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Other critters in our garden

Critters that don't neatly fit into one of the other wildlife pages on this site eventually find their way to this catch-all page. Maybe I'll get more scientific about it at some point. For now, it's just a showcase for the marvellously diverse garden lifeforms.


One morning, I lamented to Amy that we hadn't seen praying mantises in our garden this year. Later that day, while I was out puttering with 2-year-old Benny, he exclaimed "Look, Papa, a grasshopper!". And sure enough, he had spotted our first mantis for the year.
Later that day, we'd find another one, most likely a Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia).
...and yet another the next day. This one is most likely a youngster, a molt or two away from adulthood. At any rate, we hope they enjoy their stay, and make plenty of babies...
Wouldn't you know it, once again it's Benny (now age four) who spotted the first mantis of the year - but he didn't know it was a mantis, because it was so tiny (no more than half an inch). This youngster was struggling on the surface of a small tub pond. Not wanting it to meet with the resident frog's tongue, I rescued it from its predicament. I'm glad to see they'll be returning this year.
praying mantis: Stagmomantis carolina

My first praying mantis sighting in our Houston garden, this Stagmomantis carolina was perched high up in a Tecomaria shrub weighting for tasty prey. This species is variable in color, with some individuals being green or brown, as compared to this one's gray cast. Compared to the Chinese Tenodera species above, Stagmomantis have a different shape of the head near the antennae.
Texas, November 2017


Tibicen tibicen Dog-day cicada belly
We were supposed to witness the massive emergence of periodic 17-year cicadas this year, but they never hit our area (not surprisingly, I guess, since our neighborhood was built in the last 17 years). Annual dog-day cicadas, on the other hand, are reasonably abundant. I encountered the one in these photos (Tibicen tibicen) on a flowering okra, where I took the belly shot; it then flew over to a small maple, where I got the larger portrait.


Our garden, like most others around the world, is home to millions of ants. I'm sure there are many species - little, big, red, brown, black - but they're usually too busy marching about for me to take their mugshot. This one caught my attention one summer afternoon by the pond - her compatriots kept crashing off of the bordering rocks into the water, and struggling their way back out. At first I thought they were just clumsy, but then I realized that they were probably drinking, or using the water to cool down. The shiny bands are more noticeable in the photo than they were with the plain eye.
Pennsylvania, July 2006
winged ant

When I spotted this one resting on some foliage, I thought it was a fly of some sort – but a closer look at the photo says it's most likely an ant in its winged life stage. I don't know much more about it: is it a female, a queen? If I learn more, I'll update this page.
Texas, May 2022


European earwig And what bug page would be complete without everybody's favorite - the charming earwig? This dandy is most likely a European earwig (Forficula auricularia), and was one of a pair found hiding in some garden foliage.

Lacewings and co.

green lacewing

We're always happy to see lacewings in the garden. They have a solid reputation as "good bugs", keeping populations of pest insects under control. Unfortunately, we don't observe them very often. This is a fairly typical specimen, which happened to sit down on the vinyl fencing around our veggie garden (which is where we see them most often, for some reason.
Pennsylvania, June 2007
green lacewing: ceraeochrysa valida

Another garden, another lacewing, this one with pretty red cheeks. It is likely Ceraeochrysa valida – it's interesting how many genera of superficially similar critters exist. This one was clinging to a rangy specimen of Cuphea viscosissima in full bloom.
Texas, October 2018
This pretty lassy is a brown lacewing (Hemerobiidae family) in its larval stage. It was sunning itself on some foliage near our patio pond, no doubt daydreaming of the even greater beauty she'd attain as an adult. If we meet again after she's finished molting, I'll be sure to snap her picture again. brown lacewing larva

Aphids and such

Aphis nerii: oleander aphid

This mass of aphids colored several stalks of a swamp milkweed entirely in bright cadmium yellow. They are oleander aphids (Aphis nerii); their bright color serves them well – it warns off predators, informing them of the toxins they carry in their bodies (which are absorbed from the plants they feed on). aphid

Another aphid, this one solitary. I had no idea what I was looking at, even after seeing it in full resolution on my PC screen, but the friendy folks at Bugguide set me straight. No idea on genus or species, though. ant tending to scale insect

One summer afternoon, I was about to yank up one of the hundreds of suckers that the rootstock of our dear weeping cheery sends up, when I noticed a parade of ants, seemingly taking turns tending to red growths along the succulent stems. I'm not entirely sure what they are, but one suggestion is a type of soft-bodied scale insect. Or perhaps they're merely an alien life form. oak woolly aphid Stegophylla sp.

One late summer, one of the two live oaks in our small front yard was covered in white-woolly fluff. Closer inspection showed that the fluff was produced by greenish aphids, which had completely infested our tree. These critters are a species of Stegophylla, the oak woolly aphids. They apparently exude a waxy substance to protect themselves – which proceeds to attach itself to all objects in the vicinity (like Amy's car!). Attempts to dislodge them physically, with jets of tap water, proved unsuccessful, so I eventually resorted to using an insecticide spray to protect my tree from too much damage.
Texas, September 2019

Eggs and stuff

Wow, it's a Christmas tree in summer! Actually, it's just our maple, which was attacked quite decoratively by maple gall mites (most likely, Vasates quadripedes) one year. The red blobs are galls, out of which baby mites will hatch. I never had the patience to sit and watch till they did. No sign of galls the next year. Vasates quadripedes maple gall mite

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