The Will of the Wasps

While doing some work on our house today, I suddenly heard a thump and then saw my guy down on the deck. Huh? He’d been on a ladder last I knew. I grabbed the phone as I dashed out the door.

With a grin, he assured me that he was OK, but that he’d been stung on the ankle, first by a bee and then a double sting by a wasp. Neither of us was surprised, given the wildflowers in the garden where the ladder was placed so he could reach a second floor eave.

I spend hours watching all the pollinators at work, getting to know them by species and habit. But . . . I stand still for the most part and they fly around me. His movements were much quicker and more intentional.

h-hornets nest 1

As we surveyed the garden and figured the best path for his return to it, we made a discovery–the wasps were building a home of their own right beside the narrow path my guy had been following to retrieve different tools. Notice the topaz-colored wing? It fluttered like mad, though that wasp stood still.  Was it sending some sort of message to others?

h-hornets 4

If so, there were plenty of workers available to receive the memo–each doing its job of contributing to the construction project.

h-hornets 8

Below and above, they came and went, the tools of their trade being within their mouths.

h-hornets 10

They’d collected plant and wood fiber, mixed it with saliva, and chewed it into a papier-mâché of their own form.

h-hornets 11

The location of choice for this latest construction was against an old tractor wheel that leans against the house. Over the years, we’ve found them building everywhere, but what my guy doesn’t know …

h1-horn 1

is that a few months ago a queen began an umbrella-like structure in the back door jam.

h1-horn 2

I watched the dangling nest slowly take form.

h1-horn 3

Within each cell . . .

h1-horn 4

an individual egg was deposited.

1-horn 5

Two wasps never seemed to mind that I pulled a kitchen chair over and climbed up to watch the action.

h1-horn 6

Work continued from morning to night, the wasps slipping away through a sliver of space in the outer door and then returning. Late in the afternoon, they settled on the nest and didn’t move until the next morning. Eventually, I knew I had to put an end to this construction project and while the adults were off seeking more fiber, I removed it. And felt guilty. But, I didn’t want my family to get stung–famous last words.

h-hornet on goldenrod

Paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive unless they perceive a threat–and today, much to my guy’s dismay, they felt threatened.

Despite the confrontation, we have to remember that they are beneficial to the garden as pollinators and predators.

My guy survived and for a bit longer, so will the wasps.

Home again, home again

Because we’d spent most of the summer at camp and I barely stopped at home, I hadn’t visited my usual haunts in a while. Today, that changed.

o-green cone sap

Into the woodlot I ventured, where green pine cones oozing with sap decorated the forest floor.

o-green cone midden

The remains of those serving as sustenance also lent a bit of color from the center cobs and deseeded scales left behind by red squirrels.

o-Inidan pipe from above

Most of the Indian pipes were past prime, but they remained beautiful with their flowers turned upright since being fertilized.

o-pine sap

The same was true for pine sap, which supported more than one flowerhead per stalk.

o-powerline

Emerging from the cowpath onto the power line, I found conditions to be as expected–anywhere I’ve traveled past such a line this summer, I’ve noticed that Central Maine Power has sprayed. I shouldn’t complain for I depend on that power and understand the need to keep the trees cleared, but it does make my heart cry for all that is lost.

o-sundew sad face

My sundews were among those that had suffered, brown and shriveled were they.

o-juniper

The white pines took a beating as well, but the juniper continued to grow and produce a bounty of fruits.

o-cicada

As I walked, the air buzzed with a chorus of cicadas,

o-field cricket

field crickets,

o-grasshopper

and grasshoppers.

o-red maple cotyledon

A visit to the vernal pool was a must, and in true vp form all was dry, but from the bottom new life sprang forth in the form of red maple . . .

o-vp, quaking aspen

and quaking aspen seedlings. It’s worth a try on their part, but I suspect they’ll be short-lived for soon enough the pool will begin to fill with water from late summer, fall and winter storms yet to be.

o-vp, red leaf

Speaking of fall, some red maples had already stopped producing sugar, thus the chlorophyll disappeared and anthocyanin formed–evident in the red hue.

