transect 1 backyard ecology

Transect No. 1: Backyard Ecology – Watercolor, Pencil and Ink, 8″ x 8″

A red banded leafhopper is a visually brilliant insect with body colors of yellow, red and blue, yet easy to miss for its diminutive size. Two nights ago, while spending time doing my own artist version of a scientific transect in my backyard, I saw one for the first time. He or she is the little character in the upper right of my watercolor image, noticeably standing out from the others. As I painted this slender striped being, I wondered if something was going wrong with my eyes, as a flash of white was emitted every few seconds from it’s back end. But no, it was truly happening. Perhaps this is a male and he is signaling to a female I thought? After a couple minutes a slim grey insect of similar shape landed on a flower next to where it was. I was hoping my theory would be true…and imagining a David Attenborough documentary moment, I would experience some rare mating event. However, the grey insect was gone within seconds of landing. It was clearly not interested…and even the same species. It turns out, after doing some research, the leafhopper was releasing excess water. Signaling to a female was so much more exciting.

As I continued to paint the leafhopper, who had been perfectly still, he was interrupted by two white insects (I have no idea what kind yet), who appeared to bully, chasing him off the flower stem. They are in the upper left of the image. They moved like ghostly apparitions disappearing as fast as they came in their translucency. 

The other creatures depicted are slugs, a spider, a moth grub (I believe), bald-faced hornet and various tiny insects that landed on my while I was working. Besides the leafhopper, the hornets were a favorite to watch. They appeared to have become addicted to the grape jelly I set out for the orioles. It was a challenge to draw and paint even one, despite their large size. They were in a constant state of motion, coming and going from the feeder; sometimes fighting with one another, sometimes appearing to greet each other. They were not always happy with me peering down at them. I had a few close flybys and had to step away. Today I had to help a couple out of the jelly though, as they were either stuck in it or so overloaded on sugar. I think it was a combination of both. I decided it was time to take away the jelly. They have been regulars in the yard so I know they will survive just fine. I will continue to try and do them justice artistically before they hibernate for the winter. This is a very humble representation of one. Their patterns are exquisite. 

As always, thanks for visiting and please respect my images from one creative to another. Please ask for my permission if you wish to reproduce the image in any way, as they are my own originals. 




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