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Apogee Property Management Worthington Ohio – Here’s one you don’t see every day, or at least I don’t: A nice photo of the winged ant (Glenurus gratus). This huge – 4″ wingspan! – insect is a southern species near the northern limit of its range in Hocking County, Ohio, where it emerges in the light of a moth. It differs from ant species, whose larvae build cone-shaped traps in soft soil. (“doodlebugs” ” or “dust devils”), the predatory larvae of this species live in tree holes. They feed on sawdust and debris at the bottom of the holes and feed on any small invertebrates. Apparently, they can live up to two years in the larval stage. Adults is quite temporary and probably lasts only a few days.July 28, 2022.
The mantid fly is an entomological oddity at almost every level, and doesn’t seem to be very common in general. Most of the ones I see show up at the butterfly station lights, but every now and then there will be an unexpected one. It was the sharp-eyed Nora Tempus, but that was for sure. A group of us were on a night hike in the woods at the Midwest Native Plant Convention at Mount St. Johns in Greene County when he called us to see an unusual beast.
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As the title of the post suggests, this is the Green Mantis (Zeugomantispa minuta). All mantids are strange and interesting in their own way, but this one brings out the most. I remember seeing it for the first time. While there are about 400 mantid bugs worldwide, there are only five or so species in Ohio, and any sighting is memorable. It is particularly striking with its lime green color and elegant wings. The green mantis has a huge range, extending south of our latitude to the eastern United States and south to Central America and South America.
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The mantis looks like something a mad scientist put together. The front part resembles a mantis and is filled with colorful jewel eyes. The powerful front legs are used to hold prey that can be smaller than a mantis. This mantle is a few inches long, so we’re talking about small prey. The wings look like they’ve been stolen from lace, and the big belly smells like a wasp.
It’s getting weirder. Many mantis flies, including this one, are parasites of spiders. Larvae seek out spider mites shortly after hatching. When a suitable arachnid passes by, the larval mantle jumps on board. If the spider turns into a male, the hitchhiker waits to find a female and then mate. While the spiders are heavily engaged, the intelligent mantis attacks the female. When the female spider begins to create a silken egg sac, she jumps into the mantle and seals it with many new eggs. It then latches onto the spider’s fresh eggs, pupates in the spider’s nest, and eventually emerges as an adult.
It struck me as a very risky business and the life cycle of the mantis. That’s why they seem so rare.
A thick growth of Partridge-pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) lines my front driveway. There are many other native plants in this bed, but few can match the Partridge-pea for pollinator appeal. Dozens of bumblebees (genus Bombus) are on the plant at any one time, and their high-pitched buzzing together as they pollinate a flower is quite impressive. Partridge-peas also have external flower nectar – I once wrote about them HERE – and many bees and bumblebees visit them regularly. There is always something interesting to see in this patch.
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However, it was brand new! I’ve seen a lot of Differential Grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis) in my time, but never this one. This large species is one of our most common grasshoppers, but is usually a dull olive color.
On July 18th, my brother Mike came to shoot in the pool. I like to shoot pool and have a table in the basement – I was showing him all the Partridge-Pea action. He peered into the plants and saw a grasshopper perched on the fruit of a wild blue indigo (Baptisia australis). Luckily my macro rig with flash and diffuser was sitting on the kitchen counter. I didn’t draw the grasshopper, but I agree that bugs look good on fruit. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have taken a picture there, but every now and then you try to “fit” a cicada. Not easy, not possible.
Anyway, orthopterans are usually pink or yellow, but I’ve never seen or heard of this yellow form. A little internet scanning turned up a photo or two, so I imagine the lemon-colored Differential Cicada is pretty rare.
Trick question: What is the largest irrigated crop in the United States? Answer: Your yard and everything else. Grasslands cover 40 million acres in the United States, more than the 11 largest national parks combined and more than three times the area of corn. About 10 percent of Ohio is grass.
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Humans pour billions of gallons of water into the ground every day to keep their lawns emerald green. 100 million pounds of herbicides and pesticides are used on lawns every year because grass cannot be invaded by “weeds” or unwanted insects. These toxic chemicals enter waterways and cause various environmental and human health problems.
I’m not going to talk about the gas use and pollution from lawnmowers, that noisy suburban disaster, and gas-powered leaf blowers.
Since lawn management is a multi-billion dollar industry, there are many tempting ways to convince people that a manicured lawn is good and healthy. Don’t let the Joneses leave you behind! The truth is that all these non-native grasses and their accompanying management have destroyed native plants and wildlife.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A growing number of homeowners are eschewing traditional well-maintained turf areas in favor of hardy, beautiful native plants. Last week, The Dispatch garden writer suggested alternatives to turf grass.
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When I moved to Worthington a few years ago, I immediately set about conquering the lawn to encourage native plants.
Today, my yard landscape is florally diverse and full of interesting low-maintenance plants. Many butterflies prove that they are environmentally friendly. In the past few weeks, I have seen American lacewings, cloudless sulphur, hackberry emperors, monarchs, and summer bluebirds laying their eggs on suitable plants (none of which are grass).
Last year, my brother Mike introduced me to Josh McElhaney, one of the kings of native turf conversions. Josh and his wife, Abby, live in an urbanized suburb on the corner of Carl and Cook Roads in Northeast Columbia. I revisited their “yard” on July 13th and was amazed at the versatility.
In 2015, Josh began his mission to diversify an acre of lawn. After seven years it bears very good fruit. At least half of the grass will be gone, replaced by a rich palette of native plants. A variety of coneflowers, goblets, several varieties of goldenrod, prairie and sunflowers accented the lemons and sent the local goldfinch twittering in anticipation of the coming seed crop.
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A wise botanist will have fun browsing McElhaney’s yard. Curiosities such as prairie queens, pawpaws, lambs, rattlesnakes, kingfishers, wild damselflies and more are on site. There are five types of milkweed in the garden, which is a boon to monarch butterflies. One is Sullivant’s milkweed, first discovered in Ohio in the 1830s. Its discoverer was William Starling Sullivant, the botanist son of Lucas Sullivant, the founder of Franklinton, who would become Columbus.
Splashes of color come thanks to easy-to-grow native standards such as blue false indigo, mountain mint, oregano and wild bergamot. Josh, an intrepid gardener, has also planted two types of sumac: ecological heavyweights, but they need to be tamed occasionally. McElhaney’s yard now boasts nearly 100 different species of herbaceous plants that are unlike any other.
When I asked Josh why he chose to go native, he had a great answer. The McElhaneys have two daughters, ages 8 and 10, and wanted them to experience nature and all that comes with it at their fingertips. That they can; Such an easy opportunity, just a step or two out the door, sparked the girls’ interest in flora and fauna.
If you want to visit, write to [email protected] and I will contact you.
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Naturalist Jim McCormack writes for The Dispatch on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month. He also talked about nature www..
The magnificent Purple Fringeless Orchid (Platanthera peramoena) thrives in rich bottomland forests. This and others were along the edge of the irregularly flooded overflow channel of the nearby river.
On July 28th of this year, I traveled to the Zaleski State Forest (Winton County, Ohio) in search of this amazing orchid. It’s pretty easy to find in this area, too
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