Mummy

I think I might have found a mummy on one of my latest walks! ๐Ÿ™‚

But let’s start from the beginning. I had been on one of my regular walks through the little forest in the neighborhood and had seen lots of insects and some birds.

Then I saw something sitting on a leaf of which I thought it was a tiny snail.

But with the help of the macro lens of my camera (which I often use as a kind of magnifying glass) I recognized it had a little head and feet…..

I still didn’t see what it was and thought it might be a tick. But after counting it’s feet I realized it only had six, so couldn’t be a tick because that would have had eight feet.

Then my husband suggested it must be an aphid. And he was right!

If you look carefully you can detect that it has two cornicles. These are tubes on the back of it’s abdomen, through which it can secrete droplets of defensive fluid. (I know: it’s really hard to see on this picture….. :-/ )

So I thought: Well, that’s it. It looks a bit weird, but it’s just some kind of aphid….

But yesterday I listened to a podcast. (Did I mention that I LOVE listening to podcasts!) It was a podcast of Roots and All – it’s a gardening podcast and I can really recommend it. Sarah Wilson – the presenter – was interviewing Val Bourne and she talked about how having a garden without using pesticides allows a lot of insects to live in your garden. They then help the gardener to create a healthy garden, because one insect is the predator of the other and so they can establish a kind of natural balance.

And in this interview she mentioned that some tiny wasps lay their eggs inside aphids, which then mummify. The larva of the wasp eats the aphid from the inside and after a while makes a little round hole to leave the mummy of the aphid.

I directly thought about this weird aphid. I checked it with some help of google and I really think this must be a mummy….. Wow!

I’m always surprised about what you can find….and learn……. Next time I see such a mummy I will look if I can find one with a hole!!

Crane fly

Now that the temperatures are rising there are more and more insects flying around. And I love to take pictures of them ๐Ÿ™‚

So last Sunday I saw this beautiful crane fly sitting on a plant in the little forest here in the neighborhood.

First I only saw it from its side, but later I noticed it has quite beautiful wings.

I’ve learned – by asking “Cranefly Recording Scheme” on Twitter – that it’s called Epiphragma ocellare. They told me it’s a woodland species.

Have you ever taken a close look at the head of a crane fly?

And at its thorax (that’s the part below the head)? I’ve tried to paint it, but it looks all bumpy :-/

Later I learned that all the parts have names. That seems logical, but I hadn’t thought about it……

My next goal – okay, ONE of the next goals ๐Ÿ˜‰ – for the coming weeks is to examine the heads of insects more closely!

Update on the insect hotel – and some reflections…..

You might remember my post about the insect hotel we made for our balcony last year? And now – 2 or 3 weeks ago – we saw that some of the bees must have hatched, because some holes that had been sealed, were now open. But I hadn’t seen the bees themselves…..until last weekend: finally I saw one leaving one of the holes ๐Ÿ™‚

My husband has also made some new bee hotels. This time he combined wood, with some clay – both with holes – and put this in a nest box for birds from which he had removed the front.

I hope the bees will like this place too!

I’m so glad nature is just doing its things in these frightening pandemic times…….

I don’t know about you, but for me it also means I have loads of free time, because – at the moment – I only work about 1/3 of my normal hours. And it’s kind of weird: normally when I work full hours, I always think, that it would be great to have more time for all the things I like to do. I thought I would do lots of reading, exploring, writing one blog post after the other. But it seems like it doesn’t work like that for me. The less I work, the less I seem to do in the rest of the time. Maybe I need a certain amount of workload and stress to function optimal?

How about you? Do you live in a lock down at the moment? How are you coping? Do you also have loads of time and what do you do with that? Or maybe you just have lots of stress and anxiety?

It’s also weird how in this time lots of people – including me – seem to depend so much on the nice things we see in nature at the moment. How important nature is – I already knew that, and so will you I guess. I think I should really use this time to learn more about nature AND about how to protect it…..

Barklouse

Some weeks ago, I suddenly received a parcel with a book. First, I was surprised – but also a bit irritated, because I didn’t know who had sent it……

It was a surprise gift from my sister: a book about mosses, written by Robin Wall Kimmerer: “Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses” (the same author I have written about some time ago).

I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s a really interesting book. And it’s the perfect time of the year to look for and at mosses, because they are thriving in this kind of wet weather.

