Plants and Pests

I decided to practice my macro photography for a bit today, in order to procrastinate on my other tasks. It turns out I need a lot of practice.

I needed a subject that would keep fairly still so I decided that the horrible pests that were attacking my shamrock would do.  No need to fret if the lights were too bright for them.

Here’s the shamrock:

Shamrock
Shamrock

The flashlight (torch for British readers) is there both for scale and to show what I’m using for lighting – I bought the brightest LED flashlight I could at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t very expensive, I just looked for the highest lumen value, ignoring any that didn’t even tell you.  Some of the bigger ones that claimed to be “super bright” actually had a lower lumen value and as a bonus it focuses the beam from broad to narrow, exactly what I needed.

So then I put a macro lens and extension tubes and went for as close up as I could get.  This is the same leaf, zoomed in to the point where the three leaflets fan out from the stem.

Here are three mealy bugs in a row with a baby one on top of the middle one.  The one at the top left is just taking a stroll.  The middle one and the bottom right have their beaks stuck in the plant.  You can see why they don’t need to suck; that middle one is bloated right out from the pressure of the sap in the plant.  The bottom one is harder to see but the shiny speck at the bottom right end is a drop of “honeydew” which is what ants like to collect – the plant pumps its sap at such high pressure that the bugs have to secrete some of the sugary fluid.

Mealy bug
Mealy bug

I don’t know why the mealy bugs on shamrock wander around naked like that but they do more often than not.  On other plants and in some places on shamrock, they spin themselves a little hiding place to make it harder for predators to eat them; the sticky stuff gets in the mandibles of predators like lady bugs (ladybirds) and makes it harder for them to eat the bugs themselves.  These pictures are on a Christmas cactus.

Mealy bug nest
Mealy bug nest

In spite of them lending themselves out for photography practice, I must confess that animals were harmed in this experiment.  I squished them all.

Then I decided to take some prettier pictures.

Moth Orchid
Moth Orchid
Variegated Madagascar Dragon-Tree
Variegated Madagascar Dragon-Tree (aka Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’)
Bougainvillia
Bougainvillia

Ladies’ Tresses Orchids

Apparently these are getting scarce in Ontario, but there are several growing only 50 m(etres) from my front door.
The first one was from several weeks ago so it may a different species of Ladies’ Tresses but there are several species growing in Ontario and many are difficult to tell apart without DNA analysis. The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping so quickly, I’m looking forward to the day when I have a pocket PCR analyzer attached to my phone and can identify a species without all that picky peering through field guides.

Ladies' Tresses 1
Ladies’ Tresses 1

The next two are definitely the same species because they’re the same plant, but there are about a dozen growing within a few metres.  They don’t look as delicate as the first one.

Ladies' Tresses 2
Ladies’ Tresses 2
Ladies' Tresses 3
Ladies’ Tresses 3

Back home: me and the bluebirds

The bluebirds are back (again). As usual, they arrived a month ago, tried out the nesting boxes, and left when the swallows came. But again as usual, they returned and are now nesting.

Feeling extremely tired due to flu – don’t have the strength for heavy-duty gardening, so here’s a few pictures from today. Poland and earlier spring migrants can wait a day or two. It is very frustrating feeling so weak.

The bluebirds are back (again). As usual, they arrived a month ago, tried out the nesting boxes, and left when the swallows came. But again as usual, they returned and are now nesting.

Bluebird
Bluebird
Bluebird and wasp
Bluebird and wasp

I only got one clear picture today as I was working so just took a few seconds hoping to get one of the bluebird trying to render a wasp (yellow-jacket) harmless, before feeding to young. It shook and pecked this one (clear through binoculars but I didn’t get the photo quite right) for a good ten minutes.

Although these lady slipper orchids are relatively common, this is the only clump I know around here so I was very pleased to see several small outlier plants meaning it is successfully seeding, so I might risk moving one of the small ones just as insurance against vandalism as this clump can be seen from the road if you know where to look.

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids
Yellow Lady Slipper Orchids

I posted a few pictures of this moth already, on Twitter, but here’s another one. They are the same family as the hummingbird hawk moth which I always find interesting as a case of parallel evolution – you could mistake it for a small hummingbird if you didn’t know about the moths, and it feeds in daylight whereas this Sphinx is a night flier. I don’t know what the caterpillars eat – almost afraid to ask – as those horrible tomato hornworms that can demolish a tomato crop over night are in the same family.

Blinded Sphinx Moth
Blinded Sphinx Moth

Wood orchids opening

Some close-ups of the unassuming wood orchids, growing about 30m (=yards) from my house

They are just starting to open.  Luckily, I found a few growing just 30m from the house, along with some of the Indian Pipe I showed last week.  Here is a view of a couple of the plants, followed by some close-ups.  They are nothing special until you get close.  The “whole plant” shot is hard to make out the plant at all – I made several attempts before I got one where you could make out the whole plant against the green background of the pines but once close up, you see the flowers that attracted several insects in the few minutes it took me to take the pictures.  I had to use my new tripod as the light is not good in the forest.

Wood orchid
Wood orchid – whole plants
Wood orchid closeup 1
Wood orchid closeup 1
Wood orchid closeup 2
Wood orchid closeup 2

 

 

To see the world in a drop of water And a Heaven in a Tame Flower

OK, not quite what William Blake wrote, but close enough.

I took this shot through a drop forming on the end of an icicle, then flipped it over so you can see the refracted image the right side up.

Water drop
The world in a drop of water

You can see our cars parked on the snow in front of the house and, behind that, the woods with the sun low in the sky.

Although Blake’s poem referred to wild flowers, you can imagine there aren’t many out yet, since there is still over a foot of snow.  Luckily, I have some house plants in bloom, including this orchid which nicely shows a bud, an opening bud, a fully open bloom and the dying remnants of one, all on one stem.

Orchid-Birth-bloom-death
Orchid: Birth, bloom and death

I also like this wax plant, glistening with the sugar it excretes:

Wax Plant (Hoya)
Wax Plant (Hoya)

They’re quite fragrant, too.