Monday, September 21, 2015

Spider Backs and Wasp Attacks

The weather here is finally, finally starting to cool off and the wildlife is responding.  From my office window I've observed almost daily a little red fox (with a full tail - he must have been molting earlier and not infested with mange - thanks for the reader tip!) trotting into the woods.  The turkeys have been out and about, and just this weekend I saw a woodchuck ambling down the driveway!  Of course, the Canadian geese are settling in great numbers on the pond every late afternoon.  I love to hear them murmuring on the water at night.

This is the time of year for spiders.  A beautiful spiny-backed orb weaver has spun a web outside my office window.  It's too far off the ground for a picture, but I can watch him while I work.  His web is ingenious.  It puffs and moves in the breeze like a downed parachute, and those intermittent dashes of solid white warn away birds. 

He's no spider, but close enough...a harvestman lurks on a leaf.

On our deck is a large garden spider.  She is collecting her share of those pesky shield bugs that proliferate in the fall and tidily storing them in her web.

I've always enjoyed the pattern repetitions I've seen in nature, from tree bark variations to leaf veins to water ripples.  I have no talent with sketching or painting, but with hand embroidery I have the possibility to take tracings from photos and reproduce designs in thread.  Look at the detail and shading on her abdomen!  This will be my first challenge. 

Look at the abdomen of this little orb weaver!  Yellow, with just a smattering of brown dots.  Really cool. 

Here is another 'pattern repetition' that I'd love to reproduce in thread.  This is a hornworm caterpillar.  A real garden pest. 

See those white things?  Those aren't caterpillar eggs.  They're braconoid wasp cocoons.  The wasp lays her eggs beneath the skin of the caterpillar.  The larvae feed on the caterpillar.  As they mature, they push their way through her skin and spin cocoons.  When they're fully mature, they exit the cocoons and fly away.

Here is a close-up of the cocoons:

See the holes where the larvae pushed through?  Talk about battle-scarred!

If you look closely, you can see 2 larvae, newly emerged from the caterpillar.  I lost about 30 minutes watching them make their cocoons.

I think it would make such a cool embroidery project!  I'll tuck that away for a later date.

The trees have been fairly silent for the past 6 weeks, but birds are suddenly everywhere.  Bluebirds, titmice, catbirds, warblers, and other birds are filling the air with their calls.  Red-throated hummingbirds are in a frenzy at our feeder.  All sorts of woodpeckers, too, are knocking around in the trees.  We had a pair of piliated woodpeckers last week - the largest in the woodpecker family.  Love!

Our plants are responding to the cooler weather too.  Ferns are putting up their new bronzed leaves...

Beautyberries are maturing.

Chives are up!

Our gardenias and one group of azaleas bloom at random times.  They're going full-bore right now.

Now if we can only get to the point where our temperatures are consistently in the 60s and 70s, we'll be set!

Have a great week! 

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