Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Some Bugs and Blooms of High Summer
High summer: the meadows are blooming and bugs are zooming. The woods now are dark and uniformly green, but out in the fields and along the roadsides, the sun-loving flowers are painting the countryside with gorgeous color. The flowers in this photo are nothing but common roadside weeds, but they have transformed this abandoned barnyard into a scene as lovely as any Monet painted of his gardens at Giverny.
Some seedheads, too, are taking on new beauty, such as these deep maroon stalks of Curly Dock, silhouetted against the misty pink of flowering grass.
I walked today in the Skidmore woods that lie north of Daniels Road, heading toward an open clearing where I hoped to find Wild Bergamot in bloom. And I was not disappointed.
Sharing that clearing with the Bergamot were masses of brilliant Early Goldenrod.
The season for Tick Trefoils is now full upon us. Here's Panicled Tick Trefoil with its narrow leaves and deep-pink flowers borne in widely-branched clusters called panicles.
Showy Tick Trefoil has wider leaves and bears its larger, more purplish flowers in a denser cluster called a raceme.
Huge stands of Teasel towered over my head, but I found a few blooms close enough to eye-level that I could examine their intricate structure. This plant was introduced to our continent by early Europeans, who used the prickly dried flowerheads to "tease" -- that is, to raise the nap -- of woolen fabrics. Some weavers still prefer to use this plant rather than metal brushes, because it is more gentle on the fabric.
Passing through the shadier woods, I did find a few spots of color amid the ubiquitous green. These rosy pink leaves of Early Meadow Rue were as pretty as any blossom -- far more colorful than the greenish-white flowers this plant puts forth in early spring.
And again, these hot-pink pedicels of Round-leaved Dogwood berries are far more colorful than the small white flowers of a month or so ago.
Unfortunately, these bright orange spots on the leaves and fruit of Hawthorn are indicative of disease.
This little Skipper butterfly is rather dull in its coloration, but the Swamp Milkweed it's feeding on is certainly brilliant. If you click on this photo, you can see the butterfly's hair-thin tongue plunged into a milkweed floret. And if you look really close, you may see a Jagged Ambush Bug hiding down lower in the flower cluster.
Here's a clearer look at a Jagged Ambush Bug atop a bud of Boneset, revealing the jagged edges of its . . . what? I see two folded wings laid in the bowl of its body, and a structure around its neck that looks like Dracula's cape. I wonder what those structures are called and what purpose they serve. This bug has a very odd anatomy!
Here's a profile view of the same bug, revealing its Popeye-muscled forearms used for grabbing prey much bigger than itself. I tried to get a better shot of its "rostrum," a piercing hollow tube that it uses to stab its prey and inject a substance that liquifies the victim's innards, allowing the Ambush Bug to suck them up as through a straw. That tube is tucked up against its "chest," and I didn't want to risk getting stabbed by it if I provoked the bug to jab it forward.
Here's another predator insect hanging out on a milkweed leaf. This is a juvenile Assassin Bug (species unknown), and it, too, has a piercing tube for liquifying and ingesting its victims' innards.
These Banded Net-winged Beetles were more interested in love than killing today. But I'm not sure if they are ever predacious, at least as adults. I believe they eat plant material and rotting vegetation. When they're not busy doing other things.
I made a quick trip to the Bog Meadow Trail, stopping to look again at those cute little Oleander Aphids I found a few days ago. Oh my, but they must have been popping out clones, since their population sure has burgeoned! I read that once they have sucked a plant dry, they will sprout wings to fly to a new one. You just can't make this stuff up!
I came to Bog Meadow to see if the Downy Rattlesnake Plantain was blooming yet. Not quite. But it won't be long. Such a nice healthy patch!