California Natives - Fauna Nature Photography

Bindweed Turret Bee

I came across a large aggregation of Bindweed Turret bees building their nests on May 28, 2020. I was mountain biking on Albertson Fire Road and was riding back down when I heard the sound of a swarm. The aggregration is located on a section of Albertson Fire Road that runs through National Park Service land. The spot is beyond the intersection with China Flat, but before the climb to the powerline tower.

What seemed like a thousand or more bees were flying, digging and tending to nests in a wide open, level space on either side of the fire road. Some were digging on the road itself, but most were outside of the human traffic zone.

The Bindweed Turret bee, Diadasia bituburculata, is a solitary bee that nests in the ground. Each female digs her own nest and provides sustenance in the form of pollen and nectar packets that she leaves in the nest for the larvae to eat when they hatch.

I encountered a smaller but very active aggregation earlier in the month on the Hidden Meadow trail in Conejo Open Space. Since late May, I have also observed this bee species in the Paramount Ranch area and heard of their presence in several other locations in the Santa Monica Mountains. I was saddened to see that the Paramount Ranch site appeared to be trampled by the time I visited there to see it. A small group of bees was still active and nesting together, but the main aggregation looked like a stampede had come through it.

If you encounter a nesting site, slow down a little and be careful where you step or roll to avoid destroying the nests.

With so many bees flying about, it can be hard to focus. I noticed one bee trying repeatedly to break ground and focused on her and a neighbor, whose nest seemed to be nearly finished. I was careful where I stepped and stood near the middle of the swarm. These bees are not aggressive or territorial. They will sting only if handled or threatened. I can testify that standing near their nests to observe is not perceived by them as an existential threat. In fact, they did not appear to take much notice of my presence at all, except to modify flight trajectories so as not to collide with a large obstacle.

California Natives - Fauna California Natives - Flora Nature Photography

Green Lynx, Peucetia viridans

A welcome surpise in the garden this summer was the appearance of a female Green Lynx spider on a Wild Cotton milkweed plant.

The Green Lynx is native to most of the southern half of the US from the east to west coasts and south through Mexico, Central America, Columbia and Venezuela.

A spiny-legged denizen of the class Arachnida, Peucetia viridans does not construct a web. Instead she strings drag lines.

Photo of a Green Lynx Spider on a milkweed plant that shares her coloration
A beneficial predator in the garden, the Green Lynx is usually found on a plant that matches her coloration

Our resident Green Lynx strung one long line and a few shorter lines of silk that were anchored at each end. Her version of a web. My eyes were focused farther out each time I walked through her longest drag line and destroyed her work. The line was usually rebuilt by the next morning. After repeating my mistake three times, I figured out that it was her line. From then on I chose my path around it with care. The long line ran for three or four feet from one corner of the house to a leaf on the milkweed where she waited, camouflaged among bright green leaves that matched her primary color.

With a drag line, a spider can detain unwary prey in a sticky tangle, then pull it towards her via the line. While the line may trap hapless insects (or the occasional lumbering human), much of the Green Lynx’s hunting involves watching for prey to approach her, or the active pursuit of prey by stalking and chasing it. Either way, like her namesake, once it is in range, she pounces on her target. While waiting for prey to approach, or defending her egg sac, she hangs upside down on a leaf or the egg sac, where she may remain motionless for hours, perhaps days.

The Green Lynx that lives in our yard has held her body flush against her egg sac since mid-December. She moves quickly toward the threat of a human-held leaf touched to a leg, but is otherwise still, probably conserving energy for her vigil. She is looking lean and worn at this point, much smaller than she was in her prime.

Photo of the egg sac is covered with silk and anchored on the plant where it is best protected from the elements.
The egg sac (brown) is covered with silk and anchored on a side of the plant where it is best protected from wind and rain. The black portion of the photo is a dead flower cluster that seems to be providing additional protection and insulation.

When conditions are right and they are ready, anywhere from 25 to 600 spiderlings will hatch. As postembryos not yet able to see, hunt or eat, they will remain within the egg sac for approximately 10-16 days. The female spider will continue her vigil during this interval.

After each spiderling completes its first molt, it will be equipped with the eight eyes, mouth and claws that it lacked as a postembryo. Her vigil near its end, the female will assist her brood in exiting the sac by tearing it open. If she happens to go missing before that moment, her young can tear their own way out with their claws.

In this spider species, the emerging young are not reported to prey upon their mother. My hope is that when they do emerge, they pursue the non-native Oleander aphids that pester all varieties of milkweeds in my mostly native garden.

photo of a Green Lynx spider in green, black and white
Another green and monochrome world

Photo of Green Lynx spider with sparkles on her legs (photo filters applied to create sparkles on her legs)
With sparkles on her legs

Black and white and spot color yellow photograph of a Green Lynx spider
Persistence of yellow

Further reading:

Dave’s Garden

Featured Creatures – University of Florida