Wildflower Watch – Dawdling among Dandelions

Dandelions produce both nectar and pollen and so are appreciated by wildlife, especially early bees and butterflies (100 species of pollinators have been tallied). The BugLady has been dawdling among dandelions to see who else appreciates them. She saw representatives of 8 kinds of hymenopterans (ants/bees/wasps), 4 kinds of flies, 3 of arachnids (spiders and spider relatives), and 1 beetle. Seen, but not photographed, were a few cabbage butterflies.

The Wonders of Webs II – Insect Silk

It turns out that spiders aren’t the only animals that make silk. The ability to make silk is found in most of the 26 (or so) insect orders. Larvae of many of the species of insects that have complete metamorphosis (egg-larva-pupa-adult)—like ants, wasps, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies—can make silk. Young fleas, lacewings, mayflies, thrips, some leafhoppers do it. Silverfish, and a family called “raspy crickets,” and a primitive little tropical order called Embioptera (web spinners) make silk as adults.

The Wonders of Webs I – Spider Silk

Spiders carry a gel called “unspun silk dope” in their silk glands, and when the liquid is released, it travels through projections called spinnerets located on the underside of the abdomen’s tip and becomes solid when it hits the air. Spinnerets are the external extension of the silk glands; most spiders have between two and eight spinnerets, tipped by “spigots” that control the diameter of the emerging thread.

Twelve Bugs of Christmas

The fourth Annual chorus of “The Twelve Bugs of Christmas,” the BugLady offers a Bakers’ Dozen of Bug Portraits that were taken this year but are unlikely to appear in future BOTWs because their stories have been told in past BOTWs (hence, the links, for BugFans who want to know “The Rest of the Story”).

Midsummer Report

The BugLady would like to dedicate this episode to the late (great) Cornell Professor Richard B. Fischer (January 19, 1919 – August 7, 2005) who taught the BugLady how to sneak up on insects (no bobbing or weaving, just slow and steady and straight ahead.

Summer Summary

As the Bug Season winds down, the BugLady would like to celebrate summer by sharing a baker’s dozen of the pictures she’s taken in the past few months.

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

With apologies to Olde English Folk Songs everywhere, here is the Second Annual Twelve Bugs of Christmas, featuring a Baker’s Dozen that were photographed this year but that did/will not appear in BOTWs. These pictures are a tribute to the joy of stumbling into the right place at the right time.

Long-Jawed Orbweavers (Family Tetragnathidae)

There are about 15 species of Long-Jawed Orbweavers in the genus Tetregnatha in North America and they’re typically found in vegetation near or over water. They are well-camouflaged—their abdomens tend to be long and slim; they hold their rear pair of legs out to the back of their body and their two front pairs of legs to the front when they are at rest. The shorter third pair of legs is held out to the side.

Cup Plant Cosmos

The BugLady spent some very warm days among the Cup plants, those jumbo prairie plants whose opposite leaves join around the stem resulting in a small reservoir that often holds rain water or dew. The undersurface of the tender top leaves of many Cup plants were wall-to-wall with (insert creepy adjective here) red aphids—a cast of thousands—and there were some very cool supporting actors.

Recent Bug Adventures

The BugLady has been out with her camera, walking non-aerobically and peering into plants. The “peering” has resulted in some interesting (if blurred) sightings (her macro lens is getting a bit cranky). Amazing things have been happening on milkweed, probably spurred by a banner crop of aphids on the leaves.