The name Cicada Killer doesn’t seem quite as scary as Cow Killer. This stunning red and black Dasymutilla occidentalis is rumored to have a sting powerful enough to kill a cow. It will not kill a cow, but hurts really bad for humans. The above photo is a male and they lack stingers.
The females are wingless and pack a potent sting. I did not have that information on the morning I spent watching the drama of their lives play out. The female is also call a Red Velvet Ant and she sure is pretty. The female has a difficult journey. While I watched, she was pursued by many suitors at once. Her goal is to lay her eggs in the Cicada Killers Wasps’ tunnel.
Needless to say, the wasps were not welcoming. It seems like a rough life for the Red Velvet Cow Killer, but as it turns out she has many defense mechanisms and is hardly ever eaten. A study was done and 59 predators were given the chance to eat the Red Velvet Cow Killer and only two succeeded. The Cow Killer is one tough lady and lives up to her name.
These two inch long wasps are scary enough, but the name Cicada Killer makes one think twice about them. They have the less scary proper name of Drimipsis maculata. The giant wasp does kill cicadas, but otherwise ignores humans. I must have dozens of them this year. They fly close to the ground and I can stand among them as the large females circle around.
The calls from cicadas have lessened as the female Cicada Killers collect them to take into the 10 inch tunnels that are being dug in all my beds. Meanwhile, the males fly around and spar with each other and mate with the females.
I have found many more of these sandy nests around the yard this year compared to previous years. A few times I have seen a female go into a tunnel and once saw a wasp dive into the nest with a cicada which they lay their eggs on to feed their larva. While these wasps are pretty chill, I did see one chase a hummingbird away from her territory. Sadly, these big gals only live 60 to 75 days and their only goal in life is to reproduce.
With the help of Shoreacres, Blue Velvet was identified as an Entypus Spider Wasp. Many thanks!
Another update. Theshrubqueen has added that the antennae color is a warning of toxicity. More thanks!
This velvet blue creature with vibrant antenna has been flying around my property for several weeks.
It seems to just fly on some endless mission.
On one day I found the wasp hopping from leaf to leaf and was able to get a photo. It didn’t seem to search for bugs or nectar. I have not been able to identify it and I’m just assuming it is a wasp. I looked through many photos on the internet and I signed up for inaturalist, but had issues getting the photo on the app. Please let me know if you can identify this velvet beauty.
There is no doubt about who ate a hole in the Peace Lily.
This was my lucky day. I was moving a potted plant that had rooted itself to the patio. With a gloved hand, I carefully pulled up each rooted plantlet. When I picked up the pot, I found a familiar critter all cuddled up under the plant. I believe it was the same Copperhead I had seen earlier. How I wasn’t bitten, I’ll never know. I certainly beat the odds once more.
New visitors have come to the garden and they are a family of Orchard Orioles. These birds spend their time in the trees, so I was really lucky to have one land outside my kitchen window. I took the shot with my phone in between the blind slats. It was good enough to Identify the bird as an immature male Orchard Oriole. He was not alone and had sisters and parents with him.
The mature males have a black head and chestnut body and the mature females are yellowish green. The birds are fast moving, but were interested in feeding on the nectar of the Bottle Brush that was blooming near the window. I checked my bird lists from neighboring parks and they were listed as rare and uncommon in this area. They winter in Mexico and Central America. Hopefully, the Orchard Orioles will come back next year to nest.
Meanwhile, all the other baby birds had to come around to see what the fuss was with the Orchard Orioles. Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and Chickadees came to check out the plants for something to eat. The three hummingbirds were getting territorial with the Orchard Orioles drinking their nectar. All of this provided lively entertainment during my lunch.
This cute green snake didn’t find rose thorns a problem, as it wrapped itself on a stem.
I had been picking off some diseased leaves when I noticed the snake, that was well blended in with the stem of the climbing rose. It was very happy to stay still for some photos.
The Automatic Garden always provides new plants, just not where I necessarily want them. I found these Purple Oxalis Triangularis growing in the lawn that had somehow survived many mowings.
The closest Purple Oxalis is growing in pots on the back porch. It is yet another plant mystery of how they ended up quite far from the pots.
I transplanted the newly found Oxalis to the colony that I started in the wooded area. They don’t look so happy now, but the Purple Oxalis bloomed nicely in the early spring. I have the plants protected by broken pots and bricks, as an armadillo has been plowing them up. When the roots get a good grip or the armadillo moves, I’ll remove the barriers.
Spring brings many critters to the garden, which includes snakes. I probably see more snakes in the Spring than any other time. I found a juvenile Rat Snake in the warm stones in the front yard. They eat rodents, lizards or toads, but will climb trees to eat eggs from bird nests. I can always tell when the birds spot a Rat Snake, as they all gather and scream at it. This snake is not venomous to humans, but could bite and pass disease.
These two Ribbon Snakes have paired up for the season. The large one has recently had a feeding. I came across her a few days later and got an eyeful of what exactly she likes to eat. I’m not posting that photo. These snakes are also called garden or green snakes. They are not venomous and eat garden pests.
And now the snake of the bad kind. This is a Copperhead and helps by eating bugs and rodents, but is venomous to humans. Most people live after being bit. This young snake was curled up in my planter. A reminder to look first. I have also found Copperheads to be mostly chill and like to watch whatever I’m doing.
(Sorry about the quality of these photos, as they were snapped quickly with my phone.)
Before I got around to posting this, the young Copperhead (I think it is the same one) decided to visit the back porch. Naturally, it found a nice corner near the door my husband would be coming through soon. My husband, who is not into nature as much as I am, always has these snake encounters and this is the second time one waited for him at the garage door.
Copperheads have a very distinctive Hershey Kiss pattern on their skin.
My tip for making snakes move without hurting them is to gently hose them with water or even throwing bowls of water on them. Unfortunately, this youngster was a bit clueless, as many young are, and came towards me instead of away when I threw water on it.
My husband alerted me to a turtle heading down the driveway towards the street. Not a good plan. I ran out in my PJ’s to perform a turtle rescue.
This Box Turtle is bigger than the last little turtle I found, but not quite full grown. My kids joked that it was a Teenage Mutant Turtle, like the cartoon. I moved the turtle to the backyard and pointed it away from the street and said a another turtle prayer for a safe life.