Vintage Gardens Plants: Choosing Old-Style Shrubs For Your Home – 125

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Wild Side: Robber flies

From robust to tiny, these furry-legged fellows can be hard to find.

Among my favorite groups of insects are the robber flies, the predatory members of the family Asilidae. Ranging in length from a half-inch or so to well over a full inch, these formidable hunters typically ambush flying prey from a perch, piercing their victim with a stout beak and injecting saliva that both paralyzes the prey and contains enzymes that digest it. Lacking chewing mouthparts like all flies, robber flies literally drink their meals, sucking up broken-down tissues through the same beak they used to kill their prey.

Although it’s a good-size family, with some 7,500 species worldwide and more than 1,000 in North America, Asilidae does not seem especially well represented on the Vineyard. My personal photo archive contains only about 20 species, and very little other information currently exists that could expand that number. But it’s a safe assumption that I’ve missed some — perhaps many — species that occur here, and so I keep a sharp eye out for these agile aerialists.

I hit the perfecta on June 21, finding two new species within a few feet and a few seconds of each other as I worked the scrub oak barrens of Correllus State Forest. Both species turned out to be unusual ones, uncommon, or at least infrequently observed, and with very little known about the specifics of their natural histories. Conveniently, these two species fall close to the extremes of robber fly size, and in their appearance, they illustrate the range of characteristics this family can show.

Let’s start with the big one, an inch-long, massive bumblebee mimic that proved to be called Laphria champlainii (it is scarce enough that it has no common name). While we have robber flies with longer bodies on the Vineyard, we only have one species I’m aware of that approaches this beast in sheer bulk and intimidating appearance. In addition to its size, L. champlainii (like most members of its large genus) is prodigiously hairy: Black or yellow fuzz covers its entire body. The resemblance to a stinging bee presumably helps deter attacks by other predators, and may also help this species bushwhack bumblebees, which may well figure among its menu items.

I mistook this insect for Laphria grossa, a similar species I’ve documented previously on the Vineyard. I did note that this individual turned up in a much drier setting than did the small number of L. grossa that I’ve found. So I was not entirely surprised, when I posted photos of this insect in a Facebook robber fly group, to learn that I botched the ID. The dry habitat proved to be a meaningful clue: L. champlainii associates strongly with scrub oak barrens wherever it occurs. There are also subtle differences in appearance between this species and L. grossa: The first segment of the abdomen is yellow in champlainii, black in grossa, and the latter species has a constriction at the base of the abdomen that champlainii lacks. Such is the level of detail on which insect ID depends!

Because it is so rarely observed, little is known about the specific habits of L. champlainii. Like other members of the genus, champlainii probably spends its larval stage in decaying wood or under bark, feeding on wood-boring or tunneling larvae or beetles. As an adult, it probably rests on the tip of a scrub oak leaf (like my individual was doing), waiting for flying prey to pass by. Some sources opine that bees and wasps are favored prey of Laphria in general but most of the photos I’ve found of this genus with prey shows them eating flies of various kinds. In all likelihood, they are generalists, taking whatever happens to pass by. Such powerful predators can probably handle nearly any arthropod prey, from soft-bodied leafhoppers up to well-armored beetles.

At the other extreme was the tiny Taracticus octopunctatus (again, too poorly known to have acquired a common name, but “octopunctatus” refers to a set of white crescents on the abdomen). A bit under a centimeter long (sources give 8 mm as the average length), Taracticus is as delicate as Laphria is robust, and as hairless as Laphria is fuzzy. Only the shape and position of the eyes and the presence of stout bristles on the lower legs tipped me off to the fact that this insect was a robber fly at all. But it’s a beautiful creature, especially its eyes, with flashing, iridescent highlights.

Taracticus seems to occur sparingly across much of the Northeastern U.S., roughly from Kansas to Maine. I have no idea whether it is truly uncommon, or simply overlooked because of its small size. Again, little has been published on its habitats, but the subfamily it belongs to is noted for its penchant for preying on bees. They would surely have to be small ones, given the diminutive scale of Taracticus.

