Monday, August 5, 2013

Garden Creatures: Predators, Pollination, and More

I think of my backyard garden as its own little ecosystem, and I'm constantly amazed at the diversity of creatures that choose to make their homes there (usually because they want to eat the flowers or leaves, or because they want to eat the things that eat the flowers or leaves). Here's a small sampling of the creatures (mostly insects) I've noticed in the garden over the past two weeks. It's a jungle out there!

Flowers are a big deal in the garden, and there are always plenty of bees around. This bumblebee has its head buried in a bean flower and the pollen baskets on its legs are brimming full of collected pollen (I just learned about this part of bee anatomy, and I think it's super cool):

In addition to the flowering plants I actually put in the garden on purpose, a huge Pokeweed plant has sprung up in one shady corner, and I let it grow because I think it's quite attractive. Lots of flying insects apparently like it, too. This very small wasp is enjoying the Pokeweed's little white blossoms:

And this much larger wasp (probably a Four-toothed Mason Wasp, Monobia quadridens) is browsing over the Pokeweed blooms as well:

In the leaf-eating camp, several leafhopper-type bugs make their homes here (in small numbers, so I'm not worried about them damaging the plants). This fancy leafhopper (Graphocephala versuta, I think) is very pretty in subtle green/blue/yellow stripes, and as I watched it, it seemed to be exuding some sort of liquid and collecting the droplets with its legs. Weird!

I see these Citrus Flatid Planthoppers (Metcalfa pruinosa) pretty frequently, and I quite like their powdery gray outfits:

Baby leafhoppers look super strange. This leafhopper nymph was showing off its weird semi-translucent body on a bean leaf:

This stocky planthopper nymph (possibly genus Acanalonia) was eying me warily:

This next leaf-eater I am definitely not happy to see, as it takes huge chunks out of my bean leaves. Go away, Japanese Beetle, I don't want you here:

A few times now, I've noticed a strangely symmetrical bit of dried leaf, and then realize... oh, it's a moth! This is an Omnivorous Leafroller (Archips purpurana), I believe:

And speaking of leaf-like creatures, this Greater Angle-wing Katydid nymph (Microcentrum rhombifolium) does a fantastic job of blending in with these soybean leaves:

This creature isn't quite full-grown yet, but it's still pretty big -- about the size of my thumb. I've seen it several days in a row in the same spot, and I have to admire it every time. I love its mottled green skin, and those tiny baby wings are sooo cute:

When I saw this katydid most recently (I'm 99% sure it was the same individual, with that same missing leg and the same pattern of dots on its back), its little wings were bigger! Grow, baby katydid, grow:

Other cool creatures include this little cricket with antennae so big I couldn't fit them in the frame (they're about two or three times longer than this picture shows):

And this tiny adorable jumping spider who couldn't decide whether to focus more on the giant camera lens looming over its head...

Or the huge pink blob (i.e., my finger) that had invaded its home leaf:

The little spider was probably keeping an eye out for a meal, and there are tons of other predators all over the garden. Long-legged flies are particularly prevalent, little sparkling jewels in green, blue, and orange that cruise around looking for even tinier bugs to eat:

Mmm, this one got something!

But the long-legged flies can become meals, too.... This one wasn't very lucky, but I bet the spider's happy with its catch!

Robber flies are common predators around here, too. This one was hanging from the Pokeweed stem and munching on a nice fat beetle:

Finally, speaking of predators, I was very happy to find an American Toad living in the garden. I took this picture with my phone (I clearly need to always have my camera with me) in early July, but I saw the toad again last week, so I'm hoping it's sticking around:

This individual has just the most wonderful deep brown/maroon color, the likes of which I don't remember ever seeing on a toad before. I think it's a gorgeous creature, and I love that it's been out there on bug/slug patrol. Eat away, lovely toad!

Whew, so many things to see, and I don't even have to leave my yard! Summer is such a lively time, and I'm looking forward to meeting more cool creatures in my garden as the season continues.


  1. Oh oh oh! Be still my heart! These photos of adorable insects and others are absolutely wonderful! You are SO right: amazements are everywhere, right under our noses.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed them, Jackie! I'm having a lot of fun exploring this awesome small-scale world, and I'm happy to get to share my resident strange creatures with everyone. :D

    2. Great pictures Elizabeth! Were you using a macro lens?

    3. Thanks, David! I was indeed using a macro lens for about half of these pictures (the close ones of little things), and I wish I'd remembered to have it with me for more of them!

  2. I so enjoy your pictures. I am a UConn Master Gardener and can never get enough of all the educational pictures. Just wonderful, keep them coming.