Monday, May 30, 2011

Clamp-tipped Emerald

On Saturday I ventured down the Eno River at Guess Road in Durham, NC. It had rained a lot the day before, the Eno was still up a little, it empties quickly. My first part of the walk was very wet, my pants got soaked walking the trail with wet grass covering the trail.

I found this female Clamp-tipped Emerald, Somatochlora tenebrosa that had recently emerged from its exuvia. In the 12 years or so I have been watching and photographing Odonata this was my third one of this species. I have yet to find a male, odds are I have seen them flying but could not ID them in the past. They lay eggs in small shady streams, I have witnessed a female "hammering" her eggs along small streams before. I suspect this one got washed out of a small stream into the Eno River.

 Clamp-tipped Emerald - Somatochlora tenebrosa

Clamp-tipped Emerald  Exuvia (discarded larval casing)
Near the bottom of her abdomen you can see her ovapositor pointing nearly 90 degrees from her body. Once these dragonflies age they look very dull in comparison to this one.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Late May Bee Report

Yesterday it rained most of the day, I saw hail 4 different times! The night before May 26th I hardly saw any bees flying in and out of the hive it was in the 90s, I was a bit worried.

This morning I went out to fill the bee feeder and it was only half full, expected it to be nearly empty. I pulled the feeder up and I believe the bottom of the boardman feeder had rain water in it, I pulled it out and emptied the water. Just back in from observing the hive, I counted 20 incoming bees carrying pollen in a few minutes!! Up until now the total number of bees I'd seen carrying pollen was only 4. So I'm pretty happy that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

I'm going to check on the bees perhaps on Tuesday to see that the queen is producing brood like she is supposed to. Tuesday will mark the second week since the bees were installed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hairstreaks and mystery wildflower

Sunday afternoon I was walking along our road. We have lots of White Milkweed growing wild along the road, more than I have seen elsewhere. Happened to find this Juniper Hairstreak on an Ox-eyed Daisy, done that photo many times before. Then it moved to the White Milkweed and stuck to it like glue and allowed many photos. Got to love these dime sized hairstreaks!

Here the Juniper Hairstreak is joined by a longhorn beetle. The flower head here to give you prospective is maybe 2 inches across.
Along our driveway I found tow male Banded Hairstreaks fighting over perching rights on these leaves. They are single brood hairstreaks and you can only find them for 3-4 weeks every year, a delight to find.
I found a handful of these flowers growing in the woods where they logged out some of the Lobolly pines and oaks. Can't recall seeing this 3-4 foot tall wildflower before anybody know what it is?
Below is our newest snake a Northern Watersnake, Nerodia sipedonit  just over 2 foot long. It spent all of Sunday perched on that limb in the pond. As you can see the pond is over run with waterlilies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saturdays Bugs

On Saturday I took three leisurely walks at the Eno River State Park. Given the park is along the river you can stop lots of places to hike and explore. I had hoped to find some Splendid Clubtails, rare here in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Since we have had lots of rain this spring the clubtails might have washed away and perished while emerging along the shore as the river came up, it happens. Or it might just be early for them still.

Here are some photos taken with my big camera for a change. I've wanted to update and get a new one for several years but have not been able to afford it.
A Pair of Eastern Tailed-blues mating. These butterflies are plentiful at times in our lawn and garden.
This is from our pond before i went on a walk. A baby Eastern Painted Turtle, the pond has lost of these turtles.
Female dark form Eastern Tiger Swallowtail taking in ray from the sun to warm herself.
Hackberry Emperor my first of the season, it was teasing me at the entrance to the trails at Fews Ford. Normally hackberries do not have such pointed wings, first I have seen like this, it is a male btw. Anyone want to guess the host plant on this butterfly?
This butterfly and the one below are or can be tricky to ID. Above is a Question Mark, look at the dark round spots on the forewing. Notice 4 dark spots in a row on the forewing only Question Marks have 4 spots.
Here is an Eastern Comma, both the Question Mark and Eastern Commas were flying together and perching in the mud along the river in good numbers. OK now look at the dark spots on the forewing there are 3 dark spots telling us it is an Eastern Comma.
Last week I walked the Cole Mill Power line and saw 6 of these Great Spangled Fritillaries. Yesterday I must have seen 60 in the same location. Normally we are on the southeastern end of this butterflies range seeing 6 is great, 60 might be a record. I have seen over 200 Great Spangled Fritillaries 50 miles north of here in the past. Last week the power line had around 50 Silvery Checkerspots, this week only 3 they are on the way to finishing their brood. Gotta love the way nature changes all the time.
One of the 13 year cicadas. They seemed a tad louder on my walk yesterday, more flying about and perched in small trees and shrubs. I did not see any deformed wing ones at all. I did notice a fair number freshly dead on the pavement, they are starting to die now it seems. I've really enjoyed them myself.

