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Posts Tagged ‘wasps’

We had a sudden change of weather here in the Pacific Northwest: it suddenly got warm! February was unusually cold, so this was what I refer to as “all-out-gardening” weather. The problem with all out gardening weather is I’m so used to having two days out of a week to get a month’s worth of gardening done (because you never know what next weekend will be like). I tend to over-do and hurt my back and…

I am learning to slow down. I have time. I don’t have to get up to an alarm clock. I have every morning that is slightly warm and dry to work in the yard, clean debris, dead-head last fall’s flowering plants, pull the first weeds, and clear sod for new flower beds. And, after I iced my back for two days, slow down is exactly what I did. I hurt my back in a frenetic attack on the day lilies, pulling out the old leaves and the moss as if the day would end too soon & I wouldn’t have accomplished something. Silly me. (But I did watch some good movies while my back muscles recovered, so there’s that.)

I ordered roses. One has arrived, the other is on back order. I bought rhubarb roots because my original one has been transplanted too many times. The race was on to get these all planted in the narrow window of nice weather – BUT the flower bed hadn’t even been created yet!

So – I spent three days digging up sod, which you can’t put into the yard bin because it has too much soil attached. I have to dump it in an empty corner of the yard to let the rains come and wash the sod off, returning the loam to the yard. The filbert tree kills the grass, so that’s where I dumped it. Take that! Nasty grass!

Day one, I kept finding cool creatures in the loam. Centipedes, army worms or cut worms, earthworms… And no camera. Mud on my garden gloves. There had to be a better way.

Day two, I placed my Google Pixel in my hip pocket. The thing has a great macro lens. I’d dig up something, take my gloves off, zoom in, and click! Unfortunately, looking at the LCD image on my cell phone is a foreign way of taking photos (I’m a die-hard DSLR – formerly a die-hard SLR film photographer). The sun reflects off of the LCD image and I couldn’t always tell if I had the subject in focus. The photos aren’t large by DSLR standards (I normally shoot at the highest setting on my Canon), but they’re decent – and focused for the most part.

Now that I have that out of the way: DO NOT PROCEED if creepy crawlies get you creeped out. If you dislike any of the following: spiders, wasps, cutworms, earwigs, centipedes – do not scroll on down.

This fine piece of thin material appears to be part of a beetle wing. It could be plastic, too, but I think it is organic. It was extremely fragile and only a portion of it ended up being in the photos. I found it with a couple pieces of pottery and a vintage playing marble.

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This guy (all 11 of them I found) was as large as a U.S. quarter or a Susan B. Anthony silver dollar. Very green-hued. I can’t identify it without the moth it turns into, but it’s much larger than the usual cutworm one finds in the soil. I took to tossing them out into the streets for the crows and automobiles to take care of.

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The cutworm (also a moth) was about nickel sized when curled up. I only found a couple of these and they got to go flying into the Great Asphalt Desert as well.

Don’t worry – I probably didn’t harm the overall moth population at all.

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It has taken me years to come to terms with earwigs. They were a pestilence in my childhood. I later learned they have redeeming qualities (they eat aphids) but I still don’t like them in my house or crawling on me. One of the few insects I truly struggle to like.

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Bingo! There’s nothing to compare the size of this critter within the photo (sorry) but curled up like this, it was only the size of a dime or less.

 

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Stretched out, the centipede is not much wider than a blade of grass and about 17mm long (just over half an inch).

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I love jumping spiders. They’re very friendly. This one was about the size of a penny, the size I used to find lurking around the office back in my employed days.

Paper wasps, not to be confused with their aggressive cousins (yellow jackets). These are solitary, make small nests of paper (they will protect their nests with stings, but you have to really threaten them to anger them). We live at peace with most stinging insects here (yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets can be exceptions, but only when they get aggressive or nest in the yard).

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The woodlouse spider! It is about half an inch long, hates sunshine, moves fast – it hunts the wood louse (pillbugs, roly-poly bugs, sow bugs, potato bugs – whatever you grew up calling them – although potato bug is a misnomer).

What I did not find were slugs. This is good. It means I have done a good job of cleaning up our yard so slugs don’t want to live here. I hate slugs. The Pacific Northwest is renowned for slugs. We have giant slugs, banana slugs, big brown slugs, black slugs, green slugs, and leopard slugs. I put down hazelnut shell mulch to discourage slugs.

I got my rhubarb roots in the ground today. Tomorrow, I will finally plant my rose. Hopefully, I will get my second rose to plant soon. And my hops rhizome. I’ll be taking a lot more photos of creepy crawlies.

