Friday, September 30, 2016

Bugs in My Backyard-Leptoglossus

A bug dropped at my feet today. At first I thought a fuchsia blossom, frilly and red, fell off my shoulder. When I bent for a closer look, I saw a bug with pretty markings.

A frantic run for the camera and another run for a live battery meant the bug had time to tuck in its underwings and resolve to a muted coloration.

According to Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Peter and Judy Haggard, this is a Leptoglossus occidentalis or Western conifer seed bug.  While you rarely see them, they are not rare but are hanging out high above your head, feasting on fir nuts. 

This is probably a good thing because they emit a stinky odor when disturbed. Luckily, this one didn't mind having his picture taken.

The Douglas firs don't overhang the deck, so where did he come from? Did he wiggle out of a crow's mouth to plop on my deck? Maybe he wanted to grab some of our basil leaves for a little al fresco pesto.

Isn't it fun to think of the millions of little lives going on all around that you are completely unaware of?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Letting Nature Alone

Perhaps you are one of those people who think raccoons are cute, masked entertainers who wash their food in streams. Little furry bundles who need our help. You are deceived. 

Raccoons are predators. They eat animals. Any small animals they can get their agile paws on. They will fight dogs and cats. They will pull all the plants out of your pond and eat the fish.

This raccoon is in our yard. It is eating a small animal, a rather dried-out animal.

They also shed a parasite in their scat, a nasty parasite that requires heat to kill. Lots of heat, like boiling water or a propane torch. Raccoons like to set up latrines. Latrines that must then be cleaned up and the area sterilized by humans who object to nasty parasites in the soil. 

We know. We have been there. Although, one of the clean-up crew greatly enjoyed the torch and would have liked more things to set on fire sterilize.

Having had a snack, the raccoon is climbing up, up, up a Douglas fir for a lovely little nap.

If you have raccoons in your area, let them forage as the wild animals they are. Do not leave food or water out. Do not leave your doors open. They will come in. We know. We have been there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Beware the Ladybug, the Jaws that Bite

There was really only one ladybug, but Photoshop does some fun things.

The nursery rhyme should go like this:

Ladybird, ladybird,
ow ow ow,
What the heck are you biting me for?
Fly away anywhere

Yes, ladybugs bite and it hurts. I was amazed and disheartened the first time this happened to me. How could these lovely little bugs inflict such pain? And to what purpose? Do I look like an aphid?

When this one landed on me, I was prepared and she did bite. She is most likely a Cycloneda sanguinea. Just like her babies, she is a voracious aphid eater. You can watch these efficient predators slurping up the aphids on YouTube.

We have a never-ending clean-out the basement project. One day while bringing things up to disinfect in the sun my leg began to sting. I thought is was from the seed heads of the tall grass.

Back in the basement my leg really hurt. As I brushed it off I saw it wasn't grass, but a daddy long-legs. I didn't know they could bite people. As a child I let them run from hand to hand. This was before I developed a screaming fear of spiders. Daddy long legs, not spiders, although they look darn close.

Just how many legs are there?. 

Lessons learned:

New experiences happen all the time.
It's a jungle out there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Winter is not so bad here in the Pacific Northwest. No great snow fall or extreme temperatures. I rather like it.

It is spring that sucks. It starts somewhere in early February when the red flowering currant and cherries start to bloom and lasts until the 4th of July. During that time there will be rain and gray. It feels like it has been raining for weeks. 

Indian plum

Lichen and moss

Oregon grape

Red flowering currant

When I was at Queen Mary Tea Room it was gray, then sunny, then pouring. A woman said to the little girl with her, "The rain is what makes it so green and all the flowers bloom. That is why it is so pretty here."

Winter officially ends this weekend, though people have been extolling spring for weeks. Yes, lots of things are blooming and it is pretty but does it have to go on forever? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Baby Spider Nursery - This Year's Batch of Araneus diadematus

One of the delightful signs of spring is the baby spider nursery. Every year we find one in a new place.  Some years they are in places that conflict with human traffic. This year was one of those years. It looked as though the webbing with the egg sac started out on an angle between the front window and the porch. In the time it took to get the camera, the ball of spiderlings had settled onto the porch right in the path from driveway to front door.

I ran string around the porch posts and made signs.  Over the course of three to four days they ventured farther from the nest, at first returning each night to cuddle together in a ball. It takes three to four days for the babies to disperse completely. These will grow up to string their beautiful webs around the garden, catching raindrops in the late summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Repurposing Gone Awry

 The Marimos are recovering from their unpleasant bout with slime. They came with an attractive white sand-like substrate. Unfortunately, the substrate stuck to the sides of the Mos. (You can still see some of it clinging to them)

When I gave them their summer clean-out, I decided to put pebbles in the bottom. Pebbles that I had previously used in the bottom of a planter for extra humidity and which had been outside for a year and were a little green. I washed them off, layered them in the glass and put the Mos back. Over the course of the fall the water gained a slime covering which drifted down into the Mos' space. 

I woke in the middle of the night with horror (not an uncommon occurrence). Slime was growing in my office and choking my Marimos.

I lay awake formulating a plan of attack. Could the slime be blue-green algae, toxic to those who might drink it?  I resolved to bury the slimy water in a hole, rinse the Mos before restoring them to a pristine bowl. 

The next day I prepared for the attack. I went to the dollar store to get  a strainer, slotted spoon and bucket. I went to Goodwill to get a new, bigger container. 

I dug a hole, put a hanger around the strainer and balanced it over the hole. I drained the mucky water off and rinsed the Mos with water from the bucket. I couldn't use the hose because we were having an unusual bout of freezing weather and the hoses were stiff with ice. The Mos were put into their new larger container with nothing on the bottom in case the slime came back. 

It's been a month and all seems to be well. No slime. So far.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Return of the Crawling Dead-Not All Caterpillars Are Cute

Hello friends. What horrors do I have in store for you today? Something really creepy, though I realize now that I should have taken video rather than still picture so you could experience the true awfulness of what I am about to reveal.


Actually, they look pretty cute in the photo. This is because you can't see them TWITCH! Though I find many things in nature scary (see blog title), few things truly make my skin crawl. Tent caterpillars are one of them.

Do you have them where your are? I sincerely hope not. Malacosoma californicum all live together in a big web nest. We've had so few in the past several years I had forgotten about them. The nests can grow quite large, engulfing whole branches. The webbing of the nests is disturbing, recalling Mirkwood and large bodies running through the tree tops. 

But that's not the creepiest part. They twitch when they feel threatened and it looks synchronized, almost as though they were all controlled by one big brain. AHHH!

I saw these on rugosa bushes in a store parking lot. I do hope we won't have any in the Scaredy Cat Naturalist's yard. They would tax my wildlife sanctuary sensibilities. So far the only creatures not welcome here are fleas and mosquitos.