One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Quiet week here. I think this is an easy guess of most humans, but, hey, I’ll throw it out there anyway!

Be back later for your guesses!

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All–nearly all!–they leaves on the ground here are oaks. The yellow leaves amid the coppery brown ones are  a branch form a White Oak tree. It’s one I–Hickory Squirrel–cut myself to add to my leaf nest. That’s why it’s a bit fresher than the rest of the red oak leaves that fell naturally.

Chilly nights, you know! We all need to add our layers.

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s a weekend to celebrate our mystery column: This is the two hundredth mystery post on The Squirrel Nutwork!

And what better way to celebrate than with a mystery acorn!

Sigh, isn’t that a lovely sight?

That’s not too hard, is it? I mean, to guess what type of oak tree it came from?

I’ll check for your guesses in the comments–and if you really want a hint…here is one pictured below.

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This beautiful acorn is from the Black Oak, Quercus velutina. Yes, it’s hard to tell the similar leaves of the black and red oak families apart. One way is the acorns. The Black Oak acorns are shorter and round. The leaves of the Black Oak turn a coppery color in the fall, not red like the Northern Red Oak. And, this is the best leaf difference any time of year, on the back of a Black Oak leaf, tufts of hair fill the angle of space between the main vein and the branching veins (called the axil!). Hope you human readers can see those tufts on the lower, yellowish, dotted leaf.

But either tree is beautiful to us squirrels and the acorns tasty!

And falling like crazy with the winds coming through!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

A bit of fall color for you to ruminate on this week.

What plant is this?

Check in with your guesses later!

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Perhaps this is a hard one to recognize…grows in floodplains, a small tree…

This is the Common Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, a native tree that grows in patches and produces a delicious fruit. We squirrels find them by the nose, on the tree while ripe and eat them right then. When they fall, they start to overripen immediately and lose their sweet flavor.

Miz Flora says humans are wising up to Pawpaw trees and fruit. They’re easy to grow and have few pests, so require little care to get a fruit crop. Check them out if you have a bit of moist land.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s a commonly blooming flower…

…what is it?

Leave your guesses in the comments!

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Asters are still blooming this late into fall.

Some are white, some purple.

Sorry, I don’t pay enough attention to asters to know their names–they don’t produce anything we squirrels eat. But these late-blooming flowers are very important to an entire group of insects preparing for winter…

Bees! Both honeybees and solitary bees are still about on warm days seeking nectar.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a seasonally-appropriate mystery…

No wait, this is it!

Know what it is?

I’ll check back for your answers later!

~~~

We had a correct answer–indeed, this is a wolf spider. See those shiny spots on his head? Those are two of its eight eyes, and since they are larger than the other eyes, it helps casual watcher–we’re definitely casual watchers–identify wolf spiders from the other spiders this size, nursery web spiders. If you are outside at night this week–and we know many of you will be!–shine your flashlight in the weeds and bushes. Two small dots shining back might be a wolf spider watching you.

Wolf spiders do not weave webs. Instead, they pounce on they prey. Because they have no web they are the only spider to carry their egg sacs.

 

One of our readers admitted she doesn’t like spiders. Yes, many humans feel that way, especially when they grow this large! A wolf spider’s body grows to 1.2 inches–and the legs can extend in a diameter of 4 inches! That’s a spider we squirrels leap around.

But considering we’ve heard there are so many spiders in our world that you are never more than three feet from a spider, then you know we all gotta get along. That many spiders eat a huge number of insects…so we need spiders to stick around.

Want to learn more about wolf spiders? Wolf spiders.org will give you lots of facts, photos and videos to watch.

 

 

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We spotted this bedraggled creature near a storm drain.

Any idea what it is?

I’ll check back later for your guesses!

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No guesses today? This is a little tough. We gave you just a hint with the corner of an eyespot showing… Not so limp from the rain, and…

…here are the wings spread.

And…it’s a Polyphemus moth, which, because of those eyespots, was named for a Greek giant with one eye in the center of his forehead–a cyclops. It’s one of the largest silk moths with a wingspread of 4 to 6 inches, and found almost all over North America, from Canada down into Mexico.

It skips Arizona and Nevada, which we squirrels first thought was because it’s dry,or maybe because its caterpillar food plants don’t live there.

But they feed on many tree species–maples, oaks, birch, hickory, willow and many fruit trees like pear and plum, so that can’t be the reason and the human scientists don’t really say. It is because it’s dry? If any of our readers know, give us a shout!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Our strange mystery today is an egg case. A praying mantis egg case, and specifically a Carolina Mantis egg case.

The scientific name for it is an ootheca, and this particular one is oblong and larger than a ping pong ball, so that means it was laid by the Carolina Mantis. Remember the mantis we showed a week or so ago? That’s the one.

We admit, we had help figuring out which of the two praying mantis had laid it. Appalachian Feet posted a great description that will help you with future identifications.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s a beautiful blue berry–

–but what is it?

Leave me a guess in the comments and I’ll check back later with your answer!

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We’ve posted this plant before, but not shown its fall berry. Here’s a photo clue with the leaves.

Mile-a-Minute Weed, Persicaria perfoliata, is an invasive plant that grows like the name suggests–very quickly. It also is sometimes called tearthumb or Asiatic Tearthumb, which is a good name with those little thorns.  A post we made a year ago in the summer contains links to learn more, but you should be wary if you see this pretty berry and its triangular leaf. And you should pull it before it looks like this:

Or this, covering your native plants like it has on our nearby golf course.

It’s sad, because under that mess were some nice blackberry bushes.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Something edible–for wildlife only!–is ripening now.

If you have a guess of what it is, please post in the comments. I’ll check back later!

~~~

Maybe another hint?

The fruits of the Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, are ripening now and their flesh being picked at by the birds: Cardinals, titmice, bluebirds, and the juncos–when they arrive.

They won’t last long, even if they aren’t very tasty! We squirrels find that birds are’t that picky.