The Water System as Wildlife Habitat

A Black Racer has been hanging around the property this week so I thought it was a good time to dust off and republish one of the lost articles on these sleek beauties.

Dateline: February 2014*

Living in a rural location, I have an outside well pump and tank with a water conditioning system added.

Who goes thar?

This week as I walked passed, something swooshed and I spotted a Southern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor priapus) slithering through the hole in the platform that holds up the tank section.  I guess this is a perfect place for protection from the elements, but with opportunities for a free meal.

All settled in to the ready-made den

You see, recently we had a brief freeze, so I had to bundle up the well to prevent freezing pipes.  I use two moving blankets and a sheet along with some clothespins and a bungie cord to keep everything snugged up.  Two days later when we returned to record 85F temperatures, I undressed the pump and found that a Green Anole had taken up residence in the sheet…great protection from the freeze, I suppose.  And I guess the snake followed the Anole to the “Well Pump Inn”.

The pump bundled up for the freeze

There is the time I found a jumping spider nesting in the protective cover for the conditioner timer.  And another when I spotted a jumping spider dining on an invasive treefrog that would have clogged up the gears, had he not taken care of the problem.

Female Regal Jumping Spider (Phidippus regius) picked an unfortunate location for her nest. My attempt to relocate tho’ necessary was unsuccessful

Unfortunately, the invasive frogs still manage to clog up the gears and the result is a broken timer so that I now have to go out and manually set it to backwash the unit.  This is the second time they did it in…another $167.00 dollars down the drain…so to speak 😉  A new unit is on the list to be ordered.  Thankfully I can install it myself.

If only the jumping spiders could get rid of the invasive treefrog BEFORE they cause major damage to the timer units

I’ve had ants short out the electrical box in their quest to find a home and somehow a lizard got through the conditioner tube and screwed up the float that regulates the water…he didn’t make it on his adventure.  I’ve had friends who had lizards’ short out the electric box…unfortunately, they called a plumber before they talked to me.  I could have saved them some money by teaching them to clean out the contacts that cause the short.

This lizard was hiding in the sheet that was covering the well for our day of freeze. Happily released into 82F weather

I’m happy that I am handy enough to have been able to fix many of the problems on my own…amazing the empowerment of a Phillips Head screwdriver.  😀

So, the well continues to provide interesting habitat.  I suppose that I could enclose it, but likely, that would not eliminate the use as a fun, warm habitat.  This past week with the return of high temperatures, I saw through the shed window a swarm of ladybugs…another habitat for our friendly fauna.

Next day, he still seems happy

Critters will get in to small places, so it’s just a matter of routinely monitoring them to ensure they don’t cause a problem.  In the meantime, I will stop by the “snake den” to see what his plans are for the day.  Racers are egg layers as opposed to giving live birth, so it won’t be a maternity ward.

Do you have unusual places around your home that provide habitat?

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters in February 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com.

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A Leopard Is Loose In My Garden

The above featured froggy was hanging out on the end of my patio in a deluge of a downpour yesterday.  It was a big’un.  So big, in fact, that from a distance I thought for sure it was a Bullfrog.  It wasn’t until I zoomed in with the camera that I realized it was just a very well fed cousin, the Southern Leopard Frog and clearly the largest I’ve ever encountered.

Thought it was a great time to dust off a lost article on my early encounter with this species.

Dateline:  August 30, 2013*

This Southern Leopard Frog insists on being elusive

Meet Larry, a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).  This is one of the true frogs.  I don’t suppose that’s as opposed to an untrue frog. Or would that make the latter little liars?

Before I get accused of being a little liar myself, for all I know Larry may well be Louise.  (S)he doesn’t hang around long enough to let me get a good look, not that I would be able to tell the difference anyway.

Here’s a different one I nearly tripped over in the boggy part of the back yard

Strangely, this Leopard Frog has made a home, on land, under a Wax Myrtle shrub, in an area far from my pond, but close to the front culvert.  I see him every day, as I sneak over with my camera.  However, he is so well disguised that the only reason I can spot him is that he LEAPS high in the air and through the fence into some brush.

Back in 2010 they were the Rana genus but taxonomy changed.