(No, this post is not about mosses….. (maybe another time) ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

So, when I went for a walk I started looking for them and found some nice ones on an old dead tree. But when I started to make pictures of the sporophytes, I noticed this little insect crawling around.

You can imagine it was quite small – I could hardly see it. So it was good I had my macro lens on my camera…..

First, I thought it was a really small fly. But people on Flickr and Twitter told me it is some kind of barklouse. Someone suggested it could be an Ectopsocus species, maybe petersi. But who knows?

I have read somewhere that barklouse have segmented abdomen. I think you can see that on this picture (but maybe it’s too small :-/ ):

Here you can see it in action…..

I think it is beautiful, especially the wings!

Mini terrarium

Remember the little springtails I found in the water of the vermicomposter I wrote about in my last post? After first just throwing them in the pots of my balcony plants, I suddenly thought it might be interesting to watch how they live……

So I made a mini terrarium. I took a plastic box which formerly contained some chocolates I got for Christmas and put some earth and leaves in it, put some fabric over it and …… voilรก: a terrarium! ๐Ÿ™‚

At the left with the fabric and on the right with a plastic lid I use when I really want to watch them.

But watching them is still quite difficult……they are sooooo tiny. The best thing I can do is using my camera with the macro lens.

So there are springtails as I expected….

I also made a video of an springtail which is “grazing” on the (tea) leaf I put in the terrarium. You can watch it here.

But can you see the even smaller creature on the right? I’m not sure what it is. I couldn’t even count it’s feet on the picture. So I also made a video of these. You can watch it here. And if you look closely you can count 8 feet. So they aren’t insects. Maybe the are mites?

Look at it’s “hair” ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m not sure what is this pimple on it’s back……

I also found this dark critter……

I’m not sure if it also is a springtail as it looks a bit different…..

So if you know something please comment!

I think I will continue staring at the life in the terrarium a bit longer…….

Small things

I love watching nature documentaries. Don’t you? But I have also noticed that I sometimes get a bit bored when it’s all about lions and elephants etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love elephants and lions, and I know they are threatened and should be protected!

But love small things even more!

Two days ago I had a closer look at the water that came out of my vermicomposter. You have to tap off the water regularly, because worms like to live in a wet environment, but not in a swimming pool ๐Ÿ˜‰ That’s what this little tap is for.

In the water were all these small – mostly white – “dots”. I couldn’t even see at first sight if they were dead or alive. So I used the macro lens of my camera as a sort of magnifying glass.

That’s when I saw that they are alive…… And they are springtails!

A lot of white ones…..

And some black ones….

They’re not the little round springtails I wrote about some time ago. There are lots of different kinds of springtails. I don’t know if the white ones are the same as the black ones, but only immature. But I think they must be two different kinds. But I do know it’s good to have them in the vermicomposter because they help the worms to make the compost.

Talking about small things. Yesterday my husband and me went on a little walk. We didn’t walk very far, because we like looking around more than actually walking ๐Ÿ™‚ So I had some time to look for small things lying around. I wanted to find some more springtails, but didn’t. But I found this little green “thing” beneath a leaf. I first thought it was a seed. But now I think it must be some kind of caterpillar, or a larva.

I have no clue where to start looking. Do you?

Fat cones

If you read my last post you know that they chopped down the trees in the garden of our apartment building ๐Ÿ˜ฆ This not only resulted in the loss of our beautiful view, but the birds who lived in the spruces lost their space too.

What also happened is that the garden is now full of spruce cones – they are all over the place. And as I’m a bit afraid, that they will remove them in a while, I started a spruce cone rescue action ๐Ÿ˜‰ Lots of them are now hanging on our balcony to dry.

Yesterday I already dried two of them in the oven after baking a pizza. And I had already bought some beef tallow. So today I’ve made a kind of fat ball.

Here’s what I did:

I cut some of the tallow in little blocks and put them on the stove with only a little bit of heat until the fat run out. This I mixed with some seeds. The rest I kept apart – maybe some of the birds want to eat that as well……

Then I pressed the mixture of seeds and fat on the cones. And hung the fat cone on the balcony…

And after about 15 minutes the first Great tit landed on it (I think this might be the worst picture I’ve “published”, but I think you can recognize something….. I hope…..)

So, we try to make the best of the situation for the birds – and for ourselves as we love watching birds.

