Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sun-loving Marsh Flies, Frost, Tomatoes & Bulbs

Marsh-loving Helophilus Flower Fly on Thistle
When the bees start to go and it's mostly flies at flowers, frost is on the way. One of the more common and colourful at the moment is a hover fly / flower fly in the genus Helophilus (possibly fasciatus Walker, 1949). I always assumed that 'Helo-philus' meant 'sun-loving', and seeing the flies bask on sunny leaves during the summer reinforced this delusion. As a result, I constantly misspell the genus as 'Heliophilus' and found very strange images when googling. This morning I decided to check my assumption and found that 'helo' is Greek for marsh. As BugGuide notes, this probably refers to the larval habitat and I hope that proves my pneumonic, I mean mnemonic.
Siderno Hybrid Tomato: tasty, productive, and begins early
This morning it was a nippy +4 in the Home Bug Garden and there's a good chance it will sink to Zero tonight. Yesterday was spent collecting the last of the Tumbler and Siderno Tomatoes from the tubs scattered around the sunnier parts of the Garden and reinvesting their spent soil into a new bulb bed. That leaves me with only one bed of tomatoes to cover tonight.  I highly recommend the Siderno for those who like fresh tomatoes in their salad, but have limited space and short seasons: highly productive, good size for salad or snack (mostly 10-20 g) and early. The photo above was taken on 19 August and the first ripe tomatoes harvested on 6 August. Even with the hail, slug-heaven rains, and unrecorded snacking, the two plants in this tub yielded 7.5 kg of tomatoes.
Front yard bulb map - overcrowded and out-of-date
The potting soil used for the tomatoes could be refreshed and used again next year, but no sense in encouraging the flea beetles and other pests. I usually turn the potting soil into the dense clay to make new beds for herbaceous perennials and bulbs. Unfortunately, the HBG is check-a-block with bulbs already (about 2000 have been planted over the years) and due to poor record keeping I'm not too sure where bulbs have died out (orangy colour in the map above) or are on their last legs. I'm pretty sure none of the Lady Jane's (Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha) survived last winter, the southwest corner was  generally tulip-free, and the Red Emperors (Tulipa fosteriana) have been looking more impoverished than imperious the last few springs. I suppose I should have taken a photo in May, but it somehow doesn't occur to me until Fall that I should have records of areas without flowers. Oh well, I guess some careful hand-digging will let me lever in a few more bulbs. Time to get to work.
Tachinid fly enjoying a Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) 

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