Saturday, June 15, 2013

Around Our Yard...

While working outside yesterday, this tarantula hawk (a large wasp) landed on my arm.  I took its picture after it finished resting and set off again on its quest for a tarantula.  This is the third time this has happened to me over the years we've lived out here, and it's a thrill each time.  First there's the sense of danger: the sting of the tarantula hawk is rated as the second most painful sting in the world (on the Schmidt sting pain index).  Entomologist Justin Schmidt, the creator of that index, describes the tarantula hawk's sting as “Blinding, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.”  Yes, he's actually experienced it.  Then there's the tarantula hawk's appearance: its body is an iridescent deep blue, and its wings are a shimmering orange.  Then you think about its lifestyle: the large female wasps spend their adult lives hunting for a tarantula spider (yes, we have them here), which they sting, paralyzing it – after which they lay their eggs in it.  The wasp eggs hatch inside the tarantula and the hungry little wasps then consume the entire thing.  It's thrilling to have one of these land on your arm!

The acacia in our yard just started blooming.  Various parts of it will be in bloom for the next few weeks.  These blooms are large enough to be attractive even at a distance, but up close they're much better...

And our “Desert Museum” palo verde tree just keeps getting better.  There are more flowers on it now than we've ever seen before, and the yellow carpet of fallen blossoms below it keeps getting thicker.  The tree swarms with honey bees, bumble bees, and hummingbirds.  Awesome!

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