He’s a pretty good size frog in the 3-inch range.  Fellow BWG author Donna Donabella gets his big chunky cousin the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) at her place.  In northern reaches Larry has a counterpart, Lithobates pipiens, the Northern Leopard Frog.  I wonder if L. sphenocephalus accidentally steps out of bounds at the Mason-Dixon Line if he magically transforms into L. pipiens.

Sometimes they hang out next to the pond

Leopard frogs feed on insects, crayfish and other aquatic invertebrates.  This might explain why this Southern Leopard frog is hanging out in the front yard.  There are crayfish in the culvert and I don’t seem to have any in the back pond.  Perhaps he has a taste for crustaceans.

Their coloring sure helps them blend in with the landscape

Frogs are a welcome addition to the garden because they help control insect pests.  The wonderful sound they provide at night is just an added benefit.  If you have the room, a pond would be a great addition to your beautiful wildlife garden.  If you provide one, the frogs are sure to come.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 30, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

 

8 Steps to Prepare Dinner for the Youngsters

Fish Crow style, that is.

First, have two to three bird babies:

These are two of the three young Fish Crows (Corvus ossifragus) that I’ve been observing for the past three days.  While these might not look like babies, they are juveniles who recently fledged.  They still are very tenuous when attempting to fly and are comical to watch.  Mom and Dad are beginning to keep a watch from further and further away with each passing hour.

Second.  Catch a mole. Head into the front meadow area and look around for small hills.

Third. Whack-a-mole. Hold it in your mouth and beat it on the side of a Florida native Long-Leaf Pine Tree (Pinus palustris)  branch a few times:

Fourth.  Clean the carcass and test the flavor by removing the entrails (WARNING: video may be a little too graphic for some) :

Five. Call your baby to come to dinner. 

Six.  Make them say please.

Seven.  Make them lean back slightly.

Eight.  Insert mole piece into juvenile.

DONE!

 

Half Hidden Beauty in the Garden

Lots of Bellas flying around these days.  Thought it would be a good time to republish one of my lost articles on this beautiful moth.

Dateline:  June 29, 2012*

A while back I wrote about diurnal moths, specifically the Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). To refresh our memories, diurnal moths fly during the day rather than at night like the majority of moths.

FINALLY, a close peak under those wings.

At the time I remarked how I could never get a spread-wing picture of this beauty of a moth. While the forewings are quite beautiful in and of themselves, to see the rich pink color that hides underneath really is a treat, but this moth rarely lands with the wings spread.

At LAST, I got my shot, but in a way it is a little sad because apparently this moth had some sort of injury. It was unable to fold one of the wings under when it landed. Mind you, this imperfection didn’t seem to slow Bella down at all. I still had to chase in order to get the shot.

a little blurry, they are hard to chase down with the ol’ point and shoot

The underside photo is a little on the blurry side. I don’t think Bella really liked the paparazzi chasing her (him?). Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia) is the larval host for this beauty. A member of the pea family, it occurs naturally at my place. HOSTS – a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants also lists Lespedeza spp. and Lupinus spp. as potential hosts in the USA.

There are other beautiful moths in the garden; the silkworm Cecropia Moth and Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) come to mind but they are very much larger. I still find the Bella to be the most beautiful of them all and she can give most butterflies a run for their money. You can’t miss that fluttering pink low to the ground, although unless injured, you may never really see it up close. Still, it is mesmerizing to see it in person, even if it is only half.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 29, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Day of the Grackle

I watched with interest yesterday as the Grackles came through en masse. The above juvenile was following along, begging for food as Mom stopped to enjoy the fruits of the elderberry.  I thought it was a perfect time to dust off and republish my lost post on this beautiful, if not annoyingly vocal species.

Dateline: April 12, 2013*

This guy took on the tone of sunset at the end of the day.

The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a member of the Blackbird Family (Icteridae).  Iridescent Black, it has an amazing sheen that changes color as it moves in different light situations.  Not a favorite bird of many (including me) since it is the Fran Drescher of the bird world with a rather obnoxious call.  It also will annihilate corn crops so is considered an agricultural pest.

