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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

11 June 2008

My Town Wednesday: Stuff in my yard

Stuff in my yard, part 1: Critters (invertebrates)

“My Town Monday” is the brainchild of Travis Erwin at One Word, One Rung, One Day. The goal is to introduce your blog readers to what’s special about your town. Because I usually blog on Wednesdays, I do a "My Town Wednesday" instead. My next several "My Town Wednesday" posts will feature the plants and animals that frequent my yard.

Semitropical New Orleans is a bug’s idea of paradise.

Arid Southern California is not. Since we moved here, I have not seen a single cockroach. No caterpillars infest my tomato plants, and no aphids mar the beauty of my roses.

Still, many insects and other invertebrates make a good living here. Here are some that live in my yard. I will identify those I can. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong and to identify others.

We have many flowers and fruits trees, so honey bees (Apis mellifera) are welcome guests. I do not know the name of the wildflower this one is visiting.

Other members of the Hymenoptera live and breed in our yard. This nest of paper wasps (Polistes sp., perhaps Polistes fuscatus) is shown on 14 May (top) and on 10 June (bottom). The builders sleep on the outside of the nest at night and add new cells during the day.

I suspect these mud structures may be abandoned nests of different species of mud dauber wasps.

Brown garden snails (Helix aspersa) are our yard’s greatest pests. They love to eat tender young flowers, leaves, and plant stalks. They are not native to California, but were introduced here in the 1850s as food. (Yech!) Above, from top to bottom, are a snail on a wall out of its shell; a snail on a wall in its shell; snails enjoying their usual daytime activity, huddling together in a shady place; and snails clustered together for the night on a pile of nyger seeds under the finch feeder.


Coming soon:
  • Review of Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
  • Stuff in my yard, part 2: Critters (vertebrates)


Travis Erwin said...

Interesting and I plan to do a local faun and flora psot myself in the future. We have plemty of mud dauber wasps as well, but they don't makenests quit that big around here.

I'll link to this when I post this next week's My Town Monday post.

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks for the link, TRAVIS. I'm curious to see what kinds of plants and animals you have in the Panhandle. It seems similar enough to our climate here that we may have considerable overlap. I'm really hoping to get a photo of a coyote before I do my installment on vertebrates.

Charles Gramlich said...

That's a powerful lot of snails. You know, you'd think they'd be more common here with all the wet but I don't see that many, and certainly not big ones. Maybe there is something here that preys on them, though.

Barbara Martin said...

Nice photos of the wasps and the nests, and close up, too. i'm not too fond of them, preferring to stay away. In the fall, once the leaves are gone you can see where all the nests are, hanging on branches high up. I'm surprised they make it through our frigid winters.

I'm also interested in plants and animals from other places, so our blogging will become an excellent educational pool.

Shauna Roberts said...

CHARLES, the snails are so thick in the mornings as they travel to their hiding places for the day that no matter how hard I try to avoid stepping on any, I still sometimes crush one or two when I go out to get the paper or water the plants. We have another type of snail here too, but it is more secretive and I forgot to take any pictures of them.

BARBARA, I climbed up on a ladder so I could photograph the wasps with a flash close up. That wasn't as risky as it sounds: I did it early in the morning while they were still sluggish or sleeping.

Lisa said...

I love this view of things! What a great idea. There sure are a whole lot of snails though! I wouldn't expect so many in a place that I assume is pretty dry though. Interesting...

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for sharing some of your local nature! I look forward to seeing more. :)

Shauna Roberts said...

LISA and LANA, I'm glad you enjoyed seeing my first California critters post. The snails tend to hang out most in the areas covered by the sprinkler system, where they do get some moisture. Still, I do find empty snail shells on the dry hills in the yard, so they must venture into the dry areas sometimes.

Farrah Rochon said...

Shauna, you are the only person who can make snail and wasps interesting for me. :)

Wonderful pictures. I love the idea of "My town Wednesdays". I may consider doing a similar post. It's a great way to learn interesting facts about your town. :)

Cool, cool post.

Rae Ann Parker said...

Shauna, great photographs. Do you miss the New Orleans cockroaches? ;) I think it would be lovely to have fruit trees in your yard. I also like the "My town" posts. It is great to learn about different areas. Thanks for sharing.

Sidney said...

Great pictures. There's now a bird in my yard that dive bomb's my cat every time he goes out. He's usually more of a threat to mice than birds, but I guess she figures he's a predator, take no chances.

Travis Erwin said...

I got the link up today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The most gorgeous photos. Thanks so much. What a contrast to our fauna and flora.

Barrie said...

Great photos! I'm further south than you (San Diego) and we're inundated with lizards this summer. Looks as though you've got the snails!

Shauna Roberts said...

FARRAH, glad you enjoyed the invertebrates!

RAE ANN, I sure do not miss the NOLA cockroaches! Apparently cockroaches do live in California, but we have not seen a single one. In fact, there are a lot fewer bugs here of all kinds.

SIDNEY, thanks, and thanks for stopping by. I saw a crow divebombing a hawk last week. Interesting behavior.

TRAVIS, thanks.

PATRICIA, I see you're in Michigan. I grew up in southwestern Ohio, so your and my baselines of what is "normal" nature are probably similar. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

BARRIE, thanks. We are having the same number of lizards as usual this summer. You're lucky; lizards are so much more interesting than snails. I've got a couple of pictures of lizards to post when I do the next installment of "Stuff in my yard," which will be vertebrates.

debra said...

Thanks for an interesting post, Shauna. This has been a year for carpenter bees, deer flies and slugs in the garden so far. It sure is good to see honey bees, isn't it.

Carleen Brice said...

love these pics!

Shauna Roberts said...

DEBRA, yes, I love to see the honey bees doing their job, knowing it means more flowers and more fruits to come.

CARLEEN, thanks!