Creepy? Cute? Pretty?

It’s prime time for observing flowers and insects right now. I thought I’d share a couple of the things I’ve been observing, and give an update on my cactus that I shared a photo of a couple of days ago.

Insect of the Month

I’d say this is my favorite insect observation this month. Look at that big, green head! It’s a compost fly, and quite tiny. It was calm enough sitting on my hand that I could get a couple of nice images of it.

Not only am I cute, I’m helpful.

I don’t think I’d ever heard of compost flies before. It turns out they are a type of soldier fly.

Solider Flies are brilliant mimics of wasps and bees, but they do not sting and are so tiny, they may be difficult to find.

BugIdentification.org

It turns out these are insect Good Citizens, too! The bug identification site continues: “This species of Soldier Fly can be found in woods, gardens, and parks, with populations of adults hovering or standing over rotting plant matter. They are very small in size. These Solider Flies are not pests and do not seem interested in humans or their buildings like House Flies. They have been seen on compost heaps, piles of grass clippings, and other decomposing vegetation. Females lay fertilized eggs on the plant matter, so they are also called Compost Flies. Maggots are also small and tan in color with ten segments to their worm-like bodies. The Solider Fly maggots eat the compost and their presence may deter other types of pesky flies from inhabiting the same area. Adults are believed to drink flower nectar.”

This sounds like an insect I’d like to see more of at the Hermits’ Rest. What a little helper!


Continue reading “Creepy? Cute? Pretty?”
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Spiders. I Like Them, Too.

garden_spider
This garden spider, and her eggs, live at the Rattlesnake House. She’s a big one.

Some of my friends really hate spiders. Recently there was a pretty big one near the tack room, and my friend, Sara, and I had completely opposite reactions. As I was reaching for my phone to take its picture, Sara swooped in and smashed it to smithereens. We both get a good laugh about that, now, and she’s promised to let me get a photo next time.

I’ve never hated spiders, though I will admit that during the first year we lived here, the number of webs that showed up under our porch got to be pretty creepy. That’s all stopped now. Whew.

phidippus texanus
This guy, Phidippus texanus, lives on my front porch. What a pretty design is on the abdomen! And you can see the cool eyes.

Lately, I’ve been trying to get pictures of more of the insects and arachnids around the ranch, so I’ve been watching the spiders more closely. I love seeing webs in the dew, finding out what they catch, and seeing the wide variety we have here. They range from the big ole garden spiders you see above to some so tiny I can’t get a picture of them that doesn’t look like a blob (I will spare you those photos).

arm
That white spot is Lee’s reminder of his visit from a brown recluse.

Aren’t some spiders dangerous?

Why yes, they are. As a matter of fact, Lee got bitten by a brown recluse once, at his cushy desk job! That thing took forever to heal, and he still has a pretty good scar. And I have very strong memories of the black widow scar on my paternal grandmother’s leg.

I do know what those guys look like. But, the way brown recluses hide in dark places concerns me. I always shake out my shoes when I put them on.

furrow_orbweaver
The shadows make this furrow orbweaver look way scarier than she really is.

But as for the rest of them…

Yep, I like spiders. We always enjoyed the ones we called “banana spiders” that built big webs and stayed in them for months and months. Those were actually¬†¬†Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia), the same type of garden spider pictured above, not the scary banana spider that comes in with bananas.

And the variety astounds me. One of the things I hope to learn more about in the coming months are the habits of the spiders who live here. At least now I know what some of them are!