I took yesterday off. After some errands, I just sat and read all day. I’ll tell you what makes it hard to concentrate, though, and that’s the thought of MORE grasshoppers in my future.
I was trying to read and talk to my family when I realized my chair had become the grasshoppers’ special place. Uh. Nice. As if we hadn’t had a plague of these already this year.
Well I guess it was good, because I could get a really good picture of how the male twists around to manage his role.
I’m fine with no more lengthy experiences with grasshopper propagation. They kept going a long time. obviously I didn’t blog yesterday because it was not exciting here.
On Another Note
Let’s move on. Apache has been doing better with his schooling. He still sometimes wanders way off the circle when trotting. But today he did a whole circle without hitting a cone. I felt like he was feeling well, so we went into his grazing area and walked and turned and stuff. He was mostly good, and even his disagreements with me were smaller than usual.
We were heading back to dismount when we had a surprise. A skunk walked across our path and ducked into the red shipping container. Oops. Apache stopped very nicely and waited until the coast was clear. We calmly walked over to share the skunk news, and Apache was so good, we kept going.
He did his stopping and grabbing grass thing twice, but otherwise was just great, like old times. He went up to say hi to Goldie, walked all over the front pasture, up to the gate, and across the pasture where he often goes nutty, but he didn’t! We made it back, all sweaty but happy.
To thank Apache, I gave him a good bath. Ooh he finally got really clean and dander free. I even got him to hold his head still and let me wash it. I was amazed to go back later and find he hadn’t rolled yet!
It’s so hot today that I can’t help do outdoor stuff like I’d hoped to. I’ll cram everything in from 6:30 to sunset, I guess.
Wow, it’s rainy and cloudy again today, but sometimes gloomy weather makes even a simple walk with the dogs an adventure sort of creepy. It doesn’t help that I just looked out the window and there are dozens of creepy cowbirds covering the grass. I hope they appreciate the local cardinals for hatching their babies…
Anyway, this morning the dogs and I went out for a quick walk in between my work meetings. They were chock full of energy, and were running around like there was some bunny to chase.
I was getting dizzy watching them run around each other. It was almost like lunging Drew. Things did get gloomier as we approached the trees and watery area.
The dark skies and moody greens of all the vines creeping around the pond and arroyo added to the feeling of impending doom. There are tie vines, bindweed vines, passion vines, dewberries, smilax, poison ivy (further downstream) and balloon vines. It’s dark and mysterious.
To save me going on and on, here are some of the dismal, yet lovely in their own right, sights the dogs and I saw.
Yes, whenever I see a mama spider all covered with babies, I admit to shuddering a bit. Thanks to Lee for finding that one. However, I’d say the thing that enthralled me the most, in a macabre way, was watching the garden spider encasing a grasshopper in its web. I’ve seen it a couple of times lately, but this was the first time I was close enough to film it. Keep watching the video, because you can see the silk coming out of the spider toward the end. Fascinating, but eww.
But, don’t worry there will be more grasshoppers. How do I know? Oh, you know me and all my observation skills.
The dogs wanted to go out this morning, so I went out on the porch to drink some coffee and watch them play. I quickly realized that in fact, I was being watched, as well. There was a curious katydid sitting on my chair, waving her antennae at me. Mike Yager, you can stop reading now. Thank you for clicking. (He’s not a fan of these things)
Soon, she jumped up on my pants leg. I figured I could get a few good pictures of her for iNaturalist (which identified her as a slender meadow katydid Conocephalus fasciatus).
Next, she just hopped on up to my hand, where I was able to watch her up close, doing things with her legs, swishing those antennae, and chilling.
Finally, I got a video of her doing things and walking down my hand. I stopped when she began chewing on me and drew blood. Cheeky insect!
What I’d intended to write about today was grasshoppers, though. Every few years, we get a bumper crop. While I know both my children are creeped out by them, I am glad for the chickens’ sake, since they do love to chow down on grasshoppers. The vast majority this year are differential grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the kind known for messing with crops. (I saw one other type today, an obscure bird grasshopper, but I didn’t get a stellar photo.)
The ones here are pretty varied in color, with the adults being yellow, orange, green, or brown (brown ones are older). The earlier instars tend to be very bright green, but they are mostly adults now.
I can see why some folks get bothered by these guys when it’s one of their super-abundant years. They are everywhere and eating everything. Here is my asparagus. Yep, all you can see are sunflowers and other things that grasshoppers don’t eat down to the nubs.
The way the grasshoppers jump every time you move is annoying to me and apparently terrifying to some people. The good news is that I have never been bitten by a grasshopper, even when they got under my shirt or in my boots. The bad news is that those suckers hurt like heck when you run into them in your utility vehicle that no longer has a windshield.