o-vp feather

I found some other color in a small blue jay feather. I only saw two and didn’t think much of it, until . . .

o-blue jay feathers on stump

I passed by an old stump and did a double take. It appeared a young jay had served as a feast.

o-field succession

My next stop was the field, reached by passing through the two stonewalls that demark the boundary of our extended property. The field belongs to our neighbors’ parents and they recently had it bush hogged. At the western most end stood a fine example of forest succession, from mowed area to wildflowers and shrubs to saplings and finally the forest beyond.

o-small-flowered gerardia

Among the flowers at the edge I found one I hadn’t met before–small-flowered gerardia with delicate, hairy petals and needle-like green leaves bordered in their own shade of purple.

o-steeplebush

Being Sunday, it seemed apropos that the steeplebush reached heavenward.

o-meadowhawk above

As I continued to look around, a meadowhawk flitted about, pausing occasionally.

o-meadowhawk face

I knew if I stood still long enough, it would get curious and let me approach.

o-meadowhawk up close

And I was right.

o-home view

At last it was time to head in. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Kind

Because I have the good fortune to be involved with the Greater Lovell Land Trust, I spend my summers attending talks and walks on a variety of topics. Prior to this week, we learned about lichens, bryophytes, pileated woodpeckers, fungi, flowers, ferns, medicinal plants, peat bogs, wild turkeys, and land conservation. And then last night our focus turned to pollinators and the pollinated.

Guy Pilla, a beekeeper from Fryeburg, Maine, gave an informational talk on the art of beekeeping, followed by a question and answer period, and the crème de la crème –honey tasting. How often have you had a chance to taste Tupelo honey?

w-Guy 1 (1)

This morning we met up with Guy again, as he took us to a hive he has set up on private property under conservation easement with the land trust. Twenty-six of us gathered around to listen, watch, and wonder.

w-showing the frames

In his alien costume, Guy passed around frames, giving us an opportunity to look at a range of cells as he explained about spacing for honey expansion, storage and more. We learned about the good and the bad of beekeeping, but mostly the good.

w-Gary looking at frame

As frames were passed around, we noted variations and the fact that some were lightweight and others heavy.

w-hive--bear precautions

At last it was time for Guy to open the hive. Notice the electric fence surrounding it? And the fact that it’s strapped down. Bear defense. And we know there’s at least one in the area.

w-dressing like a beekeeper

And then he walked through the crowd and chose Mary to be his assistant. She donned a hat and veil to protect her face and neck, and took on the look.

w-testing the smoker

Into the bee yard, she followed Guy. If you look closely, you’ll see two platforms on the ground and might notice that the one directly below the hive has nails sticking up (the other is turned upside down because Guy only has one hive at this location this year). Those are to deter skunks, another predator. As Mary watched from behind and the rest of us watched from a few feet away beyond the fence (and out of the bee line), Guy ignited the smoker he’d filled with pine needles.

w-smoke coming out of smoker1

It took a few minutes, but finally, smoke puffed out.

w-Mary practices the smoker

He then passed it to Mary, and her task was to press the bellows and create smoke. The smoker is an important line of defense.

w-preparing to open the hive

As we continued to watch, Guy took the straps off and explained the construction of the hive with one super stacked atop another in a vertical fashion. Though he ordered his equipment, he refashioned some of it including the roof, designed to let wet weather flow off rather than gather in puddles on the top of the structure.

w-Mary uses the smoker

As Guy wedged a hive tool into the bee glue (a resin-like propolis), Mary got ready to use the smoker. Smoke fools the honeybees into thinking a wildfire is nearby, thus prompting them to eat more honey in case they need to move to a new location.

w-showing off his bees

And with honey in their bellies, they become more docile. Note that Guy isn’t wearing any gloves. Usually he does, but Mary wore his gloves this morning and he trusted all would go well and the bees would remain calm. He was certainly calm, but spoke of his early days in the beekeeping business and how sometimes he would jump. Bees sense fear behavior exhibited by heavy breathing and that’s when stings occur. Having been stung recently after some youngsters received stings, I thought I was remaining calm, but apparently my breath spoke for me.

