Ladybugs – Counting the Spots

We’ve been ‘buttoning up’ the yard in preparation for winter. Lawn furniture has been put under cover, equipment cleaned and stored. I’ve watered in the trees and mulched what is going to get mulched this year. A few bugs are still busy doing fall things too – the most visible are the Bees and the Ladybugs.

Did you know that Ladybugs can have different numbers of spots? Different species of Ladybugs have different numbers of spots. The spots, and the bright body colour can be thought of as their defensive armour – it warns predators that they don’t taste very good.

Ladybugs all dressed in red
Strolling through the flowerbed.
If I were tiny just like you
I’d creep among the flowers too!
Maria Fleming

(To see the photos in a larger size, click on one of them to open a slideshow. To close the slideshow, press your ES-Ca-pay button (or the tiny ‘X’ on the top right of the screen).

Bug Bits
Name: Ladybug
Family:
Coccinellidae
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes:
They are natural enemies of many insects, especially aphids and other sap feeders. A single lady beetle may eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

The Ladybug wears no disguises.
She is just what she advertises.
A speckled spectacle of spring,
A fashion statement on the wing….
A miniature orange kite.
A tiny dot-to-dot delight.
J. Patrick Lewis, “The Little Buggers”

The ladybug’s a beetle.
It’s shaped like a pea.
Its color is a bright red
With lots of spots to see.
Although the name is ladybug
Some ladybugs are men.
So why don’t we say “gentleman bug”
Every now and then?
Author Unknown

How brave a ladybug must be!
Each drop of rain is big as she.
Can you imagine what you’d do,
If raindrops fell as big as you?
Aileen Fisher

White Admiral Butterfly

The Flutter Files
Name: White Admiral Butterfly or possibly Western White Admiral
Species: Limenitis arthemis
Native to: Much of Canada, with the Western White Admiral in Alaska and western Canada
Date Seen: June 2017
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes: Black or deep brown body with wide white band.

Red Lily Beetle Invades Alberta

02-red-lily-beetle1
Red Lily Beetle

I normally do not use pesticides at my place. I’m fairly tolerant of anything Mother Nature invites into my back yard. So, in 2011, when some pretty, bright red, unspotted beetles showed up on my lilies, I welcomed them. There was no question that their intent was to eat the lily leaves, but I had lots of lilies, so I was content to let them graze. I was confident Mother Nature would send in some troops to keep the beetles in check. That was the first year.

The second year, the beetle numbers had multiplied. Their offspring were disgusting, gooey things. By the time my lilies started to bloom, there was not much left of them to bloom. I searched the internet, and discovered unsettling information about this red lily beetle. It is very hardy, isn’t bothered much by chemical warfare, and has no natural enemies in my part of the world.

Many gardeners have apparently torn out their lily beds, rather than try to control the beetle. I decided to embark on a process of elimination, armed with a bucket of soapy water, a pair of forceps, and a stiff sheet of white paper. I started as soon as my lilies poked their heads out of the ground. Every morning I would inspect the leaves carefully. When I found a beetle, I would capture it and throw it in the bucket of soapy water. I’d read that the beetle is a very strong flier, but can’t swim. I have confirmed the swimming part of this information. Not a single one of the beetles survived.

02-lily2
Orange Lily

You are probably wondering what I used the forceps and the paper for. The forceps were very handy for plucking the beetle out of hard to reach places. The paper was to foil one of the beetles other skills – invisibility. When the beetle senses danger, it drops off  the plant onto the ground. It lands on its back, where it lies quite still. The underside of its body is dirt color… so I would position the sheet of paper under the plant so that the beetle would drop on the paper instead of the dirt. The beetle was no longer invisible!

02-red-lily-beetle2During the height of the beetle season, before they started to lay eggs, I increased my lily inspection to two or three times a day. Eventually I ran out of bugs to catch, and I did not see a single one of the disgusting larvae. I was cautiously optimistic that there were no more red lily beetles in my yard – for that year, anyway. I had every reason to expect a glorious display of lily blooms that year. And I would have if the hail hadn’t got them…

The Lily Beetles returned. In the spring of 2015 I gave up the fight. I started to remove all my lilies except one – the White Trumpet Lily.

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White Trumpet Lily

Removing some types of lilies is as difficult a task as removing the Lily Beetle. The orange lilies produce lots of little bulblets that are easy to overlook when the parent bulbs are removed. In other words, the lilies keep coming back, no matter how often I remove them. I’ve given up trying. If the lilies and the lily beetle can reach some sort of détente, who am I to interfere?

Detente – isn’t that what a farmer has with his turkey – until Thanksgiving?
– Ronald Reagan –

Bald-faced Hornet

Alberta
Nest under construction

Alberta

Completed nest

Bug Bits
Common Name: Bald-faced Hornet
Scientific Name: Dolichovespula maculata Linnaeus
Native to: Throughout North America
Date Seen: August 2013
Location: North East of Calgary, Alberta
Notes: This is not a true hornet – it is more closely related to yellow jackets. They have striking black and white markings and are a large size. They kill significant numbers of flies and occasionally yellow jackets. They make large, football-shaped paper nests that can be up to 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter and 23 inches (60 cm) in length. They are aggressive if they feel threatened and will sting repeatedly.

