The milkweed is full of life and death tonight, like the terrifying cemetery in Stephen King’s novel. I was late getting out in the yard, so it was close to dusk and storm clouds were rolling in.
I wandered out to harvest a couple more figs from my baby tree, which is next to the milkweed patch. I always looked for Monarch cats; I haven’t had any this year. As I searched for any missing leaves among the throngs of oleander aphids, I suddenly stop. Could it be…?
YES!! Only one, but there it was! (Apparently, when the light is low my iPhone camera doesn’t focus as sharply.)
Walking around the garden tonight (July 30), I admired the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in bloom. Then I noticed a bee on the underside of the flower head; it was an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica). I’ve got tons of them this year, and fortunately they are leaving my house, deck, and fence alone for the most part. I’m surrounded by woods including a fair amount of dead trees that I leave out for the fauna.
Then I saw another bee, and then three more – all on the milkweed!
Only female carpenter bees can sting, but you have to grab them to make them go that far. Males have a pale yellow dot on their face. In spring, bees emerge from their nests and mate; then females may use the old nest or excavate a new one and lay eggs, which hatch in August. These babies will overwinter in the same nests and emerge in spring to begin the cycle again.
Carpenter bees are great pollinators of eggplant, tomato, passionflower, and blueberries.
For more information…
Penn State has a great page about the carpenter bee life cycle.
Here’s a scholarly article on using carpenter bees instead of honeybees for commercial crop pollination.
Part of my reason for doing a wild garden is to see what happens when I let the balance of prey and predators occur naturally. Last year, I had very few pests in my veggie garden other than squash borers. This year, I have a large snail population but they don’t seem to be doing much damage.
My DD (dearest daughter) needed to mow her grass Tuesday, so I took the mower over and then left it overnight in my SUV to cool off. Wednesday, I pulled it out and put the tarp over it; this spider was in the tarp. Now I don’t need coffee! The business card wasn’t close enough to show scale. The BODY was about two inches!!!!
All I can find is a type of wolf spider; apparently tarantulas don’t live in NC. 🙂 If anyone has an idea of what species she is, please put it in a comment below.