Now, when I say they are everywhere, I’m not kidding. Here, watch this video. Also, if you aren’t on mute, listen to it. What do you hear?
I think that’s enough on grasshoppers for today.
Indirectly Observing Wildlife
One of the things I noticed today as I walked through the grasshopper-filled field, was that I knew there were a lot more living things out there than I could see. For example, the video above just rings with the sounds of cicadas. It’s been a big year for them in many parts of the US, but just average here. Still, they are loud when you get out near the trees. I don’t need to see them to know they are here!
I also know for sure that there was a barred owl somewhere in the trees, because it was making its characteristic “who cooks for you?” call a lot. And the pileated woodpecker I see occasionally was also out there calling and pecking. All morning there have been crow squabbles, as well, along with white-winged doves, who are omnipresent. Although I also saw it earlier, I heard the great blue heron squawk a couple times as it moved from tank to tank looking for crawfish or something.
Speaking of crawfish or crayfish or crawdads, I also know they are all over the place, even if I don’t see them. Their find mud castles are everywhere right now, since it’s drying out and a lot of the areas that were damp all winter and spring are not covered in water anymore.
Yep, they are there, even if you can’t see them. I also saw lots of deer tracks in the muddy areas, which makes sense. There are a few does and fawns in the area.
Though we are very obviously heading into the dry season here at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch (the water table is back to a more normal level, so the new spring has stopped flowing, though the old one in the woods is still dripping away), we still have some hardy flowers that are still blooming. I always enjoy them and their tenacity.
Whether your experiencing a rainy day, dealing with the west coast heat wave, or enjoying a restful Saturday, I hope you can go outside and see what is thriving where you live. And if you can’t see anything, listen!
After that unusual series of cold fronts, snow, and ice, I (and others) have been pretty worried about whether out friends out there in nature are going to make it through to spring and keep going. In the past day or two I’ve seen some happy signs. So, as long as I’m out in nature and not dealing with technology, I’ve been pretty happy.
My heart skipped a beat when I finally saw some Indian paintbrush plants in the field. Now that there are two or three of them, I know we’ll have at least a bit of our usual field of orange in front of the house (as long as we can convince Jim the brother-in-law not to mow until they are going to seed).
The field is already lovely to me, with a whole lot of mock verbena mingling with crow poison and field madder, once you look close enough to see them. And I know more’s coming! That’s why I like this time of year. Every day something new starts blooming, and I record them on iNaturalist so that some day I can analyze the data and see if the weather changes when the wildflowers start up (that will be when I retire).
A new “blossom” coming up yesterday was this dwarf plantain (at least that’s what iNaturalist identified it as). I thought it was the annual trampweed (which is also in the picture, along with chicory, burr clover of some kind, and a grass, but I was wrong).
Another new bloomer is one I’d been worried about, on behalf of my stomach, and that’s the dewberries. They really got knocked back by the cold, but by gosh, they have recovered and started blooming. Even though there are only a few blossoms right now, it already smells good over by the stream.
How about the non-plants?
I’ve been anxiously looking for butterflies and grasshoppers and such. Judging from the sounds I’ve been hearing, the green-striped grasshoppers I’ve been watching grow up have matured. I see them flying around the back yard and making their grasshopper noises. Here’s one that happens to be brown.
I’ve been seeing a lot of these hairstreak butterflies, along with some sulphurs and one red admiral that was too far away to photograph.
But, I had heard people were already seeing monarchs, but that there was nothing for them to eat. Sure enough, as I sat in the back yard yesterday waiting to go to the phone store, a steady stream of them passed by, but never landed on anything. I sure hope they find some nectar!
I know pear trees are blooming (native ones, not just Bradford pears), so the bees are doing well.
I’m never alone when I’m out looking at all these plants and insects and such. Carlton and Penney are especially close to me wherever I go, while Alfred and Vlassic explore more. It always makes me happy to see that the pets have as much fun as I do. We are all really lucky to have acres and acres to explore and nobody to tell us what we can and can’t do out here. Ranch living may have poor cell reception, but it makes up for it in the kind of freedom that matters to me, which is freedom to observe nature and be a part of it, not try to dominate it.
I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring where you are (and if you’re in Colorado, I hope the snow is melting).
Even not feeling great, I’m finding things to be excited about. I think that’s part of my charm. Perhaps. Today’s theme is big. For example, this is a big grasshopper, especially for a male. And it’s one of my better photos, right on my driveway!
The extent of my walking yesterday was patrolling the back yard with Lee. While I regretted not meeting my activity goal, I still managed to find something big and beautiful. It’s one of my favorites, a yellow garden spider.
And now, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for us to see what was inside Fancy Pants’s giant egg from a while back.
