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):


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.


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:


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


…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…


…which pupated by January 8…


…and emerged as an adult on January 20.


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).


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


…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:


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


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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