Thursday, October 23, 2014

Praying Mantis

We usually have many praying mantis in our yard in the summer.  It's a great place for them to catch insects.  The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. The larger group of these insects is more properly called the praying mantids. Mantis refers to the genus mantis, to which only some praying mantids belong.By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long "neck," or elongated thorax. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them.

Typically green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live, mantis lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry. They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place.

Moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects are usually the unfortunate recipients of unwanted mantid attention. However, the insects will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction.

Females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in a small case, and nymphs hatch looking much like tiny versions of their parents.

We had an egg case hatch the day of a summer party and watched in awe as hundreds of tiny translucent baby mantis raced up the side of the garage to the roof.  An egg case is a little bigger than an acorn and looks like it's made from Styrofoam.   This picture was taken in the pots where we grow our vegetables.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


This is another picture of the Tithonia I plant every year.  If you look closely, you can see the pollen on the petals.  The surplus of pollen is one of the reasons that this plant is such a hit with insects. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Black wasp....

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) is a top butterfly garden plant and host plant for the Monarch butterfly.  It's only one of the Asclepias that can be grown in a midwestern garden.  It's very easy to grow, hardy to zone 3 and native in all but 7 states.  It's a neat, attractive, bush-like plant loaded with fragrant, attractive rose pink flowers and a favorite nectar plant of many insects.  It blooms from June to August and thrives in sun to partial sun.  You can start this plant from seed but you need to refrigerate the seeds for 1 month or plant in your garden in the fall.  This perennial takes a while to mature into a full grown plant.  Swamp milkweed can be transplanted while other forms of this plant have a taproot that cannot be disturbed after the plant reaches maturity.  This photo was taken in our backyard where we have both the yellow and rose milkweed growing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Painted Lady...

This Painted Lady Butterfly was filmed on a Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) in our backyard.  We try religiously to plant this wonderful sunflower because it's a magnet for all the butterflies in our yard, especially Monarchs.  It grows 4 to 6 feet high and I discovered by accident one year that if you cut it back before it starts blooming, it will actually grow as a bush.  I like it tall, however, it's a great back-of-the-bed plant and it's wonderful color will grace any yard.  It needs full sun and blooms in late summer unless you start the seeds early in the season.  If I start seeds in the greenhouse in March, the Tithonia usually blooms much earlier.  I harvest the seeds by dropping the seed heads into a paper bag and store over the winter in the garage.  In late winter, I clean all the bagged seeds into envelopes so they are ready for planting by the time the portable greenhouse goes up.

At this time of year we are putting the garden to bed.  We'll cut down plants that the birds won't use as food, mulch our leaves and cover our beds with the mulched leaves.  The leaves enhance the soil, cut down on the weeds and we don't have to burn them.  My husband picks them up with a lawnmower that has a bag on it.  Since we live in a wooded area, leaves are plentiful and cheaper than mulch.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This month's topic: Bugs....

We have a large backyard in Central Illinois with many separate gardens.  We plant to invite wildlife into our yard - flowers have to have either nectar or food potential.  In October, we leave the seed plants in place for the birds over the winter.  Our milkweed feeds the monarch caterpillars.  In the early spring the nectar plants feed the newly arrived hummingbirds.  We do have large numbers of bees, both bumblebees and honey bees.  This year we didn't see any until late July.  Our apple tree did not set fruit because there were no pollinators.  It  must have been a harsh winter for them last year.  I was delighted to see two honeybees on our Meadow Sage in late August.  Hopefully we'll see them earlier next year.  This photo is of a bumblebee on a coneflower.  The orange plant in the background is milkweed.  I plan to share lots of photos from our travels and home on this blog in the future.  This particular picture was taken by me with my Dimage Z1 camera in June 2005.  For pictures of my cards, please go to:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shopping for two...

So, I've got all these low calorie cookbooks I've been using.  The recipes call for 10 ounces of chicken breast.  When was the last time you went to the grocery store and found 10 ounces of chicken?  I can find three large breasts in a package and that's the smallest package.  When looking for desserts, they feed six and eight people.  I just want a taste of a sweet to calm the cravings but if there is a cake in the fridge, you can bet we'll eat it.

So far in the last eleven days I have slipped three times.  I did have 2 KFC chicken breasts over two days.  I removed the skin from both but still....  I had my first pepsi in three weeks (I'm a one a day Pepsi girl normally).  And I had dessert Tuesday which is my designated dessert day.  Otherwise I've been pretty good.  And I have a whole bag of Chocolate Neccos and Twizzlers in my craft room that I haven't touched...  Go me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on dieting....

It's hard to believe that not long ago I was a size 8.  I still have the clothes to prove it.  As a smoker, I didn't realize that the only food I ever tasted was the really strong stuff like tuna fish and heavy spices.  When I quit smoking, I started tasting food again and it tasted swell.  Where I previously didn't care for desserts, now I'm almost starved for them.  I like Mexican food, Chinese food and Italian food.  I like to say I'm on the seafood diet - I see food and I eat it.  Over the years the sizes of my clothes have risen.  Three quarters of the clothes in my closet are unwearable but I love them so I hate to get rid of them.  So, here's the deal.  I'm going to lose weight.  I'm not calling it a diet - I'm just going to cut out sweets (except for Movie Tuesday), soda, and fried foods.  Just those three things and watch my portions.  I'm also going to walk on the treadmill daily.  In a year I hope to be back in those size eights again.  To achieve that goal I've purchased a blueray player for the living room so I can watch Netflix or Amazon Prime while I walk.  We've been here eleven years and haven't purchased living room furniture.  We have some deck chairs and cat toys and the treadmill.  I'm also writing down every item that goes down my throat.  Like my single twizzler today.  I've been known to eat a package in a day.  I'm hoping by writing down my food intake and keeping up the blog with results, I'll shame myself into losing some weight.