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Backyard BioBlitz: May 2013

Backyard BioBlitzAlthough I’m growing averse to beginning blog entries with apologies for how delayed they are, this just happened:

Last night I spent probably 20 minutes looking for photos of one of the bugs featured in this post.  I looked through my Insects and Spiders book, I Googled “black and white beetle,” I looked at the Project Noah spottings of someone else who lives in Tennessee.  Eventually I ran across a photo of it while looking up a different bug, and gave myself a solid pat on the back for stick-to-itive-ness.  Just now, I went to look at my own Project Noah account, only to discover that I’d submitted it three weeks ago, someone had identified it, and I’d thanked them for their help.  So…the ol’ noggin is firing at 110%, I’d say.  Yes sir.

Anyway, to prevent things from getting too delayed this time around, I’ve decided to make the Backyard BioBlitzes monthly rather than weekly.  Even though the amount of content will probably be similar, writing one post is slightly less intimidating than writing four.  So onward with May, which wasn’t exactly full of interesting sightings.  Our late spring meant that bug spottings were few and far between until the second weekend in June, when it was like a switch flipped.

One of those switches was the return (with a vengeance) of those nasty leaf-footed bugs that like to eat the leaves of everything we plant.  Despite my annoyance with them, I’m always happy to see the first, glowing red nymphs.  I can’t help it.  I know they’re destructive, but at this stage of their lifespan they’re so pretty.

Wheel bug nymph

By far the biggest hit of our spring garden was the parsley.  We planted this in the fall and basically just let it go to town over the winter, winding up with a massive amount of parsley we could never hope to use.  Eventually it started to flower, and we decided to just let it happen since the bugs seemed so interested.  I barely noticed at first, but when I took a random photo of the flowers, I zoomed in on my computer and saw tons of tiny bugs!  Many of them were getting randy, in fact.  My mom now calls the parsley her own personal Playboy mansion.  Clockwise from left:
1. Varied carpet beetle – Apparently the larvae of these beetles are quite destructive.  They feed on natural fibers, and they’re not just a pest in households, but they’ve been known to destroy insect collections at natural history museums!  Yikes!  I should probably have squished these to prevent them from laying eggs, huh?  Of course the adult’s life cycle is a mere two weeks, so my window for stamping out the next generation has passed.
2. Assassin bug nymph – These are a gardener’s friend, and I’m always happy to see them.  Much like dragonflies, assassins eat all the stuff that eats what we like to eat.
3. Hoverfly – Also called flower flies, these flies happily pollinate anything in sight, making them another ally of the gardener.  As a bonus, some hoverfly larvae also snack on aphids.
4. Common house fly – I can’t say I’m ever pleased to see a house fly, but this one was outside, and its coloring almost looks nice against the parsley background.Bugs found on parsley plant

Now time for some beetles:
1. The bean leaf beetle likes to eat…well, bean leaves.  You can see that this one wreaked a little destruction prior to posing for this photo.  Not coincidentally, this was his last photo.  R.I.P., bean leaf beetle.
2. The ragweed leaf beetle on the right was the one I researched twice.  I’m not sure why it was hanging around on our tickseed plants, but its mission is to rid the world of ragweed.  If you have allergies, this beetle is one you’ll appreciate.
3. But wait…that one on the bottom doesn’t look like a beetle.  Oh, but it is…it’s the larval form of the ol’ familiar multi-colored Asian lady beetle, a.k.a. the ladybugs you probably have millions of in your bathroom every winter.  Among the many things I find fascinating about bugs is that they often get smaller as they go through their life stages.  And that they sometimes look nothing like their original forms.  Go forth and impress your friends the next time you see this highly common insect in its earlier life stage.

BeetlesThat’ll do it until the real fun begins in June!


krugthethinker - June 27, 2013 - 11:18 pm

Melissa, these photos are unbelievable! I bet we have lots of those pesky red guys too. Except now they don’t have anything to eat–the heat wiped out all our plants! The beetles are just gorgeous too. I’m glad you had enough parsley that everyone could enjoy it!

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