Gray Foxes in the Garden!

One of the GNG trail-cams caught some cuties recently – two Gray Foxes!  This came as a little surprise.  First, foxes have not been seen on the property in the past – although foxes definitely inhabit the Santa Monica Mountains.  Second, there is much construction in the surrounding neighborhood, and that has seemed to disrupt larger mammal species that are normally seen in the GNG.  Either way, we are very happy to add a new mammal species to the list!

Both Gray Foxes and Red Foxes can be found in Southern California, but it is only the Gray Fox that is native. Even though these night-time images were captured in inferred, telling the difference between the two species is easy. Gray Foxes have a black stripe that runs down the top of its long, black-tipped tail. Red Foxes do not have the black stripe, and their long tail is tipped in white.

Great Golden Digger Wasp

Wasps seem to be the busiest insects in the garden, in constant motion while searching of food for their young. Many species of wasps have long legs, allowing them to easily walk on foliage and swiftly run down prey.  This Great Golden Digger Wasp was seen walking from one flower-head to another in search of it’s preferred prey to feed its young - grasshoppers and katydids.

Great Golden Digger Wasp - Sphex ichneumoneus

Diversity of Native Bees

One of the greatest pleasures of having a native garden is watching native pollinators as they take advantage of the habitat you have created…

Slevin's Cellophane Bee - Colletes slevini

Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee - Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex

mason bee -  Dianthidium sp.

Sweat Bee - Halictus tripartitus

Large Grass Spider Captures Supper

Grass spiders are in the family Agelenidae, or Funnel Weavers. This family gets its name from the spider's horizontal, sheet-like web that has a small funnel-like tube where the it can reside safely out of sight.  Their webs are rather interesting because, for the most part, they are not sticky. Over the top of their sheet-web, they create a 3-dimensional obstacle out of single strands of webbing. When a flying insect hits these strands, it falls onto the sheet below. The spider will then charge out of its funnel and subdue its prey. 

The GNG has dozens of funnel weaver spiders throughout the property, most are quite small (measuring only a ¼” or so).  The spider pictured below is a large species of funnel weaver (use the Honey Bee prey for scale!) and many now inhabit an area above the upper pond.

Grass spider – Agelenopsis sp.

Lacewing Larvae Defends Apache Plume

Green lacewings are welcome guests in the GNG as their larvae are ravenous predators of the eggs and immature stages of soft bodied insects, especially aphids.  When left unchecked, many soft bodied insect species can become garden pests. Lacewings are one of the natural predators that keep pesticides out of your garden.

Pollen-covered lacewing larvae on Apache Plume Flower

In about 30 - 40 days, a frightening looking green lacewing larvae will become an adult with an almost “fairy-like” appearance – especially while in flight.  The adult lacewing pictured below was attracted to a UV light while surveying moths in the GNG.

Adult green lacewing - Chrysopidae Sp.

Camouflaged?!?

We are quite certain that this grasshopper nymph could have picked a better spot to use its green camouflage coloring in a more effective way…

Evening Primrose Gets Pollinated

Leaf-cutter bees (Megachilidae) are productive pollinators for many flowering plants and like most of our native bees, are solitary.  Even if not seen cutting or carrying leaves for their nest, leaf-cutters are easy to identify by the way they carry their pollen. A leaf-cutter bee's pollen-carrying structure (called a scopa) is on their abdomen. These bees seem to “swim” on flowers, rubbing their abdomen over pollen structures, collecting it on their scopa.

Unlike many other bee species, leaf-cutters do not mix nectar and salivary secretions with the pollen they are collecting (creating a pollen "paste") before transporting it. This causes the pollen to be loosely packed in their scopa and much can fall off as the bee visits flowers, making for very good pollination.

Western Little Leaf-cutter Bee - Megachile onobrychidis ♀ and Booker Evening Primrose

You can easily see individual pollen grains this bee has collected because she did not create a pollen “paste”.  Evening Primrose flowers must release much of their pollen when they wither because bees more actively visit them in this state than when they are in full bloom.

Discarded Exoskeleton

If you look carefully, sometimes interesting clues can be found in your garden, clues left by animals passing through or living within. This empty exuvia (larval skin) was found at the upper pond and belonged to a dragonfly going through metamorphosis.  We were very happy to find it because even though dragonflies are clearly breeding in the GNG and laying eggs in the ponds, it was not known if any of the larvae survived once the eggs hatched.  The larval stage of dragonflies can last many years; making a pesticide free and stable environment is very important for them to flourish.

So because of a discarded exoskeleton, we are now sure that we have a healthy ecosystem in the GNG's upper pond.

Honey Bee on Buckwheat?

Nope!   It is a syrphid fly, and this species happens to be an especially good bee mimic.   And just as bees are good pollinators, so are many fly species.  In fact, after bees, Syrphid flies are considered to be some of the best all-around flower pollinators.

Syrphid Fly - Eristalis stipulator