Q is for Quercus

Quercus, you ask? Unless you’ve been a Squirrel Nutwork follower for a few years. Q is one of the more difficult letters to find in nature names, so we’ve recycled this one every two years.

Quercus is home for us, the oak trees we live in, their acorns we eat. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s article on The Wildlife Benefits of Acorns and Oaks, so do more than 100 other vertebrate species–including turkey, crows, deer, raccoons, opossums, blue jays and quail. Insects? Yes, and we once heard it was over 200 different species, but now we can’t find that reference.

Clearly, oaks are an important species throughout North America. So why are you humans hesitating to plant them?

You are, we know because we see fancy little cherry trees and non-native crepe myrtle going in instead. Please give Quercus another thought if you have a tree to plant.

Need more photos of oak trees? We did a great job showing them back on Q day in 2016.

Please, if you have any Q suggestions for us to file away, please give them to us! (We’ve used Quince, Quartz, Quail and Queen Anne’s Lace in the past.)

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P is for Pileated Woodpecker

He’s the largest woodpecker in North America, and the loudest. Trust us squirrels, we know!

The holes one of these guys can make can turn a decent hollow tree into something even a squirrel feels exposed in.

And they are huge competition at the bird feeders. You humans are always thrilled to see one, but us…not so much.

O is for the Orangestriped Oakworm

Oh, you didn’t expect that one did you?

This little caterpillar is found among, yes, oak trees in August, munching his way through the leaves. They especially like red oaks and can easily denude large portions of the canopy, cropping plenty of grass along the way.

And then what? They make their cocoons and become a Anisota senatoria moth…poor little thing doesn’t even have a common name, and nor do we have a photo. But it’s a pretty little orange moth–check out the page on Butterflies and Moths of North America.

N is for Nectar-Feeders!

And by this we don’t mean the human devices that hold sugar water–no, we mean the animals that feed on nectar!

Yes, it’s honeybees

and solitary bees

and other insects besides.

Butterflies,

and moths that we don’t see because they feed on night-blooming flowers.

And even this confusing little hummingbird moth–who looks and behaves like a hummingbird, but is actually an insect. Speaking of hummingbirds…

Yes, they are nectar-feeders and will come to your nectar feeders.

So feed them both ways, and enjoy them in your garden!

Of course, we can’t leave without our Motionless Monday–here’s a different version of a wildlife statue today!

Have a great week!

 

M is for Maple

Back on April 2nd, on ‘B’ day, we featured red maple blossoms. After thinking it over, we squirrels decided we have given this species the short end of the branch, only because it doesn’t produce acorns. So let’s have another look at maple trees, specifically, the red maple!

As we noted on ‘B’ day, red maples bloom early, often being the first, but certainly the most prolific, early bloomer in the eastern mid-atlantic area. So, nice start to spring with that red blush over the trees. (And food for the bees!) Then theses trees become red all over again when their seeds–the samaras–set on.

We’ve generously written about those, too, here. Clearly, these trees are well named!

Then the red maples go all green for the summer.

Nice, dense shade from these spreading giants. And in the fall…

Look out! It’s a red spectacular!

Winter isn’t boring either.

Nice suburban tree! Too bad it doesn’t grow acorns.

L is for Lucky Ladybug

What better way to celebrate a Friday the 13th than by honoring the lucky ladybug?

It’s not just us squirrels that think a ladybug–whether seven-spotted or not–can be lucky. Farmers in North America, where the ladybug is from, have always known they help crops, so much so that children were told it would bring bad luck to kill one. A single ladybug–or ladybird beetle–eats 5,000 aphids over its lifetime. That’s a lot of crops saved from having their sap sucked out.

Their fame has spread to other cultures. Some people believe if one lands on you, it will bring good luck. Or if it lands on a object of yours, that thing is improved.

Seven is widely considered a lucky number, but if one does land on you, count the spots. That’s supposedly the number of months your good luck will last. The stronger the red color, the stronger your luck will be.

We squirrels think you better look for one like this!

K is for Keep Calm and…

Keep them messy!

Now this isn’t the perfect suburban forest floor–it’s got a few of those invasive vines in it, but the leaf litter under the hollies and oaks is an oasis of acorns and bugs, and even a few mushrooms pop up, all tasty to us squirrels.

I certainly can’t find any of that here:

The ground has been raked clean of acorns. The small nooks where insects can winter over and feed on decaying leaves are gone. And daffodils? You humans do realize they are poisonous, right? No squirrel with any woods-smarts touches them!

You humans might like a neatly mulched area of woods, but it does exactly zero for wildlife.

Even if our suburban woodlands aren’t perfectly native, Keep them Messy, please!

J is for Jack ‘O Lantern

Mushroom, that is! This is mushroom appears in the fall–yes, around October–but we thought it’d be fun to point it out for J day, here with our Blogging From A to Z Challenge. This mushroom is appropriately named because it’s orange, like those pumpkins you humans like to carve, but also because a fresh mushroom will glow in the dark like a jack ‘o lantern!

Really! And they are also poisonous, and can be easily confused with an edible mushroom. So, as with all fungi species, we squirrels are cautioning our readers to be careful.

Back to the glowing part. Only the gills–the underneath part of the cap–glow a bioluminesent green on a fresh jack ‘o lantern. We didn’t find a fresh one, as you can see. And it is hard to see. You humans must be patient and let your eyes adjust to the dark. The Cornell Mushroom Blog has a very nice photo, of it, as well as a confession of picking the wrong species–and luckily not eating it! Be careful out there, folks!

I is for Insects

Insects of all kinds, but after yesterday’s post, we want to point out that they don’t have to be that helpful to be appreciated as part of our natural world.

Milkweed Beetles

Cecropia Moth

Carolina Praying Mantis

Paper wasps

Eastern Forktail Damselfly

Enjoy our diversity!

H is for Honeybee

Protecting bees, both colonies and solitary bees, is very much in the news these days. If you can’t host a honeybee hive, perhaps you can put up a bee house for naive bees?

Or help all bees within a 2  mile radius of you by planting nectar and pollen flowers. Don’t know how to start? We found this great article on rethinking your lawn and garden to become a bee oasis from the Honeybee Conservancy Website.

And for our Motionless Monday post, bees are making it big in the wildlife statue realm…