It was still big after peeling. and still rather lumpy.
I got out the sharp knife and carefully sliced the big bruiser. Would it be a double yolk? Would it look weird?
I can’t tell if it’s double or not, but it sure is big! Way more yolk than white.
I wonder if this one would have had enough food in it to grow a chick? We will never know. But it does make me want to raise chicks. Maybe the next broody hen will get lucky!
Last week’s Master Naturalist chapter meeting was fascinating. I’d asked Eric Neubauer, the new class member I’ve been working with on improving my iNaturalist observations, to do an advanced training on grasshoppers, since he’s been getting some great insights into them over on his property (PLEASE visit the link to his presentation if you have any interest at all in grasshoppers; it’s completely fascinating). He lives in a different part of the county than I do, and I realized he sees lots of different kinds of grasshoppers than I do.
I did a blog post on grasshoppers at the ranch a couple of months ago, but now that I have learned more, I got some better photos and noticed some things about our grasshoppers. I was also wondering if there were any grasshoppers other than Boopedon gracile, the Prairie Boopie, which we’ve had in plague-worthy numbers all summer (hey, it’s 2020; everything’s a plague).
Yes, there are Prairie Boopies all over the ranch. The easiest place to find them is on the hay bales. They hold still there.
But, there are others. I kept seeing lots and lots of tiny grasshoppers (an inch long or less) hopping away as I walked along the fields. I wondered what they were. Could they be pygmy grasshoppers?
I finally managed to get a couple of non-blurry photos. Well, what do you know? They are small adult Prairie Boopies (confirmed by Eric). Maybe they get smaller at the end of the season? The ones over by the hay are over three inches long, for sure. I also have noticed that the coloration is different now, after a month of drought. They are much lighter in color.
Moving along, I was delighted to find at least a little variety in the neighborhood. We also have a good number of Differential Grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the ones with the very distinct herringbone pattern on their legs. I was glad to get some good photos of those, too.
I didn’t get a photo of this, but I did see a mating pair fly off yesterday evening. That was new to me. I guess those males are pretty strong, since the females are larger and do not fly!
Then, when staring at the hay bales, I saw something more green. Hooray! Not one of the more common two! I was admiring an Admirable Grasshopper! As Eric pointed out, I would know this one by its tear-shaped eye.
And finally, when I’d given up on finding anything more interesting, a very different shape appeared in the grave.
My photo isn’t as good as Eric’s, but I can see the stripe going through its eye, and knew I had a Schistocerca americana. The very long wings also tell you it’s a strong flyer, as the bird grasshoppers are.
I have one more of the smaller ones, but I don’t have its ID confirmed yet.
I’m guessing it’s a small Admirable Grasshopper. We’ll see.
I know a lot of people are grossed out by grasshoppers, but once you start looking at them, they are really beautiful and interesting. Well, they are interesting IF you can see them. Check out this Nebulatettix subgracilis – if you can! I can’t believe Eric managed to find it!
There’s just so much in my head that I’ve no time nor ability to write. I was analyzing work stuff in my dreams last night. I couldn’t stop dreaming about data.
I’ve pushed through everything today, which is great, but there’s still more coming up! Being occupied with work challenges isn’t all bad, of course. It keeps your mind off the state of the world, sick friends, and natural disasters.
I did enjoy a lovely sunset last night after the wee bit of rain. And I reconnected with a friend from grad school whom I greatly admired and had thought about often.
Plus, I can disguise myself with even more masks, since I got some pretty ones in the mail. Guess I’m not a plain black mask person.
Hope you’re handling your surprises and learning curves today. We’re all in it together.
Prairie boopies are fascinating grasshoppers, really!
I figure I better follow up a review of a controversial with a discussion of a controversial natural object: the grasshopper. This is one of those love it or hate it topics. I seem to know an awful lot of people who are really wigged out at the appearance of a grasshopper (many in my own family). I have naturalist friends who are fascinated by them and know a LOT more about them than I do.
This being a big year for the hoppers, I thought I’d learn more about the ones here at the Hermits’ Rest, and I’ve been sharing some photos here and there, and did a post on their cool names. I am not able to get them by net (even though I keep saying I’ll buy one, I forget), so most of my photos are rather blurry, but I’ve had fun identifying them, with help from my expert friend Eric on iNaturalist.
Most of the grasshoppers you see around the ranch are boopedons, a name you just have to love. More on them later.
I did find a really pretty grasshopper (if you think they can be pretty) with a cool name over by our church office on Friday. These are the Obscure Bird grasshoppers (Schistocerca obscura). The stripes on their backs and the dots on their legs make them very striking.
