Backyard Nature is Coming Alive!

First, and most importantly, I made a mistake on the Quarantine Quiz I posted earlier today. It’s fixed now, but if you get blog posts via email or looked at the quiz right when it was posted the answer to #2 was wrong. Both A and C are butterflies and B is a moth… Sorry about that – I got in a hurry and was sloppy.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a backyard or similar small area and it’s currently safe for you to spend time there, now is a great time to become more intimately familiar with its inhabitants. Here in Nebraska, spring has progressed just enough that early garden flowers (crocus and daffodils) are blooming, weeds are germinating in the vegetable garden (two are even starting to flower!), and invertebrates are starting to move around.

A small fly feeds on pollen from gray field speedwell (Veronica polita), one of the first garden ‘weeds’ to bloom each spring. We have some lovely patches in our yard right now.

I spent a couple hours outside yesterday, taking advantage of some high thin clouds and a surprising gap in my video conference call schedule. Most of that time was spent lying prostrate in the garden, suffering the laughing and pointing of my kids through the windows and the occasional double take from the few people out walking past our yard. At first glance, there wasn’t much happening, other than the obvious crocus and daffodils, and birds hopping around looking for food. Once I stopped moving and really looked closely, though, that changed, and I had no trouble finding subject matter for my camera’s macro lens.

A juvenile wolf spider, which also paused just long enough to get a shot of it. This spider was only about 1/2 inch in diameter (including legs).
A false milkweed bug (Lygaeus turcicus) pauses just long enough for me to photograph it.
The same kind of small fly shown earlier, but this time feeding on shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris).
There were quite a few of these little bugs, but I don’t know what they are – apart from being true bugs (Hemipterans)
This speedwell flower fell off (wind?) and landed in a photogenic way.
The prairie wild rose (Rosa arkansana) in our prairie garden is just starting to leaf out.
This brand new little plant (probably Cannabis sativa) had a lot of character as it began to emerge from its seed beneath the ground.
There was a lot of this going on between false milkweed bugs yesterday.
Another fly on another speedwell. (I have hundreds of these from yesterday, but limited myself to sharing just two.)

If you have safe access to a yard, park, or other place where you can experience the coming of spring in person (without other people nearby), I encourage you to do so. Here in Nebraska, at least, there really is a lot of action out there, although most of it is hard to see until you go looking for it. Don’t be fooled by the apparent absence of life when looking from a distance.

My short time in the garden yesterday sure made me feel better. I hope you can find similar solace.

Be safe, friends.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

7 thoughts on “Backyard Nature is Coming Alive!

  1. Chris – You’ve probably already know this, but those are not box elder bugs but rather small milkweed bugs (Lygeaus kalmii). Steve

    • Dang it. You’re right – they aren’t boxelder bugs. This has been a rough day for this kind of thing. I’m trying to get posts out the door too fast… But I don’t think they’re L. kalmii either. Probably L. turcicus. Either way, I’m correcting… Thanks!!

  2. Cannabis sativa seedling? We seem to be short on April Fools inspiration this year. It’s a tree seedling, right? Lots of ‘ditch weed’ in the actual ditches when I was a kid but it’s all gone now. Thanks for the early insect pictures and the hope that spring is coming. We’re having a snowy day in central North Dakota today.

  3. Wow, whole new perspective, love it! Sometimes I wander around my backyard with my camera taking pictures… my neighbors probably think I have a mental problem, I do… I’m a blogger, lol. Great post!


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