Garden Insects

Can You Help Identify a Summer Spider on Mississippi Native Fern?

This morning I was out back in the garden. Specifically I was checking out my native ferns in my little fern grotto. Camera in hand I captured a couple of photos of this small, brown spider on a fern frond. He/she was about an inch and  a half long, perhaps two inches long.

Summer spider on Mississippi native fern.

 

After I went inside the house, I tried to search online for entomology sites where I could identify it.  The abdomen seemed soft and fuzzy. There was an obvious stripe down the middle of the head. The leaf he was perched upon was about 12″ above the ground. There is no water near my fern bed, although it did rain over an inch yesterday. We have many trees in our yard and plenty of shade.  I didn’t see any webbing, egg sacs, etc. On the above photo you can see the vertical spines/hairs on the legs. (I thought this was super cool, because I’m practicing using my extension tubes!) I didn’t get a front photo so I don’t have the ability to count his eyes.

My best “guess” is perhaps a grass spider, Agelenopsis spp.? If you can positively identify what I believe is a common spider, please let me know.  I don’t think it is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), although it had first crossed my mind. I love learning new things about the natural world around us.

At any rate, he/she is certainly welcome.

 

Yours in Gardening,

The Garden Maiden

 

copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden

http://thegardenmaiden.com

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Categories: Garden Insects, Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blooming in My Yard: March 22-28, 2015

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

There is a lot of bold color in the yard now with the azaleas taking center stage. The butterflies have been thick on the blooms, busier than I remember the past few years. The butterfly below is what I believe to be an Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). Mississippi butterfly list. Click the image for a bigger view. This would be a great time for a spring party because the landscape does some of the decorating for me.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

But they  aren’t the only ones with magnificent color. For the last week the wisteria has been peaking. I’m hoping what I have is Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria), but I am not sure.  The American species is reported to be less aggressive than the Asian species.  Time to do some taxonomic work. Wisteria escapes from landscape cultivation. You can see it escaped into the wild, blooming high up into the tree canopies on the road sides, or you can find it with maximum blooms trained as a standard and trimmed to a 4′ shrub in people’s front yards. My own wisteria (which I dug up from under some shrubs in my yard and transplanted onto an arbor) is more of a loose vine that trails up and over an arbor and onto a nearly dead fruit tree. The dying tree makes an excellent structure for the wisteria to climb upon. This is the first year it has bloomed, having planted a volunteer sprout in the spring of 2013. I hope to train another “volunteer” into a standard that will be heavily pruned for a massive amount of flower clusters in the future.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

The wisteria has a very sweet perfume, that lightly scents the air. But if it is spring perfume you are seeking, then I am excited to share my new acquisition:  a banana shrub (Michelia figo). This member of the magnolia family easily perfumes a fifteen by fifteen foot area near my patio. It smells so delicious I want to eat it, or at least whip up a batch of banana daiquiris. It looked really awful at the nursery, but it was the only one. I hope to make it happy and fertilizer it gently all year with fish emulsion to bring it back to full vigor.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

 

Also blooming now in my front yard, is the native member of the Lamiaceae family: lyreleaf sage. I wrote a bit more about it in a March 2014 post. After it finishes flowering, THEN I’ll mow that part of the yard.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Although it has been flowering for a while now, the Loropetalum is still quite striking. I guess its pretty easy to see why it has a common name of “fringe flower”.  Have I mentioned my Loropetalum are about 15′ tall? Huge, huge, huge. But you know, I like them like that because they provide a great screen for the rear of my home. Today I was happy to see that the lower area which has thinned out because the branches are so tall (this is what happens when you don’t keep them trimmed to 5-6 feet), now has a lot of new undergrowth. I plan to keep the under branches trimmed to about three feet to keep a good lower screen. Until then I will keep planting other lower shrubs and bulbs that enjoy the space and help to fill in the gaps.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

The final shot for today is a pansy blossom. I got these out of a trash pile that someone had thrown away in changing over from winter color to spring. I can hardly turn away from plants thrown in the trash.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden http://thegardenmaiden.com

Your spry garden friend,

The Garden Maiden

All images and text copyright 2015 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Garden Insects, What's Blooming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One-eyed, One-horned, Flying Purple People Eater: tomato hornworms have arrived.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EWWWW! I have been keeping watch for their arrival.  Then I spotted one. Then I spotted another and another! A total of three hornworms on two different potted tomato plants in my garden. They have arrived. Manduca quinquemaculata!!

It always seems to go that way. I don’t see them at all. Then I see one and suddenly my eye is trained for hornworm spotting and I see them everywhere.

They’re gross.  I’m really not too icky about insects and spiders, but tomato hornworms are gross. I hate to touch them. Several years ago I bought a pair of plastic, giant, tweezers in the kitchen department at a local store. I just hang them on my tomato cages during the season so I can pull the hornworms off. I also use them for picking squash bugs off my pumpkins and other squash.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m afraid of that horn thing. And when I see it, I think about one my favorite childhood songs, One-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater…sure looks strange to me. Now, I know everyone says they can’t sting or poke your with it but I’m not taking any chances. I recently stepped barefooted onto the bristles of another large larvae/caterpillar that a bird dropped onto my patio and it stung like the dickens. I mean OUCH.  I’ll have to do another post about that caterpillar as I have found three in my yard.

I’m also a HUGE Halloween freak, so I love this song each fall. You might be thinking, but it doesn’t fly…but the moth who laid the egg sure does! Actually the large moths (known as sphinx or hummingbird moths) are quite mesmerizing and I have observed them at length among my four o’clocks in the evening.

Sphinx or hummingbird moth at night in my garden. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Sphinx or hummingbird moth at night in my garden. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One time, while an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri, I found a hornworm pupa in the soil where I was digging. I put it in a glass vial filled with alcohol for my entomology class and stuck it in the pocket of my leather vest. I immediately forgot it was there. Some weeks later, I crushed the pocked, the vial, and the pupa all over my vest.  Yes, I still have the vest. And there is still a slight stain on the pocket.  The moral of this story? Don’t put pupa or worms in your pocket or they may have the last laugh on you.

Before killing and disposing of the worms that I find, I check to see if they have been parasitized by the braconid wasp, Cotesia congregatus. (see Univ of MN link below for image) If they are, I put them somewhere where they can’t access my plants and then hope the beneficial wasps will hatch and start eating more of the hornworms in my garden. Otherwise, I sometimes leave them out where the birds can find them or drop them in a bucket of soapy water.  I have about 30 tomato plants this year and I would never spray or apply powders for this many plants.  If I had to I would use the most organic option available. Just check them about twice a week and remove as soon as you see them because they will de-leaf your plants quickly.  The University of Minnesota Extension Service has a good website with information about these common, annual pests.

If your eyes have a hard time finding these green boogers, look for their brown poop droppings or stems that are stripped of leaves.

Tomato hornworm damage. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Tomato hornworm damage. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Grab your hand lens to observe these critters up close. Their mouth parts are so cool and/or hideous depending on your take. This is a great observation for kids too! Its a good opportunity to teach about the lifecycle of insects and the difference between insect pests and beneficials.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay cool out there and KEEP ON GROWIN’,

The Garden Maiden

P.S. Before I submitted this post, I went back outside to re-check my plants. Guess what? after a few minutes of observation, I found another! Gotcha!!

 

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

Tomato hornworm. Image by The Garden Maiden, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images and text copyright 2014 The Garden Maiden

 

 

Categories: Garden Insects, Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment
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