What? Have you lost your grandmother’s favourite ring in the garden, the one you promised to cherish forever? We hope not; thank heaven, we have not either. But we do have emeralds in the garden, lawn, and forest at our cottage on White Lake. One of the newest in our jewellery case is the Silky Striped-Sweat Bee. We have known about sweat bees for decades, since university and Bruce’s entomology course at Guelph. Bruce used to delight in watching a tiny sweat bee, any sweat bee, land on his arm and walk along presumably drinking his sweet, salty sweat.
One day, though, Bruce noticed a red trail marking the path the bee had followed. This may have been the beginning of Bruce’s allergy to bee stings. Wisely, he stopped allowing such intimate behaviour on the part of sweat bees. Still, from time to time, we capture and observe sweat bees photographically-speaking. In the summer of 2019, doing some research to identify the bee in the photograph that follows, we learned that over 400 species of bee live in Ontario; how many in Lanark, we cannot say, but we can tell you we have photographed and identified nine species at the cottage, one of which is the silky striped-sweat bee.
A second emerald in our garden, really at our forest edge, and new to us in 2019 was the crowned slug moth caterpillar discovered by our young great nieces and nephew in October. This slug moth caterpillar was in the leaf litter below an oak tree at the edge of the lane. We admonished them not to touch the caterpillar and a good thing too because we later learned that slug moths sting, not like bees or wasps but via their toxin-bearing hollow spines. These are primarily defensive structures for the protection of the caterpillars from predators and other enemies. The sting inflicted on humans is not from a deliberate attack by the caterpillar, but the result of contact, usually inadvertent. Reactions vary from slight burning sensations to intense pain. Our advice … do not touch spiny caterpillars. Despite all that, we loved observing this unusual beast.
One of our long-time emerald friends is the juvenile gray treefrog. Being a tree frog, after metamorphosing to adults, they usually spend their time high up in trees. The juveniles, however, have to get from the pond to the tree top and on their way, mid summer, we see many of them in various plants along the roadside. The adults turn a mottled grey, but the juveniles are beautiful in their smooth, bright, emerald skins.
One our favourite emeralds in the garden is the common green darner dragonfly, radiantly beautiful with its green eyes and thorax. We see this dragonfly late in the summer just before the migratory generation heads south for the winter.
Another beautiful dragonfly is the prince baskettail with its extraordinary, huge, bright emerald, compound eyes. With such eyes, it is not surprising to learn the prince baskettail finds its food (small flying insects) as well as its mate visually. They patrol the lake shore from two meters above the surface to tall treetop levels. One of their preferred prey is mayflies.
In this article we talked about just some of our favourite, beautiful emerald-coloured insects and an amphibian at the cottage. For additional information, you may want to consult Bugguide.net; the ROM Field Guide To Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario; or, OnNatureMagazine.com.