Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dead bees

Yesterday afternoon, we were about to leave for my Texas Master Naturalist holiday party when I noticed a dead bee (Apis sp.) on the driveway. Then another one...and another one....and another one...They were EVERYWHERE on the driveway! I hurriedly went back in the house for my camera. While I snapped some photos, James collected two dozen or so in a plastic container. I've contacted a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. We'd like to ship the specimens to someone who'd be interested in studying them.

And yes, there is an active "hive" in a large branch of one of our huge live oaks in the front yard. I walked over and looked up. I did see a bee or two buzz in and out of the hole but not many. This is the first time we've observed this many bee deaths at one time. The weather yesterday was sunny and warm in the 80s. They seemingly just fell from the sky.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New milkweed species

I snuck outside awhile ago and was on my way to check out bluebonnets in the Meadow when I saw this leggy plant on our neighbor's side of the property. Looked like a WEED. When I leaned over, I saw the fluffy seed pods. Hmm, must be a purple milkweed vine nearby, I thought. THEN I saw the pod ON THE PLANT! A new-to-me milkweed species! AWESOME!

Drum roll, please...this is a zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides). According to Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, the perennial species "is one of the more weedy-looking milkweeds." Which explains my initial reaction when I saw it. Sure wish I could have seen the blooms. I LOVE milkweed flowers.   


Our native plant friends Linda and Ron sent me this photo of a milkweed they found on their friends' property east of's a Asclepias oenotheroides! Complete with blooms. Awesome! Thank you! (Photo taken Oct. 10, 2013)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Well, not quite

"The report of my death was an exaggeration." --Mark Twain
Imagine my surprise yesterday when I spotted my aging argiope friend STILL ALIVE! "Oh, my goodness, I'm SO sorry," I told her. "I told everyone that you'd died!"

Not only is she still with us, but she appears to be putting on more weight. Again. Another egg sac perhaps? Surely, she'd set a record for one argiope season if that happened. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

End of a productive life

My spider lady passed during the night. I knew her time was short. She'd stopped spinning a stabilimentum (zig zag) within her web. Then last night I saw her just clinging to what remained of her web. The temps were cold so instead of going outside, I opened my office window and shot a few last images of her. Sure enough, this morning, she was gone. 

While outside tending bird feeders, I stopped by and searched the salvia and lantana foliage beneath where she'd hung. But I found nothing. Except for her four egg sacs, tributes to a productive spider life indeed. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall butterflies

Number FOUR!

YES–our argiope mama laid her fourth egg sac! But this time, she chose a bit better location. Instead of attaching it to the side of our house (like the other three), she constructed her sac underneath the nearby bird bath. This egg sac should be the final one for her.  

Didn't take James long to find egg sac #4.