As a wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy Lagoon Trail gardens provide the four basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover, and a place to raise young.
Additional invertebrates include: other insects, millipedes, planarians, and spiders.
Vertebrates include toads, snakes, lizards, turtles, songbirds, birds of prey, woodpeckers, raccoons, and even squirrel monkeys.
Image 1 below: Milkweed seed bugs (nymph and adult) thrive on scarlet milkweed pods.
Image 2 below: Cotton strainer bugs (nymph and adult) eat wild cotton bolls.
Image 1 below: A thorn bug holds tightly to a Bahama cassia branch. Its great camouflage as a thorn disguises it on plants like Bahama cassia and catclaw. This female is shown beside her eggs.
Image 2 below: Adult thorn bugs care for their young. Note the many small nymphs near the larger adults.
Image 1 below: A citrus root weevil waits to mate on a seaside goldenrod flower.
Image 2 below: A spotless ladybird beetle rests on a false willow leaf. Image 3 below: A ladybird beetle pupa looks for aphids to devoir.
Below: An iridescent weevil, Eurhinus magnificus, was spotted on a wild lime tree in Garden 11 on February 4, 2010. The identification of this beetle was confirmed by Paul Skeeley, Collections Manager, Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Florida Department of Agriculture-DPI, 1911 SW 34th St. P.). Box 147100, Gainesville, FL 32614-7100 on February 22nd, 2010. The sighting of this weevil in the Lagoon Trail garden may well have been the first time this beetle was spotted on the west coast of Florida. The host of Eurhinus is reported to be Cissus sp. (grape family)
Below: Soldier beetles mate on a goldenrod flower, and an unknown beetle larva eats a false willow leaf.
Image 1 below: A stinkbug nymph goes for a stroll on a very "hairy" leaf.
Image 2 below : An unknown insect laid its eggs on coco plum. Note the triangular arrangement of the eggs. Each egg is approximately 1 mm in diameter.
The next five photographs are of two different sickle-jawed green lacewing larva. Both were discovered in Garden 1 on a firebush plant on December 31, 2012. This species of green lacewing disguises itself with debris that includes the dead bodies of its prey. For scale, the second photograph shows the hairs on the leaf of the firebush. The pink in four of the photographs was the photographer's finger.
In the photograph below, scale insects (Orthezia insignis Browne) in several stages of development cover the stem of a crimson dicliptera plant. These scales typically damage the host plant and excete nutrients that promote the growth of sooty mold and attract ants. See if you can find an ant in this photograph.
As shown below, bees and wasps are two pollinators that frequent the gardens.
Shown below: First seen in 2014 at the Conservancy, the orchid bee (Euglossa dilemma) is now a frequent visitor. This bee is attracted to the nectar of the pentas in Garden 1.
Image 1 below: Often creatures visit the garden and we don't see them; but, we do see evidence of their visit. As shown in this photograph, something has been chewing the mahogany leaves in Garden 1.
Image 2 below: The culprit is a leaf cutter bee. This bee uses it jaws to cut several holes in each leaf. As the bee completes the cut, it hovers in place, buzzes loudly, and uses its jaws to grasp the piece of leaf with its legs. Then, it carries the cut portion away to wallpaper its burrow (nest.) An individual might return to the same plant over and over for a period of days. A leaf cutter bee is solitary; it does not live in a hive like most other bees. But, like other bees, it is an important pollinator. It collects pollen and stores it beneath its abdomen with stiff hairs.
Below: An unknown tachinid fly resting on a leaf in Garden 14. Most tachinid fly females lay their eggs on the skin of a specific species of insect. The larvae feed on the host tissues, causing death. Hopefully the host species for this tachinid isn't one of our butterfly caterpillars.
Image 1 below: A perfectly camouflaged roseate skimmer dragonfly warms itself in the morning sun on a pink shrimp plant flower. Below this image, other dragonfly species were photographed while resting on dill, wild cotton, and wild lime.
Fairly common visitors to the gardens are lubber grasshoppers. The one below is holding tightly to a coin vine stem.
An important garden habitat exists beneath the rocks that border the gardens. When the rocks are lifted, a variety of creatures are seen scurrying for shelter. Image 1 below: One of the many carpenter ants that colonize the sand below the rocks. Image 2 below: A carpenter ant is shown carrying a stranded pupa to safety.
Cockroaches and beetle grubs also live under the rocks.
Millipedes and Flatworms
Millipedes and terrestrial planarians also live under rocks bordering the garden.
Shown here, an orchard spider waits beneath its horizontal web for prey to get stuck in its web.
Living under a rock along the border of one of the gardens, this oak toad (Anaxyrus quercicus) hopped to safety as the rock was being moved. The oak toad is the smallest toad in the United States. This one was 3/4 of an inch long. Oak toads eat many small insects, especially ants.
One commonly seen reptile along the Lagoon Trail is the Cuban anole. Image 1 below: An anole suns itself in the garden. Image 2 below: A well - camouflaged individual eats a cockroach.
Image 1 below: A black racer slithers over a dead palm frond.
Images 2 below: A ring-necked snake poses for its picture. Note: the ring-necked snake is beginning to shed its skin. The scale over its eye is translucent. Ring-necked snakes live under the rocks bordering the gardens.
Another snake that lives along the trail is the Brahminy blind snake (aka flower pot snake). Only about the size of a large earthworm, this snake lives under rocks that border the gardens. The second photograph below shows the head; note, there is no eye. The third photograph below shows the snake flicking its tongue. This snake is not native to Florida; it is from southeastern Asia, and was first reported in Florida in 1983. Considered to be very invasive and the most widespread snake in the world, it is a very aggressive predator of tiny eggs, larvae, and pupae of ants and termites. All Brahminy blind snakes are females.
Below, another reptile has been occasionally spotted along the garden trail. In 2008, this female yellow-bellied slider turtle laid her eggs in the middle of the Lagoon Trail. The eggs were moved to a secure location in Garden 13.
On May 13, 2010, another female turtle was observed laying her eggs in the Lagoon Trail. (Turtle photos below are by Roz Katz.)
Image 1 below: She prepares her nest.
Image 2 below: She lays an egg.
Image 1 below: In 2008 and 2009, a female cardinal used the wild lime tree in Garden 11 to nest and raise her young.
Image 2 below: Blue-gray gnatcatchers frequently gather to sing and snack on gnats in the mangrove trees bordering Garden 13.
Woodpeckers are often seen, and heard calling and tapping on trees, looking for insects.
Image 1 below: A red bellied woodpecker.
Image 2 below: A pileated woodpecker.
Red shouldered hawks also visit our gardens. For several years, a pair nested in the coconut palm in Garden 4.
One group of visitors, the raccoons, aren't at all uncommon. These animals visit on a regular basis, as evidenced by the scat they leave behind. They have been known to dig into the turtle nests along the Lagoon Trail and eat the eggs.
But other mammal visitors are quite unique.... squirrel monkeys. Native to Central and South America, this tribe of monkeys roamed along the Gordon River from the 1950s until 2012. They were probably descendants of monkeys that escaped from captivity. They chirped to one another and jumped along the tree canopy of the gardens looking for food. Squirrel monkeys are omnivores, with their primarily food being fruits and insects; but, they also eat nuts, buds, eggs and small vertebrates.
Plant Lists by Garden
Index To Photographs of Plants in the Gardens
Conservancy of Southwest Florida Ecotone/Lagoon Home Page
Conservancy of Southwest Florida Home Page.
Please report errors to Susan Snyder at email@example.com