In Florida there are four seasons. We have hot and humid, slightly less hot and humid, 3 days of winter and finally love bug season. And before the cooler weather starts we have to go through love bug season. The lovebug (Plecia nearctica) is a species of march fly found in parts of Central America and the southeastern United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. During the mating season male and females will pair together even during flight and remain paired up for over a week.
While considered one of the bigger nuisances in Florida it cannot actually cause any physical harm to humans. Although they do pose a bigger threat to our cars. The body of a squished lovebug has a PH level of around 4.25 which can easily peel some paint off a car. Luckily in newer car models the paint has been improved to where the bug’s acid doesn’t affect as many paints. Ironically though as much as a annoyance as they are they do provide some benefits to humans.
The larval stages of the lovebug ingest decaying organic material on the ground soil and remain in the ground for around 120 days before becoming a pupa and eventually turning into the black and orange menaces Floridians have come to dislike. Although they are called lovebugs that doesn’t mean everyone loves these bugs!
During your time in the Gardens this summer you may have noticed two distinct spiders setting up some impressive homes. These spiders would be none other than the Golden Silk Orb-Weaver (Banana spider) and the Argiope (Writing Spider). Each known for their skills at spinning a web these spiders lead the way in spider web design.
The Golden silk orb-weaver gets its name from the beautiful golden threads it spins its web with. The golden color helps the web itself blend in with the surrounding background making it much harder for prey to notice. The species most commonly found in Florida (Nephila clavipes) is sexual dimorphic meaning the female larger than the male sometimes as much as four times the size. Webs from this species of spider can be as long as 4 feet and have a tonsil strength stronger than steel. Although being one of the largest spiders in Florida they are relatively harmless to people. They are only prone to attack if handled roughly and their venom is non threatening to humans.
The other spider you may run into, hopefully not into their web, this summer is the Argiope. The Argiope is in the same family as the Golden silk orb-weaver however spins quite a different web. The most distinguishing feature of the Argiope is the thicker cluster of webbing found in the center of the web usually in the center of the webbing. The reasoning behind the use of this webbing is disputed however, while perched in it’s web it can be found located onto of the thicker webbing. Along with a beautiful design these spiders also take great care of their webbing cleaning often making sure there is no debris in the spindles. The Argiope like it’s relative is also non threatening to human but will bite if threatened or harassed.
(pictured Tegu Lizard Left, Azalea Right)
You may have heard the terms introduced and invasive species used in similar circumstance and may not necessarily know the difference between the two. This is understandable because the line is a little blurry between the two with the only real difference the end result of whether the species is impacting the environment in a negative or positive way.
What does it mean to walk the talk? To most it means that you can back your words with actions. To Duke Energy, ‘walk the talk’ was a promise, not only to Bok Tower Gardens, but also to the environment. When Duke Energy said they were dedicated to doing whatever they could to help Florida’s natural areas, they walked right up, put on their gloves and got to work, even in the heat and humidity of Florida weather. On May 7 th , Duke Energy and Bok Tower Gardens worked together to reduce the dense oak canopy and invasive species at Lake Blue Scrub in Auburndale to improve its Scrub habitat, which is a unique and globally rare ecosystem that is home to many threatened and endangered species.
Bok Tower Garden’s Conservation Biologist Whitney Costner said: “These collaborative events strengthen the invaluable partnership between Bok Tower Gardens and Duke Energy, which together are able to tackle locally important conservation projects.” Working together with Duke Energy, our conservation efforts at Bok Tower Gardens are enhanced beyond that which is possible without this partnership, helping us take on new challenges to conserve species and habitats for future generations. Our partnership has evolved into a friendship built on mutually beneficial goals and a mutual love for Florida’s unique habitats and species.
(Pictured above: Bahaman anole left, American anole right)
If you have ever stepped out side on a sunny Florida day you may have noticed some brown shadows vanish quickly from sight. However, on closer inspection you notice tiny lizards everywhere. These brown lizards are called Bahaman brown anoles and they have laid claim to all of Southern and Central Florida. As the name suggests they are native to the Bahamas and have made their way to Florida. As it turns out Florida had an anole of their own calling the sunshine state it’s home.
Florida’s natural anole is non other than the American green anole. Native Floridians know these anoles as the rarer of the two. Unfortunately this is the case because the invasive brown anole is much more aggressive and has chased the green anoles from their ground level territories to becoming tree dwelling lizards. Generally most brown anoles can be seen doing their “push ups” and flaring their bright orange dewlap to display dominance. Even though this is sad it is also an amazing feet of adaptation and evolution.
In less than 40 years the American green anole has become solely tree dwelling from it’s natural ground habitat with the exception of a few brave males who still feel the need to challenge the brown anoles.
A life in the treetops is dangerous one though, with many dangers including: birds, snakes, brown anoles, broad-headed skinks, domestic cats and other small predators. Luckily the green anoles have adapted longer toes with better grips, which allow them to move swiftly and safely through the treetops. So if you have noticed less and less green anoles just look up and you might find them in the treetops.
We here at Bok Tower Gardens are no stranger to hurricanes – having gone through several in the 95 years since construction on the gardens began – and we encourage all of you to begin your preparations for hurricane season. Assess your risks, review your plans and important documents, inventory your supplies, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.
Did you know that in September 1928, while the Singing Tower was still under construction, the “1928 Okeechobee Hurricane”* passed over Bok Tower Gardens?
Sep 16th Sunday
Notified by Western Union of hurricane coming so called out the “gang” and lashed everything as fast as possible on tower and covered bells.
Hurricane reached its height at 4 AM. Examined Tower – no real damage. Panels from carvers scaffold on top blew off and much of carvers shelter at 32[“ level] demolished. No damage to bells although all covers were destroyed. Many trees down and all electric wires to tower. Wind from East then south 60-70 miles per hour.
We were lucky then to have only sustained minor damage during what remains as one of the most deadly hurricanes in history, but we know that it’s better to be prepared and we want you to do the same. Here are some resources to help you prepare for hurricane season:
Details and photographs about the hurricane and more aspects of the Tower construction can be found in the Burrell Collection, available online as part of Bok Tower Gardens’ digital collections (Bok Tower Digital collections).
Please be prepared and be safe!
*The modern system of naming tropical storms and hurricanes was established in 1953 for Northern and Pacific storms and was adopted for Atlantic storms in 1979.