They built this nest in a lilac bush near our house. Fortunately, we were able to coexist without causing each other any harm…

Crane Fly

Bug Bits
Name: Crane Fly
Family: Tipulidae
Native to: Crane Flies are found throughout the world, though individual species may have a limited range.
Date Seen: July 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes: A Crane Fly has a pair of membranous wings, large compound eyes, and very long legs. Many types of Crane Flies do not eat when in their adult stage.

They look like oversized mosquitoes…

Bee Fly – a Pollinator and a Predator

Did you know that over 925,000 species of insects have been identified? Entomologists believe this is only 20% of the total number of insect species in the world. While all insects play in important role in the life cycle of something, the most prolific ones seem to be the ones that are simply a pain to have around. Ants, fleas, hornets, mosquitoes, cockroaches – you can probably add to this list with the ones that invade your home or garden!

Some flies and gnats were sitting on my paper and this disturbed me; I breathed on them to make them go, then blew harder and harder, but it did no good. The tiny beasts lowered their behinds, made themselves heavy, and struggled against the wind until their thin legs were bent. They were absolutely not going to leave the place. They would always find something to get hold of, bracing their heels against a comma or an unevenness in the paper, and they intended to stay exactly where they were until they themselves decided it was the right time to go.
– Knut Hamsun, Hunger –

The Bee Fly is one of those insects that has a good side and a bad side – it is a Pollinator but it is also a Bee Predator.

This Bee Fly was drinking nectar from the flowers of a Spiraea Bush. From a distance, it was just a small black fly. The story changed with the macro lens – two tone wings and big buggy eyes!

Bug Bits
Name:  Bee Fly
Family:  Bombyliidae
Native to:  The Bombyliidae Family of insects are found throughout much of the world. Little is known about them due to lack of research. They are flower pollinators.
Date Seen:  June 2019
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes:  Bee Flies have two membrane-like wings, often with interesting patterns on them. They spread their wings out when they rest. Their bodies are usually covered with fine gray, yellow, brown and/or black hairs. The dark side of it’s life cycle is – bee fly eggs are laid in underground bee nests. The resulting larva feeds on bee stored pollen and also eat bee larvae.

Digital Magic
I ran the Bee Fly through Topaz Studio filters and this is what I got:

Topaz Studio Cartoon Filter
Topaz Studio Kaleidoscope Filter
Topaz Studio Painter filter
Topaz Studio Telb014 filter

What is your tolerance level for insects when a fly lands on your kitchen counter, an ant tries to make off with a crumb from your picnic plate, a mosquito makes a withdrawal from your blood bank or a flea makes your dog itch?

Harvestman – Looks Like a Spider, But Isn’t

We always called these daddy longleg spiders, but they aren’t spiders! Arachnids – yes. Spiders – no. I only figured this out today when I did the research for this post.

They aren’t even the only critters that are called daddy longlegs – cellar spiders and craneflies are called that too.

Bug Bits
Name:  Harvestman
Species:  Phalangium opilio
Native to:  Found in most terrestrial habitats.
Date Seen:  October 2011; August 2013
Location:  North of Calgary, Alberta
Notes:  These arachnids have eight long slender legs and short globular bodies. They don’t have antennae. They don’t spin webs, and they are not venomous.

Anise Swallowtail Butterfly

Bug Bits
Name: Anise Swallowtail Butterfly
Species: Papilio zelicaon
Native to: Western North America
Date Seen: May 2012
Location: Southern Alberta
Notes: A large butterfly – 52 to 80 mm (2.0 to 3.1 in) similar in color to the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly – except quite different when you look more carefully!

Dragonflies and Damselflies – Sky Hunters (Video)

Damselfly
Damselfly
Damselfly
Dragonfly
Dragonfly

Bug Bits
Name: Dragonflies and Damselflies
Order: Odonata
Native to: There are about 50 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Alberta.
Date Seen: 2012 to 2016
Location: Alberta
Notes: Both are long, narrow insects that are brightly coloured. They have small antennae, large eyes, and six legs located near their head. Two pairs of wings comprised of small criss-crossing veins add strength and durability.

Damselflies are small and slender with large separated eyes. Their two pairs of wings are of equal size. They hold their wings over their back when at rest.

Dragonflies are generally larger, and their eyes can be either separated or placed close together. Their hind wings are wider than their front wings. When at rest, they hold their wings outright. Dragonflies live on every continent except Antarctica and about 3012 species of dragonflies were known in 2010.

Have I ever learned a lot about dragonflies since I started writing this post! The first thing I realized was that I had photos of both dragonflies and damselflies! The second thing I learned is that it would take a whole lot more time to figure out what family, let alone species, each of these photos represents.

Here is an excellent YouTube video about Dragonflies.