in the vegetable garden

Yesterday’s field trip with the high schools students went very well. I’ll post something about it tomorrow after all of the photos are up online. As it turned out, we spent most of our time walking along discussing interesting things found along the trail. As a consequence, we ended up not having time to do any ID work, so we had no real need of field guides. Fortunately, I left most of them in my car. The weather was highly cooperative, providing sun and a fairly steady breeze that kept the mosquitoes off of us for most of the day (I’d been a little concerned about that). I think most of the students enjoyed the hike. Anyhow, more about this tomorrow.

Returning home in the afternoon, I spent a few minutes working around the new raised vegetable garden beds that we’ve recently built. We have an older vegetable garden, but much of it is becoming too shady for certain vegetables, so we’ve built a small patio near the Spider Ranch part of the yard. There are just a few patio stones surrounded by the raised beds. I’m assembling a small hearth inside the garden for evenings when we feel like fire-roasting some marinated vegetables for our dinner.

As I worked, I found one of my favourite insects — a Tortoise Beetle (see above). I believe this is the Common Garden Tortoise Beetle (Plagiometriona clavata). I found it on an eggplant leaf which had been nibbled in a couple of spots. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought the insect was just a windblown seed. However, I’ve seen these beetles before and recognize them on sight. When disturbed, they pull their legs and antennae under their elytra. I think they’re pretty neat little creatures.

Another insect which I’m seeing quite frequently are Six-spotted Tiger Beetles. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned seeing and trying to photograph them. That’s not a problem anymore. Since assembling the patio stones in the new garden, the Tiger Beetles spend a good deal of time basking, or pursuing any insects that make the unfortunate decision to come within their territory. As you can see, Tiger Beetles have rather wicked looking mandibles (click on image for larger view). However, they seem to ignore humans and I’ve never heard of anyone being bitten by one.

Of course, Sabrina wanted to lie around in the garden while I worked. She seems to be doing very well. We’re still limiting our walks to short forays around the farm, but we’ll probably be back to hiking longer trails by mid-June. Yesterday, I happened to see something just before I snapped that shot and said, “What in Sam Hill?” Sabrina must have picked up on that as she gave me a very classic curious-Collie look.

Well, it is sunny and I have quite a bit of transplanting to do out in the garden, so back to work!

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12 Responses to “in the vegetable garden”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    We’ve been spending more and more time in the garden lately too. Everything is up and growing like mad in the warm and sunny weather.

    I’m interested in the hearth that you are building. I’ve thought about doing something like that and wonder what you’ve chosen.

    Glad to see Sabrina is improving everyday. Look at that face! What a sweet girl.

  2. Cathy Says:

    It just warms my heart to see her lying there – her sweet face echoing your query. ((Melt))

    I never knew what those little tortoise bugs were – how neat. Seems you don’t resent the damage they’re doing. How do you stay ahead of bugs in your garden?

    Those sparkly Tiger beetles are well . . . so sparkly and I just love things that glitter. Interesting that those lethal mandibles are part of the pretty little package.

  3. Tussock Mirth Says:

    I love seeing all these living things.

    Lots of living things.

    I too love sparkly beetles. What can be wrong wih a shiny green beetle? I dont care if they’re poisonous or invasive or bite – just, do they have blue ones, too?



    Of course!

    Well! Wow!

    Nature is a big box. Of things.

    I think everything is happy to be alive.

    Except, I worry about things that dont move much…like say mussels – I would want to move. “How am I going to get to Genoa?” A sparkly beetle, could, perchance, get to Genoa; or move around and be distracted from that desire.

  4. bev Says:

    robin – this is just going to be a very simple hearth. I’m using a few flat stones from the garden along with a very plain old patio stone. We won’t be making large fires – just a few sticks from prunings around the gardens and fields. It’ll be partly just for the enjoyment of watching a fire, and also because we like fire-roasted vegetables. When I get the hearth done, I’ll probably take a couple of photos and will post it here or send you one.

    Cathy – Yes, it’s great to see Sabrina back to her old self and interested in everything going on around here! Regarding the insect damage to plants, I don’t usually worry too much except in the case of Tomato Horn Worms. In that case, I do remove them. I don’t use insect sprays at all around the garden though.

    Tussock Mirth – Yes, me too! This time of the year is just fantastic for seeing life all around us. There are tiger beetles in a lot of colours – iridescent purple and I’m pretty sure there are metallic blue ones too. They’re among my favourite insects. And yes, Nature is a big box – a surprise package, so to speak – and full of the joy of living — even the quiet mussels. They’re happy, but it’s just kind of difficult to see it. (-:

  5. Cathy Says:

    OK. Who’s Tussock Mirth? What a hoot!? ” . . . or move around and be distracted from that desire.” I love it :)

  6. bev Says:

    Cathy – An old and very dear friend who should leave comments here more often, don’t you think? (-:

  7. Mark Says:

    Tortoise beetle… very cool. I love coming here, it seems every visit I see a little part of nature I never knew existed.

  8. Laura Says:

    Love that beetle pic – I saw a few of those (I think) the other day, but couldn’t get close enough to see the spots.

    Sabrina looks like a doll!

  9. John Says:

    Bev, it’s fanastic to see Sabrina looking healthy and happy. The Tiger Beetle reminds me of beetles I used to see on the Texas coast while I was growing up. My memory is that they looked very much like the photo, including the shine, but their colors were a combination of teal, dark green, and blue…an irridescent look. I haven’t seen them in years.

  10. bev Says:

    Mark – Almost every day from spring through autumn is like that for me — finding creatures that I’ve never seen before. That’s what I enjoy so much about studying invertebrates — it’s endlessly fascinating!

    Laura – In your region, it’s highly likely that that is the species of Tiger Beetle you saw if it was bright green. It’s difficult to sneak up on them, mainly because they usually see us before we see them. However, they do have favourite perches where they watch for prey and I’ve found that they will hold their position longer if you approach them when they are hanging out there.

    John – Yes, it sure is good to see Sabrina looking well again. We were very worried about her for quite some time, but I think she’s going to do fine. The Texas coast probably has lots of Tiger Beetles. I have a field guide just on Tiger Beetles and have noticed that there are all kinds of interesting species found across the southern U.S. Many are in colours as you’ve described. Apparently, there are naturalists who are really into observing them and travel around looking for the many species just as people do for birds, dragonflies and butterflies. You shall have to watch for beetles sometime to relive something from your past. They’re usually found in sandy places along rivers, seashores, old sand pits, and similar habitat.

  11. cloudscome Says:

    I really enjoy reading your gardening posts. I hope you will consider contributing a link to one of them in my next Sunday Garden Tour round up!

  12. bev Says:

    cloudscome – Thanks – and thanks also for visiting my blog. I’ll check out your blog to find out about the garden tour.