They like to walk through the meadow digging for food

Generally seed or grain eaters, during nesting season their diet does change over to contain more animal matter such as beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, and small rodents. They are also known for eating other birds and trash.

Picking out a nesting spot?

This species generally nest in tall conifers. In 2010 I had Common Grackles build a nest in a slash pine.  Not the brightest of birds, it built it on a horizontal branch where there wasn’t any support except for the thin branch.  Given the daily sea breeze collisions that produce Florida’s downpours, the inevitable happened and it fell to the ground before completion in one of the wild windstorms.

They sure do like Pine Trees

A different pair built a nest in a younger pine where the branches had better vertical support. I wasn’t aware of the nest until I saw momma winging back and forth to feed the babies. Too high up and hidden to see, I’m not sure if they ever fledged, but at least I know the eggs hatched. Since the tree wasn’t far from my compost bin, one day while I was adding some scraps, the grackles came down to warn me away from the area…or maybe they were looking for a handout…that trash thing, you know?

Their bright yellow eye gives them a rather eerie stare (can you spell “jaundice”?) They live year round in the majority of the United States east of the Rockies and expand their breeding range north into Canada during summer.

This short video will give you some idea of how deafening a flock can sound.

Grackles will come in droves at times and be solitary at other times.  When they come in droves it is rather like reliving Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  This week they came in small groups slinking through the meadow in search of food.  A while back I had one poor fellow, loudly ruing his lack of a mate.  I was ready to go out and find him a girlfriend myself.  Oh, what a whiner.

Here is my friend who needed a girl

Grackles can be a bit pushy and you would think from the following photo that the grackle was being the aggressor. Truth is, he had been at the feeder enjoying some seed when the woodpecker showed up from underneath and sent him on his way. He made one attempt to re-land but then thought better of it. I’m guessing that he who has the longest beak wins!

Pictures don’t always tell the whole story. The woodpecker was picking on the grackle

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on April 12, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Itzy and Bitzy…New Spiders for Me

The spider featured above is a male Jumping spider (Hentzia palmarum) who came to visit the goldenrod a couple of weeks back. Thought it was a good time to republish one of the lost posts from 2014, that featured the female of this species.

Dateline: December 5, 2014*

Paperwasps dine alongside Groundsel Beetle Larva

The Groundsel Bushes (Baccharis spp.) a.k.a. Saltbush have been a-buzz.  By far the most visited of all shrubs in my Florida native plant garden this week.  Various wasps and ants and beetles have been mining the leaves for tasty morsels of the Groundselbush Beetle (Trirhabda bacharidis) larvae and/or aphids or scales.

velvet ant isn’t an ant, it is a wasp.

I was surprised that many of the wasps and some other parasitoids were passing over the later instars of this beetle larva.  Then it dawned on me that they aren’t laying eggs or provisioning nests at this time of year, so little need to get family size packages.  Perhaps they are just enjoying eggs and the newly hatched larva. Is it possible that younger is tenderer? You know, like veal? 😉

Non-native Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) were scouring leaves.

Ok, I have a vivid imagination, but that’s just how my thought process goes.  I’m not here to be the voice of reality; I’ll leave that to people with degrees on their wall.  There are plenty of edu websites where you can get the real skinny on exact terminology and step by step lifecycles. I just hope to make everyone think about what may be potentially happening in our gardens with the tales of the encounters in my beautiful wildlife garden as I experience them.

Hairy Maggot Blow Fly (Chrysomya sp. likely megacephala) looking for nectar? pollen?

On other plants, multitudes of pollinators are sucking in the sweet elixir that is the male flowers of this prolifically blooming species.

As I approached a different grouping of the Saltbushes, I noticed the tiniest of tiny red dots on a background of white silk.  I put the camera closer and snapped away.  The light was not the best and the results were less than stellar, but as you can see in this one shot, it was a miniscule spider.

Dwarf Spider (Ceraticelus sp.) certainly is tiny

At first I thought it was a Sheetweb Spider (Florinda coccinea) because of the coloring.  The web was all wrong though…those make lacy webs on the blades of low growing grass.

