Friday, October 12, 2007

Misumena vatia - Crab Spider

Misumena vatia is a species of crab spider, also know as "flower spiders" because they are most often found on flowers, lying in ambush for prey. Crab spiders do not build webs to trap prey, but are active hunters much like the jumping spiders.

I found this girl patiently sitting in wait on the passing flower from one of our Butterfly Bushes. I didn't stick around to see her diner victim. Hopefully it wasn't a Honey Bee or a beneficial critter but rather a fly or some other nuisance, pesky insect.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Geranium Bud Worm

Ah, my old nemesis...

Well, not really. Actually, truth be told this is the first geranium bud worm, also known as the tobacco bud worm, I've ever seen, let alone caught and squished. I really should have feed him to the chickens but I was too lazy to walk down back, honest.

Can you believe the nerve of this bug? As you can see it's done a pretty good job completely eating one of the buds. As Vlad would say, 'cmon man' (but with a Russian accent).

I've spent quite a bit of time pruning these geraniums - we have 5 plants in 3 different colors in 2-gallon pots. I dead-head the passed flowers, as well as remove the dead and yellowed leaves. The plants themselves are tired and winding down. They're not as green and full as they once were but they're still blooming today. Regardless, they're not available for dining bud worms.

Here is the dude shortly after I picked him off the flower and just minutes before squashville. Oh, that's a boo-boo there on the outside of my palm. I suffered from a blond moment and cut myself with a pair of hand pruners. JoAnne thought stitches were needed but we settled on liquid band-aid instead.

The bud worm is a serious pest to many garden flowers. They feed on the buds and petals of many commonly grown flowers, including the geranium, petunia and nicotiana. The adult stage is a moth with the caterpillar becoming full grown in about 1 month. The insect survives winter as a pupa in the soil. Where soil freezes deeply, most overwintering insects are killed. With New England winter right around the corner these critters don't stand a chance...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Diapheromera fermorata

Otherwise known as the Northern Walkingstick.

Yup, I came across this remarkable insect Sunday afternoon. It's only the second one I've ever come across and both have been on our property here. The first one was shortly after we moved in and we found him on an oak tree in the front yard. This one, which is a female, was climbing up the back of the chicken pen.

I am simply blown away with this critter. Out of all the insects I've seen, come across and caught over the years, this one is far and away the best..crikey

Here she is posing on the bud of a Dahlia, above -

Here she is camouflaged and hard to spot, above -

Here she is on a yard stick. She's about 4" long, including her outstretched antenna -

Again, a remarkable insect...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ditch Digging

I did a bit of manual labor yesterday and got a tad dirty. Actually, it was more than a bit and more than a tad. I can almost stand up straight again this morning.

The 40' trench was dug to bury 4" PVC piping underground that is to be used for a basement sub-pump. I installed a "Y" connector at the house end of the piping with the plan being for the sub-pump to use one side and the houses front downspout the other side.

Up until now the sub-pump was using (4) gutter downspouts that laid across the lawn. Although this worked, the downspouts didn't connect well and often came loose, it was unsightly and a manual process to boot. However, now that it's underground all those issues are no more.

Stage 1: Dig ditch -

Stage 2: Install PVC piping -

Stage 3: Done and cleaned up -

I've sent Billy Ray Cyrus an email requesting that he modify the lyrics to his "Achy Breaky Heart" hit song and change, for starters, 'heart' to 'back'. It could be another hit for the blue collar works and weekend warriors like myself.

For those of you who've been living under a rock, click here to listen to "Achy Breaky Heart" on YouTube - "Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart".

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Acorn Weevil Larvae

He's just a squirrel trying to get a nut or rather a legless, grub-like acorn weevil larvae emerging from a nut.

Yup, here are a couple interesting pictures I took of an acorn giving birth to an acorn weevil. It stands to reason that we would come across something like this. Between Emilie, JoAnne and I we've been picking up acorns from our front yard for weeks now. I am guessing well over a thousand already, maybe more, and they're still falling. We actually had a contest last night to see who could fill up their bucket the fastest, it was me against the girls. The girls claimed victory but I've filed a grievance and expect the ruling to be overturned. I won't get into specifics but it was ugly some of the tactics they used...

Anyway, I can see the little tucker struggling to make his way out or perhaps in, how would you tell. He looked stuck and the hole didn't look big enough so he didn't make too much progress on my watch. He might be out by now but I don't plan on digging through the trash to see.

The adult acorn weevil is a brown colored beetle about 3/8 inch long, and has a very long thin snout. The female uses her long snout to make a small hole in a developing acorn on the tree. She lays several eggs within the hole. Her eggs hatch and the creamy white, grub-like larva feeds on the developing acorn inside the nut until fall. The larva grows to 1/4 to 3/8 inch in length and is off-white in color with a brown head. The legless grub is curved and fat in the middle, tapering toward both ends. The larvae within the acorn on the tree fall to the ground in the nut in the late summer or fall.

In the fall the fully grown acorn weevil larva chews a perfectly round 1/8 inch hole in the side of the nut and emerges. The acorn larvae then tunnel into the soil to complete development. They remain in the soil for one to two years before emerging as a new adult weevil to repeat the process.

Part of the reason you find so many "wormy" or "holey" nuts under the trees is because the squirrels leave them behind. It appears the squirrels are able to select the good acorns and hickory nuts during their fall frenzy of nut gathering and burial. This leaves only "wormy" nuts for you.

Tomato Hornworm IV


Here is the latest on the Lincoln Street Tomato Hormworm front...

The above picture is what these big, fat, plump, juice tomato hornworms turn into. It's very unusual to say the least. The weird thing is that they are both alive in the above photo, which was taken about two weeks ago, and they're still like this and alive today. Well the bigger one now resembles the little one.

Not sure if this is their cocoon-type stage or what. For the most part these things are slow; they eat slow and move slow, perhaps it's a defensive thing because they're pretty hard to spot when on a tomato plant and therefore difficult for predators to see. Anyway, they each became very mobile and stopped eating just before entering this stage. Time will tell what happens next.

Oh, also and much to my surprise I found (2) more of these critters on one of our tomato plants tonight. One large and one small. I would have thought they'd be closer in size and pretty much done and into the above stage, as the weather is changing and it's getting colder. Go figure, alas...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Katydid 2007

Here are some pictures of a one-legged Katydid that we found hanging around on one of our kale plants. You can hear them carrying on all night long - I enjoy their songs but JoAnne not so much...

I'm holding the critter in the last picture. It's a pretty good close up picture and taken just before I tossed this dude into the chickens pen. There was quite the scuffle between Lucy and Ethel to see who was gonna get this tasty morsel. The good new is they both got a piece.