The range of variation found among robber flies is a source of endless fascination for me, even as my ignorance about this group is a source of frustration. Encountering two new species in a single outing makes me think I still have lots of work to do in order to fully account for the Vineyard members of this lethal family.

Как использовать чесночные стрелки

Как только чеснок начинает выбрасывать стрелки, их нужно выламывать, иначе качество урожая чеснока будет невысоким. Но не спешите их выбрасывать или отправлять в компост. Они, во-первых, съедобны, а во-вторых, содержат все те же полезные вещества, что и головки чеснока.

Хлеб и чесночные стрелки

Хлеб и чесночные стрелки

Удалять все стрелки не стоит, нужно оставить 2-3 штуки на грядке, в противном случае будет невозможно определить время цветения чеснока. Дело в том, что только после того, как стрелки расцветут, чеснок может считаться созревшим, то есть наступает время его уборки. Так что лопнувшая оболочка цветка — это своеобразный индикатор готовности урожая.

Собранные чесночные стрелки нужно использовать: в них много витаминов, ценных микроэлементов и разнообразных ферментов. На нашем сайте вы можете почитать интересное обсуждение Чеснок дал стрелки. Что вы с ними делаете? В комментариях читатели делятся своими рецептами приготовления закусок, соусов и заготовок на зиму из этого замечательного продукта.

Петелька стрелки чеснока

Петелька стрелки чеснока

Другой список интересных способов использования чесночных стрелок получился в комментариях после записи Чесночные стрелки. Если вам интересно попробовать что-то новенькое, загляните, там обязательно найдётся рецепт, который вы не видели.

Однако есть ещё один отличный вариант применения чесночных стрелок. С ними можно приготовить аппетитные и полезные бутерброды. Для приготовления понадобятся сами стрелки, свиные шкварки, хлеб, свежая зелень (укроп, петрушка).

Бутерброды с чесночными стрелками

Бутерброды с чесночными стрелками

Стрелки, шкварки и зелень необходимо измельчить и хорошенько перемешать. На хлебные ломтики нанесите полученную массу и дополните кружочком помидора или редиски. Получается очень вкусное и сытное блюдо, которым вполне можно перекусить на даче.

На нашем канале вы можете посмотреть интересное и полезное видео о чесночных стрелках и их использовании. Его подготовила наш постоянный автор, ландшафтный дизайнер и телеведущая Ольга Воронова.

На нашем сайте чесноку уделено много внимания. О его выращивании, хранении и использовании вы можете прочитать, например, в следующих публикациях:

  • Молодой чеснок к зимнему столу
  • Необычные заготовки и приправы из чеснока
  • Посадка озимого чеснока
  • Секреты чесночного урожая

Своим личным опытом делятся наши постоянные авторы и эксперты:

  • Бульбочки созреют в любом случае
  • Выращивание чеснока через бульбочки: ошибки и работа над ошибками

Хорошего вам урожая и вкусных чесночных стрелок!

Flowering Houseplants for Direct Light

Hibiscus are wonderful houseplants in a south-facing window. You can’t beat the floral show of a hibiscus indoors and the flowers come in a variety of colors. Pinching the plants back periodically will keep them bushier. Be sure to regularly fertilize your hibiscus for the best show of flowers and choose a good bloom booster fertilizer.

Among other flowering houseplants that you can grow in a south window include the bold bird of paradise, with its large foliage and exotic flowers, and the climbing bougainvillea that you can train to grow around your window. Bougainvillea produce flower bracts in a variety of colors including white, yellow, pink and purple.

Gardenias are also suited to growing in a southern window, but they are trickier to grow indoors than most houseplants. They require plenty of direct sunshine and high humidity in order to do their best. Their delightfully fragrant white flowers may be worth the extra effort.

Other plants that will thrive in a south exposure window include:

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