w-hive levels

We learned so much from Guy last night and today–about their various jobs as male drones, queens, and female workers who really do so much of the work. The workers clean out old material from inside the cells, attend to the queen, carry dead bees or larvae outside the hive, guard the hive’s entrance, fan at the entrance during the hot weather to keep the inside temperature down and to circulate fresh air throughout the hive, receive nectar and pollen,  store it away in cells, nurse newly laid egg, and seal cells around larvae at the appropriate moment. After doing all of this for about three weeks, they’ll earn the rights to collect nectar and pollen for about six. And then . . . they’ll die of exhaustion. Indeed.

w-wandering among the flowers

After our time at the hive, one of the land owners, Linda, took us on a mini-tour of the 100-hundred-acre property. Her goal was to take us to a flower meadow she and her husband have created. Originally, it was a garden with raised beds, but Linda has been collecting wildflower seeds from roadsides in Maine and New Hampshire and sowing them in the meadow.

w-learning from Linda

Today we were wowed by the results.

w-honey bee 1

And so were Guy’s honeybees.

w-honeybee on the move

They were on the move everywhere we looked.

w-bee using probiscus for honey

We watched as they sucked nectar with their proboscis mouth part.

w-bumblebee on Joe Pye Weed

Bumblebees also took advantage of the sweet offerings.

w-bumble with loaded pollen baskets

And filled their pollen baskets with the goods.

w-frittilary 1

Not to be left out, a fritillary was among those seeking reward.

w-male meadowhawk

And because we were there, we saw meadowhawk dragonflies on the prowl, he being red . . .

w-female meadowhawk

and she similar but brown.

w-Guy in the field (1)

Guy was tickled to see his bees at work and share his knowledge to all as we listened.

w-linda by her flower meadow

Linda was thrilled to see so many enjoying what she and her husband, Heinrich, had created.

w-Aa, gs 1

And speaking of Heinrich, just before we left he had one more insect to share.

w-Aa, garden 2

An orb spider known as a yellow and black garden spider or argiope aurantia had built its web near the greenhouse. I used to see these in our gardens frequently, but haven’t lately. Of course, I say that and tomorrow I’ll spy one.

w-Argiope aurantia, garden spider 4

In my brain, this is the smartest spider of them all for they create a web consisting of a series of concentric circles divided into sectors by lines that radiate out. And in the center–that amazing zigzag pattern, which is called a stabilimentum and perhaps intended to attract other insects. Or maybe its a message written in code and intended for a certain pig named Wilbur. This is Maine after all.

w-honey bee 2

We do know one message we learned in the last 24 hours: Bee kind–to one another for we’re all interconnected and we need each other to survive. And that includes letting the undesirables flourish in our yards, including the dandelions. Do so and watch them and just maybe you’ll realize they are desirable after all.

(Two final notes: Support your local beekeepers. Guy’s honey is available at Spice and Grain in Fryeburg; but really, you should buy honey from your area. And if you are interested in learning more about beekeeping, look for your local chapter of the Maine State Beekeepers Association.

 

Propinquity

I slipped into a kayak this morning and rather than paddle two miles north into the islands, decided to turn the bend round our point and search the shallows closer to home.

c-stump garden

It is there that the old stumps remind me once again that this water was once land until it was dammed back in the early 1800s. The stumps have given way to gardens and I have to wonder about the age of the mosses and plants that call them home.

c-fragrant 5

In a water garden below the stumps, fragrant water lilies added grace.

c-fragrant with visitors 2

And within, they offered a feast for those who foraged.

c-feather

Nearby was evidence of another foraging expedition. It didn’t bode well for the young bird that sacrificed its life, but I suspect a larger bird gained a few jules of energy.

c-cove views

Everywhere I turned, there was another garden to inspect.

c-spider 1

And friends to meet, be they spiders . . .

c-dragonhunter exuvae

dragonhunter exoskeletons . . .

c-meadowhawk 2

or meadowhawks.

c-spatulate-leaved sundew and insects

Among my favorites were the sundews and I watched several insects approach a spatulate-leaved bent down to the water.

