The “Panda” Factor

Insect ladybug

My son calls it “the deadly cuteness”…when a creature is totally irresistible- like a panda. To me, a ladybug is the ‘panda’ of the beetle family. If you think there is a cuter beetle, please let me know. One ladybug can eat more than 50 aphids in a day and more than 5000 in a lifetime! They also eat scale insects and plant mites so they are very popular with gardeners. During the Middle Ages, insects were destroying crops. Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Ladybugs came to their rescue. The farmers called them “The Beetles of Our Lady” and their current names evolved from there.  The rest of the English-speaking world calls them ladybirds. FYI, boy ladybugs are called ladybugs also.

Wild Lettuce may really be “wild”!

flower wild lettuce 1

I tried eating the leaves of Wild Lettuce and wondered why it was named wild lettuce since it didn’t taste like anything you’d want to include in a salad. But because it is pretty easy to recognize, I thought I’d share a photo or two. Then I Googled it. Now I know why Wild Lettuce is called “wild”!  Another name for it is Opium Lettuce! Since you’re supposed to swear you are over 18 to get necessary details, I will leave further research to you other than to say I learned that some Indians use the herb to enhance the vividness of dreams. They believe that induced dream states provide more information about reality than the conscious waking state.

flower wild lettuce 2

It’s a tall, sturdy plant with cool seeds. Both the flowers and the seeds look like they belong on a dandelion. So they must be related.

Another lovely invasive!

Flower yellow flag iris

This is the invasive yellow flag iris. The blue flag iris is not an invasive.  But I can’t find the one or two that have sometimes bloomed down in the marsh. The yellow flags have totally taken over the pond and marsh since John stopped mowing down there. I hate to say how lovely and cheerful they are. Since it would take me more than a lifetime to pull them up I will just have to enjoy them…

The deadly cuteness of invasives


Some invasives are really hard to hate. Japanese honeysuckle is lovely to look at, lasts for awhile in a vase and it’s fun to show kids how to suck the juice out of it.  Exotic honeysuckle replace native forest shrubs and herbaceous plants by their invasive nature and early leaf-out. They shade out herbaceous ground cover and deplete soil moisture. Seeds are readily dispersed by birds. Some research suggests that the plant inhibits the growth of other plants in its vicinity.

flower multiflora

What rose has more blossoms tumbling down in joyful waterfalls than the multiflora rose?

Native To: Eastern Asia (Amrine 2002)

Date of U.S. Introduction: Late 1700s (Amrine 2002)

Means of Introduction: Cultivated as an ornamental, for erosion control, and as a living fence (Amrine 2002)

Impact: Forms dense thickets that invade pastures and crowd out native species (Munger 2002)

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Life and death at my mailbox!

Insect bumble2

When I arrived at my mailbox around 11:45 AM a little spider appeared to be in control of a bumblebee that looked like it was at least 10 times bigger than the spider. I have no idea how the spider caught the bee in its web.

insect bumble3

The spider was twirling the bee, rapidly wrapping it in silk.

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But the bee was pretty big and managed to pull itself up onto the mailbox.

insect bumble6

Unfortunately (for the bee) the plastic mailbox was slippery.  The bee found a hole and grabbed it with one leg. It struggled to extricate itself from the web but the plastic provided no additional foothold. The poor bee would struggle, rest and struggle again.  I assumed the bee would eventually escape. How could the spider’s web possibly hold such a gigantic bee? I had lunch and returned to check on the action.

Insect bumble8

The bee had fallen down again. It was too dark under the box to get a photo of the spider but it looked like the spider was doing something to the bee’s abdomen, probably pumping it full of more venom.

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The bee tried to pull itself up onto the slippery mailbox again. I was rooting for the bee and had to stop watching for awhile.

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Half an hour later when I checked at 1:15 PM it was over.  The bee’s legs were immobilized. I couldn’t find the spider. I assume it was off inviting relatives to the feast.