Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Waking Up for Spring

Nuptial Flights
Today was warm enough for Prenolepis imparis to fly here but all I saw were males leaving colonies once again. I'm hoping the colonies I normally watch didn't simply favor males this year. It's been a yearly thing that I photograph the queens as they take off. Assuming the colony has queens to send out I'm assuming that it's just to dry now. The main flight of the area has yet to take place and I'm hoping it's just due to lack of rain.

Normally they'd be up and out on the first day they can in or after February. I believe the moisture they need is already there in the soil as the ground thaws.

In walking around the yard I found many colonies are coming out of hibernation. Prenolepis imparis is the only one that's actively foraging though. Others like Aphaenogaster and Formica are currently taking advantage of rocks and logs to warm up the colony. They sunbath (usually under the rock) and gather heat to bring back down to the winter chamber where the rest of the colony is.

Another thing out in my yard, I noticed under a piece of wood I commonly lift were three colonies of ants. Lasius claviger had their underground aphids up with them, Tetramorium casepitum (species E) was there in the middle, and Camponotus castaneur nesting next to them. This is a neat combination because the Lasius here is almost completely subterranean, the Tetramorium is an invasive grass ant, and the Camponotus only forages at night.

The honey bees were out today and bringing in loads of pollen. I'm happy that all 4 hives survived the winter. Now I need to see about controlling their swarming.

I also saw my first Bumblebee yesterday. This early in the year almost all the bumblebees you see are queens. Though starting new queens out in captivity is tricky I don't believe they have that high of a success rate.

When the trees start blooming I'll put my Mason Bees outside too. They're currently hibernating in the fridge, and I look forward to seeing them become active again.

Butterflies and Nature
Nothing to report on butterflies yet. There was the egg case that showed up on the nectarine tree but that's probably been there since the fall. I see similar things on trees out in the woods that are commonly targeted by tent caterpillars.

The Crocuses are amazing and blooming better than ever. The few that weren't eaten by the rodents around here have bloomed wonderfully and I even see some have divided.

The Native Honeysuckle I just got in I also planted. The day started out with me looking for a place to plant them. My mom finally saw pictures of what I was trying to plant.... And then she told me I could dig up her Butterfly Bush!!!!! (Something I've been wanting to get rid of since we bought it!) So I bought her a trellis and got another one for myself, and I have planted 2 of the 3 I bought. My one remaining Honeysuckle plant will go to one of my relatives I think or friends.