Natural events, October 2016

Featured this month:

  • Spore producers
  • Lepidopterans
  • Unhappy caterpillar
  • Beetles
  • Hymenopterans
  • Oh, deer
  • Rose mallow

Weather recap:
October was warm and rather dry. A few nights brought light frost, the first of which was the morning of October 13. These frosts did only the most minor damage to some flowers and tender leaves (such as those of cucurbits) in exposed locations, but most crops didn’t mind. It is very unusual for us to make it to the end of October without a killing frost; see this Tweet from NWS Kansas City for a nice chart of first freeze dates over time.oct_natural_frostOctober 13 brought frost (left, frost on Gift Zinnia), as did October 21 (right, frost on kale).oct_natural_cover_cropsCover crops have had plenty of time to grow and thrive. The sunn hemp (tall plant with yellow flowers in the background) is frost-sensitive, but is still going strong. The oats and peas in the foreground are untouched, as it takes deeper cold to kill them.

oct_natural_fungi_etcSpore producers: One of these things is not like the others. Do you know which? Three of the photos show fungi, and one shows a slime mold. Upper left: This Comb Tooth (Hericium coralloides), an edible fungus, grew during the brief wet spell at the beginning of the month. The upper right photo shows the host log of the Comb Tooth later in the month, after the fruiting body dried out; a second type of fungus is also growing on that log. Lower left: coral fungus, possibly the Crown-tipped Coral (Artomyces pyxidatus). Lower right: a slime mold of the genus Stemonitis, which was growing on the stump of the tree that hosted the Comb Tooth. When tapped, the bristles released a cloud of spores that puffed in smoke-like patterns, reminiscent of a puff ball; however, the form is unlike any fungus in our mushroom books. It took some searching to figure out what this was.

oct_natural_butterfliesLepidopterans: Domestic flowers, including tithonia (upper photos) and zinnias (lower photos), bloomed throughout the month, attracting butterflies galore on the many warm days (along with a few moths). Upper left shows a looper moth (subfamily Plusiinae), possibly the Soybean Looper (Chrysodeixis includens). The upper right shows skippers, possibly the Zabulon Skipper (Poanes zabulon). Lower left is a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice), lower right a Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), the latter being far more common.

oct_natural_caterpillarUnhappy caterpillar: Parasites are really cleaning up the caterpillars this year. This one (a Yellow-striped Army Worm) was on a kale leaf adorned with what appear to be larval insects, presumably parasites. We don’t have an ID for these at the moment.

oct_natural_beetlesBeetles: Left: Fall is butchering season, and some young roosters met the knife in October. The bucket of feathers sat out for an afternoon before we got around to dealing with it. It is always remarkable how quickly carrion beetles manage to find remnants of dead stuff. Right: The lady bug on the right appears to be a Seven-spotted Ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata), a native of Europe.

oct_natural_hymenopteransHymenopterans: We observed quite a few unidentified hymenopterans visiting cowpeas and other plants; were they attracted to some sort of plant secretion? Interestingly, this year we’ve noticed far fewer paper wasps than we saw last year. Right: Unidentified bee on tithonia.

oct_natural_deerOh, deer: Would it be a fall natural events post without mention of over-abundant deer? The tracks on the sand bar are an indicator of their prevalence. Deer scrapes (upper right) are showing up along trails in the woods, as bucks and does enter breeding season. Lower right: Pawpaw trees are not favorite deer food, and this patch has grown considerably in the last year or two as the competition has been nibbled away.

oct_natural_hibiscusRose mallow: This is a native plant we ordered from the MDC nursery several years ago; we planted several along the pond bank, and they have done well. It was nice to see seed pods full of seeds.

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