The screenhouse was put up in late spring, when the new mosquitoes of the season were arriving. The plan was to give shelter from these insects while still being able to enjoy the mornings and evenings of summer in this shady site. It has lived up to the goals and many summer hours of watching sunrises during the coolest time of day have been spent here, welcoming the new day.

Returning in the evening, the screenhouse has been a great place to be as the sun exits. While here, we watched the days of the season pass. We heard songs from various birds in the early morning. Twilight sights and sounds again added to the scene and the darkness was punctuated by owls.

But the screenhouse that was meant to be an excluder of insects has also been the host of many of these small critters during the summer.

I’m not sure how they were able to gain access, but many times, as I sat within the walls of screen, I noticed that I had companions. Flies of various kinds seemed to find an opening and enter. Not only the “pesky” ones of warm weather, but also the very long-legged crane flies came in. A dragonfly patrolled for meals. Diverse bees, including a few hardworking bumble bees gained access, not wanting to remain.

As the season progressed, different kinds of wasps and hornets appeared here as well. Early in the season, a confused June bug came by, buzzing against the walls. Perhaps even more confused was the carrion beetle that was recently found one morning. All were persuaded to leave.

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Not just insects made an entrance; a variety of spiders were here, too. An opportunistic fishing spider (dolomedes) climbed the wall waiting for prey. A brown crab spider (xysticus) and a wolf spider scurried across the floor. None of these make webs, but a funnel-web spider constructed its web up in one of the corners.

More common than any of the spiders were the daddy long-legs through the season. They wandered by each day, often staying for a while.

At about midsummer, tiny toads began to appear and continue while their cousins, the gray treefrogs, call from on or near the screenhouse in late summer.

Maybe the most common insects that got disoriented to be here were the myriad moths. There are a variety of these nocturnal insects nearby all summer and many showed up in the screenhouse. Where there are moths, there are caterpillars. They were present, too — some even making cocoons. And there was a recent surprise.

Though moths abound inside, their cousins, the butterflies, seemed to stay out. I found only one of these critters all summer. Not long ago, as I sat here, I noticed fluttering wings along one side. Getting up to see it more closely, I realized that it was a small butterfly.

A harvester butterfly shown in August. 
Contributed / Larry Weber
A harvester butterfly shown in August. Contributed / Larry Weber

As colors go, this butterfly was more moth-like, except for some black and yellow. It sat with wings closed and I was able to identify this minute butterfly (about 1 inch) as a harvester, and it was quite a sight. Though not rare, they are unusual.

This is our only butterfly that is a predator. While others spend their youthful (caterpillar) days feeding on leaves of various plants as they grow, the larvae of harvesters feed on aphids; especially those on alders. The adults abandon the predacious lives of youth, but still usually stay among alders — not in screenhouses.

I was glad to host such an unusual butterfly. This harvester, like everything else that came here, was released undisturbed.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber

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