Today's discovery is I call hear cicadas calling in the distance here at paradise! I walked about for 2 hours hearing therm faintly most of the time, yet found no visible signs of them in the air, trees or ground.
The power line is loaded with Ox-eyed Daisies this American lady posed nicely on them. The daisies have been blooming a long time, the butterflies are not using them as much as last week.
Here was my target for last weeks hike in the power line, I finally found one yesterday. It is an Arrowhead Spiketail, they are over 3 inches long a big dragonfly!  This one let me get up close and take lots of photos.
Any guesses to why it is called an Arrowhead Spiketail?

Here is the Question Mark seen from the side it was investigating owl droppings and let me approach take photos and walk away, must have been good stuff. The cream marks in the hindwing resemble a Question mark don't they.

The bees are doing fine drinking syrup like crazy, it'll be a full time job making syrup for them. They are drinking about a quart a day of sugar syrup. I make the syrup by heating up 6 cups of water and adding 6 cups of sugar to it and dissolving it. I watched them yesterday morning arriving back to the hive. I noticed 3 bees carrying pollen out over a 100 bees, hope that will improve. The biggest season for pollen collection just ended. Tulip Poplar and blackberries are done, this leave main sources like clover and other flowers not in great abundance.

Around 5 pm I went out there and over 100 bees were swirling about the front of the hive looking confused. Did not know what to do, so I called  Monica at the bee company. Here is what Monica had to say: It sounds like the bees are orientating to the hive, or it could be that they were doing their "cleansing" flight. After 30 minutes they were back to normal. Its going to be very hot today if they do this again I'll take video of it for the blog.

One last thing I saw a lot of snakes yesterday starting with a Rat Snake in the bluebird box :((( looking out at me. On the Eno I saw 5-6 Northern Water snakes and this morning I found our first yard Northern Water snake in the pond on a stick. Also had a grass snake in a big tree on the Eno. Today I checked our snake tins (snake tins are metal roofing laying on the ground for snakes to get under. Anyway I lifted the tins and found a worm snake and the largest Ringed-neck Snake I have ever seen 18 inches or more. Both these snakes eat slugs great to have in the garden.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bees day 3

Today was day 3 for the new bees.  I was a little hesitant to open the hive and check on the queeen, not quite at ease with the bees yet. After feeding the cats and dogs I went out to the hive. The syrup feeder used close to a pint of syrup in the past 24 hours. The bees were busy leaving and seemed awkward when  returning. No pollen was seen on any of the worker bees.

Here are two worker bees, the girls of course! The brood depend on these girls to gather the food, clean and tend the hive, drones and the queen.
This is a drone a male bee. These do not sting so they are harmless. They live out their lives for one thing to mate with a queen. Mature drones will leave the hive and gather with other drones in hopes of a virgin queen dropping in to mate with several of them. Once mated the drones die. Drone can not feed themselves or gather food, the worker bees feed the drones and they feed the queen too.
Today when I opened the hive I looked for the queen, the cage was empty. One frame was covered in bees so deep if there was a queen in there you could not see her. I did remove the duct tape that held in the queen box, no dead bees were on it.
The workers are drawing out the combs as you can see here. In other 2 days I'll check the hive again to look for the queen and signs of eggs and larva.

I did get a sense of ease this time entering the hive. The other day my smoker was going crazy, today I smoked the hive and it went out. After maybe 5-10 minutes the bees were swarming me slightly, it appeared that one bee tried to sting my finger in the goat skin glove but failed to reach me. So no stings this time around and this hive is now their home.

It was a bit difficult to handle the camera with one gloved hand. These photos came out fairly good considering.

Nope this is not turning into a bee blog. The blog is still a garden blog and things related to the garden including nature and I love bugs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honey Bees Installed!!

