Tag: backyardphotography

Photography Challenge Day 200: The adult praying mantis (short post)

Wow, I’ve made it (more or less) two hundred days of posting a different photograph. Now if I can just start doing a more different themes, I’d be even more impressed with myself–but hey, that can possibly be the next challenge. That’s a good idea prompt–can I come up with a minimum of three hundred and sixty-five (or six) different ideas for pictures??

Anyway the winner of day two hundred–is an adult praying mantis. I’m pretty certain that it isn’t related to the one I saw the week before–unless it had gone through like six-to-eight metamorphoses in a very short period of time.

Adult praying mantis

So we were sitting outside Saturday, when I noticed that we had company on the inside of the umbrella. There was this adult praying mantis that was just hanging out on one of the support arms of the umbrella.

It moved a little

It started really moving around towards the end of the day, and I’m assuming that as the temperatures dropped down to a bearable range, it headed out to hunt for it’s meal.

Since I’ve started to pay more attention to my surroundings, trying to find unique things to photograph–I’ve seen more on the insect side of things than I normally would have paid attention to sitting outside. I’m sure I would have noticed the praying mantis, but I may not have taken it’s picture.

But since I’ve seen two this year, it will be interesting to keep an eye out and see how many will be making an appearance in the spring.

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Photography Challenge Day 186: The Waved Sphinx Moth

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the waved sphinx moth that was hanging out in the shed this weekend.

Waved sphinx moth

This is a member of the larger family of moths that are commonly known as sphinx moths, hawk moths, and hornworms—and there are almost 1500 species found throughout the world.

These moths have great camouflage—they are mostly brown, with both wavy lines and straight lines bisecting its wings. It’s unclear if the adults feed, unlike some of the others that have been mistaken for hummingbirds (from a distance).

The waved sphinx moth on the side of the house

I don’t think that the moth was happy being moved from it’s hiding spot—these moths are more nocturnal in nature, and it was rousted a good three hours or so before the sun went down. I do know that it did hang out on the side of the house for awhile before finding another area to doze in until the sun went down.

Depending on location, these moths may have either one or two broods a year. Since we’re in the southern part of their range, it is possible that there could be another brood before the end of October.

This may mean that if I pay attention and keep an eye out for them—I might be able to spot a caterpillar of the waved sphinx moth. Though it may be difficult, as I don’t think we have any ash, fringe, hawthorn, or oak trees in the neighborhood—though we might (I’m not the greatest at telling trees apart).

That could be something to keep me busy in the spring/fall—trying to identify the different trees in the area, that way I would have an idea of the insects that might be visiting them in the late spring/summer.

I’m pretty sure that the moth was only in the yard, because it had decided to try to snooze the day away in the shed before someone found it and decided to show it off. But it is a pretty looking insect, and I think I’ve seen them before on the trees earlier in the year (and definitely last year).

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Photography Challenge Day 172: The apple (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the either the lone large crab apple, or the lone apple (that grew on what we have always thought is just a crab apple tree).

The apple–what type we don’t know…..

What makes this unique and odd—it’s the only one on the tree. I spent a good five to ten minutes (I know not a lot of time—but enough when its in the mid-90s and there is a triple digit heat index at basically 8 o’clock at night) looking and all the other “apples” are the extremely small ones that have been on the tree since early summer. Now one or two may grow into an apple like this—but this is the first year, we’ve seen an actual large fruit on the tree.

So now we’re on looking at the tree constantly to see if any other apples all of a sudden appear on the tree. In addition, we’re going to have to see if it starts to turn colors (say to red or yellow) or if it’s going to be a green apple. I hope that we’ll be able to harvest it before it falls to the ground—where the squirrels, birds, and probably dogs will all take a go at it. That is one thing that I would like to do whenever I move back east (hopefully)—go to an apple farm in the fall and pick some fresh apples and then try to make homemade apple sauce, or some dessert with fresh apples.

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Photography Challenge Day 164: Resting dragonflies (short post)

While I would love to say that the large number of dragonflies is due to the large amounts of rain this spring–I know that isn’t it. The dragonflies have had a couple of good years, and numerous ones finished their metamorphosis to adults this year. I’ve seen more dragonflies this year flying around than I have the past couple of years (and we haven’t even reached migration season yet for some of the dragonflies).

