Friday, May 13, 2016

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May

Visiting Insects in May

Although we schedule our visits on a calendar, it's not so neat in the insect world. They appear by season rather than by date. So although I can say that these insects were all garden visitors during the first two weeks of May, some had been hanging around since April, and some, like the bees,  visit me during the entire year. Let's look at them. My most welcome guests this month have been the ladybugs, who flew in to clean up my aphid problem.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybugs Busy Mating and Eating Aphids, © B. Radisavljevic

They have been a great help to me. In the photo above you can see the one on top eating one of the aphids. The two on the bottom of the flower are mating. You can see how the unwelcome aphids are sucking the life out of the calendula plants. In the middle of April I had four heavily infested calendula flowers and one infested wormwood plant. It took the ladybug air force a month to finish the job, but as of yesterday there are no more aphids and most of the ladybugs have moved on. Below is another calendula plant they cleaned up. Do you see all the ladybugs visible on just this one plant? I counted nine.  How many can you count?

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybird Aphid Eating Crew on Calendula Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

There are still a few ladybugs lurking in the rosemary and on other plants. I found the one below in the crotch of this clary sage plant. I'm hoping it's not about to be a meal for the spider that lives there. We will see it later.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Ladybird Hiding on Clary Sage Plant, © B. Radisavljevic

Another insect currently in my garden is the spittlebug. Spittlebugs are small insects who cover their motionless nymphs, who hang out on the foliage of perennials, shrubs, annuals, and herbs, with this unsightly foam as they suck juices from the stems. According to Sunset, they do little damage and leave after about three weeks. If they really bother you, you can wash the foam off with a hose. They do make the plant look a bit ugly. Here they are "decorating" my rosemary.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Spittlebugs on Rosemary, © B. Radisavljevic

The last insect, the one who visits almost every day, is the hard-working bee. Below you see it on fruity teucrium, a ground cover, which is blooming now. The bees love it. I couldn't fit them all into this one photo, and they kept flitting off to new blossoms while I was focusing.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Bees on Fruity Teucrium, © B. Radisavljevic

Before we leave the insects, here's one more photo of a bee. This one is working on a lamb's ears flower. The lamb's ears started to bloom just a few days ago. This photo is just the right size to pin if you'd like to share it.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Busy Bee on Lamb's Ears, © B. Radisavljevic

The Inconspicuous Crab Spider in Early May

This spider has visited many of my plants. I have seen her (and what I assume is her mate) on the calendula plants with the ladybugs and aphids, on the juniper bushes, and on the rosemary.  It is very hard to see on this rosemary plant, even when I blow it up. It's not a large spider to start with, and it can take on the coloring of the plant it's on to blend in. Can you see it in the lower right corner below? I had to get into a very awkward position to get this photo at all.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Inconspicuous Crab Spider in Rosemary, © B. Radisavljevic

One of these spiders seems to be living on my clary sage. It's much easier to see and photograph there. It usually scrunches up like this while waiting for prey to appear. I do have a video of two of these spiders interacting on a calendula plant, and once they start moving, they are fast. I think one may have been chasing the other. The one below is a female. The male is smaller. I saw a male on this plant a couple of days earlier. I don't see it now. I wonder if the female had him for dinner. To see how this spider mates, check the last photo on this blog post.

Small Visitors to my Garden in Early May
Inconspicuous Crab Spider on Clary Sage Leaf, © B. Radisavljevic

 Spiders & Other Arachnids
I love being able to understand which insects and spiders are visiting me. Here are some books which have been a great help in identifying and understanding them. The two books on the bottom right will appeal to children and are small enough to carry into the backyard for field use. The books on the bottom left have a format designed for teens and adults. All are illustrated and will help you identify garden visitors with six or eight legs. The short video at left above shows you some common spiders in action up close. Prime members can watch it for free. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise

Nature's Little Garden Surprises

Sometimes exploring my garden with a camera in my hand helps me see things I might not take note of otherwise. This morning when I was out spider and ladybug hunting, I saw a strange flower next to my mums and hyssop. It was unique. After half an hour of research, I identified it as nigella (Love in a Mist.) 

