End of Season Bugs

Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetle

Although I went birding this morning, it was the bugs today that stole the show. The temperature reached an unseasonable 18°C, and with the sun shining brightly until about mid-afternoon, this was probably the last nice day of the year. We haven’t had any hard frosts yet, so a lot of insects were on the wing today. I overslept, so I skipped my usual walk at the storm water ponds and headed out to Old Quarry Trail around 9:00 to search for Black-backed Woodpeckers. I didn’t find any, although I was happy to find a Pileated Woodpecker and a couple of Fox Sparrows deep in the woods. This is one of my favourite sparrows, with its rusty red spots on its chest and red face and back.

I also found a singing male Purple Finch at the boardwalk and saw an accipiter fly over – it seemed small, so perhaps it was the same Sharp-shinned Hawk I saw last week. There were still several Golden-crowned Kinglets around, and I heard one or two Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well.

I spent a little bit of time in the field south of the main trail and saw a bright yellow butterfly fly by, likely a Clouded Sulphur. It didn’t land, however, so I wasn’t able to get any photos. I saw only two dragonflies on my walk, both likely Autumn Meadowhawks. The one in the marsh didn’t let me get close enough to see the yellow legs, while this one in an open area landed on a leaf almost right in front of me. Given the rainy, cool forecast for the week ahead, with temperatures remaining in the single digits, this might be my last dragonfly of the season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

I spent the early afternoon cleaning up around the backyard and preparing my garden for the winter. I cleared out the annuals from my containers and dumped the soil into the back garden, then brought in about half a bag of leaves from the front yard to provide protection for any overwintering insects and insulation for my new shrub and perennials. I also cut back my asters and coneflowers, which have long gone to seed, and placed them on top of the garden in case any birds were interested in eating them, such as the four Dark-eyed Juncos in the yard today. I hope they stick around for the winter, as they have done for the last two or three.

Given the warmth of the day I wasn’t surprised to see several lady beetles flying around. When one landed on my blue Victoria Salvia I had to stop and photograph it. Surprisingly the salvia is still in full bloom, as are the pink impatiens in the front yard.

Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetle

The Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetle is one of the most invasive species introduced to combat pests such as aphids. One of the larger lady beetles, it became established in the southern United States in 1991, and was first discovered in Ontario in 1994. It can be red or orange or any shade in between, with many spots or no spots at all; the best way to identify them is the chiefly white pronotum (the structure behind the head) with a dark M-shaped mark. Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetles are extremely common, and even make the news when they congregate in huge numbers in houses or in natural sheltered spots where they prepare to spend the winter.

Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetle

Still, I am always happy to see them in my yard, as they feed on aphids and I always have high numbers of aphids on my viburnum bush every summer.

Asian Multicoloured Lady Beetle

I was also happy to see a few bees gathering pollen from the late-blooming Blue Victoria salvia flowers, aka Mealycup Sage. They all appeared to be honey bees, another non-native species. It was great to see these small pollinators feeding on the flowers, as pollinators have been declining in Ontario in recent years – particularly native bees.

Honey Bee

I was also pleased to see that my salvia plant was still attracting insects. I left it alone, as it will continue to bloom and provide food until we get a real frost. Food can be difficult for insects to find this late in the year, as so many plants have already stopped blooming. This is particularly true for the Monarch butterfly – several are still being seen in Ontario, and experts are worried that they may not be able to migrate all the way to Mexico once the temperature drops.

Honey Bee

After finishing up with the garden, I went to clean my birdbath and noticed a small lady beetle trundling around the edge. It looked smaller than the Asian lady beetles, and was more of a coppery colour. The pattern was also quite different, so I took a few photos.

Variegated Lady Beetle (Hippodamia variegata)

It was identified for me as a Variegated Lady Beetle (Hippodamia variegata), a non-native species that is native to Europe and was first reported from North America in Quebec in 1987. The elytra and generally orange to red, with anywhere between 0 to 12 discal spots. The pronotum has a white border on three of its sides (the front and sides) with a raised margin on the edge attaching to the body. The pronotum also contains two isolated white spots.

Variegated Lady Beetle (Hippodamia variegata)

Variegated Lady Beetle (Hippodamia variegata)

Although non-native, it was a new bug for me and I was happy to have it in my yard. Insect season is winding down, and it is only a matter of weeks before they disappear with the first hard frost of the season. Until then, I hope they enjoy the food provided the still-blooming Blue Victoria salvia flowers.

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