Back at the ranch, today I went on a hunt, and only found one grasshopper-like insects that weren’t Boopedon (to be precise, the prairie boopie, the best name ever), a katydid.
It turns out that male and female prairie boopies (Boopedon gracile) look very different, so what I’d thought was a different species, was, indeed, just a female of the same species. I learned this when I FINALLY found a detailed article on them.
I also learned that “Prairie boopies are typically found in dense grasses, including prairies, rangeland, and savanna habitats. In Oklahoma, this species was reported to be more abundant in overgrazed prairies than natural ones.” (This is from Grasshoppers of the Western US, a really interesting site.) I’m happy to know they aren’t officially classified as pests (unless you hate grasshoppers, I guess).
Anyhow, as I went about observing away, I realized the front field was a like a sea, with little bobbing boopie boats on it.
Then I noticed that they were very fond of the nightshade plants next to the driveway.
I quickly realized these grasshoppers are at the height of adulthood. Most of them were mating. They don’t need privacy (being grasshoppers). You can see how different the female looks in this picture.
As I walk along, I tend to send boopies flying away (but only males, because I just learned the females are flightless!). Here’s video proof. Warning: I think I sing. Lucky for you it’s only 35 seconds long.
Other than how hard these guys feel when they hit me as I drive Hilda, I’ve gotten fond of these guys. Both Vlassic and the chickens love to eat them, and at the moment I don’t have any tender plants they will kill.
It’s been fun watching them grow, and I guess somewhere out there will soon be a lot of grasshopper eggs. I’ll have to look those up next…sigh, no I won’t. I’m crushed: “Little is known about the reproduction of prairie boopies” (from the above web link). Well, we have plenty of them here, even though they apparently aren’t often found in high densities (I beg to differ).
I guess I’ll be booping along now. That’s all I know about the prairie boopie. I lie. They are also known as the graceful range grasshopper, and were identified by Rehn in 1904.
I bet I’d get an A on this report in high school. (Get me away from the keyboard.)
Today I have a hodgepodge of stuff to share, but first I want to talk about what’s lurking around the ranch these days. That would be things that bite, and things that jump. Yesterday, I went to sit down on one of the front-porch rocking chairs, when I saw something on the seat.
I am very glad she was pre-dead, and that I saw her before I sat. Certainly it confirms my habit of checking for creatures before plopping down anywhere around the Hermits’ Rest! I’m not sure what kind of widow spider she was, but I don’t want any of them biting me. These are the main reason I continue to support having pest control come around the house.
The second reason is scorpions, which I haven’t seen any of, but Lee and Kathleen have killed a few. I love them out in the woods, but not in the house. And I love the spiders, but not ones that could really mess with my health.
I’ve apparently become allergic to mosquito bites, and they make huge welts, so I could do without those right now, too. And biting flies! Argh. There are black flies around here, and horse flies (thankfully not around ME), and deer flies. Whatever. One of them bit me on my FACE this morning. That could have to do with how much poop we have at the ranch
Nonetheless, I am heartily enjoying discussing different kinds of flies and grasshoppers and stuff with Eric in our Master Naturalist class. He not only has good eye for finding them, but he has a good camera, and the patience to work hard to identify them.
Eric wrote me an email today about the coolest thing he saw (a “mystical experience,” in his words), which was he was trying to photograph a large grasshopper:
It jumped off the path into the high grass and when it landed it appeared to turn into at least a dozen tiny projectiles which flew off in all directions like a firework. A closer look uncovered a great concentration of grasshopper nymphs in the area.
Eric N., email 6/6/2020
Of course, he didn’t get a picture, but WOW, what an image!
My grasshopper experience this morning was also something you couldn’t photograph. I was walking back from horse riding (it went well), noticing that it’s definitely grasshopper season. Then I noticed the sound. As I walked, I was disturbing dozens and dozens of them (small ones, since they aren’t adult yet), and my walk seemed to have a rhythm section accompanying it. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap-tap-tap.
I k now a lot of people don’t like grasshoppers (like my sister), and I admit they are annoying in the summers when there are hundreds pelting me as I drive the utility vehicle. At least they don’t bite often or hard. But they are so varied and interesting. I have an AWFUL time photographing them, so I think I’m going to get a good butterfly net soon, so I can get some to hold still.
What Doesn’t Bite?
Roaches. Secretly, I have never been fond of roaches, due to childhood trauma, but I am doing better since I started doing iNaturalist. I recently even found one I thought was interesting to look at. It also lived outdoors, where it should.
And non-venomous snakes don’t bite humans, often anyway. So, I was sad to see this one in the road this morning. Rat snakes are my buddies as long as they aren’t eating my hens’ eggs.
Okay, time to go see what’s outside that will hurt in some other way…
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