c-round-leaved sundew

Among the spatulates, another showed its face–the round-leaved sundew standing tall above its family members.

c-pickerel 1 a

As I continued to swoon over those beauties, a different color caught my attention.

c-pickerel frog 1

As still as could be, a pickerel frog posed and waited . . . I suppose for me to move on.

c-bullfrog 1

Eventually I did, and then I met a large male bullfrog–its external eardrum or tympanum larger than its eye. This guy was certainly all ears. 😉 (The female’s eardrum is about the same size as the eye). He sat in wait . . .

c-bullfrog youngster

while a young bullfrog of two or three years tried to hide about eighteen inches away. A bullfrog is a carnivore and while its diet consists of crayfish, water beetles, snails and dragonfly larvae, they also dine on fish, small turtles, young water birds . . . and other frogs. Beware little friend.

c-bullfrog reflection

For a while another bullfrog and I took a stab at a starring contest. He won.

c-beaver scent mound

Again I moved on and at last found one of the reasons I headed around the corner. I’d been  wondering about beaver works in this area–and found a scent mound that looked rather fresh.

c-beaver lodge

Across the way was the lodge–that’s been in place since I’ve frequented Moose Pond, which means for just over thirty years.

c-beaver lodge garden

I noticed that the beavers have their own kitchen garden from which to choose–and poking out from it were a variety of sticks. Which ones came from our property? And how many more will be added in October, for I know that’s when they’ll come shopping.

c-camp from south side

Finally, it was time to head back out of the cove to our humble abode on the point.

c-camp 2

It was there that I would finally join my guy for some time in our  rocking chairs.

Propinquity.

Embracing Quiet

If you are like me, you spend too much time racing from one moment to the next during this fleeting season of summer. With that in mind, I chose to slow down today.

m-stump islands

I know of few better places to do that than among the stump islands in the Upper Basin of Moose Pond. It’s been my place since I moved to Maine over thirty years ago.

Once upon a time, this was timberland–albeit prior to impoundment. A log sluiceway was built at the Denmark end in 1792 by Cyrus Ingalls, thus turning pastureland into the Lower Basin, so he could float logs to a nearby mill. In 1824, a more substantial dam was created and the height of that dam was raised by William Haynes in 1872 to create the current impoundment. While the Middle Basin of the nine-mile “pond” may be the largest at over 900 acres, its the 300-plus-acre Upper and Lower Basins that I like best to explore. And because the Upper is right out my summertime back door, I spend the most time there.

m-painted turtle

As I moved slowly, I greeted old friends like this painted turtle and even had the opportunity to pet a snapping turtle, so close to my kayak was it, but I paddled on.

m-newly emerged damsel 2

Actually, I didn’t paddle much once I reached the islands and stumps. Instead, I floated. And noticed. Before my eyes newly emerged damselflies pumped fluid into their bodies and wings, while their shed exuviae sat empty.

A family of three passed by in a canoe and I asked if they wanted to see something cool. When I told them about the damselfly, the father asked what a damselfly was and I told the family about its size and wing formation. They knew about dragons but had never heard of damsels. And didn’t want to stop and look. The mother commented on how magical it all was, but the father was eager to move on. I was sad for the son’s sake. He missed the real magic.

m-emerging damsel 3

Returning to my quiet mode, I found another, waiting as they all do, for the transformation to be completed. Do you see that the wings are not yet clear? I decided my presence was important, for I was keeping predators at bay.

m-orange bluet male

And then . . .

m-orange bluet 3

and then I met a new friend. An orange bluet–this being the male. I wanted to name him the Halloween damsel, but my field guide told me differently.

m-water shield and orange bluets 2

I kept waiting for him to meet her

m-orange bluets on water shield 1

and finally he did–

m-orange bluets mating

completing the wheel of damselfly love.

m-water shield 4

Because of the orange bluets, I also met the watershield flowers in their moment of glory. The flowers are described as being dull purple and inconspicuous. I found them to be various shades from mauve to muted red and lovely in presentation on day one of their life cycle.

