May was mostly warm & dry, finishing a few degrees above normal and with only about 2/3 normal rainfall (most of which fell early in the month). Obscured in the warm average was the major cold snap mid-month, in which we suffered three nights of frost and much of the northern half of Missouri set record lows. Last May was quite different, logging an awful 12″ of rain and more moderate temperatures. Compared to that, we’ll take the overly dry conditions, but it’s still of great concern that we’ve had below-average rainfall every month since October (save April). There’s just no pleasing farmers in a Missouri May.
Mosquitoes were especially bad late in the month, we think because the lack of rain has preserved lots of isolated breeding pools in our dry stream that would normally be flushed out by rainfall. Wasps, too, have been just everywhere, starting nests in more places that we can remember experiencing, even in some of the harvest containers in the packing barn and under the handle of the greenhouse door! On the bright side, ticks were notably less prolific than in 2013.
While we didn’t suffer much produce damage from the mid-May frosts, we have seen serious impacts on both wild and domestic fruit, in combination with the mid-April freeze that went down to 27ºF. Our apple & pear trees, which were covered in buds, have almost no fruit. The wild black raspberries, also loaded with blossoms, are pretty empty as well. If we hadn’t covered the strawberries thoroughly, no one would be enjoying the abundant yields we’re now getting.
At left, Eastern Phoebe babies in their nest, just a day from fledging. At right, an Indigo Bunting nest parasitized with with Brown-Headed Cowbird eggs (the larger speckled ones).
Left: A swallowtail butterfly (we think the dark form of a Tiger Swallowtail). Right: Carolina Sphinx moth adult. In fall of 2013, Joanna adopted a Tobacco Hornworm caterpillar, fed it (wow, they eat a lot!) until it formed its pupal stage, kept it in indoors over the winter, and paid more attention as it started to darken and prepare for emergence. This is the adult, which apparently emerged quickly, and we missed the show. For the sake of our solanaceous crops, we did not release it back into the wild. We’re not sure if the timing of emergence was affected by its indoor stay through the winter.
We’ve been thinking about & paying attention to camel crickets since taking part in the Camel Cricket Census project through the Your Wild Life website. So, when I (Joanna) turned over a straw bale and saw one, I instinctively reached for the camera, only moments later realizing that it was pale because it had just molted. The spurs on the legs suggest that it is in the genus Ceuthophilus, a genus of native camel crickets, and the same genus as the ones in our house. Not sure if it is the same species as our household cricket residents?
Left: An American Lady caterpillar. Right: A caterpillar, probably some species of tiger moth?
Left: Mating Golden Tortoise Beetles (we think) on Bindweed. Right: Mystery insect & insect mystery of the month: In January, Joanna pruned dead canes off of blackberries, found a borer larvae in a tunnel at the base of the plant, took some pictures, Googled it, concluded it was a Raspberry Crown Borer, stuck it in a jar on the desk, and forgot about it. May included cleaning the desk & finding a jar, now with an adult beetle…and I’m 99% certain that was the only insect in a jar on the desk for the winter. But it is not a Raspberry Crown Borer adult; the Raspberry Crown Borer is a moth. The insect in the jar looks like some kind of Long-horned Beetle, and in retrospect, the larvae looked like a beetle larvae, too, but my photos don’t show the legs, which would be diagnostic. Many types of Long-horned Beetles larvae do seem to be borers. I haven’t been able to find a match for the coloration. What is this? Is it the primary problem boring into the blackberry crowns, or was it just making use of tunnels from the actual Raspberry Crown Borer? Are the photos that Google brings up of the Raspberry Crown Borer larvae actually moth larvae (caterpillars) or beetle larvae (grubs)?
This spring holds one major disappointment: after three years, our Broad-Winged Hawk couple has not returned to nest. We really enjoyed having these around during the summer, but they’re not around. We briefly observed and heard one earlier in the spring, but at this point we’re sure they’re not here. No idea why. We think they were doing us a pretty good service as rodent eaters, so we’ll miss them for that, too.
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