One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

If you came home and found your gardening this state, what would you think had happened?

Post your guesses the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

You don’t suppose…

No. We have been found out! A reader made a correct guess–this, um, accident isn’t because a goldfinch landed on the top of a sunflower. It was, er…us.

 

Yes, we squirrels like sunflower seeds, too. They are a great source of protein and we just can’t seem to help ourselves!

Sorry to make you humans angry! Ms. Flora says to say they are a pretty flower!

 

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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!

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.

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?

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.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this guy?

If so, give us your guess in the comments! I’ll be back to check answers!

~~~

This ‘ladybug-look-alike’ is a Milkweed Leaf Beetle! But unlike ladybugs that eat aphids, these beetles feed on the milkweed leaves.

The Milkweed Leaf beetle can be found on a number of milkweeds, the Common Milkweed shown here, as well as Swamp Milkweed…

and we’ve seen them on Butterfly Weed.

If you inspect any one of these milkweed plants, you’re sure to find many different kinds of orange and black insects. The Bug of the Week website has more about the Milkweed Leaf beetle and these other milkweed community insects.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This brilliant flower has been blooming the last few weeks. Any guesses what it is?

Post in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

We have a guess in the comments that really let us see how deceiving this photo is–sorry friends! Here’s a closer look (the petals in this wildflower are all the same size and shape)

This is Clasping Venus’s Looking Glass, Triodanis perfoliata, a native to all of North America. It sends up a thin stem 1 to 3 feet that has small, ‘clasping’ round leaves up it. From every leaf axil, a purplish flower forms. We squirrels couldn’t manage to capture that tall look, but there are many photos on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website that show what the plant looks like.

It’s the kind of plant that seems to grow among grass and other plants in woodland clearings, and  is an annual plant. It grows from seed each year in a new place. We don’t take notice of too often– then a bit of purple jumps out at Ms. Flora and we have to post it!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

What is this shrub?

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

~~~

This new shrub joins others in out neighborhood, but this time the humans put it in full sun! Ms. Flora says that’s okay–Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, can tolerate both. It even tolerates out heavy Virginia clay soil–but as the name should tell you, that’s because it’s native to Virginia!

The shrubs in the sun definitely has more flowers. The ‘spires’ bloom from the inside out, so it seems to bloom for a very longtime.

Pretty little star flowers. They seem to be attracting insects, but we haven’t had a whole lot of butterflies around this year, which makes us sad. Everyone, we hope you keep planting flowers to feed those bees and butterflies! Virginia sweetspire is supposed to be a easy one to keep and be interesting for humans all year long. We squirrels just want berries, but this doesn’t seem to provide any. Nevertheless, have a look at what else the Piedmont Master Gardeners have to say about it!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We have a flower and an…insect for you identify today.

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

~~~

Here’s a little hint:

This tree is blooming now–it’s a Hawthorn, Crataegus sp., sometimes called May-tree (it blooms in May), thornapple or hawberry–because all of those pollinated flowers become little red fruits or ‘apples’ in the fall.

The insect doing the pollinating is a honeybee – family identifiable by the yellow and black stripes on its abdomen. Many insects were visiting these flowers the day Nutmeg and I ran down to visit it, including what we think is a mason bee.

The all black abdomen matches the bees we see going in and out of the mason bee house.

The branches of the hawthorn are loaded with flowers and insects seeking the nectar and pollen. If you look closely, you might see a few that scattered off when I shook the branches!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We’re late, but here’s a small mystery that was blooming back in April.

Post your guess what this is in the comments and we’ll be back later to check answers!

 

~~~

We had a correct guess! These are Dutchman’s Breeches–they look like little human trousers hanging out to dry. As our reader Sarasinart says, this spring wildflower blooms before the trees set leaves and while the sunlight still reaches the forest floor. Then they are gone–flowers and soon leaves–for another year.