According the US Forest Service Website, “On the first day the bud emerges above the water. Sepals and petals open and bend downward. Although stamens and pistils are present in each flower, on the first day of blooming, only the pistils emerge. Stalks of the pistils lengthen and spread outward over the petals. At night, the flower stalk bends and the flowers submerge beneath the water. On the second day, flowers emerge from the water again, but with the pistils retracted. The stamen stalks are lengthened and the anthers open. In this way flowers are cross-pollinated (Osborn and Schneider).

m-water shield old

Hardly dull, certainly unique. Even on day two.

m-newly emerged Hudsonian whiteface

Today, I also met a new dragonfly. And thought that I did it a favor, but I may not have. You see, when we first met, I noticed a web all around this immature Hudsonian whiteface (or so I think it is). With my paddle, I removed the web to free the dragonfly. But, um, it flew off and that’s when I realized it was several hours old and still drying its wings. Do you see how shiny they are? And the exuviae to which it clung prior to my “helping” hand? It’s best to leave nature alone. If it had been caught in the web, then good for the spider.

m-cotton grass 1

Speaking of spiders, I found some cotton grass gone to seed . . .

m-cotton grass with spider 2

and when I moved to photograph it with the sun behind me, I noticed what looked to be a camouflaged crab spider hiding in wait.

m-beaver lodge 1

Among the stumps, I’ve seen numerous beaver lodges over the years and know from the saplings they cut down on our property, that at least a few are active.

m-beaver scent mound 1

Today a recently visited scent mound added to that knowledge. Beavers pull aquatic plants and mud up from the bottom of the pond and create these mounds. They then secrete castoreum from castor glands beneath their tails to mark territory, deter predators, and say, “Hey baby, wanna check out my sticks?”

m-meadowsweet

The island flowers also grabbed my attention, including the fluffy heads of meadowsweet and . . .

m-grasspink orchid

grass-pink orchids now waning.

m-sweet-scented water lily

But . . . besides the dragons and damsels, I really went to see the aquatic flowers, like the sweet-scented water lily,

m-spatterdock

spatterdock,

m-pickerel weed 3

and one of my favs–pickerelweed.

m-pickerel weed

I love it for all its fine hairs and the way the flowers spiral up the stalk.

m-pickerel 2

I also love the coloration with two yellow dots on the upper lip providing a guide to the nectar it offers.

m-white face on leatherleaf 1

While I looked, another white-faced dragonfly, small in stature, kept following me. Finally, it paused on a leatherleaf shrub.

m-spatulate-leaved sundews with flower 2

And I paused beside the spatulate-leaved sundews.

m-spatulate--leaved sundew flower

I was about a week early, but one was in flower, with promises of plenty more to come.

m-pitcher plant 1

As I looked at the sundews, I realized that I’d never seen a pitcher plant in this place. As should happen, I was proven wrong, though I never would have noticed it if it didn’t have such a tall flower since its leaves were hidden by a mass of vegetation.

m-pitcher flower

Damselflies, dragonflies, and carnivorous plants–its an eat or be eaten world out there on the pond.

Bullfrogs bellowed from the edges, green frogs plinked, and fish splashed. I listened to Eastern kingbirds’ wingbeats as they dropped to the water to snatch insects, and red-winged blackbirds delightful conk-la-rees. I startled a great blue heron, the first I’ve seen on the pond all summer, and it flew off. In the midst of all the natural sounds and sights around me, I embraced the quiet on my four-hour paddle/float. And as Robert Frost might say, “That has made all the difference.”

 

Nervous Nellie Mondate

Usually my guy asks me to recommend a trail for our Monday hikes. But this weekend he had one in mind. Actually, he wanted to conquer it on Saturday, but I put the kabosh on that plan because of predicted thunderstorms that didn’t develop here. We kayaked instead.

And then I was able to postpone it on Sunday because I thought we should do something more palatable for my left knee as I was recovering from a quirk in it due to training (LOL–two runs but plenty of cross-training activities) before participating in the annual Four on the Fourth Road Race. So yesterday, we drove to Bartlett, New Hampshire, and began our journey on the Langdon Trail with the intention of summiting Mount Langdon. But after meeting one couple on their descent and listening to them talk about the views from Mount Parker, we changed our minds mid-hike and climbed to the summit of the latter. It was a fun hike that at first seemed a wee bit boring (did I write that?) as it followed an old logging trail, but eventually the natural communities began to change and we really enjoyed the climb.

