Photos of the Week – October 30, 2020

This week started out with a couple inches of snow on the ground and temperatures in the mid teens. It was cold, blustery, and a bit of a shock after a pretty mild fall to this point. I enjoyed having the snow around, but it also felt like the last nail in the coffin of the growing season, including for our garden.

When frigid weather slaps us each fall, I like waiting to see which invertebrates are going to be active again when the next warm spell returns. Wednesday, I had the chance to do my first observations for this year. The temperatures were very mild – above 60 degrees – and it was sunny and pleasant. I saw three different insects that seemed just fine. First, I saw a mosquito, which I’ll admit was a surprise. The other two species I saw didn’t shock me, but the mosquito kinda did.

Anyway, the other two species I saw were the black crickets that hang around in and around the house and false milkweed bugs. For some reason, we don’t have a lot of crickets that get into our house – or at least the ones that do aren’t overly noisy. I’m happy about that, given my previous experience with very noisy chirping that makes it hard to sleep. The crickets I saw Wednesday were out in the alley near our prairie garden, and they looked very perky.

False milkweed bugs (Lygaeus turcicus) on false sunflower in our prairie garden yesterday. (You’d be excused for confusing these with boxelder bugs, but those have much less orange on their backs.)

The false milkweed bugs were very active in the prairie garden itself. Some looked like they might be feeding on seeds, while others appeared to be just basking in the sun – though most quickly moved into the shade and away from me, as I approached them. I wonder if they found enough shelter last weekend to keep from freezing or just froze up and then reanimated when warmer temperatures returned. Either way, it’s a remarkable achievement.

While I chased the false milkweed bugs around, I also noticed stiff goldenrod seeds hanging precariously from a number of plants – including, but not limited to, stiff goldenrod plants! Those kinds of wind-dispersed seeds flying around, or dangling from golden brown stems, leaves, and seed heads, always seem like they’re emblematic of autumn in the prairie, so I photographed a few of those as well.

Stiff goldenrod seed (Solidago rigida) hanging on the seedhead of ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii).
Stiff goldenrod seeds.
Stiff goldenrod seeds.

Best wishes to all of you over the coming days. Especially here in the United States, they will certainly be eventful. Stay safe, everyone. Also, be like Jack and wear a mask!

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.

2 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – October 30, 2020

  1. Would you believe the False Milkweed Beetle is not in Kaufman’s Field Guide to Insects of N. Am.? So, I had to look it up to figure out why it was false and how you could tell it apart from the Large and the Small Milkweed Beetles. So, thank you for the opportunity to add something new to my knowledge this morning (on top of the Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee, which I just discovered yesterday).

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