SUMMER IN MY GARDEN - Episode Three - THE FOCUS IS ON THE FIG TREES THIS TIME
I have four trees that produce plenty of delicious, extremely sweet fruits every summer. Every tree bears fruits in different periods providing fresh figs more or less constantly throughout the season. My friends, family, and I aren't the only creatures that enjoy those fruits. We share them with a wide variety of fascinating little arthropods whose existence revolves around the plants in my yard.
You'll see plenty of insects in this episode, and some spiders too.
This is Vanessa atalanta, commonly known as the red admiral, a butterfly from the Nymphalidae family that often feeds on the overripe fruits that exude their juices through the crevices in the skin and holes made by other animals. In the following photograph ...
... the butterfly has spread its wings so you can see the colors and markings on the upper surfaces that were hidden a moment earlier.
The wings are vertically folded again in this shot. I rotated the photograph because when the butterfly is hanging upside down I feel the urge to turn myself on my head to get the scene leveled. This overturned, unnatural layout in the picture somehow looks more natural to me.
Here you can see a photograph taken when the butterfly has flown away.
These ants also regularly feed on figs ...
... but they can easily enter the ripe fruits that are still far from dissolving and rotting.
With their mandibles, ants can enlarge the tiny hole called the ostiole and reach the nutrient interior.
These are the Camponotus lateralis ants.
This species lives, nests, and searches for food mainly on trees.
Here you can see an early morning portrait of one of the many leaves that cover the branches of my fig trees during the summer.
I found a few interesting insects on those leaves. Some of them were tiny like this weevil, for example ...
... others were pretty big for an insect.
This Eupholidoptera chabrieri bushcricket is the biggest of those big ones.
When it comes to the tiny weevil, the name of the species is Trichosirocalus troglodytes. The family is Curculionidae. This beetle doesn't feed on any part of the fig tree.
The bushcricket is stretching its long hindlegs in this shot.
Here you can see another weevil. This species is even smaller than the previous one. Can't tell you its scientific name. The family is probably Apionidae.
Here you can see the long-legged Nephrotoma appendiculata crane fly resting on the leaf.
You can take a look at one tiny ant here.
The name of the species is Crematogaster ionia.
I used only the ambient light in this and the previous two photographs.
In this wider shot, you can compare the size of the bushcricket with the size of the leaf. The leaves are pretty large, that's the point this photograph is trying to make.
Here you can see a collection of foliage from all four trees in my yard. The species is always the same, Ficus carica, but cultivars are different. The leaves look the same, but there is a nice diversity among the fruits.
The skin of the figs shown in this tryptich made of photographs taken on the last day of August has a nice combination of green and violet color and their juice is intensely red.
On the 3rd of September, early in the morning ...
... the sweet, sticky liquid dripping from the fruits was beautifully illuminated.
This is one of those tiny but spectacular things that happen regularly in my garden, year after year, but I notice them once in a decade, or in some cases - never.
Through photography, one can collect and preserve these delicate liquid jewels.
In this shot, the droplet is shown upside down. It looks more surreal, more like something out of a fantasy setting that way.
The juice was coming out through a tiny hole called the ostiole.
Here you can see two Crematogaster scutellaris ants tending a waxy scale insect.
Ceroplastes waxy scales, sparsely scattered across the upper surface of some leaves, can produce honeydew.
The ants love that sugary liquid very much, so by protecting the scale insects, they protect a precious source of food.
The waxy scale insects shown in this and the previous five photographs belong to the genus Ceroplastes of the Coccidae family. I can't tell you what species exactly this is. A few of them who can be found on fig trees are present in this area. Ir could be the Ceroplastes sinensis. Or the Ceroplastes rusci. Or something else. These insects defy any idea one can have about insect anatomy. They look more like limpets in their adult life. They have no limbs, no eyes, no antennae. Only the first instar nymphs and rare males have all those usual body parts. Males have wings too. Reproduction is mostly parthenogenetic so the males aren't really required for the colony to thrive.
On the leaf of another fig tree, the one planted in the opposite corner of the yard ...
... I found a high concentration of scale insects of a different kind.
Ants were also there.
The upper surface of the large leaf was teeming with life.
Just like earlier, in the case of the Ceroplastes waxy scales, Crematogaster scutellaris workers were busy tending their herd and collecting the abundance of honeydew.
The scientific name of this scale insect commonly known as the brown soft scale is Coccus hesperidum.
These are all nymphs in various stages of growth. If you enlarge the photograph by clicking on it you can explore the soft scales better, and by doing so, you'll notice the slight differences in shape, color, and size.
The congregation of scale insects and ants was a pretty spectacular macro scene, a joy to photograph.
On another leaf of the same tree, I saw many ants running around just one adult brown soft scale.
On one of the neighboring leaves, I photographed a small group of ants working around one adult Coccus hesperidum surrounded by a bunch of tiny nymphs. The ants and the scales were partially covered by some kind of silky awning made of sparse threads left probably by some caterpillar.
