Orb Weaver sounds like a very mystic name for this giant spider. As usual, I stuck my arm into plants without looking around first and was startled by this very large spider on a very large web. I did some research and found that the nearly 4-inch spiders are nonvenomous and not aggressive. Like all wild creatures, it will bite if provoked.
The Orb Weaver is most active at night. In this photo the spider was preening itself, carefully cleaning each foot.
Enlarge for a better look.
The Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar perfectly bisected a Passion Flower.
I mentioned on a previous post, that I was trying to grow the correct Passion Flower to attract the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly. I finally got it right. Several have arrived.
The Butterflies got to work and laid eggs which have already hatched into a new generation.
Even more exciting, I found five Pipe-vine Swallow Tail caterpillars on my Aristolochia fimbriata.
The nurseryman was correct with his advice that the butterflies would come. The plant is nearly gone, but that was the plan. I collected some of the seeds for next year’s plants and butterflies.
Most consider bugs beastly, especially when they show up in human spaces and mess with our stuff. This creature is over the top. Maybe E.T.’s are what we call bugs.
I was standing on my patio when this insect dropped out of the air onto the arm of a chair. It looked like some kind of grasshopper with prey. I grabbed my cell phone and started snapping. The bug was more interested in lunch than me, so I was able to get a few photos. Once I blew up the picture, the true beast emerged.
I had no idea what this creature was, when it popped up on “pbm garden” blog from North Carolina. She identified it as a Red-footed Cannibal Fly (Promachus rufipes) and I think the name fits it.
I had two previous posts on the killers. The first was on Cicada Killer Wasps that dig tunnels, fill them with Cicadas and lay their eggs on them. There are not many Cicada Killer Wasps (sphecius speciosus) in the yard now, although I saw one working on this hole this morning. The Cow Killer Wasp (Dasymutilla occidentalis) found it.
I caught the female Cow Killer, that is often called a Red Velvet Ant, backing out of the hole where she lays her eggs in the Cicada Killer’s tunnel which hatch first and eat the stored Cicada.
The deed was done and she scurried away.
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 Sphecius speciosus. 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.