Archive for August, 2014

Yard Residents


The tiny frog jumped when I picked up a sandstone rock from a pile I was moving. It froze in place, confident in its camouflage. The dirt on it hid any markings it had.

I think it’s a chorus frog. My mind said “chorus frogs” when I’d hear frogs calling earlier this summer after dark.


I first saw this kingsnake when I almost stepped on it.


It continued on to the shrub border where it could disappear into the thick of things.


Then yesterday, I walked toward the house and a frog jumped from the grass in front of me. It’s the same kind as the one above. The odd thing is that I don’t remember seeing these in the yard before. They were maybe an inch or so long.



I was again moving rocks and this leopard frog jumped near me. Their call sounds like its laughing/chuckling.

Silver-spotted Skipper

A high percentage of skippers are similar and difficult to identify.


Not the silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus clarus), with the distinctive white spot on the underside of its hindwing.


They seldom land and show their upperside.

Their caterpillars feed on false indigo, wisteria, wild senna, and honey locust. The adults fly from April to mid-October.

Two Cicadas Of Sorts

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A cicada killer has hung around my stone path off and on for a month. I never saw it with a cicada.

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I’ve only seen the skins of three cicadas, and all three were low in the catalpa tree by my stone path.

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The evening sun turned them into something looking otherworldly.

Tobacco Hornworm

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The easiest way to find well-camouflaged caterpillars is to first find their droppings.


Two tobacco hornworms fed on the same  flowering tobacco plant (Nicotiana sylvestris) plant in my moon garden. The caterpillars can be a challenge to find, even after finding them the first time. I included this picture because it shows the pattern “veeing” down its back.

IMG_9180 cropThe small black spots along its side are the spiracles where they breath.

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The “eye” is a fake eye on its prothoracic shield.

Two caterpillars were on this same plant. One was gone the next morning, and the other the next morning. I probably won’t see the sphinx moths after they emerge.

Monarch Caterpillar


You know it’s been a slow butterfly year when I find my first two monarch caterpillars on August 19.


The aphids didn’t look overly tasty.


I found another caterpillar later that day. They usually feed on the underside of the leaf where predators are less likely to find them.

The milky sap of the milkweeds makes them toxic to predators.

Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth

What I thought was a plume moth turned out to be a grapeleaf skeletonizer moth (Harrisina americana).

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Its host plants include wild grapes and Virginia creeper. Their length measures 8-12 mm and wingspan 18-28 mm.


I took the first pictures of flower-of-the-hour (Hibiscus trionum) in mid- June. It grows in the corner of my butterfly garden.


The buds


 open around 9 a.m. daily.


The flowers begin closing in the afternoon. Mine are shaded in the afternoon by a sweetgum tree. (Notice the bee on the left flying toward the flower.)


The bee gathers pollen.


Apparently it wears a lot too.


 There’s no shortage of seeds for reseeding next summer.

Neighboring Spiders

My neglecting the water garden created a lot of habitat.


A funnel-weaving spider effectively hid down in the web.


Changing the camera angle showed a  second opening.


A young garden spider spun its web higher where it would catch more flying insects.

Comma Butterfly

A comma butterfly landed in front of me as I headed toward the backyard.


The ragged female stopped to rest on her mission to find host plants — hops, nettles and elm trees — to lay her eggs on.

Comma butterflies (Polygonia comma) overwinter as adults and begin flying as spring warms. The feed at flowers, tree sap, animal droppings, carrion and decaying fruit.

I used to put overripe fruit on the cistern to attract the sap-flow butterflies — which include the tawny emperor, red-spotted purple, viceroy,  hackberry butterfly, question mark, painted lady and red admiral.

Colors Matching?


Crab spiders are known to change color to match the color of the flower they’re on. Obviously, this one hasn’t been on the nicotiana flower long enough to change. It’s a male; females are larger.


I made a loop around the backyard after a heavy rain early this morning. This crab spider looked comfortable back in a fold of the spider lily flower. It’s a male too, and apparently a different species because of the differences in color and size. Maybe those dark legs could mimic a dried piece of the plant.