But for a few gloomy days and a couple of lightly frosted mornings, we have had the mildest of autumns so far. This is a La Niña year for which the meteorologists predict dampness and easy temperatures. So far, we’ve had just some rains, and just a touch of seasonal frost, but some truly magnificent fall days. It smells like dying leaves and fallen fruit. It’s my favorite season. When the sun burns off the morning fog, there we are under a cerulean sky bounded by flashes of orange foliage, a combination of colors that would be a horror in fashion but is exquisite in nature. The lady bugs are finding their way inside. They gather by the thousands on the south walls of the house every fall.
Once they have made their way into the cracks in the siding, and probably into the under-roof crawl areas, they will settle into their winter slumber and not be heard from until spring. Along about March, they’ll start dropping onto the breakfast table from their upstairs quarters. How endearing. It was quite a shock to me to learn a couple of things about ladybugs. The first was that, when one lands in your oatmeal and vanishes beneath the surface while you are looking at the morning news, and you find it in your spoon, it will be really unpleasantly bitter. Ptah. The second was that ladybugs bite. I suppose, if she is contemplating being my breakfast she has an excuse for it, but it violated my nursery book image of the ladybug.
I am told the term ladybug is a deplorable Americanization of the more elegant British ladybird. Sorry. All my childhood they were ladybugs. I do know they are beetles (Coleoptera) and not properly bugs (Hemiptera) at all, but they’re not birds, either. And then, dragonflies are not flies, so maybe we shouldn’t be too fussy about the subject. I have no idea what kind of them we have in our attic, and I’m not going to dig too deeply to figure it out, so you go without genus and species names for this one.
Anyway, this was one of those mild November afternoons. We had some rains overnight, but it all cleared off soon enough and the wasps were batting themselves on the windows as they do when the temperatures are up. I think they’re confused by the reflection of sky and themselves on the glass. And the lady beetles were on the house. And a few honeybees ventured out into the sun. We do not see much of them in November. They cluster in their hives keeping things warm by the energetic movement of their wings, and dine on honey. Occasionally they will venture out on fine days, for what we delicately call “cleansing flights.” They won’t find much in the garden to draw them just now. I did spot a stray, late sunflower in the warmth of the south wall. And, obviously pleased to have found this remnant of summer, its attendant honeybee.