful adult moth.

A common giant silk moth, the male has a wingspan of nearly five inches and the antennae are large and feathery. The wing color is light brown with gray dusting on the forewing edges and vertical pink lines near the body. Each hindwing has a larger yellow eyespot in a field of dark blue to black. Small yellow eyespots occur in the center of the forewing."

This is a photo I got from an Ohio website..

Wish I would see this some evening.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Price We Pay

While the hot days of summer seem to be making an exit and we can now look forward to some rain in the coming days, it does not arrive without a price.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

No Talking

I think this September sunset speaks for itself.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Morning Surprise

In the early spring when I was busy with other things than my garden I missed the invaders.  I noticed weeks later that my hardy hibiscus, or rose mallow as it is sometimes called, was missing almost all of its leaves.  Just tall stems remained peering above the peonies.  I realized that there would be no dinner-dish-plate blossoms ahead but I also did not want to lose the plant, and so I sprayed with an organic soap and that seemed to deter whatever very small bug was eating away at the juicy green leaves.  This morning I see I have been rewarded with blooms months later!

We have native rose mallow that grows along my shore with white blossoms and red centers and while I enjoy it just as much, it is nice to see such a bold and garish tropical smile at the beginning of fall in my garden.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Play Before Work

Saturday mornings before the day's heat has time to threaten my schedule, I hurry to the children's garden to harvest vegetables for the food pantry.  We are at the end of harvest with less and less to capture and I have a sweet 90-year-old woman who volunteers to harvest and water and weed with me these early mornings.  I rush to get there for a second reason, the heavy metal gate is too hard for her to push open and then she has to park her car on the road and walk around if I am late.  I get there just as the sun is up and the only sound is a solitary woodpecker up in the pine tree at the edge of the road and there is still dew on the grass.  The Canada geese are gleaning the last of the grass seeds or perhaps the cut grass from the previous day's mowing in the field that is at the side of the garden.  I always have my camera handy and spend time stalking them, before I start my garden work.

They are wary creatures and before I even have the garden gate open and the hose connected they are moving on and I must concentrate on chores.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Missing in Action

My flowers have been covered in both yellow swallowtail and black swallowtail butterflies this late summer.  They sometimes land on the same flower struggling for the upper wing.  I have seen one or two Zebra butterflies and one or two Sulphur butterflies as well...but not a single Monarch.  I planted butterfly weed just for them, but they are in very small numbers everywhere this year!  

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Summer is still here enjoying her last call at the water's edge and soon her visit will be another distant memory.  She has been erratic this time like a go-go dancer in full heat and then a matron with tons of tears.  Being thankful that she was not an unpredictable teenager slamming the door with violent storms and unless she throws a tantrum before she leaves this month, we will all be mellow about her departure.  I decided to share a small collection of her farewell sunsets these last few months.