Because we often hike in companionable silence, that climb was filled with voices from so many friends who are currently dealing with a variety of difficulties–physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I chatted with them along the way and lifted them on high at the summit–including those who suffer silently. May they all find a moment of peace in their lives.

But, it had to happen eventually and so today dawned. There were no storms on the horizon and after yesterday’s eight-mile climb, my knee felt fine. Darn. I’d run out of excuses. And so this morning I drove us to New Hampshire. At the stoplight in Conway Village, we could see the mountain’s craggy outline contrasted against the blue sky. I wanted to take a photo of a church spire in the foreground and mountain in the back, which seemed apropos for how I was feeling, but a large SUV blocked the total view at the stoplight. We continued on, turning onto the Kancamagus Highway for our trail of choice, for we chose the easy trail. Yeah, right!

c-waterfall 4

Our journey began with some easy hiking through a hemlock grove. I was liking it. We continued upward and at 1.5 miles reached a decision-making spot–turn left onto a loop by the waterfalls or continue straight. I’d read that the waterfall trail could be dangerous and that rescues were sometimes necessary, but agreed to go–stating, of course, that we had the option of backtracking.

c-waterfall 1a

The waterfalls, however, took my breath away–and my fear . . . for the moment.

c-water fall 1

I extended that moment by taking numerous photos in different settings of the same thing.

c-waterfall 2

Up and up we climbed beside them,

c-waterfall 3

and with every step the landscape changed. Watching water flow is like watching the flames in a campfire–each moment a glorious rendition of the same and yet a new statement.

c-wood sorrel

And at the same spot, a surprise–wood sorrel with its delicate candy-stripe petals.

c-waterfall stairs

At last we climbed the staircase to heaven–or at least back to the main trail.

c-ichneumon male

The higher we climbed, the rockier the trail became and so my focus was on the ground under my feet. But . . . a downed tree laden with lichen drew my attention for its beauty. As I looked, I realized something was flying about. In my current damselfly/dragonfly mode, I thought I’d spotted a spread-winged damsel until I took a closer look and realized it was a male ichneumon wasp.

c-ichnueomon wasp female

And in another spot below the downed tree, a female ichneumon, her lower abdomen twisted into a disc. My guy actually came back to watch with me as we saw her body throb–using her antennae, she must have honed in on a horntail wasp grub within the wood. Her intention was to drill and secrete a fluid into the grub and then deposit her eggs, which will eventually hatch and consume the grub. How cool is that?

c-northern bush honeysuckle

The trail became much rockier the further up we climbed. And I continued to look for things I haven’t seen recently, including Northern bush honeysuckle, its flowers still in their yellowish-green hue. Check out its long pistils. She’s a pistil!

c-looking for yellow blazes

A couple of hours later, we reached my moment of fate–when the treeline gave way to open rocks. At first it wasn’t so bad and I thought I could manage it.

c-view from lunch rock

Because the wind was more of an issue in the openness, we decided to find lunch rock before progressing further. The views were breathtaking as we looked toward Kearsarge and even our own Pleasant Mountain.

c-Mount Washington 1

Mount Washington was also part of the backdrop.

c-lichen lunch rock

And right under our butts–I was liken the lichens on lunch rock. I could have spent the rest of the day in their presence. And probably should have.

c-geology folds

But that was not to be. With other travelers on this mountain, we continued the journey from the false summit to the main summit. I tried to be positive as my knees buckled. I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling as others also commented. But, I tried to stay focused and along the way, I realized I was looking at a fold as I channeled my inner geologist, Denise Bluhm.

c-summit view 1

Hand over hand, we scrambled up.

c-summit view 2

The views were incredible.