I nosed around bugguide and came up with an identification of what I believe to be a Dwarf Spider (Ceraticelus sp.).  They belong to the same family (Linyphiidae) as the above mentioned Sheetweb.  I’ll call this one Itzy 🙂

This silken housing seems a little different than the one of the dwarf spider

The next day I hoped to be able to gather additional photos of my new find. Spiders who create this style of web generally can be found for a few days in the same location.

hmmm, I don’t recognize YOU

I searched and searched the shrub I thought was the correct one.  Given that I have 25 or more groundsel plants scattered around the property, it was beginning to seem like a fruitless pursuit as I couldn’t be sure I was at the correct location.

Side view doesn’t help

Then I spotted two leaves stuck together with silk.  I kneaded them apart and a tiny creepy crawly danced out and down the stem of the branch.  I blindly snapped some photos.  The color was not reflective of the friend from the day before, but perhaps this new find was the predator.

Ahhh, you are in the jumping spider family (Salticidae)

I tend to think that they were two different webs.  Meet “Bitzy”, a Jumping Spider (Hentzia palmarum). As the common name indicates, prey is caught by jumping on it.

Although jumping spiders do not make webs to capture prey, they do use silk. Hunting spiders trail a dragline behind them to break their fall in case they miss a jump. Silken nests, ellipsoid structures with an opening at each end, are used for resting at night, molting, and egg-laying.”

You are eating something. Did you eat Itzy?

Whether or not Bitzy ate Itzy I may never know, but once again I have added two new species to my home buggy “life list”.  And the list keeps growing!

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on December 5, 2014 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden
beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Wasp THAT?

Dateline: June 6, 2014*

Paper Wasp on a native fern

This week I watched with interest as a paper wasp (Polistes sp.) had its hands full while at rest on some Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)…a lovely, lacey looking fern native to just about everywhere in the U.S.

This paperwasp wasn’t very cooperative in letting me get a picture of its prey

As I approached to attempt a photograph, it was so preoccupied with its catch that it didn’t even notice I was around.  Face down, butt up, I couldn’t get a clear shot of what was in the clutches of this semi-social insect.

Paper wasps prey on insects such as caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae that they feed to larvae.

Good, a photo from the side

I wasn’t afraid to get close since this species of wasp doesn’t tend to attack unless you disturb the nest. Of course they will sting if you happen to grab onto the nest, and I can attest to that fact, although the sting seemed mild, perhaps just a warning.

Of course stings are hazardous to some because many people have an allergic reaction that can be deadly if not quickly acted on.

Now the paper wasp is being shy on Blackroot, a Florida Native Plant

The wasp finally noticed me and struggled to fly away with the bounty.  It didn’t get far, landing on Blackroot (Pterocaulon pycnostachyum) which was in close proximity.

Looks a little squishy…a caterpillar of some sort?

I again clicked away, still trying to figure out what was in its clutches.  Was it a caterpillar?  Seemed squishy, so that was my assumption.

When I got into the computer and began cropping and examining the pictures close up, I was perplexed because this didn’t look like a caterpillar I’d seen before.  It appeared rather colorful in a bright, multi-color sort of way.  I squinched my eyes trying to find details of legs or eyes or SOMETHING to help me with identification.

Can’t quite make it out

I thought that maybe the paperwasp had chewed on a biting creature since there were tones of dark red…blood perhaps?  Seemed like too much goo for that scenario, unless it grabbed a nurse from the blood bank.

All of a sudden I found “the money shot”. I did a double-take, conjuring up the legs of another critter, but no, that didn’t seem to be.  I sat back and stared, somewhat in disbelief as I thought (s)he had a blackberry (Rubus sp.).

The Money Shot

I knew that paper wasps enjoyed nectar…I always see them on many of the native flowers in the Asteraceae family found around my place.  A little investigation indicated that in addition to nectar they take juice from ripe fruit.

So, I headed out to the garden to get hold of a ripe blackberry and dug my nail in so I could see the innards.  I always pop the entire berry into my mouth, so really didn’t know what the inside might look like.

WOO HOO!  LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A MATCH!