Dragonfly on the wire

We’ve had numerous dragonflies through the backyard over the past couple of days. I managed to get under this one as it was resting on the power line.

Smaller dragonfly resting on the iris leaves

They have been attracted to the pond, so there are usually one or two that fly around it, with them both landing in different areas to rest.

Two dragonflies staring off in two different directions.

It has been nice having them in the yard–there has been a slight decrease in the mosquito population, though I’m still getting chewed by the little suckers (I’d love to have a pet dragonfly that would just sit around and wait for a sign and then pick off the mosquitoes as they land on me).

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Photography Challenge Day 160: The probable stink bug

So, continuing with the theme of insects, the winner of today’s challenge is probably a green stink bug nymph. The reason why I’m saying probable stink bug—I didn’t threaten it, so it didn’t release it’s unpleasant odor.

Probably a green stink bug nymph

I’d notice this guy crawling along the edge of the patio table, and decided to try to get some pictures of it—if nothing else to prove that I don’t sit inside all day during the summer. While I knew it was a true bug (based on it’s shape), I wasn’t sure of the species—so turning to google, the closest insect seems to be a green stink bug.

I’d assume that this is a stink bug in it’s third (possibly fourth) nymph stage–it was fairly large, but I didn’t see any wings on it yet, so it isn’t in the fifth (and final) nymph stage yet.

This makes sense, since we have a small peach shrub/tree that gives fruit—but the fruit never fully ripen. I’m wondering if these guys could be part of the reason why the fruits only develop so far. These insects like others go through a incomplete metamorphosis—where they have five instar (or nymph) stages before becoming adults; and each instar stage looks a little more like the adult. The full life cycle is usually around thirty to forty-five days (so about six weeks or so).

They are a pest of crops, fruit trees, and other plants. They feed on the sap of the plants—so they have needle-like mouths for pierce the stems/fruits of the plants. The young nymphs can winter in the leaves and emerge in spring/summer when the temperatures are warmer to complete their lifecycle.

So again—giving space to another living creature allowed me to get some good photographs, and also ensured that I wasn’t going to be smelling an obnoxious odor (that if it was a stink bug it would have released if it felt threatened).

One thing I may try to do—be outdoors more and look for more than just flowers, birds, or animals to take pictures of–look for the smaller things, try to find the young nymphs of insects (or even the eggs). Looking for the small things may be even more rewarding than finding the big things.

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photography challenge day 159: the probable assassin bug

So in continuing with the theme of insects, the winner of today’s photography challenge is probably some assassin bug. The name assassin bug covers a large group of predatory insects, that if provoked can also harm humans.

Probably some type of assassin bug out looking for it’s lunch.

So I saw this guy crawling around our patio table, and I decided that I’d try to get a picture of it. While the coloring is hard to see in the picture, it was a mix of red, yellow, and black–all colors that give warnings to other animals that it isn’t something they want to mess with. So I just zoomed in with the camera to get the picture.

I know that there are warnings about various bugs and how they transmit disease, and blah blah blah blah. Unless I know that the creature I’m looking at is totally harmless (say a ladybug, or grasshopper) I’m not going to play with it–I may try to take it’s picture but that’s about it.

I try to treat every living thing with respect–though if I see a brown recluse spider in the house I will kill it–and I only kill the poisonous spiders/insects if they break the hiding rule. In other words, if I see something that is small and can hurt me–I kill it; though I know it may not strike out at me–but I’d rather not run the risk of having to go to the emergency room.

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Photography Challenge Day 158: The grasshopper

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the grasshopper. One thing about the name grasshopper—it refers to a group of insects (which include locusts), and not just a single species. So far this summer I’ve managed to get a picture of a grasshopper in two different molting stages—as they don’t go through a complete metamorphosis, but they as they grow they molt and become more and more like the adult at each stage.

There are five nymph stages between the egg and the adult grasshopper. Grasshoppers are plant eaters (mainly the leaves of the plants), and can be consider pests of crops if they gather in large numbers (especially locusts). They’re considered food in Mexico and Indonesia, and are one of the oldest living groups of insects (they’ve been found in amber dating back to the Triassic era (~250 million years ago)).

