Archive for July, 2012

Crespuscular Rays

I actually got to weed in the garden tonight because of an inch of rain 2 days ago. The waxing moon appeared right before I headed toward the house.

The moon always excites me. This one was 3 days from full. Our backyard faces east. I walked around the corner of the house and couldn’t believe what I saw!

A sunset with crepuscular rays. Crepuscular rays in a fan. I crossed the highway so there wouldn’t be any powerlines in the pictures. The rays were relatively faint. They had a slight greenish tint at times.  The rays would shift slightly and their width vary.

“Color therapy for the Earth” came to mind.

The experience didn’t last long … and then it had no time.

When I turned to go back across the highway, I realized a cloud being had joined me to watch one of the wonders of nature.

Spiders — Who Knew?

Imagine my surprise — shock — disbelief — when I woke one morning last summer to find this garden spider in its web …  a web that stretched from the headboard of my bed to the window frame! At first I thought it was outside, until I changed my angle. It had built its web while I slept.

These black and yellow garden spiders aren’t small, they’re BIG, especially when they’re right over your head. After taking pictures, I successfully caught it and released it outside. I never did figure out how it got inside in the first place, much less into my bedroom (I keep the door closed to keep the cats out).

Flash showed the spider’s markings

Garden spider in it’s normal habitat

The reason for this spider blog is to pass on some information my youngest son learned the hard way.  He and a friend left to shoot a national archery tournament last July in Ohio. Davis thought he was getting a cold the day they left. His throat and sinuses started hurting. That evening his lower lip felt like the skin had been ripped off. His sore throat got worse, and it felt like something was stuck on top of his windpipe.

While shooting the next day, he had cold chills like he was running a fever. His throat went from just hurting to where felt like the flesh was being ripped off. Then that night it got cold. (They were camping in a pop-up.) His sinuses and throat hurt so bad he couldn’t sleep. Davis (31 years old) has an exceptionally high pain tolerance. He’s disabled with a bad back and takes medications for pain and associated problems.

The third day (Sunday) he wasn’t able to eat, because when he swallowed, it felt like the food went down so far and got stuck. He couldn’t drink and had problems taking his meds. They both shot their archery course early and left in the morning for home. That’s when his throat’s closing got worse and became claustrophobic for him.(Why he didn’t go to the ER then, I’ll never know. Plus, the person with him was a nurse.) He took a day’s worth of a dose pak and several Benadryl.

His throat stayed the same. He got home at 10 p.m. The meds started wearing off and little puss pockets started popping up on his lips, inside his cheeks and on his tongue. His bottom lip swole up so much it cracked and his throat split and he coughed up a little blood.  My husband took his straight to the emergency room.

They did a strep test and looked in his ears. They gave him a steroid shot and said he had strep throat. Later they came back and said it wasn’t strep, that is was an allergic reaction, and gave him a shot with enough steroid “to last for a whole year.” It was actually a 2-3 month amount. They waited. It didn’t work. They gave him something for pain. Nothing helped, so they gave him another steroid shot with the same amount. Then they sent him home!

His condition hadn’t improved the next morning, and he went to see our family doctor. Before he left, he had a coughing spell where he coughed so hard it busted a puss pocket near his windpipe. He coughed up … I won’t go into those gory details. Then he could breathe normally and food/drink went down normally. The doctor couldn’t give him any more steroids because of the amount he received the night before. Davis was given antibiotics and had an x-ray.

Now for the reason for this story set-up. The doctor told him that the average person swallows 7-8 spiders during their life, and that he sees 5-6 people a year who have swallowed one. This happens when the person’s asleep. Apparently, they go for the moisture in the mouth. It tickles when the spider gets to the back of the throat, and naturally the person swallows. Davis said, “That’s when they get ya.” A lot depends on the size and kind of spider too. It just so happened that Davis was allergic to the one that bit him.

The doctor called the emergency room and “yelled and cussed” the ER because they ARE NOT to release a person that has breathing problems like Davis did.

My intention with this blog isn’t to scare anyone. It’s just to make them aware that this can happen.

