One thing I love about North Carolina is the sheer abundance of life. I didn’t know what to expect when I moved here apart from “humid” and “green,” but coming from the very biologically diverse and unique Sonoran Desert (aka, pure awesomeness!), I’ll admit that I was a little worried that I would be disappointed in my new digs. Happily, that hasn’t been the case at all! I am constantly encountering insects I haven’t seen before, and many of them are just a few steps outside my house. And let me tell you, my house is not in any way designed to be attractive to insects. We’ve got grass and a few trees, but it’s all really sterile and a little too perfectly landscaped. I’m working on building up my native plant population, messing up my yard a bit so I can actively attract insects, but there are still a lot of things to see even in my disturbingly well landscaped yard. Here are a few things I’ve discovered in the last week:
Delta Flower Scarab, Trigonopeltastes delta
These scarabs are gorgeous! They’re fairly small, but look at that pattern! They’ve become one of my favorite beetles and I always get a little giddy when I see them. I found this particular individual sitting on a mailbox one evening as my husband and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. To my great horror, I didn’t have ANY of my cameras with me, not even my phone, so I scooped the little guy up and carried it home. The guy walking his dog a few feet in front of us was treated to a full-on bug-induced squeal fest as I loudly exclaimed, “Ooh, ooh, OOOH! Look, look! Delta flower scarab! FLOWER SCARAB!! Yesssss!!!” There may or may not have also been a little happy beetle dance and a lot of wild gesticulation involved in the discovery. Sometimes I wonder what my neighbors think of me… :)
Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis
It probably doesn’t come as any surprise to you all, but dragonflies in my yard make me very happy. I saw a few dragonflies around the yard in Arizona, but they were far and few between. I was lucky to see just 1 or 2 a year. I saw 10 individuals in my Raleigh yard just yesterday, three different species! This blue dasher female let me get REALLY close to her too, within an inch. I was thrilled! I now have a lot of photos of this individual, should you ever want to see a couple dozen more nearly identical photos.
Orchard Spider, Leucauge venusta
I first encountered these gorgeous little spiders at Bug Shot in Florida last year and was immediately taken by their excellent good looks. The photo is a little overexposed, but these tiny arachnids are turquoise with a big orange spot on the underside of the abdomen and are well worth taking a close look. After seeing and photographing them in FL, I was thrilled to find several in the bush immediately next to my front door! It can be hard to get these spiders to slow down enough to get a good shot, but I also just enjoy watching them without a camera. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I say hi to them every time I leave or enter the house, but honestly that day isn’t too far off at this point…
Asian Multicolored Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis
These non-native ladybugs are incredibly common in Raleigh, so it’s no surprise at all that I see them at my house too. They’re awfully cute little ladybugs with their dome shaped bodies and the showy patterns on the thorax, but they don’t belong. There is also some recent evidence from Europe that these ladybugs carry a pathogen that can kill native ladybugs! The study should be replicated in the US, but if it holds true here too, I think we’ll see even more of these ladybugs in the future. Not that that we really need more…
This was the first katydid I spotted in my yard! Showy little bugger too. I don’t know what it is specifically, but suspect it’s one of the meadow katydids. This one hangs out right by my front door, so hopefully I’ll get to see it as an adult too! (Update: Thanks to Sean McCann for letting me know that this katydid is in the bush katydid group, Scudderia!)
That’s just a small fraction of the things I’ve seen around my yard! It’s impressive to have SO many bugs around, and I am especially loving my dragonflies. While I’m not sure the local diversity is higher than that of southern AZ, it’s still fun to see so many new things, observe new behaviors, and take new photos.
Do any of you have a favorite insect that visits your yard? If so, leave a comment below! I’d love to hear all about your amazing finds!