October inventory, part two

October of 2014 was a tale of two months, it seems. The first half of the month continued the late wet season trend of several days with rainfall, which seems to have increased the number of dragonflies and damselflies in the yard compared to the second half of the month, which had about as many days with rain, but not clustered together as much.

New species for the second half of the month:

Hummingbirds returned; I actually got buzzed by one as I was out lamenting the latest scale infestation on the firebush; they love the red tubular flowers of this Florida native plant.

A syrphid fly that relies on the fact that it looks like a bee, Palpada vinetorum:

Syrphid fly, Palpada vinetorum, Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

Syrphid fly, Palpada vinetorum, Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

Also the Martial Scrub-Hairstreak butterfly (see my brief write-up):

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

And, let’s see, what else? An army worm caterpillar:

Army worm caterpillar, Spodoptera species. Boca Raton, FL, October 27, 2014.

Army worm caterpillar, Spodoptera species. Boca Raton, FL, October 27, 2014.

The smallest halictid bee I’ve ever seen. Species unknown (too many to choose from here in south Florida), but it’s in the genus Lasioglossum:

Halictid bee, Lasioglossum species. Boca Raton, FL, October 22, 2014.

Halictid bee, Lasioglossum species. Boca Raton, FL, October 22, 2014.

While I’m showing tiny hymenopterans, how about an in-focus (nearly) shot of a conurid wasp? These are also impossibly tiny, but this one, instead of hanging out in the mexican clover, spends its days cruising the wild lime and firebush in the back yard:

Wasp, Conura species. Boca Raton, FL, October 30, 2014.

Wasp, Conura species. Boca Raton, FL, October 30, 2014.

Looking for something even smaller? How about this agromyzid (leaf miner fly)?

Leaf miner fly, photomyzinae family. Boca Raton, FL, November 1, 2014.

Leaf miner fly, photomyzinae family. Boca Raton, FL, November 1, 2014.

This particular photo doesn’t count for the October report, since it was taken on November 1, but still, I saw this fly throughout the month and it fits here thematically as a tiny yellow flying insect with black markings on its back, so why not? Plus it provides a nice segue into the November report, which will be a-buildin’ over the next few weeks.

New Backyard Butterfly: Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis)

Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis). Boca Raton, FL, October 17, 2014.

With my new “monthly inventory” program underway, I’m taking a bit more time in the mornings and at lunch out in the yard, weeding when windy, taking pictures when calm. And one day this month, I found something quite rare: a butterfly that’s normally seen (when seen at all) in the Keys or in Cuba! Martial Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon martialis) is an unassuming little guy, like most hairstreaks on the small side. But two curly tails add some visual interest, and the rarity adds even more.

Cech and Tudor, authors of the definitive butterfly guide to the East Coast describe its […]

Monthly inventory

Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis genera). Boca Raton, FL, October 3, 2014.

October is a month of transition here in south Florida. The wet days of the rainy season start to taper off, giving way to the first few cooling breaths of our short-lived autumn, eventually to be followed by the drier and steadier days of our wintertime dry season (which usually arrives around November). That doesn’t mean it won’t rain; we still get appreciable rainfall in this last month of the wet season, but the rains are punctuated by spells of drier, cooler weather, that is much welcomed after the long, hot days of summer.

The first […]

September equinox today, 10:29 p.m. EDT

Today, at 10:29 p.m. Eastern “daylight” time, Earth’s equatorial plane intersects the center of the Sun’s disk.

Sunrise and sunset occur due east and due west, respectively, from all points on Earth’s surface.

Equinox, man!

Days and nights will continue to get shorter in the northern hemisphere, as they’ve been doing since the June solstice, culminating in the shortest day of the year (and longest night) at the December solstice.

Enjoy the equilibrium today!

Giant Swallowtail at last

Papilio_cresphontes_20140918-3

The Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) is not the largest butterfly in North America. That distinction goes to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, at least to the larger females of that species. P. cresphontes, though, is still “noteworthy for its size” (Cech & Tudor). It’s also a butterfly that is rather camera shy, at least in my experience. (The only pictures of an adult Giant Swallowtail in my photo files date back to Fern Forest days, back in 2007 or 2008.)

Their larvae, however, are considerably less camera shy, and over the years I’ve noticed (and even written about) the tiny little […]

Bees have hairy eyes

European Honeybee (Apis mellifera). Boca Raton, FL, September 14, 2014

If you’re a native plant gardener, it’s easy to let your focus on native plants and animals blind you to the characteristics of non-native species. But one of the most important non-native species worldwide is the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Because they’re so common, I frequently opt not to take pictures of them, preferring instead the more unusual “sweat bees” (halictids), with their bright green bodies and unpredictable (to me at least) sighting opportunities. This gal, for instance, was rescued from drowning in my backyard pool; she’s still in the net (she recovered and flew away):

Halictid (Sweat Bee), […]

Here there be dragons

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) enjoying a repast of Blue Dasher (

Wow, a record for me. Three days in a row at the Yamato Scrub! My older son, Eric, surprised me midmorning on Labor Day by suggesting that we go to Yamato Scrub. I seized on the suggestion, and off we went. I brought snacks and a drink to keep him occupied, and it worked! I was able to install him on a bench with a good view of the pond while I wandered off to take a few more pictures of the insect life around the wetlands, and found some new (to me) creatures and behaviors. It wasn’t long before […]

Damsels in Distress

Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii) and breakfast. Yamato Scrub, August 31, 2014.

You may remember that I volunteer with the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management from time to time, helping them clean up and maintain the natural areas here in Boca Raton. Last weekend there was a work party at Yamato Scrub, and we were there for sunrise, coffee, donuts, muffins, and—oh, yeah—work. We trundled wheelbarrows full of sand from the sand mound to a few areas of sidewalk between the two recreated wetlands on the site. There’s a sand berm between the northern pond (the deep one) and the southern wetland (much larger and shallower). When the rains […]

New backyard spider: Cyrtophora citricola

Cyrtophora citricola. Boca Raton, FL, July 29, 2014.

Gardeners in south Florida are the inverse of the typical beachgoer: instead of looking forward to a sunny day for reading, we look forward to a cloudy morning for weeding! August days, even in the morning, can be brutal. Earlier this week my weather station reported a heat index of 110°F! So when we get rain overnight followed by lingering clouds, we jump at the chance to get a bit muddy while trimming back the overgrown foliage and pulling out the weeds from the flower beds.

When we get the chance to do this, we often discover new and unusual […]

Fiddlewood caterpillar (Epicorsia oedipodalis) update

Moth_Fiddlewood_flying_20140612

The fiddlewood caterpillars (not their real common name, but since they don’t seem to have a common name I’m calling them that) I discovered the other day haven’t done very well in captivity. I’ve had them in a plastic jar for a couple of days but they haven’t grown at all—still the same 10 mm long as two days ago. Their brothers and sisters that I missed, though, and found two days later on the original shrub, are a bit more robust—already 15 mm long and quite active. I’ve removed those caterpillars and the leaves they were on, and we’ll […]