We’ve found ourselves, this past month, beset with swarms of crane flies. Looking like giant mosquitoes, but completely harmless, they dance about looking for a mate. They’re particularly abundant this year apparently due to the drought. The drought left a lot of dead plant matter that, as it turns out, crane fly larvae consume. With the coming of the rains and the breaking of the drought, suddenly there’s a lot of moist dead plant matter, and oodles and oodles of crane flies. I personally don’t mind when they brush up against my face. It tickles. But I can see how some might get a little freaked out by these giant dancing flies. The plague will be over soon. I’ve already noticed a tapering off in their numbers. Unfortunately, they’re being replaced by droves of June bugs, which are far less gentle when the collide with you.
It’s been a weird summer. In June, we had the hot temperatures more often experienced in July. Now in July, we’re getting June temps, but we had so much rain lately, the humidity is incredibly high, so we’re getting heat indexes well over 100F. The grasses have really enjoyed the rain. Between the temperatures being so dreadful, Odo’s health, and the bathroom renovation, the garden weeds have gotten away from me. Apparently the weather has also been great for grasshoppers, which, as best I can tell, eat everything but grass. I’ve managed to clear the two 16 foot gardens and one 12 foot garden, only to find the grasshoppers have stripped everything hidden by the grass.
I never even got to taste the kale before the insects stripped the leaves. They’ve started to recover, but the hoppers are just getting bigger.
My mystery melon appears to be some kind of cantaloupe, but I may not manage to try one if the grasshoppers keep eating through the skins.
My spring onions look as if they’d been snipped with scissors.
They’re even eating the holly!
The only benefit I can see from this insect invasion is the frass they’re leaving everywhere. They’re eating all the weeds and turning it into poop. If I could just get them to trim the grass. I look forward to the first frost, when I can start the gardening season over.
Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I’ve been getting some of the gardens under control. Unfortunately,this also means displaced wildlife. While weeding the melon patch, I came across a snake, but couldn’t get a good look. A couple of days later, when I was mowing, I rescued this beauty from in front of the mower. I’m pretty sure it’s the same snake from the melon patch, and it challenged my identification skills. I finally eliminated all but a juvenile yellowbelly racer (not illustrated in my reptile guide, and therein lay the challenge). He was a lovely and surprisingly calm snake, but happy to be let go again, into some safer vegetation. Mowing can result in quite a few tragedies (frogs, hidden in the grass, have occasionally leapt into the blades), I’m glad this one was averted.
I’ve posted a picture of the Green Lynx Spider before, but this one was a particularly lovely specimen, replete with eggs. I displaced her from the wildly overgrown mint patch, so I placed her among the potted plants. She is on my Meyers lemon tree in this picture, but later moved to the blueberries.
I had to clear out the cucumber plants from the back garden, so I can refurbish the bed. That exposed several chrysalises attached to the plants and cage. Apparently, the Black Swallowtail caterpillars, having fed on my bronze fennel, decided that the cucumber plants would be a great place to metamorphose. The squash bugs had different plans, and had nearly killed the plants, exposing the chrysalises. I moved a couple of pupae to the shade of a rosemary bush, but the one on the cage had to stay as is.
I’ve been digging a trench around the back garden to install a weed/gopher barrier, and as sure as the sky is blue, the next morning I found wildlife in the trench. Of course the gophers had tried their best to fill in the trench, but I also found this perfectly camouflaged toad, hunting trapped insects.
This little creature, a lovely praying mantis, blending in to the concrete background, was checking out my construction material. It stood there, swaying slightly doing it’s best “I am a dead leaf” pose, while I set the camera in front of it on the wood. I love my little digital camera. This shot would have been much more awkward if I’d had to actually look though a viewfinder.
I found this lovely jumping spider on our water spout. Click on the photo to enlarge it and take a close look. I could only see two obvious eyes (odd for a spider, they usually have at least four),but notice his legs, mandibles and thorax are fuzzy. Neat looking creature but I couldn’t begin to tell you what it is.
Speaking of spiders, this mud wasp nest broke off our grill cover (you can see the fine waffling on the backside of the nest). The interesting thing is what I found packed into the sealed cell. these are all crab spiders. Ten or twelve of them were crammed into the cell (I lost count). I’m amazed, first, that so many fit in and second, that they were all the same. It’s just one of the many things that make me scratch my head and say “huh”.