Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rabbits, Mantises, Stick Bugs

It’s been too long since my last post but I have a great excuse! We went on a 6 week journey of discovery this June from Ontario to British Columbia. We drove 12,000 kms, towing a trailer and along the way visited 9 National Parks and 7 Provincial Parks. We camped in most of these plus private campgrounds. We were overwhelmed by the beauty and diversity of our natural heritage. Since we drove to Nova Scotia for Easter, we have in fact crossed Canada from coast to coast this year, dipping our toes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. More on this journey later when I’ve sorted through the 1000-plus photos...

During our travels, back home summer had arrived; birds and other species of wild things mated and produced offspring that now grace us with their sweetness. I’ve delayed posting and instead have been busy enjoying every moment that I can outside, tending the garden but mostly exploring and making new discoveries each day. Reading a book while lazing under a shade tree, in a cozy Mayan Hammock Chair from the Yucatan peninsula, has also been a favorite lately when the temperature has soared to 39C (feeling much hotter with the high humidity!).
After an absence of 2 years, wild cottontail rabbits are back in the yard. Each morning and late afternoon a young one or an adult is seen nibbling on fresh grasses or the prolific clover growing in the “lawn” (our lawn is mostly mown weeds, dandelions and clover). The adults have a white spot between the eyes and so do the adorable young.

Recently Wild Turkey hens and their offspring have made an appearance in the surrounding fields. The chicks are now the size of small roasting chickens, the tips of their heads barely visible in the hayfield. The hens are huge and watchful, herding the flock when danger arises. The local coyotes would love to get their jaws on the little ones!
Fireflies appear to have been replaced by other species just now, but in July it was wonderful to watch the twinkling lights in the warm velvety black nights. Since we don’t use chemicals on our property, we have a huge diversity of insects which in turn has sustained many other species who feed on them.  Some of my favorite bugs are the Praying Mantis and the Northern Walking Stick (Diapheromera femorata).

The Walking Stick eats the foliage of deciduous trees and it is the only native “stick bug” species in Canada.  The males have a slightly smaller body at @ 3 inches and females @ 3.75 inches. The males are brown and females greenish brown. I’ve seen a few that are bright green and some with green legs with brown body. The antennae are 2/3 the length of the body. The females lay eggs in leaf litter where they overwinter and hatch in the spring. The adult insects only live 2-3 months. They blend right in with the plants they feed on.
One morning I was fortunate to witness a pair mating on the outside of a picture window facing southeast where I could take a photo from inside the house. They appear to be locked in a dance
move....the dance of life!

"the dance of life"

The Praying Mantis is a beautiful bright green shade with winds folded back and front legs folded in a “praying” stance. It has large compound eyes giving the head an “alien” appearance. It is well-camouflaged in the foliage where it waits in ambush for its insect prey. I love these large predators as they help keep insect pests under control. Mantises, like the Walking Stick show rocking behavior in which the insect makes rhythmic, repetitive side-to-side movements. This could be to aid their camouflage by imitating the movement of foliage swaying in the wind but it is not known for sure why they do this. After mating the female lays an egg mass attached to vegetation and the eggs hatch in late spring or early summer. Like stick bugs, the adults die in the cold winter.  
Last summer, a pretty Orb Spider built a large sturdy web near our front door. I left it undisturbed and the spider thrived all summer, shedding its exoskeleton several times as it grew larger. One morning, I noticed it had captured a small Mantis and wrapped it in silk. It hung it on the web, a future snack in waiting. Amazing what you can observe if you leave things be and not sweep them all away to keep things tidy. There is beauty and drama in a spider’s web.

Enjoy the warm summer days!

1 comment:

  1. I love your dancing stick bugs and lounging rabbit.