One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We have a garden resident who has slowed down in the cool weather.

mystery #168

Many of you probably recognize this fellow, but if you’re a little hazy on your identification, throw a guess into the comments section.

I’ll be back later with the correct answer.


Yes, we had a correct guess today! The Eastern Garter Snake is very common in our suburban neighborhoods, but we wish more appreciated! This little snake is harmless and does so much to keep down mice, voles and even slugs. We won’t mention that the larger ones sometimes try to get into squirrel and chipmunk nests. Darn things.


This is an easy snake to recognize because it has two stripes running the length of its body. These white to yellow stripes make it hard for an enemy to tell the garter snake is moving, and–bam!–it’s gone before you know it!. The body color on garter snakes is splotchy and ranges from tan to brown to green. This makes them harder to see in the dappled sunlight on grass, mulch or the forest floor. They can swim and like to to catch fish and frogs. They can climb trees and like to eat baby birds.

No wonder this snake is so common–it eats about anything!

The Monarch emerged!

This morning we happened by those Passion Flower plants again and look what we saw!

Monarch chrysalis about to emerge

The Monarch was close to emerging. We got a few acorns hunted down and by the time we came back, the butterfly had broken out of her chrysalis.

newly emerged Monarch butterfly female.

She hung there while her wings expanded. Look at the fluid that dripped off of her.

Fluid from newly emerged monarch

Another time we ran by, she had moved into the open and was spreading her wings.

female Monarch butterfly

That’s how we knew this was a girl–no spots on her hind wings.


It’s a great feeling to see one be able to succeed at making it to the butterfly stage!

Warm fall days in the Passion Flower leaves


With these warm days, we still have active Variegated Fritillary caterpillars around the neighborhood. And they must be getting enough to eat!


This monarch chrysalis is well on its way to maturing, too!

monarch chrysalis

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this fellow?

Mystery #167


If so, give us a shout in the comments.

I’ll be back later with the correct answer!


carolina mantis eating

As one of our regular readers said, it is a good bug eating bad bugs! That’s the life of the Carolina Mantis, a predator you humans often call a praying mantis. If you’ve ever encountered one, you know those front limbs are lines with little barbs, perfect for catching and holding insects.


This female has colored herself gray to blend with her surroundings. She can’t change frequently, like a chameleon, but can adjust color when she grows and molts her exoskeleton, up until she is full grown. And how do we know this is a female? Size is one way, the females are larger than the males. But a more certain way to tell is the wings. On a full-grown female, they extend only 3/4 of the way along the abdomen, leaving her tail end exposed.


Folks, we are falling behind. The chillier mornings make us squirrels want to stay in our leaf nests longer. Then we eat to get warm. Then we need to run around and collect acorns, and that makes us tired again. It puts other tasks out of our heads. I’m sure you humans experience this from time to time.

So let’s go simple today: a little photo sequence of ladybugs, from larvae growing to adulthood.

ladybugs mating with ladybug larvae

ladybug larve shedding exoskeleton

plump ladybug larvae

ladybug with exoskeleton


Pretty neat, huh? Though closer looks at those Milkweed leaves makes us squirrels wonder why any animal would eat them–meaning Monarch caterpillars, not ladybugs. They live on the Milkweed leaves because of the aphids–look for the smaller orange dots–which both ladybug adults and larvae eat.