Friday 5: Springtime in Memphis

When my husband and I got married, we had intended to do a sort of barbecue tour of the southern US for our honeymoon.  We planned to start in Arizona and head out across the southern states by car, sampling smoked meats of the various regional styles of Texas, Tennessee, and both Carolinas.  I was really excited about this because you’re looking at a gal that will soon own THREE grills!  But then we had to move our wedding date and because we had only a single day off before we both had to go back to work, the honeymoon was put on hold.  We still haven’t done the BBQ tour we’d planned, but we recently went to one of our intended stops, Memphis, to celebrate our anniversary.  We ate a ton of BBQ, listened to some excellent blues, and toured the sites of the city.  It was a really fun trip!

But what does this have to do with insects, you’re probably asking yourself?  I carry a camera around with me everywhere, so I always have one on hand when I come across interesting insects.  Spring was just starting when we arrived in Memphis and it rained the first two days we were there, so the pickings were a bit sparse, but I did see a few things!  These were my favorite:

Carpenter bee

Carpenter bee (Xylacopa viginica) male flying.

The eastern carpenter bees (Xylacopa viginica) were out en masse!  There were thousands of them flying about the Memphis Botanic Garden when we visited, all males that appeared to be looking for nesting sites.  At one point, we took a seat in a shady spot off the main path and there were hundreds of the bees flying around the little wooden structure that shaded the bench.  It was magical sitting there among so many huge bees as they searched for places to build nests.  It was one of the highlights of my trip!

The Japanese garden at the botanical garden was in full bloom and the cherry trees were stunning!  There were surprisingly few pollinators out though.  I only saw two insects on any of the cherry blossoms.   I never did get a good shot of this little fly because it was quite windy that day, but I’m gong to share this with you anyway:


Fly. Honestly, I'm not sure if this is a mosquito or a midge or even something else. Morgan - I'd appreciate some input if you read this!

We also saw  this cloudless sulphur (Phoebus sennae) flitting about the flowers:

cloudless sulphus on cherry

Cloudless sulphur on cherry

I don’t really like butterflies, but even I’ll admit that they are pretty, even the less flamboyant whites and sulphurs.  And cherry blossoms – wow!  I’d never seen them in person before and they were amazing!  We also saw this:



And these caught in flagrante:

Ladybugs mating

Ladybugs mating

The ladybugs were definitely out and active during our trip!  I actually see rather few ladybugs in Arizona (there are a lot of them here – I just don’t see many for whatever reason), so it was exciting to see so many of them flying around and getting busy making a new generation of brightly colored beetles.

As an extra special Friday 5 bonus, if you ever get tired and thirsty, just look for this beetle in Memphis:

Green Beetle

Green Beetle Tavern

The Green Beetle Tavern claims to be the oldest in Memphis.  We came across this in the middle of the day as we walked from the South Historic District to Beale Street so we didn’t stop in, but I’ll have to make a special trip there next time I’m in Memphis.

I think I would have seen more insects if we’d planned our trip even a week later.  You have to work with what you’ve got when it comes to insects and we just happened to be there at the slightly wrong time.  Still, I really enjoyed seeing a new place and exploring the things Memphis had to offer.  And, I have an excuse to go back someday.  There are still a lot of insects I haven’t seen there!  :)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

10 thoughts on “Friday 5: Springtime in Memphis

  1. Happy anniversary, and great story! I’ll definitely have to stop by that tavern if I find myself in Memphis. Your fly looks like a chironomid midge to me, although I’m not sure much beyond that unfortunately (my ‘Nematocera’ identification skills are embarrassingly bad).

    • That’s how I was leaning, and I certainly don’t need it IDed any further than that. I was thinking mosquito at first, but then I noticed the legs weren’t quite right, nor were the antennae. And your bad Nematocera skills still far outdo anything I can do with any of the Diptera adults. I’m happy if I can get most flies down to family!

  2. Looks like a midge of some sort to me. Mosquitoes seem (I’m not a taxonomist or anything) to always have a kind of hunched posture, and most of them sit with one pair of their legs raised. This guy has the standard flat body posture that most flies have, and all six legs are on the “ground”. I also don’t see any sign of the mosquito proboscis, and the wings are shorter than the body (most local mosquitoes have longer wings).

    I have no idea if these are actual universal Mosquito rules or just ones followed by all the little demons that live around me in Florida. There could even be rulebreakers in Florida I don’t know about for all I know.

    • Well, Morgan up there above you in the comment stream could tell you better than I could. I am absolutely terrible at IDing flies! I do like the little demon part of the comment too. My sentiments about mosquitoes exactly!

  3. i live in memphis and would have loved to meet you guys and show you some awesome nature places, but that’s not what anniversary vacations are for. glad you enjoyed the bbq and saw some cool things.

    • I wish I’d known that before we went! I would have been happy to get some expert advice from an insider. That said, I am SO much more outdoorsy than my husband that he probably would have been a little unnerved by heading out into the wilderness with people he didn’t know. :) One question – I didn’t know it was there until after we left the Botanic Garden and headed to a laundromat in a rather unsavory part of town, but the Dixon Gallery and Gardens… Is that worth seeing if we go back? It looked pretty amazing just driving past and I was sorry we didn’t have a chance to see it. And your city has very fine BBQ! Mmmm… I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many ribs over such a short period before, but it was totally worth it!

      • dixon gallery.. totally worth it, as is the lichterman nature center (a personal favorite)… there are also some great board walks in swampy areas that i just love.. and the strawberry plains audubon center… oh, don’t get me started…
        ‘m glad you enjoyed your visit and the BBQ. the great BBQ fest is in may. might try coming that time of year. oh, and try brother junipers for breakfast next time.

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