Thursday, June 24, 2021

Mealybugs NOT

Mystery on Wes' plant

"Do you have any idea of what's growing on this plant?" my neighbor Wesley M. messaged the other day.

I peered at the photo he sent. "I think they're mealybugs," I replied. "We've got them on a lot of plants, too."

NOT, Sheryl.

Of course, I had to go out and double check. I didn't want to spread inaccurate information. In our yard, I'd seen a LOT of white stuff on different plants the past few weeks. Just mealybugs, I thought to myself. But just because I assumed they were mealybugs didn't mean that they were. 

 And they WEREN'T.

When I touched one, it HOPPED off! Say WHAT?!

Good ol' iNaturalist helped me out when I posted an observation. "Possibly citrus flatid planthopper or some sort of planthopper / treehopper / leafhopper nymph in their early instars," kip_lary wrote. 

That's IT!

Citrus flatid planthoppers (Metcalfa pruinosa) gets their common name from the fact that they're often found on citrus plants. Metcalfa pruinosa is the only species of its Metcalfa genus that occurs in Texas. In August 2018, I found an adult in our yard. This year, we have more white fluff on plants than I remember in the past. Are they hurting the plants? No, according to what I read.

And in my feeble defense, the white, waxy material made by these bug nymphs are often mistaken for mealybugs. Cottony-cushion scale, too.

Adult 2018

In our yard, I found them on Engelmann daisies, 'Eyelash' salvia, Texas nightshade and Mexican hats, to name only a few examples.

"Infestations originate from an adult that lays its eggs inside the stems of host plants the year before," Mike Merchant states in "Insects in the City. "Nymphs hatch in March-April and take close to two months to develop. There is reportedly only one generation per year, and adults are most commonly seen now, in June.  

Those filaments

While I was photographing planthoppers, this little guy would move away from his/her bare perch on a Mexican hat stem, then slide back onto it. I couldn't get a good photo of the behavior so I shot this short video. Funny! P.S. THANK YOU, Wes, for asking the question!

Monday, June 21, 2021

I'll have a four o'clock, please

In October 2013, I spotted a new-to-me native growing on city easement on the west side of our property. It was a narrowleaf four o'clock (Mirabilis linearis). Lo and behold, two years later the species volunteered in a back yard bed! I was happy.... But not so much now. LOL! This species RESEEDS like crazy! 

Anyway, I was collecting seeds yesterday for the LBJ Wildflower Center and spied this teeny tiny little bug nymph on a four o'clock flower. I ran for my macro lens that fits my iPhone. iNaturalist identified it to genus: Catorhintha. I looked the genus up on and saw photos of similar bugs also feeding on Mirabilis (four o'clocks). So this genus must largely just occur on four o'clocks. How cool is that?!

An older Catorhintha sp. nymph


Friday, June 18, 2021

Me and the fluff

This is my life after supper these days .... separating antelope-horn seeds from the fluff and trying to keep the mosquitos away by swinging at the same time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Milkweed seed harvest underway

This spring/summer season has to be THE best yet for antelope-horns (Asclepias asperula) seed production in our Meadow! The pods are long and robust. I can't even begin to bag all of them, but I'm doing my best. The gauze bags keep the hungry milkbugs out and the seeds contained when the pods bust open. All I do is clip the stem when I'm ready to harvest. Then I sort the seeds from the fluff while the pod's still inside the bag. Very therapeutic! (Thank goodness our neighbors "get" me!)

UPDATE JULY 21, 2021

I harvested a bagful of seed!

Garden club visit

Last Friday, members of the Rock 'n Oaks Garden Club from Hollywood Park (San Antonio) toured our gardens. What a great time! James and I got to see our friends Shirley Fox (third from left, blue shirt) and Melody McMahon (second from right) again. They came to our 2016 Garden Gala and brought us plants. I showed Melody the heartleaf hibiscus and swanflower combo that she gave us. Shirley has a blog, too: Rock-Oak-Deer: Gardening and living in beautiful San Antonio. I've also given presentations, both in person and via Zoom, to this group.

As you can see, Ms. Prima Donna, our snowshoe calico, was the star attraction. It was a fun, fun morning! Thank you for coming, ladies! Looking forward to your fall visit.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Artsy grasshoppers

Last week, we visited Mineral Wells. While at the Mineral Wells Fossil Park, I noticed these grasshoppers hanging out in the center of some Texas dandelions. How pretty, I thought. Plus, I've never seen grasshoppers just sit in flowers before. So, of course, I had to get some photos.

Turkey vulture

A while ago, I happened to notice a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) in the back yard so I ran for my digital camera with a long lens. The vulture flew down to the ground, then returned to the live oak limb. I was curious to see if it found anything dead. Just yesterday, I noticed that stinky "dead" smell in the same area but hadn't see anything. 

Can you imagine the AMAZING sense of smell that these birds have? To detect and smell odors from the lofty distances where they soar? While I was watching this one, a second vulture flew over but didn't land. 

Finally, this one flew over to our neighbors' property and walked around in the grass. It didn't like me getting closer so it took off.