Skip to content

This week the hollyhocks will catch your eye here in Arizona. Tall, with large, striking red, pink, or white flowers, the hollyhocks are a favorite.

hollyhock

Certain insects and arachnids also seem to prefer hollyhocks.

Shiny metallic-green flies were resting on the leaves this morning.

long-legged fly

Aren’t they pretty?

long-legged fly

Any ideas what they were doing?

Called long-legged flies, the small green flies are predators waiting to catch other insects for food.

leafhopper

Tiny, pale green leafhoppers like this one are a meal for long-legged flies.

Another fly I found isn’t quite so welcome.

leafminer fly

leafminer fly

This tiny yellow and black fly is an adult leafminer. The fly will lay its eggs in the hollyhock leaves. The larvae will feed between the upper and lower surface of the leaf causing a winding light-colored tunnel. Fortunately the damage is relatively cosmetic (looks only).

leafminer damage

Other creatures already hard at work on the bottom leaves of some of the plants are spider mites.

spider mites

spider mites

The spider mites make fine webs like spider webs, hence the name. In our hollyhocks, the mites quickly build up, causing the leaves to turn yellow and die.

Hopefully, some predators will show up that eat spider mites. Here’s a sign that at least one predatory insect is about to make an appearance. Do you know what the stalk is?

hollyhock

I'll give you a hint:  it is on the underside of the leaf (I flipped it over).

hollyhocks

If you are looking for some books that aren’t the usual fare, why not try some science/nature themed poetry? Here are a few that deserve to be a part of every home library.

If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky and Ted Rand (Illustrator)

A friend of mine recently showed me this book, written all in haiku. Although that might sound about as exciting as bread molding, this is an incredible book. The vocabulary is stimulating, and the illustrations are superb. I would say this book would be acceptable as a read aloud for younger children and definitely would be a book your children would return to again and again. Although the cat is the title, most of the poems involve creatures from nature.

insectlopedia by Douglas Florian

My son’s first grade teacher gave a copy of this book to my son and he still cherishes it. I love the fact it is accurate and insightful, as well as creatively fun. And yes, the title is supposed to be in lower case.

mammalabilia by Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian actually has a whole series of poetry books, so if your child isn’t interested in insects, try some of the others.

in the swim by Douglas Florian

The Amazon.com review of this book says: “Even the most educated marine biologist could learn something from this whimsical, beautifully illustrated collection of 21 poems about sea life.”

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas

Although not a science book, per se, if you like poems for two voices, this is another fun one.

Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out by Ralph Fletcher

This book is a great resource for older children (and even adults) who are interested in writing poetry. If every school used this book to teach poetry, I am positive that poetry would be everyone’s favorite subject.

Finally, if you want to learn more about nature/science poetry, try The Miss Rumphius Effect website.

Hope you enjoy some poetry today!

A question just came in about what ant mandibles look like. Now this might not be something you think about every day, but it really is an interesting topic. I remembered a wonderful website that discusses all the things that ants do with their mandibles and shows some fantastic close up photographs of different species. I do have to warn you, however, it is written for adult scientists. The site is called Diversity of Ant Mandibles.

For a more child-friendly general discussionof insect mouthparts, check my recent post on the topic.