Late spring in central Texas, nice and warm, not quite hot enough to melt your shoes, but hot enough to melt everything in your car.
But it’s not summer until…
the trees start screaming!
I have heard some cicadas farther east of me (a different species than I have), but so far, this year has been quiet. So I feel like I have been visited by the Cicada Queen, who has bestowed upon me a great honor: I saw my first cicada before I heard it. She was hiding in the elm that popped up in my yard!
So beautiful and perfect!!!
Superb Dog-day Cicada
June 3, 2019
IT IS TIME.
I heard them today for the first time all year and has anyone else noticed that their…speed? Cadence? Cicadence? Is faster than previous years? I’m used to reeereeereeereeeeeeeeeee…….. Today they were much more emphatic, like REEEEE…..REEEEEE……REEEEEE….
I also don’t know if the different year-life-cycle cicadas have different patterns. Anyone want to educate me on these lovely summer screamers?
There a many different species of cicada, and they all have different screams! The ones you are hearing may just be a different species than the others you’ve noticed before! Although, they do sometimes have variation in their calls, could be time of year or the weather.
gays do me a solid and rb with tattoos you have or want in the tags
Time for crab!
There’s another one on the other side.
Yes. I have crabs. I drove from Seattle to Florida to meet an internet friend back in 2006 (and also to get away from a terrible roommate), and saw these adorable swimming crabs. I didn’t tell anybody I was dating at the time about them, so I got to do a serious, “I need to talk to you… I got crabs while I was in Florida…” prank MULTIPLE TIMES IT WAS HILARIOUS omg worth it
Kids, don’t let anyone make you think you have to grow up. You can be weird and immature forever.
Hi again! I um. I may have accidentally adopted a small to mid sized moth last night. Really they adopted me. I’m calling it Paul rn after Paul McCartney but anyways, I have a photo. I have no idea what to feed Paul. I dont want him to succumb to any type of starvation. I’m thinking Paul is a peppered moth but my search has been inconclusive. Do you think you can help? Thank you so much for helping me out so many times already. Godspeed friend!
Hello again! The good news for you is that many moths do not eat anything, or even have mouthparts. They gain all their energy as caterpillars and only exist in their adult forms to mate and die or be food for something else. However if this species needs to feed it will drink nectar like butterflies. I can’t really tell if Paul needs to or not so you could try making a bouquet of local flowers or slice up some juicy fruit for him to sip on. Try to look and see if Paul has a proboscis. If you can tell for sure he doesn’t then I wouldn’t worry about giving him food.
Cut slices of banana for him! Moths LOVE funky old bananas!
Hi! Ever since I’ve started adding new flowers and water sources to my yard, I’ve noticed different wasps hanging around. Is it good that they’re there? What are those guys doing? (Sorry I don’t know much about what they do, I was on the wasp hate team until recently)
Hello! This is a great question! I think most people don’t know much about what wasps do, and even I didn’t know much about them until just a few years ago. They are generally up to one of four things! Pollinating (they are vegetarians just like bees!), drinking water, collecting nesting materials (mud, dried grasses), or hunting insects/spiders to feed their larvae! A fifth thing they may be doing: just hanging out!
Below are some wasps I’ve seen (and photographed) around Texas in the past few years. Most of them have been in my yard near Austin!
Spider Wasp (a large male!) enjoying some flowers at Lake Travis, Austin, TX
A Eumenes sp. Potter Wasp pollinating some wildflowers in Williamson County, TX
A lovely Scoliid wasp in east Texas (near Beaumont)
A Blue-winged Scoliid Wasp in Keller, TX
An Apache Wasp enjoying some old fruit I left out in my yard (it went bad and I thought the bugs would like it–they did!)
They get thirsty, too! And they also need the water to help build their nests. They can float on the water! Left: Apache Wasp in San Marcos, TX; Right, Guinea Paper Wasp in my yard
Collecting Nesting Materials
This one is interesting, because you may not realize this is what the wasp is doing!
Paper wasps build their nests from… well, paper fiber. They collect dried fibrous material, like dried grasses or tree bark, and use that to make their nests. But, if you have dry wood in your yard, like my fence, you may notice paper wasps standing on them. If you look closely, you may notice them… chewing on your fence. Guess what they’re doing! Your fence is becoming their nest! If you see a wasp resting on dried grasses or dead leaves, they may be collecting the fibers for their nests. Above photos are Apache and Guinea Paper Wasps from my yard.
But not all wasps make paper nests!
Do you have strange tubes show up on the side of your house? Do you see wasps digging around in the mud? These may be mud dauber wasps, solitary wasps who lay their eggs in little tubes made out of mud. There are lots of different types of these wasps, and they all make different shape nests. This one is the Yellow-legged Mud Dauber, and I have lots of them. The best part, is after their nests are empty, they stick around for long enough that solitary bees will show up and use them! Also, I have solitary bees using abandoned paper wasp nests too, so by supporting your wasps, you are also supporting your native bees! Above photos are from Bastrop, TX (top two) and my yard (bottom two)
Some wasps will dig their nests in the ground, so they don’t collect nesting material, but if you see strange little holes in the ground, they could be solitary wasps! This is a Thread-waisted Sand Wasp (Ammophila sp.) from Seminole Canyon State Park in Val Verde County, TX
Hunting to Feed Their Larvae
Babies are HUNGRY!
While adult wasps are 100% vegetarian, their babies need to eat high energy, high protein foods to grow up–this means other insects or spiders. So if you see wasps flying around your yard, walking around on plants, and you’re not really sure what they’re doing, they may be hunting!
These photos are of a Guinea Paper Wasp nest and lady at my house. The lady is hunting caterpillars–she is on a passion vine plant, which had a ton of Gulf Fritillary Caterpillars, very healthy meals for growing wasp children! It was very interesting to watch her carefully walk around the plant. I never saw her catch anything, mostly because they were so good at hunting caterpillars that there never were any left!
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars, delicious. If you are a gardener, and you don’t want your plants to get destroyed by caterpillars, guess what? Paper wasps are your friends! Once I had a healthy population of paper wasp colonies in my yard, I essentially never found a full-grown caterpillar in my yard. If I wanted to raise caterpillars, I had to find the eggs and bring them inside!
Just Hanging Out
Why do they have to be doing anything? Sometimes they just want to chill.
Flower wasp in my yard
Sand-loving Wasp (Tachytes sp.) on the side of my house
A Square-headed Wasp (Subfamily Crabroninae) living in the hollow stem of a dead milkweed in my garden.
I hope that helps solve some Wasp Mysteries, and welcome to Team Wasps Are Actually Pretty Neat!
Mystery slug caterpillar! Who is this?! Stay tuned! Updates will be incoming in my @nanonaturalist blog
Microscope shots magnified 20x
May 20, 2019
I investigated and our baby is:
a Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth (yet another stinging slug caterpillar!)
This dramatic fellow was hanging out in the yard for a while last month:
Here is a blurry shot next to my finger to show you how utterly massive these moths get:
May 20, 2019
The child grows (I think?)
Resident slug moth expert (over in California) is not sure of my ID, but says whatever I have, hackberry is an undocumented host. Pressure is on to successfully get an adult moth! (Rearing these caterpillars is difficult! They are so small and dry out very easily).