Saturday, September 1, 2012

Poplar Clearwing Borer (Sesia tibialis)

This pair of wasp look-alikes was found on a raspberry leaf in the backyard garden. First appearing to be similar to a yellow jacket, I searched online through the 18 Yellow Jacket species in Alberta (see links at bottom of page for more info), but there were no matches. The Home Bug Gardener has since come to the rescue again and provided the following information:
I think you have a pair of mating Clearwing Moths (Family Sesiidae) - most of which mimic one wasp or another. 

The American Hornet Moth aka Poplar Clearwing Borer, Poplar Crown Borer: Sesia tibialis (Harris, 1839) seems most likely. The larvae burrow through the cambium of aspen, poplar, green ash, lilac and other hardwoods. I saw what I think was one in my yard a couple years ago - but she quickly flew off and I got no picture.

Pretty cool mimic, because yellowjackets even mate that way - with the male dangling from the female (although male yellowjackets are more similar in size to females).



NB - species name seems to be misspelled - tibialis in my books 

It is fascinating to learn about this species, which I knew nothing of before. It is easy to be fooled by wasp look-alikes.

More info from the second link above:

life history
The larvae are borers in the stems and roots of the hosts. The life-cycle requires two years to complete, with the moth overwintering twice in the larval stage. They pupate in the spring of the third year, and emerge shortly thereafter. The adults are diurnal, but are rarely seen.

diet info
The larval host is species of poplar, and to a lesser extent willows. They appear to prefer stressed of damaged host trees.

Widespread in western North America, east at least across the Prairie Provinces, and south to California and Arizona. In Alberta it has been collected mainly in the foothills and parklands, but likely occurs throughout the wooded parts of the province, wherever hardwoods are present. It has been recorded in adjacent Saskatchewan in both the arid Grasslands National Park area and at Uranium City.

Also called the American Hornet Moth (Wong and Ives, 1988). It is rarely encountered unless baited with synthetic pheromones.

Links regarding the 18 yellow jacket wasp species in Alberta:

Vespula genus:

Dolichovespula genus:

Dark Brown Fungus on Paper Birch Tree

Here is an interesting looking fungus my daughter found on our dead paper birch tree. She yelled at first as she thought it was a large bug. The fungus measures about 3 x 2 x 2 cm in size. We'll see what happens to it later in the summer. The photo was taken Aug. 16.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides)

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) has arrived in our yard. Which is not surprising since down the street the plant is being encouraged in a flower bed. Hopefully they will not cause too much trouble. Thankfully it was around the lilac tree in the lawn and not the flower bed.

Note to fellow gardeners: please pull out this notourious weed and don't be tempted by NEW and exciting exotic flowers that are the potential next invasive weed for us to deal with. Focus on native or near-native species where possible.

More info:

2012 Garden Update

Rhubarb came up Apr. 22 this year, about average timing. A cubic yard of 95% peat moss and 5% steer manure was added to the garden in April, the first imported soil (and some new weed seeds) to the garden ever. A mild May got the garden off to a good start. 

After enjoying spinach and swiss chard for several weeks, the garden was hammered with marble to nickel sized hail for about 40 minutes on July 5. Fortunately the spinach was already starting to bolt and the swiss chard was being ravaged by leaf miners, so there was no major loss. The rest of the garden recovered well in the following weeks thanks to plentiful and regular rains. The zucchini really took off (see above and below before and after photos).

The green barrel above is the neighbour's rain barrel which froze and cracked. It now has a second life as a  composter after I cut the bottom off and drilled some holes. The plan is to establish some Thyme around the paving stones above.

Clockwise from top: Scattered Chervil, kale, sage, spinach, kale again, chives, chervil, thyme. 

Sage and thyme are new this year.

New garden expansion with raspberries from the neighbour. One plant's leaves looked odd, so I dug it out in case it had a virus. The rest seem OK, although some berries seem slightly deformed. We'll see if they improve after they establish better. 

 Foreground: Oregano bush and delphinium behind with hail damaged leaves.

Mint was added this year (foreground), with rhubarb and raspberries behind.
Other non-garden urban homesteading news includes successful and delicious homemade beef jerky with the new dehydrator! Best way to get the kids to eat meat and of course handy for camping.