Other critters in our garden
Critters that don't neatly fit into one of the other wildlife pages on this
site eventually find their way to this catch-all page. Maybe I'll get more
scientific about it at some point. For now, it's just a showcase for the
marvellously diverse garden lifeforms.
One morning, I lamented to Amy that we hadn't seen praying mantises in our
garden this year. Later that day, while I was out puttering with 2-year-old
Benny, he exclaimed "Look, Papa, a grasshopper!". And sure enough, he had
spotted our first mantis for the year.
Later that day, we'd find another one, most likely a Chinese mantis (Tenodera
...and yet another the next day. This one is most likely a youngster, a molt or
two away from adulthood. At any rate, we hope they enjoy their stay, and make plenty
Wouldn't you know it, once again it's Benny (now age four) who spotted the first
mantis of the year - but he didn't know it was a mantis, because it was so tiny
(no more than half an inch). This
youngster was struggling on the surface of a small tub pond. Not wanting it to
meet with the resident frog's tongue, I rescued it from its predicament. I'm
glad to see they'll be returning this year.|
My first praying mantis sighting in our Houston garden,
this Stagmomantis carolina was perched high up in a Tecomaria
shrub weighting for tasty prey. This species is variable in color, with
some individuals being green or brown, as compared to this one's gray cast.
Compared to the Chinese Tenodera species above, Stagmomantis
have a different shape of the head near the antennae.
Texas, November 2017
We were supposed to witness the massive emergence of periodic 17-year
cicadas this year, but they never hit our area (not surprisingly, I guess,
since our neighborhood was built in the last 17 years). Annual dog-day
cicadas, on the other hand, are reasonably abundant. I encountered the one
in these photos (Tibicen tibicen) on a flowering okra, where I
took the belly shot; it then flew over to a small maple, where I got the
Our garden, like most others around the world, is home to millions of ants.
I'm sure there are many species - little, big, red, brown, black - but they're
usually too busy marching about for me to take their mugshot. This one caught
my attention one summer afternoon by the pond - her compatriots kept crashing off
of the bordering rocks into the water, and struggling their way back out. At
first I thought they were just clumsy, but then I realized that they were probably
drinking, or using the water to cool down. The shiny bands are more noticeable
in the photo than they were with the plain eye.
And what bug page would be complete without everybody's favorite - the charming
earwig? This dandy is most likely a European earwig (Forficula auricularia),
and was one of a pair found hiding in some garden foliage.
Lacewings and co.
We're always happy to see lacewings in the garden. They have a solid reputation
as "good bugs", keeping populations of pest insects under control. Unfortunately,
we don't observe them very often. This is a fairly typical specimen, which happened
to sit down on the vinyl fencing around our veggie garden (which is where we
see them most often, for some reason.
Pennsylvania, June 2007
Another garden, another lacewing, this one with pretty red
cheeks. It is likely Ceraeochrysa valida – it's interesting
how many genera of superficially similar critters exist. This one was clinging
to a rangy specimen of Cuphea viscosissima in full bloom.
Texas, October 2018
This pretty lassy is a brown lacewing (Hemerobiidae family) in its
larval stage. It was sunning itself on some foliage near our patio pond,
no doubt daydreaming of the even greater beauty she'd attain as an adult. If
we meet again after she's finished molting, I'll be sure to snap her picture
Aphids and such
This mass of aphids colored several stalks of a swamp milkweed
entirely in bright cadmium yellow. They are oleander aphids (Aphis nerii);
their bright color serves them well – it warns off predators, informing
them of the toxins they carry in their bodies (which are absorbed from the
plants they feed on).
Another aphid, this one solitary. I had no idea what I
was looking at, even after seeing it in full resolution on my PC screen, but
the friendy folks at Bugguide set me straight. No idea on genus or species,
One summer afternoon, I was about to yank up one of the
hundreds of suckers that the rootstock of our dear weeping cheery sends up,
when I noticed a parade of ants, seemingly taking turns tending to red growths
along the succulent stems. I'm not entirely sure what they are, but one
suggestion is a type of soft-bodied scale insect. Or perhaps they're merely
an alien life form.
One late summer, one of the two live oaks in our small
front yard was covered in white-woolly fluff. Closer inspection showed that
the fluff was produced by greenish aphids, which had completely infested our
tree. These critters are a species of Stegophylla, the oak woolly
aphids. They apparently exude a waxy substance to protect themselves
– which proceeds to attach itself to all objects in the vicinity (like
Amy's car!). Attempts to dislodge them physically, with jets of tap water,
proved unsuccessful, so I eventually resorted to using an insecticide spray
to protect my tree from too much damage.
Texas, September 2019
Eggs and stuff
Wow, it's a Christmas tree in summer! Actually, it's just our maple, which
was attacked quite decoratively by maple gall mites (most likely, Vasates
quadripedes) one year. The red blobs are
galls, out of which baby mites will hatch. I never had the patience to sit and
watch till they did. No sign of galls the next year.
Visitors to this page have left the following comments
|Connie||Apr 01, 2007||I'm looking for pictures of the wildlife which ravage my gardens and for which I have to plant defensively ~ deer, raccoons & porcupines. Are they not a problem in your garden? |
Those we've managed to avoid thus far - it's rabbits, voles, and the odd groundhog that make up the wild mammalian population of our grounds.
|samantha||Mar 31, 2008||wow i love these insects.
they are beautiful!!|
|craig||Oct 14, 2008||thanks, was an interesting page. Im just getting into keeping mantis so it was nice to see some good images|
|jamie||Mar 17, 2009||Wonderful pictures--really great color and so clear!! Thanks for sharing...|
|Richard||Jan 07, 2010||fantastic project you have here rob! it is very inspiring. it makes me want to buy a decent camera and document the insects and so-forth found in my garden (tasmania, australia). i actually found your page looking for a picture of an earwig - i had the interesting experience this morning of getting out of the shower and while putting my boxer shorts on noticed something in them out of the corner of my eye. turns out it was an earwig - and a huge one!! i'm using the picture on your site to show to my work colleges that have never seen one before. cheers!|
|Andrea||Nov 02, 2019||I am not into insects but how you took the pictures I amaze me, with the help of you detailed information it gives a clear message to your readers.|
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December 14, 2020