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Rose Color Nigella Flower, © B. Radisavljevic

Although finding this nigella was a surprise, it is not an accident. I first saw nigella at Fat Cat Farm in May, 2013. It looked like this.

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Blue Nigella Flowers, © B. Radisavljevic

I came back about a month later for my final purchase before Fat Cat Farm closed its doors. By June the seed pods on top were beginning to mature. I liked the unique form of this flower and wanted some, but Rhoda said it doesn't transfer well and was about to die back anyway. I seem to remember her digging one up for me anyway and potting it without charging me.  I seem to remember planting it, with hopes it would reseed, since Rhoda had said it reseeds freely.  I don't see evidence in my photo  record of that  year that I did plant it, but I know if I did, it did not survive or reseed.

The nigella plants look just right in a rock garden. Some of them were in a rock garden at Fat Cat Farm. I snapped this shot on my last visit that June. You can see how the seed capsules have grown. Nigella does need  to be watered while it's growing and blooming. 

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise
Blue Nigella Flowers in Rock Garden, © B. Radisavljevic

Later that year I bought some nigella seeds and planted some the next spring, but I forgot about it -- until today, when I started wondering what those strange-looking pink  flowers were. I found an old flower book I had  around the house and started looking at all the pink flower photos. Bingo! When I saw the name nigella, it clicked. I had been thinking of them as blue, like the ones I'd seen at Fat Cat Farm. I've since learned they also come in white and rose. I must have planted rose. Amazon has a varied selection of nigella seeds if you can't find them locally.

Nigella flowers are attractive in bouquets, dried, or in the garden. It's best to plant them from seed on open ground in early spring. You may think they are weeds when they first come up. I admit, I almost pulled them, but I've learned by now to recognize certain leaf patterns as more likely to be flowers. I thought it only fair to let these plants show me what they were before I took drastic measures. I'm glad I waited. "Love in a Mist" has rewarded me for my patience. Tomorrow I'll take another look around to see if there are anymore I haven't discovered yet.

Meanwhile, I remember Fat Cat Farm fondly, and I do miss it. This photo taken in their herb garden is an appropriate tribute.  It is also the right size for Pinterest if you'd like to share it there, as is the photo after it. The sculpture is made of recycled materials. I did not see the name of the creator.

Other share buttons are just above the comment box below.

Have you ever had Nigella in your garden or seen it growing?

Nigella - A Wonderful Garden Surprise

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act

Record Number of Ladybugs on One Plant Today

This morning I went to do my almost daily ladybug count on my aphid infested calendula plants and I counted sixteen on this one plant. So far they seem to have devoured the aphids on the other calendula plants so they are partying on this one today. As I took a closer look, I saw these two mating. It was windy and I didn't think the macro shot would come out clear, but it did. So here they are.

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act
Ladybugs Mating, © B. Radisavljevic

As far as I can tell from such a limited view, this mating ladybug couple appear to be convergent ladybugs. It appears that although I can't count the spots because of its position upside down, the ladybug hanging over them is a seven-spotted ladybug. I'm using the head for identifying it. They have "headlights."

I did get a video of this, but I haven't had time to edit it yet. I have so many ladybug videos from this past month I just may do a documentary. Stay tuned. I'm just glad they have all gathered on my calendula plant for an aphid feast.

 Original Ladybug Land with Voucher
Whether you are a child or adult, you will learn a lot about ladybugs (ladybird beetles) from these books and educational toys.

 I love any book by Gail Gibbons. She makes everything so clear in her bold illustrations.  Not only preschoolers, but anyone, including me, may learn something new. Good Garden Bugs is for adult gardeners. Kids will learn a lot from the other two items, which are just a sample of all that's available when you click through.

See my other post on ladybugs and aphids in the related links below.

If you want to share this post, there are sharing buttons below just above the comment box. This last photo is designed to meet Pinterest specifications. How many ladybugs can you find and identify in this photo?

Ladybugs Mating - Caught in the Act

I see six. Most are seven-spotted.

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