The Yard List(s), Part 3

Spring continues to lurch along here in northern Massachusetts. This morning I woke up once again to the sight of fresh snow (though not a continuous blanket like last time), but in the meantime the daffodils, hyacinths, Scilla, and Forsythia have been blooming, along with a few native-ish wildflowers we’ve planted around the yard, including this single sprig of Dutchman’s breeches (note the evidence of nectar robbing near the tips):

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Not far from the Dutchman’s breeches along the east side of our house, there are some clumps of a woodland sedge (Carex sp.) that I haven’t yet gotten around to identifying.

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Given my mission to find as many leafminers in my yard as possible this year, I took a close look at them the other day, and I soon found what I was after:

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Flipping this leaf over, I found the telltale pile of expelled frass at one end…

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…confirming that this is a leaf mine of Cosmopterix clemensella (Cosmopterigidae). I first reared this species eight years ago, and I have reared it many times since from various sedge species, but I had never before bothered to look for it in my own yard. Like the other leafminers I’ve found so far this spring, this one was made by a larva that overwintered. Cosmopterix clemensella evidently does not require a period of cold temperatures to complete its development. Here is a larva I collected on November 12, 2015…

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…which pupated by January 8…

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…and emerged as an adult on January 20.

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Incidentally, right next to that sedge clump along the side of my house, I spotted feeding sign of another micro-moth, this one on heart-leaved aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium).

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Four springs ago I found a similar fold in the edge of a leaf of white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)…

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…which I collected to see who was responsible. The larva ended up constructing a tubular leaf shelter, from which it can be seen peeking out here:

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It emerged as an adult in mid-June, revealing itself to be Dichomeris bilobella (Gelechiidae).

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I don’t know that it’s the same species hiding in a folded hear-leaved aster leaf next to my house, but I’d bet it’s at least a Dichomeris of some sort. I’m going to leave that one where it is, but I’m currently trying to rear another Dichomeris species that starts out life as a leafminer in early autumn, then transitions to feeding externally from a web, which it continues to do for at least several weeks the following spring. More on that later, perhaps.

And on the “how many different plants can I find to eat in my yard” front, on average I’ve been able to add at least one a day throughout the month of April:

26. Giant chickweed (Caryophyllaceae: Myosoton aquaticum or Stellaria aquatica, depending on whom you ask) – leaves
27. Bok choy (Brassicaceae: Brassica rapa) – leaves, flowers
28. Bittercress (Brassicaceae: Barbarea vulgaris) – leaves
29. Sedum / orpine / live-forever (Crassulaceae: Hylotelephium telephium) – leaves
30. Peppermint (Lamiaceae: Mentha × piperita) – leaves

Although stinging nettle was added to the list early on, there is now enough of it to make a substantial contribution to meals. We added it to some potato-leek soup for last night’s dinner, and it featured prominently in this morning’s omelet. Yum.

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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2 Responses to The Yard List(s), Part 3

  1. Judy says:

    A joy to hear from your gardening/harvesting soul!

  2. Roger Rittmaster says:

    Your postings are going to enliven the rest of this year. Each time, I’ll look for similar leafminers on our property.

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