We used to be a little disappointed by the doldrums of summer. The birds get busy with nesting and are quiet and private. Dry, dry summer hits and only tough flowers survive. Days are hot. Summer was a dull time of year.
Then we discovered BUGS. They love summer.
Technically a bug is one order of the thirty plus orders that include all the insects. A true bug has four wings which criss cross across its back -- box elder beetles and such. I still finding myself calling all insects bugs: dragonflies, wasps, butterflies, etc. It is easy to add a few creatures that aren’t even insects: spiders, ticks, even millipedes. I’m in process of trying to learn more about various ‘bugs.’
The ‘bug’ world is fascinating, one which I wish I had taken more seriously all my life. But there is no time like right now for learning. Something that piques our curiosity is good at any age, maybe particularly so when we become senior citizens.
Here are some of my recent sketches. The first one has two species of lady bird beetles (often called ‘ladybugs’) which I found on one pussy toe plant along with the aphids. I penciled this one on location, but the aphids were so small I waited until I had downloaded my photographs onto my computer before really drawing them.
There are more than 480 species of lady bird beetles in North America! Many are tiny. They are famous for their ability to eat aphids and have been even chosen as the state insect by several states. The lady bird beetle with seven spots is the seven-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella septempunctta) and the one with strong markings on its thorax is the convergent lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens). The latter is often sold in garden shops.
I was excited to find a co-operative potter wasp. Wasps are usually on the move, but evening was coming and this wasp was feeding on a yarrow, in no hurry to go anywhere. The potter wasps I’ve found (2) are smaller than most of the wasps we notice on a regular basis. Some day I hope to find one of their pots.
There are about 260 species of potter wasps in North America. Some of them build tiny pots for their eggs. One egg to a pot. The potter wasp adds paralyzed prey to the pot for its egg to feed on when it hatches.
This one isn’t even an insect. It is a millipede .... a rather round creature with a great plenty of legs. I often see them on the ground but hadn’t ever seen one climb a plant. This one was just below the frothy bubble made by a spit bug. In my ignorance I thought maybe the millipede was going to attack the spit bug larva. I fetched my stool and started sketching. Not much happened for the next half hour. The millipede moved in slow-mo, obviously feeding on the surface of the fireweed plant. I think the spit bug larva may have scuffed up the surface of the stem, bringing juices up which the millipede was taking advantage of.
Later, at home, I read up on centipedes and millipedes. Millipedes are normally round, have two pairs of legs per segment, move slowly in spite of all those legs, and feed on organic matter. Centipedes are usually flatter, have one pair of legs per segment, move very quickly, and are predators.