The Impact of Milkweed Bug Sex

August 14, 2010

It is hot, hot, hot. The impatiens droop and look deceivingly like they’ll never recover. You can almost hear them gasping for water. The hydrangea is wilted and shrunken in the front beds and the transplanted milkweed is just plain sad. I’ve had the rain barrel open to water those impatiens, but now it’s empty.

My annual angst about the garlic chive has been assuaged. Every year, I see little tufts here and there, but not nearly everywhere. They bud and bloom and I wonder where all of the other plants went. Then, as usual, I realize those few are the early birds, as buds begin to rise on stems all over the berm and in surprising pockets all over the yard. Worry banished – white flowers everywhere!

As I walk around the yard, doing the circuit, my eye is caught by an aerial acrobat. An orchard spider is spinning a web, anchored by the brick of the chimney and then seeming to extend into nowhere, actually held in place by the hosta leaves. Brave spider. She is sharp and clean and metallic green, with dashes of yellow and orange on her bucket-shaped body. Her legs look like needles, inspiring ideas of robotic spider monsters. She dances in midair, waving her legs, letting out silk in circles. I have caught her after she’s put all the main wires in place, like invisible rays. She is now working on the center concentric circles, wheeling and spinning in ever-widening circles. I watch her until she sees me getting closer and then she freezes. I know when I’m not wanted and I move away.

The veggie garden is rather bare at this point, but Tony mulched it with the grass clippings from today (mowing the lawn in the heat and pretending to collapse when I went to check on him – ass.) I’m heading to Sid’s big sale today, so I will get seeds for broccoli and other fall crops that I can plant tomorrow. Jacob sits outside the garden, covered in black flies. While it’s gross, it’s also interesting. I am looking forward to the maggots. That should be cool. A roma tomato is ripe and I take it off the vine. The skin is thicker and the inside softer than I like it in a tomato and the taste is blander than I like. Maybe it’s because the tomato is sitting at about 95 degrees. I’ll have to try another one in cooler weather and see if it’s better. There are now enough purple runner beans for one more meal or so.

As I head to the front beds, I see the results of those unending hours of milkweed bug sex. WOW. The butterfly weed seed pods are covered, covered, covered with scurrying little orange bugs. Dozens and dozens crawl up and down, in and around. Positively prolific procreation! These are nymphs which will continue to molt as they grow larger and establish their adult coloring. They are really cute; teeny tiny antenna on shiny seed-button orange bodies. Mom and Dad (maybe?) hovered near, but I don’t think it was parental guidance as they were engaged in more reproductive recreation. I would have thought birds would have been hovering to snack them down, but that orange color puts them off. “Nasty taste here!” it shouts.

The butterfly weed seeds drape fluff all over the plant, the pods split into elegant sculptures.

hummingbird clearwing moth hovers like a hummingbird around the black knight butterfly bush, wings moving so quickly that they are a blur, just like a hummingbird. It is very large and the body is thick. He is unaffected by my camera pushed close, making exposure after exposure. Although I made about a dozen before he flew off, I got just one that was barely acceptable. How annoying.

After being thoroughly cleaned the other day, the turtle is spitting merrily, the gurgler is gurgling happily, but the waterfall is a mere trickle. And I can’t figure out why. The pump is clear and when I remove the hose, it sprays many feet into the air (drenching me), so I know it’s not the pump. Apparently it is the hose. Damn – what a hassle. I will have to get into the pond, empty all the rock out of the fountain and blow the hose out. Well, at least that bit of gardening task will keep me cool.

I use the house hose to water those sad impatiens thoroughly and then open the rain barrels on the side of the house to drench the peppers, the basil, the brussel sprouts and the tomatoes. I give those runner beans two cans full too. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, about ten cans of water in total. Then I start on the front beds, watering those hydrangeas, the new butterfly bush, the transplanted coral bells and lavender and the bee balm, making about a dozen trips back and forth there.

I trimmed a few branches from the back of the pine tree that scratches against those rain barrels and then packed it all in and went back to look at the spider. She had completed some of the outer circles, leaving the middle of the web for last.

Tony and I sat on the patio later, me with Griffey on my outstretched legs (god forbid he’s not on someone’s lap – such a cuddler) reading a book and Tony doing the crossword puzzle. Peaceful and quiet, like a garden is meant to be. I was pleased that everything was thoroughly watered, thinking it would be days before we got any real rain.

And then it started to pour. Sigh….

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