Trees are beginning to give up their leaves – their annual purpose accomplished, oxygen replenished, shade given, water cooled to provide comfortable abode for trout and minnows – to carpet the earth with next spring’s mulch.
Leaves suck up nutrients from the tree, turn it into chlorophyll, draw in carbon dioxide exhaled by local mammals and pump out oxygen to be inhaled by the aforementioned mammals – including us.
Then they die. No longer nourished by ingested nutrients, the chlorophyll fades, leaving behind the colors we soon will see decorating our forests and urban scapes like splashes from a Jackson Pollock palette.
But the trees still are mostly green, and the flower show is not yet post-finale. Tiny white and red petals of the last of the season’s sedum bushes look from a distance like a bouquet of pink carnations awaiting an elfin bride and groom to lead a celebration. Up close, the mass separates into individual pods that pop open to reveal individual blossoms, clusters of tiny four- and five-petaled trumpets centered within five-petaled mounts, like miniature sconces awaiting faerie shoppers to illuminate their forest homes.
Wandering over the surface of the flower clusters this week have been bees. Lots of bees. About a dozen workers, armed with the dedication of a soybean farmer, over the flowers, gathered the makings of honey to feed their hive, and their queen’s offspring. Mingled among the workers I found a drone, slightly larger and darker, his two eyes seeming to form most of his head.
I knew it was a male bee, though when the day began I did not know much more. There may be thousands of them within a hive, each one hoping for a chance to get lucky with the hive’s sole queen. Drones have no other role. In fact, they are not even equipped with stingers to use protecting the hive. Their one job, for those lucky enough to be selected, is to make the queen pregnant – and die.
The hive’s real protectors are the ladies. They are the ones to collect the honey, and do battle, when necessary.
Also wandering about the sedum cluster were a couple of butterflies, one a black and blue Red-spotted purple. Earlier there was a Tiger Swallowtail – which likely explains the caterpillar the Resident Decorator discovered in her mint patch early this week.
The other butterfly was, according to the way I see the identification charts, a Pearl Crescent butterfly, a two-toned brown creation that hides easiy among the fallen leaves.
I became an adult of my species in a forest. I watched birds and mammals and fish and frogs and other co-inhabitants of the woodlands, but I never knew more than a few of their names. I also never knew, for instance, that a crawdad has eight legs and is therefore an arachnid – a term I thought applied only to spiders.
Slowly, over the summer, I’ve learned the names of many of the species that share our backyard and surrounding fields and forests. When we name things, we make them real. After all, I have a name, and I like to be called by it. All most of us want is for folks to know our names and call us by it.
The more I photograph, the more I pay attention to the critters and our joint surroundings. And their names.
I like to think they like that.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.