One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Bees that aren’t honeybees can be quite confusing.

Give us a guess what you think this stunning insect is in the comments!

I’ll check back later with the answer.

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We squirrels learned something today by questioning you humans about this wasp. This is a red and brown paper wasp (we gather that is a common, descriptive name!) and common in our area. Our mistake is that we always assumed paper wasps (these guys) made those giant oval paper nests that we find secreted in trees and other odd places.

 

 

Not so! These large, intimidating nests are made by hornets–either the black and white bald faced hornet, or the European hornet.

According to a wasp guide hosted by the Kentucky Pesticide Safety Program and the North Carolina Extension Service’s publication on Non-Honey Bee Stinging Insects in North Carolina, this particular paper wasp, with the brown spots on its abdomen, makes just the small, open, umbrella-type nest, with no covering.

 

 

If you read further, both articles do say that wasps are beneficial in nature, eating numerous pesky caterpillars that destroy crops. If a nest is in a non-hazardous area, consider leaving these natural predators alone to do their jobs!

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Red things are falling on the ground, and they aren’t apples in our woods!

Any guesses for what this is? Leave me–Hickory–a note in the comments and I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

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Maybe you humans would have recognized this ‘drupe’ up on its tree?

If not, we squirrels will take that as your absolute dedication to knowing about us–because we don’t eat these! Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, is eaten by many songbirds, game birds, deer, rabbits, chipmunks and rats. But we squirrels would rather stick with the good stuff, acorns.

Staghorn sumac has a tartness to it, so maybe those other animals don’t notice. Also, the trees are kind of skinny for a squirrel to be climbing and not very spread in the branching at the top.

Maybe because the big, compound leaves of the sumac seem to take the place of limbs.

Even if we don’t eat their fruits, sumacs are a pretty little tree that make especially thick groves, and turn beautiful red-oranges in the fall. Look for them in another month!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey There!

Stormy skies, leaves falling because of heat, and a flash of something in a tree…

Nope, it’s not a squirrel, but what is it?

Give me your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later with the answer!

~~~

Aren’t brownish-grayish birds some of the hardest to figure out? But if you look carefully, that’s only his back…

Ok, we admit you needed a longer look. Flashes of birds in the bush rarely lead to identification. It’s the white belly that gives this bird away as an Eastern Kingbird–and a white edge across the tip of the tail, but that isn’t visible here. These fellows love catching insects on the wing, so you’ll often see them flip out of a bush, and then right back in again.

That’s during the summer. Come fall, kingbirds will start to gather into flocks for the winter, and switch over their diets to eating fruits.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ol’ Wally beat me to posting a mystery this week…but I’m okay with that because I had already told The Squirrel Nutwork blogging team that I couldn’t be around later today. So here’s the thing: if you didn’t see Ol’ Wally’s column on Thursday, ponder what you think this plant is:

Then go over to the Thirsty Thursday column and check your answer!

I should be back next week with a new mystery!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Anyone recognize this caterpillar?

I’ll check back later for your guesses in the comments!

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Okay, we squirrels agree, that this is a very nondescript caterpillar. And it becomes a very nondescript moth! Except…

It’s an underwing moth. Which is a bit confusing, because you would think the bottom of the wings would have the color on them. No, it’s the upper side of the hind wings.

And why, you may ask? The bright color is there to scare a predator away, in a quick flash of color

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments. I’ll be back later to check your guesses.

~~~

This stunning wildflower is Ironweed, named for its tough stem. It’s also pretty hard to dig up the roots and in some places you humans are finding it more on the weedy side of wildflowers–native, but taking over.

Since Vernonia noveboracensis is a member of the aster family, and has all those tiny flowers that put out gobs of seeds, who would expect anything else?

Miz Flora is pleased with the bright color, and Ironweed loves a wet area, so that might help out in a few awkward garden spots. Keep in mind, it’s almost as tall–7 feet–as a Joe Pye Weed, so don’t put it in front of anything small!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Know what this plant is? The butterflies seem to like it.

I’ll check back later for your answers in the comments!

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Maybe this view of the bush in it’s habitat will give an additional hint?

If you’ve guessed that this is a wetland, you’re correct. Like a willow, this bush with the ball-shaped flowers likes its roots wet. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found in freshwater marshes, swamps and along floodplains in eastern and southern North America. It’s a favorite mid-summer nectar source for butterflies because, like composites, there are many small flowers grouped together. That makes for an easy food stop!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This fellow wildlife is a bit out of place on a lawn, but do you recognize it?

Maybe you know what this mystery animal is, but do you know if it’s male or female? I’ll check your comments later!

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We had a guess from a regular follower that this was a toad. It isn’t a toad, and usually the way to tell a toad is that they have bumpy skin. Well, a second look here and maybe we have to retract that. This frog is covered in bumps. But they are the little ones and toads are bumpy with a more ‘warty’ look.

This frog is a Northern Green Frog…and it’s a girl! Notice that circle behind her eye? It’s the frog’s eardrum, more properly called a tympanum. The female green frogs have a tympanum smaller than their eye, and in the males it’s bigger.

Here’s Dr. Matthew G. Bolek’s website page of frogs for a great comparison of many different kinds of North American frogs.

This frog found her way into a local yard and somehow ended up in a trashcan of rainwater. We hope she made it back to a pond!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

I’ll checkin later for your answers!

~~~

This showy flower is Liatris, also known as Gayflower and Blazing Star. It’s a native wildflower to North America that has been tinkered with a bit by humans to take on many different heights.

Those little frilly petals are many small flowers clustered to gather–this is a Composite flower, like the coneflowers we featured recently. And the bees love it, for one-stop nectar feeding.

It seemed to us that this little stand in our neighborhood appeared from nowhere, but we’ve read they can be planted by corms, which are stem parts. More on their care in the garden can be found in The Spruce Website’s Liatris Flowers, Prairie Favorites article.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

What might this object be?

Give me your guesses in the comments and I’ll be checking back later!

~~~

We squirrels suppose this is a very obscure thing, unless you are leaping over the ground and looking for…food!

However, sadly this won’t become food–it’s a Black Walnut that got knocked from its branch. It wasn’t even close to ripening, but it still has the ‘black walnut’ smell so Nutmeg and I easily sniffed it out while foraging under the trees.

By the end of the summer we should be seeing the nuts filling out in their husks.

Then in the autumn–kerplop!

Don’t want to be under the walnut trees then!