So, that’s what the inside of a Blackberry looks like

If you plant berry producing shrubs you’ll not only be feeding the birds, you’ll also be providing for our pollinator friends and others.  Another fascinating day in my beautiful wildlife garden.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 6, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

A Tale of Quail

It’s that time of year! Every day I hear the Northern Bobwhite in the area but I don’t often get to see them.  Thought it was a good time to dust off and republish my lost article on these shy birds.

Dateline:  May 11, 2012*

Northern Bobwhite like grassy areas

Just when I think I’ve run out of critters that will come to visit, someone new shows up. Wednesday we had some much-needed rain and the storm was ending. I glanced out the window that overlooks the backyard and I spotted a bird taking shelter under a wax myrtle. At first glance I thought it was one of the mourning doves but I realized it was a little too big. As it started to move, I noticed it was rather ROUND. I thought wow, it must be one of the quail.

I’ve seen quail once or twice in the yard but they never stay long enough to get a photo. I dug around for my camera and quietly opened the door. I tried to capture a photo but the darn thing move to behind another wax myrtle. As I stealthily got closer I saw that there were two and the pair waddled quickly toward the fence, apparently aware of my presence. I tried to quietly move and looked in the brush. Then I spotted them…off in the distance in my neighbor’s yard. For chicken-like birds that walk, these guys are FAST!

Making a getaway

They have quite an array of calls and the territorial one is the basis for their common name. They also have a call which is suppose to sound like “hoy-poo”, but I don’t necessarily hear it that way…who DOES these translations into human??

They are ground birds, even in nesting situations. They eat plants. They are hunted as game birds. I hope they are smart enough to stick to the scrub area next door for nesting since Tanner (2002-2017), the English Setter would have the salt and pepper at the ready.

A clearer photo of the species ©June 2015

Florida Fish and Wildlife has a program in place to try to increase populations. Habitat restoration is a big part of this program and involves prescribed burning and other methods that at one time occurred naturally. This agency bringing them back seems an oxymoron given that they issue the hunting licenses and this species is still allowed to be hunted, albeit strictly regulated as far as bag limits. As an aside, I’m not a hunter myself, but I understand hunting and as long it is done for food, I don’t have a problem with it. (No hate mail please).

Once they visit, I think of them as my own and want to protect them

At any rate, I hope these two quail (and any of their friends) stick close to my habitat. I will leave some of the “grassland” area that I have been procrastinating doing the “after winter” mow (aha…FINALLY a valid excuse!). I’m hoping this will keep them happy and in the vicinity. Just down the block starts a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), where hunting occurs during a few weeks of the year. However, whenever a creature turns up at my place, I feel like they are my own and should be off-limits…that is except the rodents.

Note:  Right after I published this article I was looking up Virginia Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana) as today’s choice for my “What Florida Native Plant is Blooming Today” series.  I come to find out that it is a recommended species in Arkansas University’s “Bringing Back Bobwhites” publication.  Perfecting Timing! ~~Loret

A Florida Native Plant that will help Bring Back Bobwhite. Of course it is listed as a troublesome weed of turfgrass and there are recommended herbicides to get rid of it. This type of attitude is a reason for the decline of our species

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 11, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Insects: Bush Katydid

Dateline: June 27, 2014*

Bush Katydid

I ran across this cute nymph the other day.  From a distance I thought it was an assassin bug, as it has the same coloring.  As I got near the Staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa) , I saw my insect friend was much larger and on closer inspection, I could see the banded antenna.  Aha!  It is one of the Bush Katydids  (Scudderia spp.)   How appropriate!

Without getting into the bush katydid’s personal “business”, it is difficult to accurately determine species. This one is an early instar of possibly S. cuneata, based on the antenna banding and orange color but S. furcata is another possibility.

Photo of the rear isn’t clear enough for an accurate species determination.

The bush katydids eat plants. They choose a habitat of deciduous forest, woodland, or shrubbery. Both times I have encountered this genus it has been back in the area that has restored to primarily a mix of Pine trees, Ilex spp., Lyonia spp., Persea sp. Pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) and Rubus spp.   There are also some flowering plants such as Partridge Pea, White Top Asters, Tephrosia spp. amongst others.

