What’s Orange, Black, Fuzzy, and Runs Really Fast?



Buck and I were about to take a walk in the woods late this morning, when Buck spotted this strange-looking critter running across the driveway. It looks like a surreal, huge, fuzzy ant. We tried to get him stopped long enough for me to take a picture, but nothing doing. I only got this one because he probably thinks he’s hidden. It’s called a Red Velvet Ant, or sometimes the Cow Killer Ant. In fact, it’s a type of wingless wasp. Read about it here. Note: They are not aggressive, but if you step on one bare-footed, you’re liable to get a painful sting.  I don’t think they actually kill cows, though.


Thanks to Bill Petty, the mushroom guy micologist, naturalist and Master Gardener, for identifying the flying insect visiting the wild foxglove that I thought looked like a tiny bee of some sort. Here's what Bill said in a comment on my Facebook page. . .

"I agree with Dr. Parker's identification. Those are beautiful pix! I especially like that you caught the hover fly in mid-visit."

I learned that Hoverfly is a mostly unknown alternative rock band, a public relations company in Washington, D.C. and (ta da) an insect also known as a flower flly or a syrphid fly. Adults feed on nectar and pollen, while their little maggots are a gardener's friend, since they prey upon aphids and thrips. Read more here.




The woods felt like a steam bath late yesterday afternoon when I went walking. The ground was still damp from the long, heavy downpour on Sunday, when we lost power for five hours. (A good thing, sometimes, when the power goes out on a Sunday afternoon. One stops, jumps the tracks, finds a chair with a little light and reads, or stretches out in the bed in the middle of the day.)

I saw the fly on vivid green needles and thought: reviled as flies are, how beautiful his segmented body; how gossamer his wings.

I thought, too, about my younger brother, Steve, and how lying in a hospital bed for days, for weeks, is a particular trial of the human spirit. I am learning to communicate over the phone, to be present with him, when there is nothing to ask, little to say.

Steve has a PICC line to deliver TPN (total parenteral nutrition), antibiotics and to take blood samples. He is in isolation right now because of an acquired VRE infection. Sometimes when I talk with him, he speaks in an almost-whisper, and apologizes. He is trying to lie totally still because when the belly pain is at its worst, that is the only thing that seems to make it bearable. When possible, right after pain meds are delivered, he struggles out of bed, puts on the barrier protection gown (like a haz-mat suit), and pushes his i-v cart down the hall for a little exercise. He took a shower yesterday, with help. This is a big undertaking, time-consuming and awkward, but critical for body, mind, and spirit.

We talked about hope yesterday: hope that he will be strong enough to endure the June 14 fistula repair surgery; hope that it will be successful; hope that he will be walking on a beautiful beach by mid-summer; hope that he will be able to meet his college son, Taylor,  at the airport when he returns from his semester in Moscow.

By the time I got back home from my walk yesterday, I was hot and sweaty. I stuck a toe in the swimming pool. It was so "refreshing" with all the cold rainwater that had filled it to the brim the day before, that I yanked my toe back out and settled for a cool indoor shower instead.

Food Chain

 IMG_2907 This dirt (or mud) dauber has stung the spider and  begun dragging it away. In the lower photo, Buck moved the spider into a clear spot on the ground. I took the picture, then we left the wasp to the work of moving the spider into its pantry. Yum.

Red Velvet Ant

As you all well know by now, there's no telling what Buck and I may see in the woods around here. Just when I am sure I have seen it all, Buck finds some new weird bug or critter. We walked this afternoon. All of a sudden, Buck said, "Look! There's one of those big red squeaking ants! I'll get him hemmed up and you take his picture."





If my research is correct, "he" is "she," and not an ant at all, but a type of wasp. Click here to read a question and answer from the All Experts entomology forum. It's informative and funny as all get out, especially when the questioner describes how "the darn ant started to cry."

She stayed still for a few seconds, possibly believing she was hidden under those two blades of grass, and then went boogedy, boogedy, boogedy down the fireline road, so fast she made me think of a hovercraft.



Yellow Jackets



I thought this hole in the ground might be another tortoise den, and went over for a closer look. Luckily, my footfalls didn’t disturb the yellow jackets and their underground nest enough to swarm and sting.