Timberon summer brings birds, bees and butterflies

A search for butterflies leads to interesting wasps

Judy Underwood

Female tarantula hawk wasp

The first time I saw the tarantula hawk wasp, I did not know enough to keep my distance. The sting is said to be extremely painful. I was lucky, they were more interested in the flowers. According to what I read, the female has curly antennae and the male's antennae are straight. The tarantula hawk wasp is the state insect of New Mexico, as of 1989, through the lobbying efforts of school-children.

Male tarantula hawk wasp on thistle

The female injects venom into a tarantula, paralyzing it. The female hawk wasp then drags the tarantula into a hole where she lays an egg in the paralyzed body of the tarantula. This provides food for the larva.

Another female tarantula hawk wasp

The day I observed the tarantula hawk wasp, I had actually gone out to photograph butterflies. I found some nice ones, especially the showy western swallowtail.

Western swallowtail

Black swallowtail

Is this a date?

Mexican hat coneflower

The Mexican hat coneflowers are all around. I plan to collect seeds so that I can get some growing at my house.

Polite waiting line

The first Anna's hummingbirds arrived around April 1st.  They are, by far, the most numerous.

A male rufous hummingbird watches an incoming Anna's hummingbird

The rufous hummingbirds arrived July 1st. Locally, they are called Mexican reds, and I was told that they agressively drive other hummingbirds from the feeder. However, that has not happened here. They all feed together.

Calliope hummingbird, male

The calliope hummingbird is the smallest North American bird, weighing about 1/10 of an ounce. They arrived here the first week in July and left in mid-August. The male has irridescent feathers on the neck which look like rows of sequins.

Not so polite waiting line!

I am now making over a gallon of nectar a day, with just the two 8-port feeders. Dawn and dusk are the busiest times.

(Judy Underwood recently moved from Rye to Timberon, New Mexico.)

Go to Letters in October,2008

September, 2008