Plants, insects and a spider

I’ll start with plants without insects and spiders, for those few readers who don’t like our arthropod neighbours.

The first is a mystery shot. Guess what it is and award yourself a prize if you get it right. Answer below.

Mystery shot
Mystery shot

Here is one of our two apple trees, a Macintosh. The Northern Spy, once again, had no apples at all, in spite of having had a few flowers. The crab apples were profuse as usual.

Macintosh apples
Macintosh apples

This is the first year we have had no blackberries. The drought has been dreadful. “Russian Giant” sunflowers, normally at least my height, are mostly around knee high.

No blackberries
No blackberries

Many of the native plants are more drought resistant, such as these tiny but prolific asters.

Native asters Ontario
Native asters Ontario

And here is the answer to the mystery photo. It was the centre of this Gaillardia (aka Blanket Flower, Indian Blanket or Ring of Fire).

Gaillardia aka Blanket Flower
Gaillardia aka Blanket Flower

Warning: from now on there is an arthropod in every picture, though of course, they are on plants.

First is an unidentified bug, on grass seeds. Although I’m not exactly sure what kind of plant bug it is, I know it is a true bug because you can see its beak tucked under its head and thorax. For those not familiar with insects, although we all tend to call all kinds of animals ‘bugs’, there is an order of insects that entomologists call ‘true bugs’, or in scientific naming ‘Hemiptera’. There are somewhere around 70,000 species of these and they all have a sucking tube for a mouth, which they stick in their prey and such the juices, be it plant (mostly) or animal.

Bug on grass seeds
Bug on grass seeds

Some entomologists are even pickier and reserve ‘bug’ for a sub-order, the ‘Heteroptera’, but that just bugs me. And just to confuse matters more, a few insects with sucking mouthparts are not related. For example, those nasty mosquitoes are actually flies, not bugs (order (Diptera)).

Here are a couple more true bugs. First, an adult milkweed bug, sitting on a milkweed seed pod. I don’t think you can see the beak (scientific name is ‘rostrum’) from this angle.

Small milkweed bug
Small milkweed bug

Bugs don’t go through a pupa stage, like caterpillars. Instead each moult gets it a bit closer in appearance to an adult. Here is a juvenile milkweed bug that has just started to develop wings, outlined in black, below.

Immature milkweed bug
Immature milkweed bug

Sticking with bugs, here are a couple more, a shield bug and a plant hopper.

Shield bug
Shield bug
Leaf hopper
Leaf hopper

Leaf hoppers are hard to photograph because they are tiny, so hard to get in focus, and they tend to, well, hop off, at no notice. They have good reason to be jittery, though. While I was watching this cute little jumping spider, four or five leaf hoppers landed nearby. The spider jumped at them before I realized they had landed but all of them were fast enough to escape with their lives.

Jumping spider
Jumping spider

I knew that jumping spiders caught their prey by jumping on them, rather than using webs. They have quite an impressive array of different kinds of eyes to help them with their hunting.  I did not know that they did use webs, but as a home. Here is the same spider in its nest. You can just see part of it towards the lower left.

Jumping spider nest
Jumping spider nest

This fierce-looking creature actually feeds off nectar. Its long tail is for laying eggs, which it does in June bug larvae (the white grubs you find in your lawn, that eat the roots). The wasp larvae are parasites that destroy the grubs from inside. This one is sitting on an oak leaf. I found half a dozen of these in a few minutes, quietly enjoying the sunshine.

Pelecinid Wasp
Pelecinid Wasp

Although it hops on leaves, this grasshopper is not closely related to the hoppers above, and is not a true bug. It has chewing mouth parts, not sucking.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

And here is another member of the same ‘straight winged (Orthoptera)’ order, a cricket.

Snowy tree cricket
Snowy tree cricket

Next is an inch worm, so called because it moves by looping up its body to bring the back pseudo-legs up to the front true legs, thereby “measuring” its length as it goes. It is a caterpillar of the geometer moth. Of course, now we are all metric, it now 2.5 centimetres along, instead of inching.

Inchworm
Inchworm

Another carnivore, helping to keep down the aphid population.

Lacewing
Lacewing

And yet another. There have been many fewer dragonflies this year, because of the drought, which means many fewer mosquitoes for dinner. We also haven’t had swallows or other mosquito-eating birds.

Common darter
Common darter

Bees and Wasps and Hoverflies

Just when you think you’ve figure out the difference between bees and wasps, along comes a hoverfly to confuse you.

Just when you thought you had figured out the difference between bees…

Bee on goldenrod
Bee on goldenrod

and wasps…

Wasp on goldenrod
Wasp on goldenrod
Wasp on Globe Thistle
Wasp on Globe Thistle

… along comes this hoverfly to confuse you by pretending to be a wasp

Hoverfly on Black-eyed Susan
Hoverfly on Black-eyed Susan

Meet the garden staff at Cedar Sands

Meet the garden staff: head gardener, weeding assistant and pest controller.

Here is the head gardener, taking away another barrow-load of weeds:

Me, weeding
Me, weeding

I spotted this rabbit among my marigolds and was going to chase it away or make it a nice bed between two layers of pastry when I noticed it was ignoring the marigolds and eating the weeds, so it instantly got promoted to assistant gardener.

Rabbit, weeding
Rabbit, weeding

Another important task is getting rid of caterpillars that are eating the plants.  This pair of Thread-waisted wasps was taking a break from caterpillar hunting to make more wasps.

Thread-waisted Wasps
Thread-waisted Wasps

Once the eggs are fertilised, the female wasp will sting a caterpillar so it is alive but paralyzed. It will then stick it in a hole and lay an egg.  The wasp larva will eat the caterpillar alive, from the inside.  It would take a quirky sense of humour to invent one of these.