Garden Critters

My garden continues to host a number of fascinating insects, arachnids, birds and mammals. The blossoming flowers attract many of the insects; Columbine, Veronica, Cleome, and Morning Glories are all in bloom, as are the petunias (right) that I bought in the spring. My bird feeder draws the birds and mammals, mostly chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, squirrels and chipmunks. One night, however, I heard noises from the back garden and when I shone my flashlight into the darkness I saw two raccoons scrambling to climb up the fence! They had knocked over my small birdbath, so I’m not sure if they were after something to drink or just mischief in general. One seemed a bit smaller than the other, perhaps one of this year’s young, and after they climbed the fence they disappeared. I didn’t get any photos, but here are some of the other critters that have visited my garden in early July.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a Goldenrod Crab Spider sitting on a Bee Balm leaf. When she disappeared two days later, I thought she was gone for good. However, about a week later I discovered her on one of my columbine blossoms…which makes for a MUCH prettier background!

Goldenrod Crab Spider

There are still lots of stink bugs lurking in the columbine as well. I think they are quite lovely with their red and black markings.

Mating Two-spotted Stink Bugs

Here is another stink bug all by himself. I think I counted about 15 altogether:

Two-spotted Stink Bug

While scanning my flowers for other bugs, I came across this unusual stink bug. It is one of the predatory stink bugs, which feed on caterpillars or beetle larvae; as such, it is a welcome visitor!

Predatory Stink Bug

Another pretty insect that I found in my columbine is this Tarnished Plant Bug. It was really tiny and difficult to photograph. While quite beautiful, the Tarnished Plant Bug is among the most damaging of the true bugs and is known to transmit plant diseases. It attacks a wide variety of herbaceous plants, vegetable crops, commercial flower plants, and fruit trees. Principal hosts are apples, carrots, cherries, peaches, pears, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, corn, cucumber, lettuce, onion, parsley, pea, spinach, asters, chrysanthemums, dahlias, impatiens, and marigolds. In fact, over half of the cultivated plant species grown in the United States are listed as host plants for this insect!

Tarnished Plant Bug

While the predatory stink bug may feed on caterpillars, I don’t think he would have gone after this one! I found this beautiful caterpillar in my viburnum shrub quite by chance. It was as large as my thumb and is likely one of the sphinx moth caterpillars.

Mystery Caterpillar

This is the head of the caterpillar, busy devouring my viburnum leaves. You can see the three pairs of true legs as well in this photo. Caterpillars have three pairs of true legs attached under the thorax. The true legs are jointed, and will eventually be transformed into the legs of the moth. They may also have up to five pairs of prolegs. The prolegs are not segmented, but are cylindrical. They are used for walking and clinging, but will disappear during metamorphosis.

Mystery Caterpillar

When I went back to check on the caterpillar an hour or so later, he had moved onto another branch of the viburnum and was still busy munching away. When I checked again one last time at the end of the evening, he was gone. Despite careful searching the following morning I couldn’t locate him. I would have loved to have seen him create a cocoon and emerge as a moth.

Mystery Caterpillar

Chipmunks have been busy collecting seed beneath my feeder. At one time I saw three of them in my yard, which is the most I’ve ever seen at once. One of them has taken to leaping onto the tray of my birdfeeder and cleaning it out!

Chipmunk

Sometimes I put some bird seed down on the borders of my garden for them to take. They are always quick to find the treats I leave them!

Chipmunk

If it’s not the chipmunks in my feeder, it’s the squirrels! I have noticed up to five black squirrels and one gray squirrel in my yard some mornings. I don’t have any means of keeping them out of my feeder, so it’s always a delight to see birds at the feeder instead. This cardinal came to the feeder while I was sitting outside enjoying my lunch.

Northern Cardinal

Although I have only a small backyard, with nothing but houses surrounding me, it’s fascinating to see all the different creatures that come to my yard. I enjoy taking my camera with me while I poke around the garden to see what’s around; this time of year there’s just so much life and colour that I always find something interesting to photograph!

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