Today I picked up my bee package and about 6:30 pm I put the bees in the hive. This is my first time doing this.   I attempted to uncork the queen box so the bees could get to the candy and release her. They put candy in as a time release for releasing the queen, this way the workers can get used to her, otherwise they might kill her if she gets out too soon. Anyway I pulled the cork and saw the bees inside the queen package, oops. Quickly I replaced the cork. Then I hung the queen box in the hive as your supposed to do, but still corked.

Now I'm starting to panic a little, unsure of what to do next. I drop in the box with the bee package into the hive and open it then covered the hive. Meg takes the syrup for the bees to feed on and fills up my feeder, I place the syrup feeder so the bees can feed.

I called the bee company, no response. So I check the beekeeping book, it clearly shows what the candy should look like. I tried the phone again and got the bee company and she tells me if the candy is upside down it could cause problems, I recalled this from beekeeping class. At this point I'm not sure if there is any candy in the queen box? So I'm told to open it back up and see.  I put on the gloves and veil and open up the hive. The queen box was covered with bees when I took it out with  8 inches with bees hanging under it.  After brushing away some bees I see the candy at the bottom, no good. My first bee sting, I watched as a bee stings my knee right through my jeans. The sting was very minor and when away in a minute. What to do now I ask myself? I run to my van and get some duct tape and set up the smoker.  The smoker might have helped a little as I cleared the bees off enough to fix some duct tape to the queen box.
The queen box with worker bees eating away at the candy in the uncorked hole. In the morning if it is not raining I'll pull out the bee package box and lean it against the hive. I'll also replace the 5 frames I took out to make room for the bee package. Right now it is pouring rain.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Butterfly & cicada walk and goat rescue

Today I went to Hillsborough for the dedication of the Pollinator Garden by the local beekeeping club. So I walked about a bit, the rain finally quit for now. First I dropped in on the Occoneechee State Preserve to look for dragonflies. Nothing special in dragonflies as they reworked(drained and installed new dams) the ponds a few years ago and recovery is not fully happened yet.  As I was walking a spotted an Eastern Pine Elfin on an ox-eyed daisy, might have been a preserve record, I'm not sure.

Left the preserve and headed the long way home, caught the Durham Garden Center before closing and picked up two dwarf spiderworts. 'Danielle' is a dwarf white spiderwort and 'Marielle' is a dwarf sky blue spiderwort. Pretty excited about getting a white spiderwort!

Drove out on Cole Mill Rd and saw a cicada cross the road at the Eno River State Park Cole Mill Access. I'd been wanting to walk the power line trail to look for butterflies it is one of my favorite butterfly watching spots. Before I got out of the car I heard waves of cicadas calling in the woods. Been wanting to take in a cicada concert for weeks. The next concert here will be in 13 years once these are done.

All these photos were taken with my Canon G11 point and shoot, left the big gun camera at home. Above is a butterfly orgy, well almost. There were 2 female Silvery Checkerspots with 3 males wanting to breed with them. If you look closely you can see all 5 butterflies on this single ox-eyed daisy. The female has the fatten abdomen in the center of the photo. Notice the more slender abdomen on the lower checkerspot it is a male and you can see slightly different wing markings too.
My first great Spangled Fritillaries this year. Usually when the white milkweed is in bloom they show up, it is in bloom. There were 4 of these fritillaries on this storm knocked down thistle when I found them. Thistle can be a butterfly magnet.
Saw 4 of these very uncommon Eastern Pine Elfins today. So far this year I have been lucky to see one on March 20th, April 17th and today May 15th. Not many times can you see any elfin during three different months. The Eastern Pine Elfin has a long spread out brood unlike the other elfins.

 Ebony Jewelwing damselfly my first one this year. And even better it let me get 2 inches from it for this photo!
The 13 year Cicada, I heard likely thousands of them up it the trees along the Eno River. One trail intersection must have had between 300-500 holes where they emerged in the mud in 6-8 foot of trail. I found the most exoskeletons  in mature ironwood trees.
These exoskeletons were on a poison ivy leaf.

