Nutmeg has been featuring the summer’s insects, so I figure I should chime in with the wildlife statues.
Have a great day!
Lots of wild animals try to stay hidden from view.
Have you seen one of these fellows lately? If you know what he is, give us a shout in the comments. Be back later to give you an answer.
By the way, this is my 130th nature’s mystery post, a column I –Hickory Squirrel–started back in April 2012!
If you look really close you can see small scales on this animal’s back, making it a reptile. It’s in the lizard family, one called a Broad-headed Skink. It’s one of the largest, growing to a foot long if you include the tail, five and a half inches if the skink has lost his tail–which can happen if something grabs onto it! They eat mainly insects like crickets, beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars, but will also catch smaller reptiles and rodents with their small teeth. In fact, the genus name, Plestiodon, comes form the Greek words Pleistos meaning most and odontos meaning teeth. ‘Toothy skink’–heh, good name, right?
We have a special flower treat today! Squirrels, as you probably realize through watching us in your yards, do not come out after dark. So we would never have noticed this flower that blooms at night. But one of our readers has waited all summer for the blossom and send us photos of her Moonflower, a type of morning glory.
We spot a ladybug, then we see a beetle in black and red but with a different pattern…
…and we stumble over our paws wondering if it is a ladybug, too?
What do you think?
We had lots of looks today, but no guesses…and I have to admit, I thought I had this critter identified before posting his photo. But like Ms. Flora sometimes says, the best laid plans…
This nice eastern website of various beetles found on wildflowers identifies it as a Milkweed Bug (see bug #37), but when I went to verify this identification, Milkweed Bugs look way different. A site on Lady Bugs has a lot of answers and photos of ladybugs, including one very similar, but we finally turned to a human friend who told us it is a Milkweed Leaf Beetle!
Apparently these beetles do not eat harmful aphids like the ladybugs, but instead eat the leaves of Milkweed plants, preferring, it seems, the Swamp Milkweed, so they are often called Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles. This of course, is harmful to milkweed plants, which many of you humans would like to save for Monarch caterpillars to feed on.
Sorry to say, it’s very hard to control what bugs find your plants, just like it’s hard for us squirrels to know who might dig up our acorns.
After posting the caterpillar of the Variegated Fritillary, we thought we should show the actual butterfly.
It’s laying eggs on violet leaves, one of many plants it may choose that the caterpillars like. Some of you may recall the plant the caterpillar was on in Friday’s post was not a violet. (It was a Passion Flower leaf.)
Interestingly, one of our readers wrote that she tried to move the caterpillars from the violets in her lawn when it was time to mow, but she could not get them to eat the leaves of the Passion Flower, which she has found Variegated Fritillaries eating before. Apparently they do not like to switch!
Again we seem to be peering at nature from interesting angles.
Give me your guesses for what this is!
We had several correct guesses on today’s mystery…and they each called the cicada by a different name.
This cicada goes by both Dog Day Cicada and Harvestfly Cicada. And sometimes ‘the annual cicada’ because it does appear every year in deciduous forests across eastern North America.
We squirrels are very aware of them because of their songs, which are made by vibrating membranes in their abdomens. The adults don’t feed on anything, but the nymphs do suck the juices–the sap–from roots of pine and oak trees.