This is the summer solstice — the day of longest sunlight for any day of the year. Sunrise at about 5:15 a.m. and setting after 9 p.m. approaches 16 hours. This is also the turning point.

Very slowly starting now, days begin to get shorter for the next six months. I think summer has already begun. Since early June — the end of spring — wildflowers are more abundant and colorful in open spaces than those of shady woods.

Other signs of season changing happen as well. Baby birds grow from nestlings to fledglings. Bird song continues in the woods, but not as persistent as earlier.

In wetlands are families of ducks and mergansers, while young deer, rabbits and squirrels move through the yard.

In lakes, summer frogs — mink frogs and green frogs — are doing their calling, continuing for weeks as young spring frogs emerge into tiny adults.

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Red and silver maples that were flowering a few weeks ago now are dropping new mature seeds.

Days have been quite hot in the afternoon sun. And so, to be able to take a nice slow observational walk, summer walks are in the cool of morning. With or without a dew cover, there is always plenty to see.

As I pass the pond, I see irises are blooming along the edge, taking the place of earlier water calla. Out in the water, yellow pond lilies still abound, but I notice circular leaves of white water lilies telling of their flowering soon. This pond will be yellow and white for much of summer.

But it is the roadside wildflowers that demand attention. With a variety of colors, they are hard to not notice; white, yellow, purple, orange and red are all present. The bouquet consists of daisy, yarrow, buttercup, hawkweeds, lupines, vetches and clovers. They quickly take advantage of their niche in the season; growth and changes are rapid. Though I take this walk nearly every day, there is always news happening.

In addition to the flora show, there are myriad active butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and dragonflies. But there is one insect present that does not move much: the spittlebug.

They are on the plants and easy to see. Many roadside wildflowers hold a froth of spittle mass on their stems or leaves. Looking more carefully, I do see movement as the critter living within this bubbly material does do a little walking.

What I am seeing is the immature, the nymph, of an insect known as a froghopper. The adult is only about one-fourth inch long, but has powerful legs and hops, giving the name. But most of us know this insect from its immature stage: spittlebug.

Eggs are deposited in young stems of plants. When the eggs hatch, the young quickly begin feeding on plant sap. Besides feeding on sap, they take it into their bodies, mix it with bodily fluids and air to form bubbles of a frothy “spittle” mass; and here the immatures live.

Looking remarkably like spit, this home site tends to get left alone — exactly what the critter wants. Not looking too attractive to us, this spittle material is an adequate protection for the young (usually only one young per spittle mass). This home also provides for moisture and food.

As I walk here, I note the spittle masses, but also the plants that they chose. I find spittle on about a dozen kinds. Tansy, yarrow, daisy and hawkweed seem to be the most often selected. This spittle will be here for a few more weeks until the young grows to be a froghopper.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

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