One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Nutmeg and I have been lurking over at one of those nature identification sites. We don’t know everything, but we like to look stuff up. Here’s a butterfly that was giving folks a hard time. Do you know what it is? Or even what it isn’t?

What it isn’t in nature is always a good start for identification!

We’ll check your ‘it’s nots’ in the comments and be back later with an identification!

This butterfly seems totally misnamed! It’s the Red-spotted Purple, a woodland butterfly that is trying to mimic the Pipevine swallowtail. It does that on he underside, which we unfortunately didn’t catch a photo of. But this entomology site at the University of Florida has a good shot, as does Butterflies and Moths of North America.

We don’t have photos of all the black butterflies our area, but here are a few. The Red-spotted Purple definitely isn’t a swallowtail–and there are several different dark swallowtails in our area of the Mid-Atlantic for it to mingle with.

The dark form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

The Black Swallowtail, with has orange spots with black dots in the center on the inside edge of the hind wing.

And the Spicebush Swallowtail, with blue crescents along the outside edge of the hind wing.

Be on the lookout for these differences–you may be seeing more different kinds of butterflies than you realize!

Coneflowers and Bumblebees

Last year we told you about the humans in our neighborhood planting more native plants in a common space, including coneflowers. Those are coming along and the additional flowers seem to be attracting more bumble bees.

Or maybe it’s that we are on the lookout for them more since hearing they are in trouble.

Anyway, here’s one that Hickory and I watched and then made a second stab at looking up on Bumble Bee Watch.

As we said before, you have to see the head, the thorax and all the segments of the abdomen to make an identification. And those bees move fast! Unless they are taking a nap…this one wasn’t. But he was very intent on getting his nectar so we were able to sneak around the flower.

We discovered that this one’s ‘black’ abdomen wasn’t.

See those two segments that are brownish-red? We think this is a Brown-belted Bumblebee, not only from our Bumble Bee Watch identification, but also from this poster put together by Pollinator Partnership.

It’s nice to see all of the bees in our area at once. On paper, we mean, not in real life!

Here’s the link to the Pollinator Partnership posters. They are out of this one, but it’s still there to look at and read more details about each bee to help with your identifications.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

The heat isn’t keeping these guys down!

Do you recognize this one?

Post your guesses in the comments, and we’ll check back later.


Hot days, and we squirrels are admitting the butterflies have us beat! They continue to keep up their strength by visiting the flowers you humans have planted in our neighborhood. Good for you in helping the insects this year!

Another clue photo, as we’ve mostly seen this butterfly with its wings spread while landing.

He’s had to share on this coneflower! This Silvery Checkerspot is a member of the skipper family and looks very similar to the Pearl Crescent. You need a good look at the hind wing to see the silvery marks along the outer edge.

Another way to help butterflies is by wetting bare ground to make pudding spots so they can collect the minerals and moisture they need. Maybe you can do double-duty by watering a tree. Even they are suffering in this heat.

Happy World Snake Day!

Always secretive, the snakes in our woods are on the lookout for humans more than us squirrels…just as we are on the lookout for them.

Garter snakes are woodland and field inhabitants, but they will also take a dip!

Both to cool off and to hunt!

Garter snakes eat many small critters, including worms, salamanders, toads, frogs and fish, but include mice in their diet–especially the young mice for a smaller snake like this. Think of it–natural pest control, and a trap you don’t need to empty!

Please be kind to snakes, even if you humans do kind of fear them. They are part of nature’s food chain that we need to keep intact!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these leaves?

Hint: The plant is blooming nw, but we bet you’d recognize it!

Give us a guess in the comments.


Another hint: This is the plant in bloom.

It’s a shrub native to the southeast of North America, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia. A lot of humans seem to be planting them for their nice flowers and pretty fall leaf color. In the wild, the shrub grows in the understory, but does best in light shade to full sun.

Make sure it has forest-like rich soil and steady moisture. We squirrels haven’t seen insects or birds attracted to the Oakleaf Hydrangea, nor can we find any references to it being attractive to wildlife. Any real life stories out there?

Have you seen a swallowtail?

No kidding, years ago, we’d see dozens of these big guys. This year, this tiger swallowtail is the first we’ve seen in this bushy garden. True, the these Joe Pye Weed flowers just began blooming, but the dogbane has been in flower for a month and attracting all kinds of bees… Just no butterflies.

What’s your swallowtail count?

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this fella? If you do, give us a guess in the comments. I’ll check the guesses and post the correct answer later!


No guesses today? Here’s another hint:

If that didn’t give it away, maybe this will:

It’s a young Eastern Bluebird. Members of the thrush family–which also includes the American Robin–have spots to help them hide when they are young.