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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

Did you see the spider in the cactus flower photo in last week’s post?

I have circled it here.

crab spider

The spider is a common type of spider that sits on flowers and waits for food to stop by. Spiders of this group are called crab spiders, probably because their legs are directed forward like a crab’s. (Maybe they should be called "grab spiders" LOL!)

I found another one this week, which has picked a fruit fly off of a lemon.

crab spider

Can you see the little red-eyed fruit flies peeking out of the hole?

crab spider

The really cool thing about crab spiders is some of them can change color to match the object they are sitting on, although it can take a day or two. Does this one look a bit yellow? I think so…

We learned about how crab spiders change color in the end of How to Hide a Butterfly and Other Insects by Ruth Heller

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There are a number of good nonfiction books about spiders for the picture book set, like Are You a Spider? by Tudor Humphries

Spiders also abound in picture book fiction. Here are two classics we enjoyed a great deal:

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin (Author), Harry Bliss (Illustrator)

Adults can find a few good books on spiders, too.
Biology of Spiders, 2nd Edition by Rainer F. Foelix

Did you ever wonder where insects go for the winter?

Sometimes insects spend the winter as adults.  We found this one hiding in a pile of leaves when we were doing some yard work.

grasshopper

A few weeks ago we found another grasshopper that looked very similar hiding in an old bird's nest that had fallen down. I guess by having old nests and old leaves lying around, we are helping out our insects. Who would have thought?

For More Information:

Where Do They Go? Insects in Winter by Millicent Ellis Selsam

I Wonder Where Butterflies Go In Winter and Other Neat Facts About Insects by Molly Marr and Paul Mirocha