Thought I let you hear the chorus of the cicada. These are called Brood XIX or the Great Southern Brood. I do recall this brood 13 years ago along the Eno River. Before these I have a memory of the 17 year cicada in Ohio Brood X or the Great Eastern Brood in 1970, it was massive at our house thousands flying everywhere, considered to be the largest brood ever recorded from what I have read.

OK now the goat rescue. We ate breakfast on the screened in porch around 8 am. We heard a goat calling non stop. Meg thought it was stuck in the fence next door. We both figured the stupid neighbors would take care of it shortly. These neighbors are the ones with the crazy loud as #$#@ peacocks that call all night. We keep our windows open whenever possible, apparently they close their windows tight. Meg was making dinner and the goat was still calling at 7pm 11 hours after we heard it in the morning. I walked through the woods and sure enough it had its head stuck in the fence just as Meg suggested. I carefully helped it get free. Some people should not be allowed to keep animals, they have donkeys, goats, ducks (no wait I think a fox got them), peacocks and chickens.
Here he is happy to be free again. Meg used to have goats and she said they get stuck in the fence fairly easily.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Never would have dreamed!

We could grow carrots this big! These carrots are on a 2 x 6 railing to give you perspective on the size. The taste, well a lot better than store bought. You know those pre washed baby carrots that everyone buys these days, no taste at all when compared to freshly grown organic carrots. If you can't grown them, try buying some at your local farmers market, worth every penny trust me.

Our trick on these? We, OK Meg planted them in late fall and they were in the cold frame. We mixed lots of compost in the soil every year for the the past several years.  We also have spring planted carrots that are tiny right now, but growing every week. Just ate one of these so hard to resist.
 Here is the labyrinth bed of potatoes planted a few weeks ago. It starts on the lower left with a basil plant then potatoes go almost to the center. The after the potatoes pea greens in the center.
 Our larger garlic bed. You can see our onions on the left of the garlic, they are huge. The lettuce in the front is almost past prime at this point. The pepper plants on the lower left were grown from seed.
Meg you need to pick these Sugar Snap Peas! This is half on one of our three trellises of peas.
 Our latest blooming clematis, forgot the name of this one. Last year we had more blooms...
 Meg finally got some Comfrey. As you can see it is doing great in our garden. More on comfrey.
 Black Cohosh, Actaea racemosa Meg brought this home from an Women's Herbal Conference last year. Doing very well.

Self sown larkspur in the cold frame.
 In the past few years I have been taken in by spiderworts. I think this is the one I got from SweetBay. Just love it!
 Oh so beautiful.
 This one is the largest flowering one I have. It has been here for 10 years or so, my one plant in now 4 plants, not a fast spreader by any means.
This spiderwort is pale blue, the camera lost the blue in the petals. Saw an alba "white" spiderwort yesterday on a blog...

More on the 13 year cicadas, I found one casing on the deck earlier in the week and a confirmed one dead in a pan of water here in the yard this morning. We must be slightly out of the main brood. . I read a report of hundreds of thousands of them being seen and heard at Jordan Lake an hour from here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Pickle People

This past Saturday they held the Strawberry Festival at Meg's School. It is a fund raiser for the park behind the school. The last few years Meg's class had an obstacle course. She changed to a lower grade and this year her class sold pickles. The class had the learn about pickles and they created these pickle people for their booth to display. Thought I'd share some of them with you.

 Pretty good for second grade don't you think. The stands are made of recycled trim from a job I did recently.

Below in the left back side is one of the mascot costumes the kids were wearing at the festival.
As for gardening, we are just starting to pick sugar snap peas. In a few days we'll have lots of them. Yesterday I pulled a carrot an inch in diameter and 6 inches long. These are the carrots we overwintered in one of the cold frames. I'm really enjoying eating these fresh carrots.

I found one cicada casing on the post to our deck yesterday, no others seen or heard nearby. One of my customers says she loves the chorus they are making, I expect to work there next week and hear for myself.
 A recording of our frog concert tonight taken from the small landing on our deck stairs next to the pond. Not anywhere as loud as being here in person. Turn your sound all the way up to hear the frogs.

I'd rate tonight a 10 on the scale of 10 frog concert. The main chorus is Gray Treefrogs and Northern Cricket Frogs. And mixed in with them are several Bullfrogs and a few Green Frogs. The sounds outside are too loud for a normal person the handle. We love these choruses and the $%## peacocks cannot break through this sound barrier.