John Messeder

Messeder

There’s life in the backyard, just waiting for someone to notice. I found a couple of Japanese beetles one morning, being real friendly with each other on a cluster of flowers decorating the butterfly bush.

This year has brought a healthy, for the moths and a family of wrens, crop of cabbage moths. Those are the little white guys with a black spot on each wing. Darned if I know why they are called cabbage moths; there is nary a cabbage growing even near our backyard. And I often find them in roadside fields populated by assorted wild flowers, deer and Red-winged blackbirds – but no cabbages.

Whatever the rationale, at least one family of House wrens undoubtedly are glad of the ready supply of fresh meat for the young ones.

On the other hand, two butterflies recently decorated our domain, on consecutive days, for a few minutes each. The first was a Red Admiral cavorting around the piazza, lighting on the outdoor rug, daring me to get a camera.

Finally, I did, and when I got back to the outdoors, the admiral was gone. Maybe it had become dinner for a passing House sparrow.

Next day, another butterfly came by. It was either a Monarch or a Viceroy. I offer the choices because I commented it looked like a Monarch, and the Resident Gardener said, “It’s not a Monarch.” I did not notice the horizontal line across its hind wings, but it seemed a Viceroy was the most likely imposter.

I did not stay around to examine, but went instead for the camera. Again, by the time I got back, it was gone.

The weird part is to have only one each, unlike the cabbage moths, which are more than plentiful.

A friend sent me strangeness in a picture he had found online, from one of the photographers he follows. It was a picture of a deer I’d like to have been there to see in real life. It was a six-point buck about the size of a nearby doe. At least, we presumed it was a buck, because of the horns. But the critter still had its Bambi-spots. I’ve seen fawns get quite large before they lose their spots, but never one with a full rack.

Our son got quite a scare when he was out by the kids’ wood play structure. I built it several years ago, with swings and rings, and on one end a sort of castle deck with a striped cloth roof and a slide. This year it has wasps.

They are not the ordinary kind of wasp that builds paper cones you can spray with stuff to convince the survivors they should build elsewhere. These guys are about an inch long, with black wings and shiny blue-black bodies that in the right light look like polished armor. The two most qualified people who so far have offered identification are divided between Great Black wasps and Spider wasps. Behaviorally, the spider hunters seem to win the title. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, more than 100 species populate North America.

They kill spiders, or sometimes merely immobilize them, and feed the hapless arachnids to their young, stuffing one next to each of their larva, like setting a hamburger next to a newborn Black bear.

Lately, I’ve been occupied trying to find where the wasps are planting their future progeny. So far, their hidey holes have remained invisible, at least to me.

That’s the thing about watching wildlife. You know it is there, sometimes right under foot, but one needs patience and persistence to see it.

Readers may contact John Messeder at john@JohnMesseder.com.

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