Copyright © Sheryl Williams - Yardfanatic 2016. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Let there be dragons and other monsters

There are monsters in my yard.

Every day in the garden is a complete adventure because I am constantly discovering creatures I have never seen, or have never seen such a variety of, before. Dragonflies are an example. The breadth of dragon and damselflies is simply amazing. I have never encountered such colors: carmine, bottle green, lipstick red, orange, Sapphire blue, white, and variations in between. I am constantly running to the house for the camera and the computer to try to figure out what I am seeing. Check out this website that has over 100 listed just for Travis County! Yesterday I saw a new one that just knocked me over. My digital camera just won't focus on these guys, so click here to see a picture of this male Plathemis lydia. I have the females too but they don't have that stunning white abdomen.

There are also a plethora of caterpillars that are munching various plants to the ground. The only one I knew by sight was the swallowtails. Imagine my horror when I saw these monsters chowing down my citrus trees! They are HUGE. I'd never seen such a thing. Turns out they are swallowtails too. They are a type of black swallowtail that specializes in citrus trees. I have them everywhere and it is very, very, hard to allow them to stay. My poor trees are still just recovering from the freeze and don't have a lot of leaves to spare. One of my limes died back to the graft, so I allowed the rootstock to go ahead and grow. My thinking was that I could use it as a swallowtail cafeteria and move the other caterpillars off my good trees. Well, that was a good idea that lasted for about a week. The new growth couldn't keep up with all the "relocated" creatures. Now I am picking them off and rotating them around to whatever is growing most robustly at the moment. Thank goodness the cardinals, blue jays, and anole lizards are helping me keep the population in check so I don't have to resort to caterpillar-cide.

There are also all kinds of interesting bees and wasps that hang about. They are very brightly colored also and vary in size. I found a dead wasp in the garden that makes the largest hornet I've ever seen look like a ladybug. Between them and the giant cockroaches, I can see a nightmare cooking some hot restless night. Right now I also have a swarm of leaf-footed bugs in my black-eyed peas. Every time I go to pick them I get thwacked in the face with a rapidly flying-away bug. They are about a half inch long and have a long needle snout for boring into things. Lovely creatures. Here's a link if you want to marvel at them yourself. They are also known as "stink bugs" so they aren't one I want to handle for a photo.

When the air warms up in spring, the air becomes resplendent with the sound of cicadas. Their chittering can be quite a cacophony during the day and I am always amazed at how they call to each other from tree to tree. Since they are high overhead, you usually don't see them unless a bird has dropped one. I was lucky to catch this newly hatched one underneath the front yard rain barrel. It is called a Superb Green Cicada and I don't think it could be more aptly named. It really is a pretty thing for such a big bug. Their white grubs are commonly found in lawns. I'm always finding them as I dig ditches or turn over soil. I usually just throw them out in the road so they can become street food for the jays and mocking birds that are always supervising me.

I think my fascination with all of this is mainly because they are so new to me. I've always been interested in things in nature and discovering all these new creatures sends me back to Mrs. Holdridges third grade classroom. It was there that we used to do science projects and hatch out Monarchs in jars. I find that same sense of joy and wonder bubbles out of me as I drag poor Ed out of the house to look at some new thing I've found.

Why just yesterday I was out weeding and came across a tiny reddish-brown toad. We also had hawks nest in the neighbor's tree and their two chicks have fledged. Ed and I watched them chase two tomato-thieving squirrels, and then later one landed on my patio trellis. I tell you, all this wildlife sure saves on zoo admissions!


  1. Wow, I really admire your enthusiasm for nature, insects and wildlife. You describe these critters that are munching down on your plants with such admiration and awe. It is really interesting reading. I love that you throw the grubs into the street for bird food. Those are cicadas, huh? I've seen a ton of them over the years, always thought they were those fat brown "June" bugs. And the "Stink Bugs", I finally have a name for those critters.

    Thank you - Tess

  2. I haven't seen any June bugs but that doesn't mean I don't have them. The grubs are similar to cicadas. Glad you enjoyed the post!