I’ve also talked to the property manager about the future of the garden. I was thinking we might try to make the rest of the garden as nice and as wildlife friendly as we can. He didn’t say yes, but he also didn’t say no to the question if my husband and me could do some of the gardening. He said we could put our ideas on paper and then he would think about it…… So that’s the next step…….

Trees gone missing…….

I am so sad……. They have chopped of the top of the trees in our garden…… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I live in a small city in an apartment block. The apartment has a nice balcony and my husband and me are trying to make it as wildlife friendly as we can (as you might have noticed in my older posts). And we had a really nice view, because of the trees in our garden. These trees have been the habitat for quite a lot of birds, such as European crested tits, Firecrests and a lot of common birds. And for a lot of insects as well – as you could see the birds picking in the bark and between the needles in search of food.

And than two days ago some gardeners came and just removed the tops…… As we only rent, we weren’t asked. I mean – to be fair – it must have been quite dark in the apartments downstairs, so I can understand it a bit – but I’m still really, really sad.

Soooo, they are gone now and I’m happy to say, that the birds are still coming to our feeders and seem to be enjoying the other trees in the neighborhood, but I had the feeling I should do something to compensate the loss of this mini ecosystem.

So I donated some money for a lawsuit against a chemical company who wants to extract (more) potash and leaving the remains of this extraction in a huge pile leaking salt in the river flowing next to it. (The lawsuit isn’t against the extraction, it’s just against letting the salt leak without doing something against it for decades. (If you understand German you can read some more about it here…))

This is the already existing pile from older extractions. The planned one will even be bigger….

So you might wonder why I want to compensate the one thing (the trees) with the other thing (the leaking of the salt) as they seem to be totally unrelated. But for me it’s just that I’m so unhappy that we’re destroying/damaging so much of our natural world (me as well – indirectly). And I have the wish to do something about it. Remember what I wrote about reciprocity? We shouldn’t just take from nature, we should give something back – that’s my opinion.

Do you know this kind of feeling? And if so, what do you do?

Eyes

This week I took a little walk with my camera. It was a bit rainy over here the last couple of days, but I had some luck and stayed dry ๐Ÿ™‚

I heard lots of birds and also found some mushrooms, but what I really wanted to see were some insects as winter is approaching fast and then I might not see them for a while.

So when I found this little fly I was quite happy…….

(I don’t think it was mutual….. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

But what intrigued me most were its really red eyes! So I wanted to find out why they’re so red. I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that ….. yet …… but it got me reading about insect eyes.

I think everybody might have learned that insects have compound eyes: they have lots of little eyes called ommatidia, each with its own cornea and nerves etc. You can see them from the outside as little hexagons.

If I got everything right, then insects see a kind of mosaic. The more ommatidia they have, the more “stones” the mosaic has and the clearer the picture.

(I have always wondered if really small insects see things that we could only see with a magnifying glass. I still don’t know, but they might just experience the world completely different than humans…… :-/ )

Talking about dragonflies: I’ve also read on this site that the upper and the lower part of the eyes of dragonflies see differently, because the receptors in the upper part are only for blue and UV light and the ones in the lower part are for colors like green and orange.

I wonder if that’s why the eyes of dragonflies seem to have two colors…. ?

Searching for pictures for this post, I found pictures of the exoskeleton skin of a grasshopper I found some years ago…

The interesting thing about that was (among other things) that you could see the impressions of the ommatidia.

There’s so much more to write about insect eyes. Maybe I’ll write another post about this topic another time ๐Ÿ™‚

(If I’ve got something wrong, please tell me!!)

Frustrations

Does this also happen to you? I have been thinking and writing and re-writing a blog post for hours now and it just doesn’t work. So I finally deleted everything……. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

It was quit philosophical, about consumerism, capitalism and even something about Hannah Arendt…….but then I thought that I didn’t have anything new to say. Everybody already knows that too much buying, to many food miles etc. aren’t a good thing.

So I think I will just post some pictures of homegrown food and some repair work.

Of the seedlings of mustard seeds that I grew for my herb quark ….

Of the leek that unexpectedly appeared next to the one I grew from a leek left over (and wrote about some time ago)…..

And my bag after some extreme mending (did you know that is a thing: “extreme mending“?)

So much for now….. and I hope this is just a kind of writer’s block……. :-/