Grasshopper nymph hopping across the table

The first photograph is of an very young grasshopper nymph—probably within it’s first molt (or just hatched for that matter). It was this tiny little green hopping bug on the table. This little critter will then feed, and go through several more molts until it reaches the adult stage (usually the sixth and final molt).

Larger grasshopper nymph on top of the bug spray

The second photograph is probably of a fourth or fifth stage molting grasshopper. It is almost adult size, but still seemed to be a bit on the smaller (and bright) side of a grasshopper. I’m use to the adults being a little more of a dark and drab green, and not this bright leaf green.

This guy then moved on to find leaves to feed on so that it could go through it’s final molting stage and emerge as a fully winged adult within the next couple of weeks. They’ll mate, and the females will lay their eggs so that an new round of grasshoppers will hatch in the spring and begin the cycle again.

The life cycle is unique in that eggs will enter a period of diapause (or a period of suspended development, especially during unfavorable environmental conditions) in the fall/winter and then when the temperatures warm back up—they’ll finish developing and hatch as tiny little nymphs.

I know that it is probably too late this year, but next year I want to see if I’m able to get pictures of a grasshopper in all five nymph stages and the adult. This year I managed two.

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Photography Challenge Day 138: The fuzzy, little caterpillar (short post)

So today’s winner of the photography challenge was the fuzzy, little caterpillar that I brushed off my leg when sitting outside.

Fuzzy, black caterpillar crawling around outside.

I’ve always heard the old tales that fuzzy caterpillars were a sign that the winters were going to be really bitter and cold. Since this is the first one I’ve seen so far, I don’t know how much I’m going to believe that tale (until I start seeing quite a few of them).

It was really trucking along

I’ve always been curious to know what type of moth or butterfly different caterpillars change into, and so far I haven’t been able to identify the “adult” version of this caterpillar.

Hopefully it isn’t one that is going to strip the leaves off any of the trees or build the really ugly silk tents in the trees (as they strip off the leaves).

Once I’m able to figure out the adult/mature version of the caterpillar I will be back to update the blog post.

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Photography Challenge Day 135: The tiny buffalo treehopper

Today’s winner of the photography challenge was a tiny green bug sitting on the edge of our patio table. Thanks to the sleuthing skills of my cousin (who is an entomologist), it was identified as a buffalo treehopper.

Buffalo treehopper on the edge of the table.

These little green insects are actually garden pests, as they feed on the sap of plants—and they aren’t picky on what plants they suck the sap from. They will feed from crop plants (wheat, alfalfa, corn), garden plants, trees, and ornamental plants as well.

The females will lay eggs either under leaves or in fresh cut sliver on the stem. The young when they hatch will feed to the point that the stem of the plant collapses, and then they’ll move to a new plant or back to a tree. The mature trees can handle the treehoppers better than young, or small trees can.

Front view of the buffalo treehopper

When you manage to look at them from the front–their heads do resemble those of buffalo (hence the name–buffalo treehopper). Well it’s hard to tell from the picture how black the tips are–as those are it’s “horns”. They are unique looking bugs.

They can be found throughout the United States and are most active in the summer time. That can explain why I’ve probably never noticed them before in the yard—I’m usually sitting inside during the summer evenings (I’m not a big fan of high temperatures with high heat indexes).

The only thing I’m not sure of is whether this buffalo treehopper is male or female (and whether it is a mature adult or a newly molted adult). It will be interesting to see if we notice more of them throughout the summer, as living next to the creek—it would be the perfect spot for a large number of them to cluster together for the winter months.

References: https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Buffalo-Treehopper

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Photography Challenge Day 120: An optical illusion (short post)

So the winner of today’s photograph challenge are the two sparrows feeding on the large suet.

Sparrows on the suet

What I love about this picture was the unintentional optical illusion that I captured.

You can tell the sparrow on the left is on the outside of the suet holder–but the one on the right looks like it’s in the suet holder.

The birds (and probably squirrels) managed to get one side of the suet eaten enough that when birds landed on the back end–they looked like they were actually in the suet feeder.

Now I’m just waiting to see if the squirrels figure out how to untie the twisters that are holding the suet feeder closed and run off with the suet.

How many other people have to try and squirrel proof their bird feeders?

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