Thursday, May 7, 2020

The next day (wasp saga Part 2)

This morning, I checked, and the wasp lady was still on the unplugged fountain. I turned on the fountain, and she didn't mind the rushing water at all. When I looked later, she was gone. 

A few minutes, I checked the fountain for fun, and THERE SHE WAS AGAIN, enjoying the water (see video). She's crazy! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Wasp on the fountain

GRAB A TOWEL! After supper, I was filling up bird baths when I noticed something hanging onto the fountain finial. What the heck was it? An umbrella paper wasp, enjoying the water! I took some videos and photos. Then James and I went out to have our evening sit in the Meadow. That was after 6 p.m. 

When we returned after 7:30 p.m., the wasp was still hanging out in the water! Check out the videos. She reminded me of the tumbling flower beetle I discovered doing the same thing last June. So crazy!

Cover photo and feature May 2020

This is one of the biggest highlights of my professional career–having one of my photographs appear on the cover of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. More so because of my deep love for spiders and also because I've written for the magazine for more than 30 years. Don't you love how art director Nathan Adams made my photo of an Argiope aurantia from our yard even more special? 

Here's a link to my article, "In My Backyard: How Planting Natives and  Paying Attention Opened My Eyes To The Universe That Lives In My Yard."

Oh, and here's a fun "behind the scenes" post about how the staff changed up and turned out the May issue so fast because of the pandemic. I helped!
Melissodes bees roosting

My video debut

So our local librarian asked if I'd do a nature-related video for kids during these stay-home days. I agreed. And went all out. I should have kept it simple. Instead, I learned how to use iMovie. I think I put in 8 or more hours producing this 5-minute episode. I haven't been inspired to do another one. Yet. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Milkweed survey 2020

I'm working to get an accurate head count of antelope-horns in the Meadow. I think it's 15.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Right time, right place

Yesterday afternoon, I just happened to step into the Meadow so I could check for critters on a blooming antelope-horn. Look what I found! A gorgeous clearwing moth! Moth, you say? Yes! I shared my find on iNaturalist, where my species count is now up to 935. This is a squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae). I originally IDed it as M. calabaza but was corrected by another iNat user who knows his clearwings. You can compare the two species here and here. The difference is subtle and found in the abdominal segments. "Melittia cucurbitae has a dark olive green second abdominal segement, distinguished from Melittia calabaza, which as some orange on the second abdominal segment," according to

Either way, my veggie garden friends have no use for this insect. That's because, as its common name implies, the larvae bore into squash stems and eat the heck out of them. "I hate those things," Pam says about the ugly caterpillars (see M. cucurbitae larvae here). "I can't grow a decent squash any more." 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


These are crazy times, and yesterday I was feeling a bit on edge. So James herded me into his car, and we headed to our rural land (where we were COMPLETELY alone in the clear open air). It's his favorite place to be. For an hour or more, we walked the trails he's made and listened to the birds. As always, I mostly scanned the ground on the look out for something new. But this time, my "something new" came from a different direction. As we walked beneath a live oak, I noticed a pointy thing dangling in the air from a silken strand. What the heck? I "caught" it and took some photos for James iNaturalist account. How odd! And what a perfectly shaped point! It reminded me of a lizard's tail. James took a video of the larvae when it poked its head out.

Earlier today, a kind iNaturalist user (who's not even from Texas) identified our insect as an octagonal casemaker moth (Homaledra octogonella). According to, the larvae feed on lichens which grow on oaks. If we'd had a magnifying lens, we could have seen the case's eight sides. Amazing!
Can you see the larva's head in this photo?