Thursday, June 27, 2013

Here's Cici!

What happens when you find a starving dog on your morning walk?  Well, Cici came home with me, and it looks like she might be a member of our pack.  We are still looking for the original owner, but she is winning us over with her fun attitude and smarts.  The animal shelter people thought she was part Basenji, a breed of bark-less dog from Africa with a curly tail, but she looks like a German shepherd mix to me.  The color markings do look basenji, but she does bark and howl at sirens, she doesn't have the curly tail, and her hair looks like a german shepherd.  Either way, she's a mutt who's found a new home.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

National Pollinator Week

It's National Pollinator Week, and I want to join in the celebration with more photos from the sunflower garden.  Happy Pollinator Week!  I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of these beneficial bugs and hummingbirds this week and all summer long in your garden.  

Honey Bee

Leaf-cutter bee

Digger Bee (I think)

 Other pollinators

Horse Fly

Jewel Beetle


Inch worm!

I've been posting tons of sunflower forest pictures lately. If you missed them you can check them out here,  Spiders in the forest, sunflower forest, & Sunflower lovers- bees


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunflower - spiders

Some of the critters that live in the sunflower forest don't come for the flowers, but instead for the bees, flies, leaf-hoppers, beetles, and other insects that also live in the flower thicket.  I enjoy finding colored crab spiders, jumping spiders, green lynx spiders, and small orb weavers hidden in the leaves, and flowers.  The spiders waiting for their next meal of a small fly or bee must also be cautious for there are wasps, and birds looking to eat them!  The food web, and spider webs are visible in my back yard.   

Here are a few pictures of some predators from the forest.  The above photo is a male crab spider, perhaps a Northern Crab Spider, I'm not 100% on the id.  Do you see the boxing gloves by it's mouth?  Those are modified pedipalps used in mating, and only the male spiders have them.  I love jumping spiders (they're so cutie!), and was pleased to photograph a few.  I think they are all the same species, Peppered Jumpers, based on Valerie's Austin Bug Collection Site .  The dark colored individuals are males, and the gray one is a female.  You can also tell that the gray is a female because she is so plump with eggs.  

You can check out the last two posts about the sunflower forest, and Sunflower lovers- bees.  There are more photos to come of critters in the sunflower forest.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sunflower Lovers- Bees

A native Megachile sp. bee, see the feathered bottom
for collecting pollen instead of pollen baskets on the legs.
Our sunflower forest attracts the attention of many types of insects, and of course bees are making a good showing.  Sunflowers are a bee's favorite color and shape full of nectar and pollen for their hives.  Since the sunflowers are a native type, we are getting more species than just the European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera. There are about 4000 species of bees not to mention wasps, who also eat pollen like bees, and non-Hymenoptera bee mimics in North America.  Many types of bees specialize on a particular plant, and many are solitary, some dig burrows, and some eat only pollen.   Our bees are fascinating, but often over looked simply because we don't know they are there.  This morning there were at least 10 different bee species working to gather pollen and nectar.  I only succeeded in photographing 4 species since the bees were busy as bees, not stopping long enough to get the shot.  
I believe this is another Megachile sp. but,
I don't know which species.

There were also numerous other insects and spiders that I will feature in coming posts.  

I also follow a blog called Sketching in Nature and thought I'd do a few quick (busy as a ...) doodles, too.  It's fun to try sketching animals as you see them.  

Do you have any bee visitors to your garden?

This tiny bee was about 1/4 inch long and has pollen baskets.
A Cuckoo Bee, it looked like it was hunting for other bugs.
I don't know what exactly is happening. 
My favorite!  Fuzzy Bright Yellow Butt!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sunflower Forest 2013

The sunflower forest is blooming, and once again it filling our back yard with canary yellow blooms and scratchy plant walls.  (Check out last year's forest here.)  Bees, beetles, flies, and butterflies are going to work, and the birds are waiting on the perimeter to catch the seeds when they mature.  In addition to the sunflowers, we have a nice row of zinnias.  I love zinnias; they're easy to grow, are attractive to many butterflies and other insects, come in every color, and look nice in a vase.  Sunflower blooms and the critters they attract make the commencement of summer much more enjoyable.

You can see the effects of a dry winter even after several good rains in April on this year's forest.  This summer is starting out (and hopefully continues) a bit cooler than last year which is also a factor in the size of our forest.  The plants are quite a bit shorter and a little less monstrous than last year's forest, but there is still have some growing time left.

June 1st 2013

May 26th, 2012

Last year, I found lots of fun sunflower faces in our forest, and this year I turned the camera on the mutants!  It's fun to think of all the varieties of tomato, apple, and flowers that arose from mutants.  Some of the sunflower mutants remind me of the muppets; crazy arms, and hair going everywhere.