Many people mistakenly think the Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe) is actually a tiny hummingbird. It is easy to understand why. These moths feed on many of the same flowers (they love lilacs and roses) and are extremely fast. Their clear wings typically create a blur of activity as this moth darts from flower to flower.
Those aren't feathers!
The body of the hummingbird clearwing moth is covered with hair. In the one above, the hairs look similar to a bubble bee with both yellow-orange and black. Some hummingbird moths have bands of colors, but the clearwing moth in Maine is commonly yellow and black. Although you typically cannot see the markings on the wings, you can see in the photo above that they are edged in golden or rusty browns to nearly black. They create the illusion of beautiful stained glass. Tufts of hairs at the end of the clearwing hummingbird moth's body resemble the tail feathers of a hummingbird.
What is that coiled tube, anyway?
The proboscis is the coiled feeding tube that the moth (or other insects) uses to drink the nectar from the flowers. Many people do not realize that the proboscis also contains the trachea so the moth can breathe. If you look closely in the photo of the hummingbird moth sipping nectar from the lilac, you can see his proboscis entering the center of the lilac flower. The moth straightens the proboscis when he eats, but it remains in a coil when he is not feeding.
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Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
If you grew up in the state of Maine, you probably know these flowers as Stinking Benjamins. It is easy to understand the "stinking" portion of the name, as this trillium emits the odor of rotting carrion to attract the flies it needs for pollination. However, I have often wondered how it got the name Benjamin. Like many words in the English language it comes to use via a corruption of an ancient word. It appears that Benjoin was the name of an ingredient taken from flowers in Sumatra that was used to make perfume. Hence the name Stinking Benjamin was attributed to this lovely flower. In some locations Stinking Benjamin applies to other trilliums, too, but in my part of Maine we reserve the name for the red trillium.
The red trillium (Trillium erectus) is also known as purple trillium or wake-robin. The name wake-robin may be derived from either the fact that the trillium blooms at about the same time robins return, or may be named after similar European flower. Native Americans referred to it as birthwort or birthroot, as it was used to induce labor and treat female problems.
You may have called these delightful trilliums white trilliums, but that really isn't accurate. White trilliums are pure white with no traces of red or purple in the center. This lovely flower is actually a painted trillium (Trillium undulatum). True white trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) can be found in Maine but are more commonly found in Canada.
Trilliums belong to the lily family and reproduce via underground rhizomes, a thickened root similar to a bulb.
If you would like to add trilliums to your wildflower garden, you can purchase a collection of red, yellow and white trilliums through Direct Gardening. Each collection contains one each of the red, yellow and white trillium for under $12. They are hardy in zones 4 through 8.
I hope you enjoyed today's photos and the information about the Trillium. If you are enjoying my blog, please feel free to share it with your family and friends.
Until next time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
If you grow lupines in your garden or have them growing nearby, you may have noticed clusters of fuzzy, grayish-blue bugs on the stems in early spring. You may have also noticed ladybugs on your lupines. The bluish-gray bugs are lupine aphids. While lupines are their primary host, they will sometimes infest other plants as well. I spotted several "weeds" along the side of the road loaded with lupine aphids a few days ago. Fortunately, they have no found their way to my garden bed, but they are on an adjacent property.
If you are wondering why the ladybug is hanging out, you might be surprised to learn that she is after a tasty meal. Ladybugs devour aphids and keep coming back for more.
Are lupine aphids harmful?
The lupine aphids pictured above cover the stems of the lupine plants and suck the juice from the plant. If the infestation is severe, they will damage or kill the plant. They may also inject a virus into the stem that will cause your lupines to wilt. If infestations are light, you may not see damage in your lupines. The aphids hang around, even after the blooms are gone, and feed on the lupine plant until midsummer. When the population gets too great, they will develop wings and fly to a new host plant. Typically, aphids are in flight in late summer or early fall in my area of Maine.
Ladybugs to the Rescue!
If you want to get rid of lupine aphids, try ordering ladybugs and letting them loose near the lupine plants. You can purchase 1500 ladybugs on Amazon or a similar site for under $10.00. To encourage the ladybugs to stick around, consider purchasing Duncraft's Ladybug house and place a small sponge soaked in sugar water inside the house to attract the ladybugs. This convenient little house provides shelter for the ladybugs and even gives them a place to overwinter when cool weather arrives.
I hope you enjoyed the photos of ladybugs and aphids on lupines today and found the information useful.
Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
If you live in a rural area, you've probably seen these raindrop-covered webs on your lawn in the summer. In fact, when the weather is warm, you don't even need rain, as dewdrops cling to the silky webs. The photo above was taken after a rainstorm and gives a close-up view of what the raindrops look like to the spider.
The spiderwebs you see on the lawn probably look a lot like the picture above. That's what it looked like on my lawn before I got down to get a few close-up shots.
Those webs have spiders?
If you are anything like me, you just might have grown up thinking the webs magically appeared in the night, but there weren't any real spiders in them. That's what my mother told me and I believed her. I'm not sure if she believed that or if it was her way of preventing me from worrying about spiders in the grass.
Earlier this year, I read that grass spiders make these little webs. The web is lacy and has a funnel where the itsy-bitsy spider hides out until his prey comes along. You can see the spider above inside the mouth of the tunnel. But, that is no ordinary grass spider.
I had a little difficulty researching it, but finally came to the conclusion that it is probably a variety of the Hacklemesh Weaver (Amaurobius ferox). Although I can't find an image that matches the one above, the description of the web fits and the description of the spider is very similar. If you know of another classification that fits this little spider, please let me know.
How big are those spiders?
He looks huge in the picture, but bear in mind that several of the tiny raindrops can fit on a blade of grass. To put the size of the spider into perspective, take a look at the blades of grass in this photo. They are ordinary blades of grass found on the lawn (not the large blades found along the road or in unmowed areas). The spider was barely noticeably to the naked eye.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and info about these little spiders and the webs they make. Don't forget to share my blog with your friends!
Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium sp) bloom in Maine in late May through June, depending on the location. The most common lady's slipper is the pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule). Ironically, the pink lady's slipper can be either pink or white. Both colors are typically found together with many variations ranging from pure white and pale pastels to deep pink. These delicate flowers are actually wild orchids.
Are Lady's Slippers an Endangered Species?
Contrary to public opinion, the flower is not an endangered species in Maine and is not under protective status. That being said, the Lady’s Slipper takes years to grow and has very specific growing requirements. Digging them up and transplanting them to your yard typically results in the plants dying off. For this reason, it is best to leave them where they are and return in the spring to enjoy their beauty. These flowers are at risk of becoming endangered due to loss of habitat and attempts to transplant them.
Legend of the Lady's Slipper
According to Native American Legend, a great disease struck the members of a village during a cold winter. Due to not having shoes, travelling in the winter was very rare, but the chief sent out a messenger to seek medicine for the dying tribe members. The messenger was soon struck ill and lay dying when his young wife took it upon herself to race across the frozen land to retrieve medicine to save her husband.
The snow and ice froze the poor young bride’s feet and she was found with them swollen and bleeding, but she was carried home to the warmth and safety of the tribe. Her feet were bandaged with deer skins and the medicine was used to save the dying people. When she died her bandaged feet turned into the delicate flowers known as the Lady’s Slipper. These flowers are also called moccasin flowers or pink moccasin flowers.
Lady's Slippers or Dancing Ladies?
While the profile of these flowers does indeed resemble a lady’s slipper, I think they look like tiny dancing ladies when viewed from the front. I can only imagine the magical performance these beautiful ladies put on when the moonlight drifts into the forest on warm summer nights.
If you are interested in seeing Lady's Slippers in the wild, take a walk through areas of mixed softwood and hardwood and observe openings that receive dappled or partial sun during the day. They are often found along the edges of old woods trails or cuttings or in gaps between stands of trees. Look for the presence of moss, as lady's slippers prefer acidic soil.
Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
I discovered these adorable little flowers a couple of weeks ago. They were (are) growing in a partially shaded area underneath beech trees. I had never seen them before and assumed they were some sort of Maine wildflower. With a little research, I have come to the conclusion that they are Veronica chamaedrys L., commonly known as germander speedwell or bird's eye speedwell. In Italy, they are referred to as St Mary's Eyes. According to the Connecticut Botanical Society, they grow to heights of 4 to 12 inches and bloom from May to July..
The tiny flowers are slightly larger than a violet and are striking shade of blue. They are not native to Maine and were introduced from Europe or Asia. I found them growing wild near the edges of an old dirt road. There is no homestead nearby, so I'm not sure how they got there.
A return visit to the site revealed a sprawling cluster of the these dainty little flowers. I am seriously considering digging up a small section to introduce them to my flower garden or backyard. My research confirmed that they should be lifted and divided every few years to keep them healthy and productive.
If you notice a splash of blue when you are out and about in the Maine woods,don't assume what you are seeing are violets. Take a moment to stop and explore and get a closeup view of these little beauties.
Until Next Time . . HAPPY GARDENING!
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