Out and About in the Nighttime

I have been wandering the yard the last few nights, trying to find out who is pollinating my birdhouse gourd vine.  I haven’t seen anyone there yet, but I have had fun seeing who’s out and trying to get their pictures.

gourd blossom

The flower of the birdhouse gourd.

birdhouse blossom

From another angle.

I have checked on these flowers hourly from 8 PM to midnight, for three nights in a row, and have never seen anything on them.  I go out there with a little LED light, and no insects are even attracted to the light.  Yet these bloom at night – they don’t even open until about 8:30 – and they are white, so it seems like they would be attractive to night-flying insects.

I started to think that I was making this harder than it had to be, and maybe the wind pollinated them.  I turned to the internet – surely someone more knowledgeable than I am has figured this out!

I only found a few references  – from 2005 and 1998!  Mostly people asking the same question but with no answers.  They did say that the pollen is too sticky for the wind to blow it around, and they said that they pollinated the plants themselves with a brush, but didn’t get too many gourds.  Well I am covered up in gourds so something is doing its job!

I went back out and looked this morning, and noticed some remains of a moth on a leaf.

moth wings

Just two little wings and a bit of antenna – evidence of the elusive pollinator?

My initial identification (based on a tiny little picture in one guidebook) is “Oak Beauty” moth, but I will have to request an ID on my new favorite website, Bug Guide.  Also, just because the moth was dead on the leaf, doesn’t mean it was pollinating that plant: it could have been dropped there by something flying over.  But maybe I have made the discovery that the scientific community has been waiting for!

Anyway, here are a few of the other creatures I have spotted at night.  It has been fun to share their world.

gulf coast toad

This Gulf Coast Toad has been by the same tree every night.

dog and toad

Harper follows this toad around almost every night.

winged green grasshopper

Most of the grasshoppers we have here have highly contrasting patterns. This Short-winged Green Grasshopper was so plain I almost missed it.

I had to do some research to identify this grasshopper.  I was so hoping it was a Slightly Musical Conehead, because really, is there a better name than that?  Someday I am going to do a whole series of art quilts based on the great names we have given to birds, herps, and insects.

wolf spider

The predator has been preyed upon.

Do you know this trick to find ground spiders in the dark?  Instead of stretching out your arm at waist level with your flashlight, put your hand up next to your head with the flashlight next to your temple.  When you point the beam down to the grass from that position, the light will be at just the right angle to reflect off the spiders’ eyes and bounce back to your eyes.  You will probably see a lot of my favorite spiders, Bold Jumping Spiders.

bold jumping spider

Bold Jumping Spider – don’t worry, he’s only about 1/4 of an inch long.

These lovely spiders were not down on the ground, though – their webs were placed about two feet apart, one above the other.  I love the effect of the webs overlaying each other – that would be an interesting pattern to quilt.

spider webs

Pattern formed by two webs, one behind the other.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse of nighttime nature in East Texas!