Here you can see a minuscule beetle entering the fruit through the ostiole.
Epuraea ocularis is the name of this species from the Nitidulidae family. I saw a few of these beetles entering and exiting the same fruit. Epuraea ocularis feeds on various overripe fruits and all kinds of decaying vegetable matter.
At some point, I saw a closely related species from the same family coming out of the fruit. A mating pair of Carpophilus zeaphilus. They were pretty fast so I wasn't able to get anything better than this shot in which the beetles are partially hidden by the fig.
The common fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) were also visiting the interior of that same fig. You can see one of those in the center of this shot.
You can see a much bigger beetle entering the soft overripe fruit in this set of six photographs. The beetle can be only partially seen here but in the following shot ...
... you can see the entire insect in all its iridescent glory. This Protaetia aeruginosa, that's the scientific name of the species, was photographed on the fruit that had fallen down on the ground below the tree. Protaetia aeruginosa belongs to the large and varied Scarabaeidae family.
When an overripe fig falls from the tree, it attracts the usual fruit lovers from the insect world.
Here you can see the common fruit fly.
This is the red admiral, the butterfly introduced at the beginning of this episode.
Ants can be also seen feeding on the sweet liquids provided by the fruit.
In this and the previous shot, you can see the minuscule Plagiolepis pygmaea workers. In the following photograph ...
... especially if you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you can see how big a difference in size between two ant species can be. The big one is Camponotus aethiops. The tiny one - Plagiolepis pygmaea.
In this shot, a Drosophila melanogaster fly is resting on the leaf of some herbaceous plant near the fallen fig.
This slightly bigger Drosophila immigrans was photographed on the blade of grass about ten centimeters further.
Here you can see the tiny fly that I wasn't able to identify. In the following photograph ...
... a jumping spider is roaming the upper surface of the fig leaf. The name of the species is Icius hamatus. The family is Salticidae, of course.
This scene was photographed on the opposite surface of another leaf.
Another Icius hamatus has caught a winged Camponotus aethiops male.
It all happened on the lower branches of the tree. The spider with its prey was relatively high above my head ...
... so I spent about half an hour in a very uncomfortable pose on the tips of my toes to get these shots. When the following photograph was taken ...
... the spider was ready to leave what remains of the ant.
This moth was resting on the stalk of another leaf not far from there.
The name of the species is Agriphila inquinatella, it belongs to the Crambidae family. The tiny thing, shown in the following photograph...
... isn't an animal. It's just a seed that ended up attached to the fig leaf somehow. Can't tell you what plant has produced this thing.
One of the two lines of tomato plants I have in my garden this summer ends right next to the trunk of the fig tree shown in this photograph. Some branches are above the tomatoes therefore some partially dissolved overripe fruits or their sticky fragments don't reach the ground but end up glued to the tomato leaves and fruits.
On one such partially dissolved fig I found a mosquito. An Aedes albopictus mosquito. The same species that was shown with the abdomen filled with my blood in the previous episode.
This is a male. Only females need blood. I knew that the males feed on nectar and other sugary liquids but this was the first time I actually saw and photographed one of them sucking something sweet.
A Carpophilus zeaphilus beetle was feeding on the same fruit.
These beetles can be very hard to notice among the details of the fruit's interior.
Here you can see a Carpophilus zeaphilus resting on the stalk of the tomato fruit. While I was photographing the beetles and the male mosquitoes ...
... a female arrived and started sucking my blood. You can see its abdomen getting thicker if you follow the pictures in this triptych from the left to the right. When the following photograph was taken ...
... the abdomen was swollen enough for the blood in it to be visible.
Very soon the males as well could be seen on my skin. They weren't there for food but for the female.
Males are visibly smaller than females. But more often than not, you can't compare a male to a female and see which mosquito is bigger. The insects won't stay next to each other for you to identify their sex. you can easily recognize a male for its antennae. They look like minuscule feathers and are more sophisticated and sensitive than the antennae of the females.
The feathery antennae are a great tool for detecting the female feromones and hearing some specific sounds, frequencies that the human ear cannot hear, made by the buzzing female.
Here you can see a male attempting to mate while the female is feeding in the area near my heel. I had to get myself into a very uncomfortable, contorted pose to get these photographs.
Here you can see another female feeding.
This Drosophila melanogaster fly was feeding on the partially dissolved fruit that fell from the tree and ended up attached to the stems and leaves of the tomato plant. First I took a couple of photographs with the flash, and then ...
... I took one without it. The fly looks better and is more prominent in the shot when photographed in ambient light. But since the light was pretty low in the shade of the tree, shooting with the flash was much easier.
In this last shot, you can see the Fannia canicularis fly feeding on the fallen fig.
AND THAT'S IT. AS ALWAYS HERE ON HIVE, THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE MY WORK
The following links will take you to the sites with more information about the protagonists of this post. I found some stuff about them there.
I have two more links of a different kind for you.
These two will take you to the previous episodes if you wish to go there.