Giant Swallowtail

I stood looking out the picture window in my computer room. A large brown and yellow butterfly flitted around the backyard, relatively close to the house. Almost nothing blooms because of the drought, offering no nectar sources to catch its attention. It continued on south.

Obviously, I didn’t get a good look at the hurrying butterfly. These pictures refreshed memories of past sightings.

Giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) are one of my favorite butterflies. Their large size (wingspan to 5.5 inches) and dramatic coloring make each sighting an experience. They usually flutter their wings as they feed.

They are 1 of the 6 species of swallowtail butterflies in Illinois. The others include: pipevine swallowtail, zebra swallowtail, black swallowtail, tiger swallowtail and spicebush swallowtail. The giant swallowtail caterpillars feed on hop trees in our area, on prickly ash in the northern part of its range, and on orange trees in the south. Here they can be a pest.

My mother has 2 fraxinella plants growing in her garden. The giant swallowtails also lay eggs on them. It poses a problem: the plants are small and are a family heirloom. The caterpillars grow to impressive proportions. The brown and white caterpillars mimic bird droppings (and quite effectively, I might add).

I hope I’m at in the right place at the right time to see any others that visit my yard.

A Walk on the COOL Side

I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready for reprieve from the HOT weather  this summer.

So, join me on a walk back through winters past. (I have an endless fascination with ice.)

Through the woods. Along the creeks.

An Orchid Encounter


If you hadn’t seen the eagles on the nest last night, I wouldn’t have left early this morning to see them too. They weren’t there. I decided to drive the loop I used to go back to Carrier Mills on the spring bird counts and the butterfly counts I did way back when.

On the drive I remembered that this is the middle of July and immediately remembered what blooms on this loop the middle of July. And I found 2 growing together — purple fringeless orchids!

If I’d come in from the opposite direction, I would’ve never seen these because of the height of plants between them and the road. The arrow points to them; they just aren’t showy enough to show well in the picture. I was wearing sandals and was not about to wade through the thick of things to get a closer picture. I wouldn’t have, even if I had shoes or boots on.

At a glance they resemble the pink phlox that commonly blooms at the same time and in same areas. Purple fringeless orchids are slightly darker and have different shaped infloresence.

Purple fringeless orchids (Platanthera peramoena) grow in southeast Illinois. They bloom in July, maybe into August and are found in a variety of open moist habitats. They are considered uncommon. Another place where I know they grow is at the bottom of a steep bank, on a curve of a highway. This place is much easier to access.

The following are some of the plants that commonly grow with the orchid at this location.

Partridge pea

Monkey flower

Mountain mint

Common milkweeds


Finally! I Found One

I can’t believe I finally found a green lacewing. I’ve been looking for one since I found an egg 3 weeks ago.

The green lacewing’s body was all of a 1/2 inch long. The green-on-green didn’t advertise the lacewing’s presence. Only parts of its long antennae show in the picture.

The only reason I spotted this egg was with it being in the sunlight and the area behind it shaded. Green lacewings usually lay their eggs in a line. For some reason, there was only one on the leaf.

Green lacewings are found in meadows, gardens and forest edges throughout North America. The adults and larvae feed on small insects, especially aphids and nymphs of scale insects.

Around The Mailbox

I had quite a surprise when I went to put an envelope in the mailbox at 7 o’clock this morning. Flowers bloomed on Queen Anne’s lace, chicory and evening primrose. The chicory and evening primrose flowers are usually closed for the day when I make my afternoon trip to the mailbox.

Chicory commonly grows along the highways

Evening primrose flowers open late afternoon and close when the sun hits them in the morning.

Queen Anne’s lace blooms into October

Our heat’s averaging 95-99 degrees every day with high humidity. We have brown yards: only 11 1/2 inches of rain have fallen this year, and we’re now almost 14 inches behind in rainfall. Very few flowers bloom. Insects are scarce. Perennials are drying, and leaves curling on some trees.

The usual aspects of summer become less every day as the heat and drought continue. So, I take time and enjoy whatever I find.