Saturday, 20 May 2017

Return of the Mantis

The day after she laid her eggs my praying mantis was nowhere to be found. Having read that lady mantises don't live long after they lay their eggs, I feared I might never see her again. Still, every morning when I went out to water my trees I searched her stand in the hope that I'd find her.

Then yesterday she was back.

Once more she came out of hiding after getting a soaking from my hosepipe. Instead of fetching my camera this time I made a brief attempt to coax her into climbing on my hand (something I'd seen done on a YouTube video) but she simply ignored me. A little later, however, I noticed that she wanted to climb onto a leaf which was just out of her reach so I filled the gap with my hand and she was quite happy to use it as a bridge as she quickly moved across to her chosen destination.

I'm quite amazed to see how tame she is - so different from the lizards that live in my bonsai area. They run for cover as soon as they see me.

I spent most of the afternoon indoors but before closing up for the night I went to look for her. Much to my disappointment she'd vanished again. Then late last night I discovered her on a wall inside the house. She'd obviously found her way onto one of the frost-sensitive trees which I bring indoors at night when the weather gets chilly (*) and once inside she'd gone exploring. By the time I found her she was some distance from the nearest tree and the chance of her finding her way back to safety on her own seemed slim. Clearly it was up to me to rescue her.

I went outside to fetch a little tree from her stand and it didn't take too much effort to coax her onto that tree. Then I returned the tree to its home, leaving her safely in the area I usually see her, fully aware that she would go wandering again. Sure enough this morning I couldn't find her.

I just hope she chooses her destinations more wisely from now on.

(*) As I said in a previous post, moving trees in and out of the house every day is NOT recommended unless you're able to do it without exposing them to extreme changes in temperature. It only works for me because our winters are relatively mild and my house isn't heated.

Linking up with Camera CrittersSaturday Critters and Macro Monday 2

Camera Critters

Saturday, 13 May 2017

My Bonsai Friend - the Praying Mantis

A few days ago I mentioned the white stuff I found on one of my trees. Had I first seen it as it appears in that post, I imagine I'd have been really concerned and rushed to remove it. Fortunately that was not the case.

The story begins in late March. I was watering my trees when a rather wet praying mantis appeared seemingly from nowhere, jumping from one of my trees onto the metal stand below in an attempt to escape the water streaming out of my hosepipe.

In years gone by I'd have tried to relocate the little creature to a part of the garden where there are no bonsai, but I recently discovered that the praying mantis is a carnivore which preys on the pests that harm our trees. Under the circumstances I wanted her to stay so I did my best not to disturb her any further. Of course I also wanted to see if I could get a decent photo and she kindly posed for me, even walking towards the camera at one stage, enabling me to shoot from a better angle. Even the light from my camera's flash didn't seem to bother her.

March 2017

I saw her three more times over the next few days, then she seemed to disappear and I thought I'd seen the last of her. Then about a week ago she was back in one of the trees close to where I'd first seen her. She seemed to have grown a lot fatter, a fact which first made me suspect that she was a female. An online search for photos of praying mantises convinced me that I was right.

For several days after that I saw her hanging in the same tree, then one day I couldn't see her anywhere. Next day, however, I found her on a different tree with that patch of white "stuff" behind her.

May 2017 - laying her eggs

Although I'd never seen pictures of an ootheca (egg sac) before I was confident that I was witnessing my little friend laying eggs.

I immediately went to fetch my camera. After gently moving the tree onto a nearly table I was lucky enough to get some decent photos and even some video footage.

Once she was done laying her eggs she slowly climbed out of the tree onto the table. She seemed weak and I felt she was rather vulnerable there but luckily I was able to coax her into another tree and return her to the area she'd made her home.

The bad news is, I've read that once she's laid her eggs, Mama Mantis hasn't got long to live. I'm really going to miss her.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

What's this white stuff on my bonsai tree?

This is what I found on one of my little trees today. It's about a centimetre long with a spongy texture.


I've a confession to make. I already know the answer to my question, but I'm curious to see how many people can identify this "stuff" and what they'd do if they came across something like this on one of their trees.

