Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: See No Weevil

It all started back in April when I found a teeny weevil on a window ledge in the living room. The weevil had ceased to be, but where had it come from? I posted it on Twitter and quickly learned it was a Hollyhock Weevil (Rhopalapion longirostre), which made sense because there are hollyhocks planted right outside the window I found it in. The flowers had been there a few years, sown as part of a fairy garden flower mix, but they didn’t appear to have much wildlife value so their days would be limited once I got around to adding new native plants to that area.

But now I was interested in these flowers I had mostly ignored. The hollyhocks were barely beginning to sprout out of the ground, but over the next few weeks I kept an eye on them as…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: A New Discovery

Once in a while I encounter something in my yard that leaves me completely baffled. I may not be able to identify all the bees, flies or beetles I see, but I usually know that they are bees, flies or beetles. A few days ago, I noticed something that no matter what angle I looked at it from, I just couldn’t figure out even what type of insect it was.

At first glance it looked like a stick insect, but when I looked closer, I could see there were two, a pair mating back to back, attached together. They had long, sender bodies and even longer, more slender legs. Their antennae were also thin and terribly long, ending in little knobs, similar to that of butterflies. Their bodies were brown, but one had a thicker abdomen which had a green underside, and they…

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Book Review: Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or read my writing, you probably have a pretty good idea that I’m a huge bug dork and partial to anything without a backbone. When Norwegian entomologist Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s new book Extraordinary Insects: Weird. Wonderful. Indespensible. The ones who run the world. showed up in my Twitter timeline, I naturally tracked it down and ordered it immediately. It has just been translated into English and published in the UK, the US release comes in July. In Norway, where it was originally published, it has become a best-seller.

The very day the book arrived I began reading it and finished in just a couple of…

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Field Journal: Caddisfly Swarms

There are downsides and upsides to walking the same route with great frequency. Sometimes it can become tedious and feel repetitive, but then there are the times when I get to see things that only happen for a brief time. Yesterday I got to witness something I’d never seen along my walk before, a mass of caddisflies.

I noticed them almost immediately, swarms of small, black insects dancing right on the shoreline over the water. At first I didn’t know what they were, so I went down to the beach and watched them flying around. They were close enough I could reach out and grab them. When I did I found an insect with very long antennae and slender black wings that extended past the abdomen. The eyes were set on the sides of the head, similar to damselflies and they had a…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Sawflies

Being a naturalist often illustrates an interesting phenomenon. When I first learn about something, likes slime molds for example, I suddenly start finding them everywhere. Although it feels like they suddenly started showing up all over, they have, of course, always been there. What’s changed is my observation skills. It’s simply mind-boggling to me how many things I’m sure I still overlook simply because I have not yet noticed, learned or otherwise discovered them.

My backyard presents a more complicated picture though. Because I’ve created habitat where there was once only grass and a deck, new things do arrive regularly. But is the first time I notice them the first time they showed up, or have they been visiting far longer than that? Case and point, this spring I have noticed many different sawflies in my wildlife garden.

Sawflies…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Crane Fly Frenzy

When a crane fly is at rest, you can see how it resembles a crane, the long, elegant legs sit daintily on leaves holding the slender body aloft. But as soon as they take flight the illusion is shattered as their bumbling, clumsy flight is revealed. They don’t so much land on plants, but crash headlong into them.

Over the last few weeks, at the first sign of the awakening insects, I’ve regularly gone out into my wildlife garden with my camera to watch and document who visits. The usual mason bees showed up first followed by some large fuzzy digger bees. (More on the abundance of bees in another diary entry.) But I also began to see crane flies. They’re not new to the garden of course, I’ve seen them in the past, but recently I have seen a lot of them….

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