29 August 2016


On our recent trip to Iowa I had a few of the local grasshoppers pose of photos. The dominate local grasshopper in Iowa is the Differential Grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis).

The large populations of Differential Grasshopper are found in the croplands located between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River.

The adult Differential Grasshopper is a large yellow insect with black markings. The Differential Grasshopper is known both for its chevron markings on its hind legs and its destructive appetite.

28 August 2016

Wildflower - Horse Nettle

During our recent dry spell one plant didn't seem to be effected, the Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense). Horse Nettle is not a true nettle, but a member of the nightshade family. The nightshade family includes potatoes, tomatoes and egg plants which all have flowers that are similar in shape.

The stem and undersides of larger leaf veins are covered with spines. The fruits also resemble tomatoes.

All parts of the plant are poisonous to varying degrees due to the presence of solanine which is a toxic alkaloid and one of the plant's natural defenses. Being that both the Horse Nettle and potatoes are in the nightshade family, these Potato Beetle larva seem to enjoy eating the spiny leaves.

26 August 2016


I've heard the loud buzzing sound of Cicadas at our cabin property but haven't been able to locate them in the trees. On our recent trip to Iowa we got a chance to view some Cicadas in our son's lawn. The Cicadas we found were the "stragglers" of the Brood IV, the Kansan brood, of the 17-Year Cicadas that emerged in 2015. This is the empty exoskeleton of an adult Cicada.

After staying underground for 17 years the cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. The nymphs climb the nearest tree, and shed their nymph exoskeleton. Here's a photo of a newly emerged cicada and an empty nymph exoskeleton above it.

The newly emerged adult cicada will darken in color as the exoskeleton hardens. Adult cicadas have two large "main" eyes and three jewel-like eyes situated between the two main compound eyes.

25 August 2016


After spending a week and a half in Iowa, we returned home to find a sea of red tomatoes in our garden. There were only a few ripe tomatoes when we left for Iowa, and now we found 4 buckets of ripe tomatoes without looking too hard.

These were large/meaty tomatoes.

Mary did battle with the crimson onslaught and in the end she contained them in canning jars. 13 1/2 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 25 quarts of tomato soup. 9 1/2 gallons of tomatoes.

This was only the first skirmish of the season and the tomatoes are regrouping for another attack.

24 August 2016

Miss Myra

Our granddaughter, Myra, is now a year old and we traveled to Iowa to help Chuck and Nikki celebrate this special occasion.

The big girl smiling to show her two teeth.

Myra doing her "Duck-lips" imitation.

Prior to Myra's birthday, her mother traveled out of town on business. Myra waiting at the airport for her mother's return.

Mommy's home.

It's Myra's big day and time to celebrate. We start with one of Myra's favorite places, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha.

Time to cool off at the Alaskan Adventure splash park at the zoo.

Myra loves playing in the water.

It's party time as Myra and her Dad enjoy the refreshments.

The birthday cake ...

The birthday girl.

It was a busy day and time to relax with her Dad and check her messages.

Myra eating a snack while watching the Olympics (and sitting on her Curious George doll).

15 more years until she can get a driver's license.

Time for this big girl to explore and learn. Myra checks out a newly hatched cicada.

20 August 2016

Wildflower - Teasel

The blooming of the Common Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) in the neighborhood marks the mid-point of summer as we start to approach the start of Autumn in a month or so. This flowering plant has a unique egg-shaped flower head is located on top of a stiff, tall prickly stem that can reach 8 feet tall. This non-native plant from Eurasia and North Africa attracts bees and butterflies, such as this Black Swallowtail Butterfly, when it blooms.

Swarms of bees descend on the Teasel flower heads which each contain hundreds of tiny flowers.

A honey bee covered with white pollen navigates the thorny flower head in search of nectar in the tiny white flowers.

18 August 2016

Wildflower - Queen Anne’s Lace

The fields in the neighborhood are turning white as the large flower heads of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) tower above the dried up hay fields of late summer.

Also known as Wild Carrot it is native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized to North America where it is a source of food for many insects.

While the bees and butterflies use the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers for a source of food, the undesirable Japanese Beetles use the flowers as a playground for continuing their life cycle.

A Japanese Beetle "group hug".

16 August 2016

Praying Mantis #2

For the second time this summer I have encountered a Praying Mantis while mowing a hay field. This time the praying mantis was green and much harder to find in the grass. The shape and color of the praying mantis camouflage it so it can get close to other insects which it feeds on. Notice the little black bug (food) on the leaf in the lower left of the photo.

The front legs are lined with spikes and close in a certain way to have a firm grip on the prey. A mantis has a mobile head that can turn around, large eyes, large front legs to grab prey and four legs meant for walking.

They are easy to handle and don't sting or bite (humans).

15 August 2016

Wildflower - Milkweed

The hot/dry weather of this summer has taken a toll on some of the wildflowers in the neighborhood. Much of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in the neighborhood started to die off from lack of rain soon after flowering. The 2 inches of soaking rain we received at the end of July has enabled some milkweed to start over and bloom again.

Some of the common milkweed that survived the dry weather has produced seed pods.

The Orange Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), also known as Butterflyweed, had less foliage this summer but seems to have handled the dry conditions better than the common milkweed.

14 August 2016

Wildflower - Jewelweed

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is an annual plant native to North America. Jewelweed prefers damp areas and is common in bottomland, ditches, and along creeks.

Jewelweed flowers are golden-orange with red splotches. Each flower is about an inch long.

The sap of jewelweed can be used used to relieve itching from Poison Ivy rashes.

12 August 2016

Wildflower - Allegheny Monkey Flower

The Allegheny Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens) is a native perennial that prefers swampy areas and wet meadows. The small lavender, snapdragon-like flowers bloom all summer. We have a few of these flowers in the wetland behind our barn.

Each flower purportedly resembles the face of a smiling monkey (hence the common name).

11 August 2016

Wildflower - Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), also known as Beebalm is a member of the mint family and a widespread native plant in much of North America.

Wild bergamot often grows in dry fields, thickets, and clearings, and commonly occurring in large clumps. The plants generally flower from June to September.

The common name of Beebalm is derived from it attracting many bees in search of the nectar in its narrow tubular flowers.