All will be revealed in a few days time.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

There's a Caterpillar on my Ficus Tree

With winter well and truly on the way I've already started protecting some of my more sensitive trees. As my greenhouse is too small for my requirements that gets a bit tricky. Some trees have to be moved out of it during the day so that I'm able to get inside to water the rest. I even bring a few trees into the kitchen at night because I've nowhere else to keep them.

Warning: For most people this isn't a good way to do things. I'm fortunate to live in a fairly mild climate and my house isn't heated, so my trees don't experience extreme changes in temperature when I move them around.

Moving my trees has one benefit though - I tend to examine them a bit more closely than I do during the summer months when they spend most of their time on one spot. That's how I happened to notice this little guy on one of my Ficuses a few days ago.

Luckily I noticed him while he was still quite small - less than an inch long. He'd already eaten about half a leaf, so I hate to think what damage he might have done to a relatively small tree if I hadn't noticed him until he was fully grown.

Once I'd done taking photos I removed the damaged leaf and put him into a bin with the weeds and some fallen leaves I've been clearing up. Hopefully he didn't find his way back onto my trees.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

My Air Layering Blunder - 3 months later

In January I wrote about the bad mistake I made removing the air layer from a Ficus Ingens. I was quite concerned about the new tree's ability to survive after I accidentally removed most of the roots. Happily there was just enough root left to keep it alive and it's now full of foliage.

Ficus Ingens air layer - April 2017

It's never going to be a beauty with its two leaders, but in time I'll probably do another air layer to remove the leader growing to the right. Do I need another tree? No, but I can always sell off some of the excess when I decide which of my trees I like best.

The news isn't as good regarding the little stub which had most of the roots. It was looking promising in February, when I took this photo.

Stub with new bud - February 2017

Unfortunately that little bud at the base never developed into anything. Perhaps something else will still develop but I fear it may be suffering from root rot given the fact that I planted both in one pot and I've had to water according to the requirements of the tree which has foliage.

Of course the important part was always the parent tree. After removing the air layer all that was left was a thin leader with a few leaves.

Parent tree - January 2017

I'm reasonably happy with it's growth over the last three months.

Parent tree - April 2017

Sadly there are no signs of new branches lower down, but hopefully when I prune the tree it will stimulate new growth where I want it. With winter rapidly approaching, however, I have no plans to prune it any time soon.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

A Tree with Dramatic Curves - 19 Months Later

Shortly after I started my blog I wrote about a little Acacia Burkei which started life as mallsai. Over a period of four years its trunkline had been changed dramatically, but it had little branching.

Some of my readers were very critical of the lack of branches and with the benefit of hindsight I probably did remove too many. Regardless, what's done is done, and I had no choice but to move forward with what was left.

September 2015

Over the last 19 months I've largely allowed this tree to do its own thing, letting the branches grow long, resulting in some significant thickening to the trunk.

March 2017 - before pruning

When I have pruned however, I've cut back hard because this tree has nasty thorns and in the limited space I have to keep it, it tends to get caught up in my other trees. My March pruning was particularly dramatic.

March 2017 - after pruning

I hadn't planned to prune it again before winter, but its growth over the past month was strong, and some of the upward growth was unnecessary.

April 2017 - before trim

While I was trying to organise my greenhouse ahead of winter, I decided to give it one more minor trim.

April 2017 - after trim

Here's a 360° view:

Ideally I'd like one or two more branches between the first and second branch.

After the March pruning the tree put out one new branch here:

Unwanted new growth

Unfortunately it was in an unsuitable position, so I was forced to remove it. However it gives me hope that a better option will present itself next summer.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

What kind of worm is this?

When I finished watering my trees a little while ago I noticed a worm crawling along the rim of one of my pots. He was long and thin and at first glance I assumed he was an earthworm.

Then I realised that what appeared to be a large piece of soil at one end was in fact his head.

I wanted a clearer shot but he started moving into a position where his head was hidden, so I moved him onto a brick where he was more visible. The lighter background showed off his stripes a lot better too.

Aside from his strange appearance  something I found odd was that his length seemed to be variable. When I first noticed him he was fairly short, then, while I fetched my camera, he stretched himself out along the pot. After I moved him onto the brick he contracted again.

I have no idea whether he could do harm to my trees so I'm hoping somebody will be able to identify him for me.

I'll update this post if and when I get more information about him.