Friday, May 24, 2013

My Latest Progression Obsession: Keeled Treehoppers

I figure if aliens ever invade, this is what they will look like (click on any of the pictures to enlarge):

Sooo...maybe they're already here. Cool. Well, not entirely cool--they did decimate the biggest, baddest volunteer tomato plant I've managed to accidentally grow yet, but if that's the extent of the damage they plan on doing, I suppose we can all live with that, right?

What, exactly, are these things? At first I though they were aphids because I noticed a bunch of little black things crawling around on my tomato. But then they kept getting bigger. And bigger. And spikier. And more tank-like. And I thought, Hmmm...what the hell kind of aphids ARE these?? So, I brought them in for a photo shoot (that's a peppercorn for scale).

and then proceeded to check my favorite on-line source for bug identification, What's That Bug?. And it turns out I have treehopper nymphs, or baby/adolescent treehoppers. Cool. Except, not really. I kept reading about how much damage they do, and I could find no information about natural predators. At this point though, my tomato plant was still thriving, and I was intrigued. So I let them live, and I became their personal paparazzi. Also, I kind of liked their personalities. When I went outside to put these guys back on my tomato plant, one of them walked right off, but the other one was sort of in play dead/paralysis mode. The one on the move walked over, tapped the other one on the back with one of its legs, and kept on moving. As soon as it got tapped on the back, the act-like-a-rock one was like, What? Oh, OK, I'm coming, and moseyed off. It was kind of endearing. shoot!

Some of them were shy.
"Nope. I do NOT want my face splashed all across the pages of your blog!"

While others took advantage of some photobomb opportunities.

"Photobomb, yo!"

But all of them were spikey. No wonder they don't have any natural predators!

Ants farm treehoppers like they do aphids. They sort of round them up and protect them and gather the honeydew that the treehoppers secrete. Treehoppers are like cows, but for ants. In this picture you can see a good representation of the different sizes they come in and you can see a little droplet of honeydew being secreted (halfway down, on the left-hand side of the stem, there's a little droplet on the pointy end of...a butt). You can even see a few little farmer ants in the picture.

One day, I caught one of these guys molting, so I brought it inside and documented the process while I watched TV. This is probably highly inappropriate behaviour (as if taking pictures of their honey-dew secreting butts wasn't), but I was curious. I hope our new alien overlords can forgive me. The pictures below show a little tank turning into a bigger tank. The photos are of two different bugs because the first half of the pictures I took with the first bug didn't come out very well, so the next day I found me another bug at the same stage and began documenting again, but, I can assure you, the process was very similar. As the critters grow bigger, they have to molt because their exoskeletons don't grow with them, so they bust out of their old, colorful skins, and they come out looking like this:

"Hang on, I gotta put on my face."
Not terribly exciting at this stage, are they? 

A mere 90 minutes later, though, and they look like this:

"OK, I'm ready to go!"

And since you all know I am obsessed with how things progress, here's the progression:

Cool, huh? Next I'll show you what an adult looks like when it comes out of that spikey little shell--it looks like a green tornado-chasing vehicle, and its transformation is just as cool, maybe even cooler. Join me then, won't you?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-May, 2013

Well, it's been a while since I've gotten myself together enough to A) remember that it's GBBD, B) go outside and take the requisite pictures, and C) put said pictures together in a post in a timely manner. So, yay for little victories! And yay for my daylilies, which greeted me today like this:

 Well, hello, Lovelies!

These are some of my most anticipated blooms every year. They are beautiful, and they smell amazing--sweet and subtle, like the lovely ladies they are.

Accompanying my daylilies is this ever-blooming hardy ice plant, Delosperma cooperi.

This little clump of sweet alyssum has volunteered itself to grow in this pot. I wonder if it realizes the fight it's going to have against this pot's other volunteer, the winding, vining passion flower (the big leaves that you see going over the edge of the pot). Then again, seeing as how it seems to have walked itself over from those pots you see in the background, maybe it will be able to hold its own.

Two other faithful bloomers are my blue plumbago and my false heather, Cuphea hyssopifolia.

This was one of my most faithful bloomers for a long time, but my golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea, seems to have taken a break over the last few months. I'm glad to see it making a comeback. 10 points for sticking your landing, Pachystachys.

Speaking of comebacks, I thought this poor bougainvillea had kicked the bucket. It didn't have a single leaf anywhere for several weeks; it was completely bare, naked I tell you!  As you can see, it's decided that it still has some life left in it; it's decided to put on it's frock and come to the May party. 

Seeing as how it's May, you've probably got all kinds of good stuff going on in your garden too, and Carol at May Dreams Gardens would love to see what you've got (as would the rest of us), so head on over to her blog, share your blooms, and see what else is blooming on this beautiful May day! Even if you don't have any blooms to share, you can live vicariously in gardens around the world--come check it out!