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An ode to the end of insect season

Summer has its own pace. It is frantic, it is fleeting. Insects seem cognizant of the short window for gathering resources and reproducing. As observers and habitat caretakers, we may or may not have that same cognition.

My mood changes when I feel the first chilly breeze of late summer. I become aware of the low angle of the afternoon sun and the long shadows it casts. This is the time when I notice the absence of the insect bounty which I took for granted only weeks prior. The habitat garden feels sleepier, quieter.

Perhaps it is in this desperation where my senses are most piqued. Every vibrant flower or sneaking invertebrate could be the last of the season. So, I take it in. I drink up every last movement and every last pigment. I swear, as I do every season, to not take the flourishing activity for granted next time.

I walk our path in the early morning. The sun is just beginning to peer over the the evergreens on the south side of our yard, but it isn't warm enough to burn the dew from the leaves of little bluestem.

This same dew has collected on the cold-blooded invertebrates, immobilizing them. I lean in to take a photo of a mantis, and it follows me with his eye. I don't want to take advantage of its hospitality that comes from the cool morning, so I retreat away slowly.

As I explore further, a beam of sunlight activates the mantis and I watch it retract into the foliage.

"The fall seems dominated by predators," I think to myself as I notice a spider repairing its web and an ambush bug piercing a fly. Perhaps this anecdote is supported by science, well-familiar to ecologists. Or perhaps this is a mere coincidence that left me pondering. At this moment, I find the question more interesting than the answer.

The weather is a bit chillier than I would like, and by the time I go in to grab a jacket I put my camera down and get distracted by other chores.

An ambush bug hidden amongst the goldenrod blooms finds its victim in a fly. Although much larger, the fly stands little chance against the ambush bug's piercing proboscis.
A spider repairs its nest on a cold dewy morning.

I look out the window briefly before checking the weather forecast on my phone. Tomorrow looks to be a much better day for observing and photographing insects. I'll continue my walk tomorrow.


A few weeks later, I return on the same walk. It is brisk, and my bare fingers feel the burn of the air as I hold my camera. There is no longer any visible animal life to observe and admire. Only the foliage remains to add interest to the morning stroll through the garden.

It is now two days from Halloween, and I realize I have likely photographed the last insects of the year. As is often the case, I didn't expect them to be the last. Did I take full advantage of that last day? Of the season? Likely not. But there is always next season. And next season, I won't let a single bug be taken for granted--at least that is my vow in October.

Although no insects were out on this fall walk, the vegetation put on quite a show. Here, little bluestem and wild rose glow in the evening sun.

The native dogwood shrubs turn color gradually from green to purple.

Rose leaves shine yellow in the autumn. The semicircle cuts in their leaves are vestiges of leafcutter bees from warmer days.

Aronia (chokeberry), is a good native alternative to the invasive burning bush.

Mistflower often blooms well after the last pollinators are active.

I found the patterns of color change on the dogwoods rather interesting.

Rose petals and thorns.

The perennial star of the autumn garden: milkweed seeds.

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