Giant fishflies, green flowers, and a furry Cyclops

Posted on July 6, 2014


We have been seeing unusual things recently, and a surprising number of them are green at least part of the time.  This is quite shocking, as we had grown accustomed to unrelieved shades of white and gray. One morning I found a large insect hiding out on the side of the house.  She was about two and a half inches long, which is a pretty good size bug in my experience, and her translucent wings had a decided green cast.

Female Dobsonfly hiding out

I captured her in a peanut butter jar and brought her into the house to measure and identify. She turned out to be a female Dobsonfly, a very large variety of fishfly. Indoors she was clearly brown – and clearly annoyed with me.  She managed to get away and I have no idea where she went.

Dobsonfly in brown

Fortunately, adult dobsonflies have a life expectancy of about a week, not even taking into account curious spaniels, so that’s all right then . . . unless she deposited eggs in the Cowboy’s water dish. If we end up raising hellgrammites in the dog room, people who fish for bass will be beating a muddy path to our door and we will become the Writing Studio and Bait Shop in earnest.

Bringing things home is getting to be a bad habit. During a walk up at Bayview I spotted a patch of unusual yellow-green flowers.  I couldn’t remember what they were called, so I picked a bouquet, took it home, and looked it up in my trusty Wildflowers of Michigan Field Guide.  Stan Tekiela identified my bouquet as Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula), a “very aggressive European import officially considered a noxious weed in Michigan.”  He went on in wretched detail.  The miscreant is poisonous. It has laxative properties. The common name comes from the Latin expurgare, “to purge.”

Leafy spurge bouquet

Huh. Who knew? Well, OK, Stan did, and now we know too. The thing is, it grows everywhere Around Here in the early summer, and . . . it’s pretty.  The parts that look like petals are really bracts, just like poinsettias; the flower itself is that tiny little part in the center.  Miss Sadie, the Cowboy and I will probably bring it home again but we promise not to put it in the salad.

Leafy spurge bracts in closeup

During that same walk a single Jack-in-the-Pulpit appeared at the edge of the meadow.  Just one. This could suggest that Jack is a prophet crying in the wilderness. There’s a lot of that going around.

Jack in the pulpit - Bayview

Bedazzled by all the green, we found it a nice change to wake up to a Polyphemus moth on the window ledge. He was a bit the worse for wear, but still very handsome. He’s named after the Cyclops blinded by Odysseus, which seems unfair to the moth. After all, he has four eyespots, not just one, and he’s an inoffensive and intricate creature.

Polyphemus moth full spread

Apparently those very full (“plumose” – isn’t that a nice word?) antennae are the key to tracking the pheromones of female moths. As a side benefit, he probably gets very good cellphone reception.

Polyphemus moth with plumose antennae

I was fascinated by how downright furry he looked up close, and by the transparent tissue that makes up the center of each eyespot. It looks like glassine, or old-fashioned isinglass.

Polyphemus moth wings with transparent eyes

If you read yesterday’s post, you know that WOL and Linda were right about the ringers in the Recycled/Repurposed gallery. (You probably knew that already. Not much gets past any of you.)

I leave you with one last vision of our northern woods. Bruce Bigelow has been removing dead and dying trees in the neighborhood because (1) they have been threatening to fall down on our valuable persons and (2) they are potentially good firewood and after last winter firewood is much on everyone’s mind. The roots are left to keep all our Critical Dunes (aka sandy hills) from sliding into the Bay. As a result, one of my favorite Hoo-doo Trees has devolved from a woodpecker condo complex to a Stump Creature.

Stump creature

I believe he goes BOO in the night.