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That sounds like the first line to a poem:

Today in the garden

red hummingbird flew –

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The reality is more like this: Today, in the garden, I decided to tackle the overgrown Oregon Grape.

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I also wanted to clear the weeds away from the fence.

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It is hard to see just how unruly the Oregon Grape is. I planted this variety in error: I thought I was getting the native Oregon Grape, which grows close to the ground and scares werewolves away (my father told me that when I was ten, and so it must be true). What I got was this commercial variety that grows over six feet in height, falls over, and is generally unruly.

We’ve never had any werewolf problems, so it probably does repel were wolves as well.

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The weeds and blackberries, on the other hand, serve no purpose except to irritate me and thwart the lawn mower.

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We did have a Spotted Towhee attempt to start a family in the thickest and most upright Oregon Grape, but the sharp, spiny leaves were not enough to hinder the nosy bird dogs, and the Towhees left the nest shortly after laying four pretty spotted eggs in it.

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No matter how I twist and turn with the camera, I can’t get the lens to focus on the eggs. It wants to focus on the nearest detritus: the rim of the nest and old leaves. One egg has exploded, or was broken into by a predator. The others sit there, the same as when we found them a nearly two months ago.

The towhees must have found a safe place to hatch eggs, as we watched them bring their brood of fledglings around the front yard.

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I did not take a before photo because I didn’t set out to eliminate this last Oregon Grape. It will probably regrow. It was very spindly and the branches fell every direction, creating an unsightly mess. The remaining three have stronger bases and tend to grow up, not out.

Then I worked my way down the fence. All was good. I yanked on a good bunch of weeds and they came out, followed by a torrent of yellow jackets.

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My instinct was to get up and run, but I lay back very slowly and allowed the angry wasps to fly over me. Then I slowly rolled over and stood up calmly before walking deliberately back to the house.

Unfortunately, the head of the host had made it to the corner of the house and Murphy got stung because he flips out around wasps. I ushered the dogs into the house and closed the door. Still, I managed to get two of the wasps in the house: one that got lost in the bathroom, and one that must have fixed on my garden gloves when I pulled the weeds out. I didn’t know it was there until I pulled my gloves off and it bit me (yes, bit, not stung).

Poor Murphy! He was so freaked. He wanted to eat it but he had also been stung, so his tail was tucked and he wouldn’t venture any closer to my garden gloves on the kitchen floor. The wasp didn’t associate me with the gloves and was circling them and stinging them, repeatedly.

Between my husband and myself, we managed to get both wasps trapped between the window and the screen, where we left them to die. I waited until the wasps had calmed down before I went back out to pick up my garden tools and I marked the site of their underground lair so I can spray them at dusk (on a windless night: tonight, the wind has come up).

Yes, I will spray them. I dislike chemicals and insect sprays, but yellow jackets nesting in the ground in the yard get sprayed. Murphy is allergic to them. I need to weed and tend to my flowers. They get aggressive and mean in August and September, and they argue with picnickers for bites of protein or sweets. I can live with them most of the time, but not when there is an entire nest of them.

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That photo was an accident. I was trying to force my digital camera to focus on the hive hole, which is at the base of the fence post. I did not know I caught this drone hovering on his way in for a landing.

 

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I never tire of the honey bees. And they never tire of the Russian sage.

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I wish I could capture the dozens hovering around the sage. Or the oregano, the lavender, the daisies – whatever prolific flower is in season. I wonder where they go when they leave my yard and what the honey they make might taste like?

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They crowd the sunflowers.

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This one is playing chameleon. I love his shadow on the petals of the sunflower.

The bees buzzed me several times while I was trying to get close enough to snap a good photo: stern little warnings that I was invading their space. But if I pressed the issue, it was the bees who moved away. They really aren’t up for a confrontation that might cost them their lives. They only get to sting once, then the stinger is lost and their life is forfeit. Unlike wasps, bees aren’t looking for a fight.

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The black bumblebees love our garden, too. When the rhododendrons are in bloom, we have two or three species of bumblebee hovering around, but as summer winds down and the pickings get slim, the social little black ones are all that remain. They love fireweed and this relative of borage. Like the honeybees, they will buzz at me in warning. Or maybe it isn’t a warning as much as they are just curious or I am disturbing them?

I took several photos of this one and was amazed to get such a great shot of its wings in motion as it flitted from flower to flower.

While I was bee hunting, I accidentally came across this guy resting on the veggie garden fence.

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I think it could be a spider wasp.  Family: Pompilidae. But it could be Family: Ichneumonidae (check out the ovipositor on the end of the abdomen).  Makes me wish I had captured it and could really look at it. But I turned my head and it flew off to points unknown.

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