Ghosts and empty sockets

Humans tend to see human qualities everywhere: in images, behavior, even the night sky. Anthropomorphization is one of those things that defines humanity.

Mud dauber wasp nest.
EMPTY — This unusual mud dauber nest was symmetrical, with holes at about the same level, giving it an eerie skull- or masklike appearance. It, along with three or four other wasp nests, was discovered under the bonnet of our truck.
Mud dauber nest.
Another view of the same image above, showing its “‘other eye.”

Life and death in the goldenrod, part I

We keep a patch of giant goldenrod growing at the front of the house to provide a way station for visiting monarch butterflies, but other insects make themselves at home there, including all manner of bees, wasps and wheelbugs. Wheelbugs, named for the cogged half wheel atop their armor, lay in wait in the yellow flowers, stalking their prey. The wheelbug in the top shot had caught a bumble bee and dragged it at least 5-6 feet before I stopped following it. The one in the second photo snagged a wasp.

The insects insert their beak into the prey, injecting a fluid that paralyzes and dissolves the victim’s insides, which accounts for why there seemed to be no fight left in either the bee or wasp.

Unrelated note — this is our 700th post!

Wheelbug dragging off prey.
Wheelbug, dusted with yellow pollen from the goldenrods, drags its prey.
Wheelbug eating wasp.
Inverted wheelbug eating wasp. Its cogged wheel can be seen running along its back.
In profile, you can see the wheel.
In profile, you can see the wheel.


Anyone who has a hummingbird feeder is familiar with the rigidly enforced pecking order of the birds who feed, or try to feed, there. This morning it was somewhat was amusing (OK, satisfying) to see the boss bird being chased and herded away from the sweet nectar by a red wasp and another tiny black flying insect.

hummingbirds at feeder
SHOO! Red wasp ‘owns’ the feeder despite the efforts of a trio of hummingbirds.






On a sad note, there was a recent changing of the guard at our feeder following the death of Napoleon (We found a little hummingbird body back in July that we believe to be his.)

Tree tribbles

These tree tribbles are actually oak galls caused by a parasitic wasp. Galls can be fuzzy or hard-shelled, but they all shelter developing larvae. Unlike the ravenous and fast reproducing fuzzies in Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles,” these fuzzles really don’t hurt anyone.

OAK FUZZ -- Fall is a big time for tree tribbles.
MYSTERY CONES -- These are probably some kind of insect larval casing, but don't have an idea what.

Berries, blossoms and bugs

With morning temperatures in the 50s and some overcast, it was a great time to be out and about. Leaves are beginning to turn and summer’s flowers are enjoying one last hurrah.

BERRY COLORFUL -- French mulberries are one of my favorite late summer, early fall subjects. Alas, the camera can't quite duplicate the color correctly.
SATURDAY MORNING BLUES -- Wild blue morning glories grow just above the snakes' lair.
BIG BLUE WASP-- This tarantula hawk wasp with a blueish body and warm buff wings visited the sweet white flowers with a companion.

Angry birds

They look cute with their big dark eyes and their wee tiny feet, but make no mistake, hummingbirds are ruthless when it comes to protecting “their” feeder. Normally, it’s Napoleon or some other dominant hummingbird who chases the others away, but this morning, a big red wasp had succeeded in turning the pecking order on its head. The wasp aggressively chased off every feathered rival, including Napoleon, at both feeding stations. The wasp met its match in the form of a flyswatter. It managed one comeback, but hasn’t been seen after a second strike.

battling hummingbirds
DOGFIGHT -- Two hummingbirds collide in a battle for nectar.
Three battling birds
THREE FOR ALL -- Three hummingbirds battle for a chance at some nectar.
Wasp on feeder
MINE -- This wasp dominated the feeders for a good part of the morning. A good whack upside his head sent him off for some time, allowing the hummingbirds to return.

The many faces of Napoleon

Napoleon, the ruby-throated hummingbird, rules the deck. Except for a lady hummingbird, the occasional wasp, and a dark-eyed junco who took his place on the shepherd’s crook from which the feeders hung*, no one can get close to the nectar.

*High winds in recent storms swung  the feeders so violently, they slung nectar all over the deck, front windows, sidewalk and walls. The feeders are now sitting safely on the deck. It took the birds less than 10 minutes to figure out the new location was OK.

The many faces of Napoleon
Napoleon, the ruby-throated hummingbird, maintains watch over "his" feeders.
Hummingbird hovers off the deck on a foggy morning.
Hummingbird honcho Napoleon stares down intrusive paparazzi.
Napoleon does his best vulture impression.
Napoleon does his best vulture impression.