Sunday, August 17, 2014

Texas Bumblebees



Bumblebee enjoying American Basketflower
Michael Warriner from Texas Parks and Wildlife treated the Master Naturalists to an intriguing presentation about Native Bees.  Michael Warriner is the TPW Non-game and Rare Species Program Supervisor.  For the Texas Nature Trackers Program, he created the website www.TexasBumblebees.com.   Go there for an easy Bumblebee identification guide and lots of information.  Native bees need our help with food (seasonal, native nectar flowers) and shelter (a nesting location).   At www.TexasBumblebees.com you can learn how to build nesting blocks for our native, non-aggressive, solitary bees.  This is a fine family or school project. Report your Bumblebee spottings!  You can be a “bumble-watcher”.  The bees and flowers pictured here are from my garden.
Bumblebee on Partridge Pea

Bumblebee resting on Salvia, Indigo Spires

Bumblebee on American Basketflower


Monday, January 27, 2014

Pink Grasshopper




Hello again, My Darlings.  


Yesterday my friend, Terri, and I were enjoying a healthy walk.  Bored of our usual walking pattern,  we struck out across a nearby field.  Terri spotted this cool insect.  I had only my older model smart phone to use as a camera, but I was grateful for it.  We had no idea what we were looking at:   a  4 cm long,  four- legged,  pink critter.   If it were a grasshopper, then it would need two more legs! 


I posted the picture to “ID Request” on  www.BugGuide.net.   The kind, smart folks at BugGuide would know what this was.  Sure enough,  I got an answer:  Chortophaga viridifasciata,  a Green-striped Grasshopper.  This one is a nymph, probably over-wintering in the dry grass.  Indeed, it is missing the two powerful back legs, and it’s an unusual color.   Green-striped Grasshoppers are usually green or brown.  This fellow demonstrates erythrism (“erythro-“ is a combining form that means “red”) with its remarkable, vibrant coloring.  Given its striking color and lack of hopping legs, I imagine this pink grasshopper will soon be a good meal for a hungry bird.
Erythrism in Chortophaga viridifasciata,  a Green-striped Grasshopper Nymph
Erythrism in Chortophaga viridifasciata,  a Green-striped Grasshopper Nymph


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ragweed or Cosmos?




A row of ragweed sprouts next to one Cosmos seedling.

Cosmos seedling has a few lateral rootlets off the primary root.

Ragweed has long shallow root with rhizomes.

Ragweed on the left, Cosmos on the right.  Don't confuse the two!

Last summer I let a young plant grow in my flowerbed.   It looked to me like a Cosmos (C. sulphureus) seedling.   When I noticed it again, it was not a beautiful, glowing Cosmos, but a mature ragweed.  I pulled it up, of course, but too late.  This February, I had hundreds of little ragweed babies popping up in that flowerbed.  Arrgh!

To be sure I would never make the same mistake, I took these photos of a cosmos seeding next to the ragweed sprouts.  I might still confuse the foliage, but there is NO WAY that I will mistake what happens under the soil with the roots!  The Cosmos seedling has only a small set of lateral rootlets of the primary root.   The ragweed has a clever, extensive underground system of threadlike roots and rhizomes that supports multiple plants.   To get it under control, I dig up each bit of ragweed and collect as much of the root system as possible.  I declare that this flowerbed will eventually be ragweed free.