The Insects Take the Stage!

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub.

“Katy-did,” “No she didn’t,” “Yes, she did.” “No, no, she did not.” Frances the fabulous Ford Focus somehow became involved in the argument, tried to discern what it was all about. It was a simple August argument between a couple of Katydids, that beautiful but illusive green insect found in tall grasses along with crickets, ants, wood frogs and the like. Yes, the insects bask in the warm days of late summer, oblivious to the fact that soon their adult lives will be cut short by a hard frost. Unlike the migratory monarchs or green darner dragonflies, their ilk will not survive, as it’s either move, dig in, or perish. However, their progeny in the form of eggs or larvae will seek safety underground and beneath tree bark, logs, leaves and/or grass for a long bitter six-month hiatus.

Bugs bugging you? Unwilling to use quick chemical cures for many of the nuisances which plague humans during the summer, we continue to explore natural methods of control of pesky critters, especially deer and fruit/vegetable worm pests. After trying eleven different preventatives on deer invaders, the one that appears to be working best for the deer is the one cup milk, one egg, one gallon of water…mixed and sprayed after twenty-four hours. For thirty-six nights, just one doe has entered the large garden near Pumpkin Hill Road, although we also use smudge pots and chimes as additional alternatives.

As to worms in the apples and pears, one will find plastic jugs containing vinegar, a spoiled banana and water hanging from the trees. This remedy worked from July on, but may have caused the deaths of other helpful pollinators. The entry hole must be small enough to keep Luna, Cecropin, Polyphemus moths from entering. However, there exists a beautiful moth which circulates only at night and is attracted to the ‘juice.’ One morning, twenty-five corpses were discovered in the mixture of three-gallon jugs, a moth we’d never encountered before. We believe the insects to be Pink Underwing Moths! Their colors were a drab blah gray outer wings, but with beautiful startling pink secondary wings with black bands and a white fringe. (See photo.) Length of body was about 1.5 inches, with a 3-inch wingspread. Using MINNESOTA SEASON.COM we discovered that the adults don’t eat, rather, lay eggs which overwinter, the eggs become the larval stage, and the larvae eat poplar and willow leaves. Imagine, when life becomes dull for you, the purpose in life for an underwing is to be born, eat, propagate the following summer, and die. How unremarkable. However, both adult, eggs and larvae must be a food source for ‘somebody out there.’ When one ‘squishes’ a larva, what adult might it have become! Anyone know who or what purpose underwing moths may have?

A musician friend from LeSueur was surprised this week when she switched on a rarely used light source in a dark porch area. On the bulb was a chunk of mud! (See photo) Turned out, there was a hole coming from the mud. Our friend had discovered a mud dauber nest in a most unusual spot, and when she removed the bulb, two dead spiders dropped out. Lots of clues as to mud occupant home to this point. The photo shows usual dauber nests found in attics, sewers, out of the way dark places, but this was a wonderful discovery. Readers will recall the common dauber to be steel blue or a mix of blue/black and yellow. The female finds a locale with a nearby mud source, rolls up a ball of mud, and attaches layer after layer to the rafter in an attic, garage, or in this case, the dark hallway light fixture. She then finds a spider or other insect victim, paralyzes it, takes it to its nest, lays an egg on the helpless critter, seals it in, and continues to add ‘cells’ on same structure. The creature then goes through complete metamorphosis…egg, larvae, cocoon, adult. Taa-daa, little dauber! Think of the number of spiders our readers avoid due to the humble dauber!

In that the chimney of the Henderson New Country School appears to be ‘capped,’ along with four main chimneys in LeSueur, swifts have resorted to a single school chimney in LeSueur. The evening of August 30th found a 2020 record of 1,101 coming to ‘roost,’ the previous evenings, 794, 903, 995, 610, 826, 812. Beginning shortly after sunset, and lasting 20 minutes, the marvel begins and ends abruptly in a black tornado of descending gray birds. Observers are welcome by contacting 507.665.2658 after 6:00 p.m. A final note, the Coachlight Trumpeter swans have made themselves scarce since August 28th.
Will they return for a “Goodbye?” Time will tell.
Lots of remarkable events going on underfoot and in the skies. We invite you to remain alert!