I love to explore. I like to travel to far off lands and experience something new. In fact, in a recent gathering with a group of friends, we shared crazy travel stories and there was no shortage of material!
But it’s winter at the Big Lonely Ranch, and so there’s not much travel in the picture. I found myself not getting out much at all, and that just doesn’t set well with me. It makes me pretty grumpy when I don’t spend time outside.
Recognizing my grumpiness, I made it a point to get outside, and when I just sat and observed, I saw some things that really caught my attention. I became curious. What stood out to me the most was some sort of orange growth on one of the huge old Ponderosa Pines that came down in a wind storm a few years ago.
When I went down to explore a little closer, I saw that it was beautiful mushrooms that had taken up residence on this majestic tree – a good thing as it breaks down the wood returning it to nourish the earth. I can’t seem to identify this particular mushroom. It has gills and a little bit of fuzz on it’s cap, and if anyone can help with that, please let me know.
While I was down on “the lower forty,” I decided wander a bit, to take a look around, and I was rewarded with another discovery. What I call a “ladybug orgy,” clumps of hundreds, perhaps thousands of ladybugs were taking over the stump and surrounding area of that same tree and it’s only the second time I’ve seen this here.
A little dive into Google revealed these clumps are actually called an aggregation (although I like my term better) and it’s something ladybugs do each winter from November to February. It’s believed that the ladybugs use this behavior to stay warm, share mates (see, I told you!) and defend themselves, as well as share food and other resources. There is no order within the aggregation like there would be in a beehive or ant hill. They’re all just working (and playing) together! These are ladybugs who hang out in the city during warmer months, feasting on aphids. When it gets too cold for the aphids, the ladybugs high-tail it to higher ground.
Nature is forever fascinating to me. Whether it’s in some remote area halfway across the globe or right outside my door, it never ceases to amaze me. This week was a good reminder to explore very close to home. What have you discovered lately? Go out and wander and send me a picture or two!