At the top of a Staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa)

This guy or gal was stationed on Staggerbush (L. fruticosa), right next to some Gallberry (I. glabra). Last year one was hanging out on the Swampbay (P.  palustris) and seemed more intent on climbing the mountains of Psyllid galls (Trioza magnoliae) than munching on the leaves.

In 2013, A swampbay sapling covered in galls was the bush of choice

Unlike the Greater Angle-Wing Katydid (Microcentrum sp.) which lays eggs on the edge of plants, the Scudderia female inserts eggs between the upper and lower epidermal layers of leaves.  She must have paper thin eggs and excellent aim.

Although it seemed more intent on mountain climbing than eating

Katydids are a big part of the diet of birds, especially baby birds.  The eggs of many serve as hosts for various wasp species.  Other predators include spiders, ants, mantids, tree frogs and bats.  As you can see, they have an important roll in the food chain.

ain, definite species determination is difficult and this one may be S. cuneata

While katydids may be a pest of some crops, if you maintain a mix of plants and avoid monocultures, they shouldn’t create a problem in your beautiful wildlife garden.  Lean back and enjoy the nighttime songs that katydids (or didn’t) provide.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 27, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

Meet the Beetles

Dateline:  December 7, 2013*

There are a variety of insects in the order Coleoptera commonly known as beetles.  While some beetles are destructive, others are nice and can play a role in responsible pest control or perform other beneficial duties.

I thought, to start, I’d focus on some shiny blue beetles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

First up is a Flea Beetle (Altica spp.)

Hard to get this genus down to species. There is one that is called a primrose beetle, so these may be A. litigata given that these were found on Primrosewillow (Ludwigia octovalvis), a Florida Native Plant.

It may give a lacey look to the leaves of your Ludwigia spp.

Altica spp. may be a pest of crape myrtle, but the usual host is Ludwigia spp., which can benefit from a little control. Some species of Ludwigia can be a tad aggressive in the wrong situation. I have never seen any of the flea beetles on the two crape myrtles I planted “before I knew”, and, given a choice, I would request they eat the exotic crape myrtle over my pretty Primrosewillows.

This Fruit and Flower Chafer (Trichiotinus spp.) has very long legs

Next up are Fruit and Flower Chafers such as this Trichiotinus spp.  Flower Chafers are a subfamily of Scarab Beetles.  Beneficial in that larvae break down rotten wood.  Adults take pollen and/or nectar so have a hand in pollination duties, but may also munch on the plant.  I didn’t notice any particular damage on this Thoroughwort.  This guy may be T. lunulatus based on a Florida Entomologist key I found online. perhaps more black than blue in color, but the reflection of the sun made it look blue enough to me to call it a “shiny blue beetle”.  😉

This particular species of Flower Chafers is a little hairy underneath. You can see it coming out from under the elytra

Moving on.  This Colorful Foliage Ground Beetle (Lebia viridis) was enjoying nectar and/or pollen of a goldenrod.  They are beneficial in that they feed on the larvae of a pest, the Apple Flea Beetle (Altica foliaceae). It isn’t a stretch to think that they may also keep my friends the flea beetles discussed above in check.

Colorful Foliage Ground Beetle (Lebia viridis)

Further, this ground beetle eats eggs of corn earworm (Heliothis spp.) which is a destructive pest, and adults have been found feeding on the immature stages of grape vine flea beetles.  Obviously given the photograph above, they also play a part in pollination.

OK, moving beyond our shiny blue friends, Lady beetles  (or ladybugs if you prefer) are often discussed. Up until now I haven’t seen any mention of a particular species I found this week.

Mealy bug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)

Meet the Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri). This is a lady beetle that can be as small as 3.4mm (for the metrically challenged such as myself, that is less than 1/8 inch). It is not native to the United States. It was introduced from Australia in 1891 as IPM control on citrus.  This guy (or gal) was on Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) and was so minute that I’m surprised I saw it.  The little flash of red gave it away. Predatory on mealy bugs which is where it gets its common name.

Despite being the size of a pin head, the bright red gives its location away

So, that’s my bit on a few species of beetles. It was a hard day’s night to figure out what they all do in our beautiful wildlife gardens.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on December 7, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.