c-summit 4

Finding the trail wasn’t always easy and we all let the next know where the yellow blaze might be. Finally, after lots of scrambling, I realized I’d reached my ending point. A mental block flashed in my brain and I could go no further. My guy, however, despite his own fear of heights, wanted to give it a try. While he crawled the last 75 feet to the actual summit, I tucked into the mountain and became a trail guide, telling others where they should go and how to place their feet–like I knew.

c-after the summit

It wasn’t long before he descended–using the crab style that became our means of downward locomotion. We made it back to the treeline by the seat of our pants.

c-luna 1

From there, we were thankful to continue our downward descent. And then, less than a mile from the parking lot, we made a delightful discovery–a luna moth.

c-luna moth1

She seemed to embody our hike–clinging on as best she could. Her wings were a bit ragged and one ribbony tail missing. I too, was a bit ragged from the experience, and later discovered dried blood on my leg from an encounter with a branch. But, I lived. Sadly, she won’t live much longer–her main job to mate and then die.

Despite that, we were thrilled for the sighting. Seeing a luna moth is such a special treat and that fact that we saw it on the Champney Trail of Mount Chocorua even better.

I’ve spent about forty years avoiding that mountain and for good reason. But today, my guy pulled me out of my comfort zone–to a point. My nervous Nellie syndrome was well earned from my mom–Nellie. She, too, however, stepped out of her comfort zone many times and I have her to thank over and over again.

 

 

 

 

I used to think

c-mayfly 1

I used to think mayflies emerged only in May.

Maybe I’ve seen them in other months, but I’d never really thought about it. Yesterday this mayfly greeted me in the morning. And in the evening, it was still there. So my May-only theory proved to be wrong.

c-mayfly 2

I used to think they had only one adult form.

c-mayfly molt 1

That all changed this morning when I spotted it again. Only, I also spotted something else an inch or two away. An exoskeleton or exuvia? From a mayfly? It certainly looked mayfly-like with the same narrow and segmented body plus long-tail cerci.

c-mayfly beside molt

When I looked more closely, I realized that the exuvia was about half the size of the true adult form. As for that cloudy-winged specimen I’d spied yesterday–it had been a teenager, aka a subimago. I let the wings trick me because I didn’t know better. Though it looked adult-like, it wasn’t sexually mature yet.

Mayflies are unique in that after the nymph emerges from the water as the subimago (that fishermen call a dun) like yesterday’s model, they seek shelter before shedding their skin for the final transformation. How lucky for me that this dun chose our porch screen on which to rest.

c-mayfly size difference

And so, I was gifted a second opportunity to look. It can take a few minutes to two days before a subimago transforms into a clear-winged imago or spinner, though the actual metamorphosis is quick. I wish I’d seen it, but at least I got to see the end result.

c-mayfly mature 1

I’m not sure my friend appreciated it, but I was glad for our opportunity to spend some time up close and personal.

c-mayfly no mouth part

While in an aquatic form for a year or two, it had done plenty of eating. But as an adult, eating became a thing of its past as it had no functional mouth parts.

c-mayfly eyes 1

It did have plenty of eyes, however. The better to find food when immature and later a mate, I suppose.  Like other flies, its two outer eyes were large and compound.  Between them were three simple eyes (ocelli).

c-mayfly clear wings

The two pairs of triangular wings were held upright like a damselfly, rather than flat like a dragonfly. When I compared yesterday’s opague wings with today’s, the clarity of the new wings defined by dark veins seemed an obvious difference and one I’ll need to pay attention to going forth.

c-mayfly aedeagi at base of abdomen

Male or female? That was the question, but only for a moment. Do you see the aedeagi or penis-like appendages at the tip of the abdomen and below the two cerci (tail-like appendages)? Meet Mr. Mayfly.

c-mayfly bird's eye view1

I know that because mayflies emerge in swarms, they can be a nuisance. But this was only one. And our friendship only lasted for a few hours total–though he spent about 24 hours in the same spot. By noontime he had disappeared–of his own efforts I hope . . . heading off to do some courting. His days are numbered, I know, for his main function is to mate and maybe mate again, before he dies.

But today he served another function as he taught me a lesson. My best learning comes from observation . . . and realizing that what I used to think isn’t always accurate.

My thanks to a mayfly.