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.


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!

What is this unexpected accumulation?

Mystery #160

I’ll check back later for your guesses!


We had a guess of ‘worm poop’ folks, and that is so close! These are caterpillar fecal pellets–poop–better known to scientists as ‘frass’. The word frass is used for any type of insect poop, which we squirrels didn’t know. We’ve just heard it used for butterfly and moth poop. And so you know, the size of the frass does vary with the size of the caterpillar, and grows as they grow, but it always has those little grooves down the sides.

This is really what Nutmeg and I saw when we bounded to one of our favorite decks to visit a water dish:

Caterpillar frass on deck

Frass everywhere! We looked up, and sure enough, the black oak leaves were being chewed to the veins.

black oak leaves defoliated by orange-striped oakworm

A closer inspection upon climbing the tree revealed dozens of orange-striped oak worm caterpillars at work.

orange-striped oakworm in black oak tree

If you forget that name, you can just search for orange and black caterpillar on oak trees and easily find it.

Orange-striped oakworm caterpillars feedign on black oak leaves

orange-striped oarkworm

They are pretty common in oak forests, and turn into a plain brown moth. A photo and more information can be found on this Michigan State Extension bulletin.

Hope more of you humans aren’t sharing your outdoor space with these critters…but we’re sure that’s not a problem considering how hot it’s been!

Q is for Quercus

Q can be a difficult letter to find in nature. Unless you are a squirrel.


Quercus is the genus name for the Oak tree family. We squirrels can’t imagine life without them. Every day of the year.

White Oak tree

White Oak

Black Oak

Black Oak

fallen Chestnut Oak leaves

Chestnut Oak leaves

Willow Oak acorns

Willow Oak acorns

Pin Oak Branches 2

Pin Oak

Eastern Gray Squirrel in Black Oak Tree

Eastern Gray Squirrel in Black Oak

White Oak

White Oak catkins

Oak trees

Oaks in spring.

Haven’t seen enough oaks? Here’s what we had to say about our favorite Quercus on Q day in 2014!


Black Oak Acorns

It’s Hickory back again today with a note on another of our favorite foods.

These acorns are smaller than the White Oak ones. I know this is a Black Oak, Quercus velutina, not a red, because of the size of the acorns, but also because the leaves have little tufts of hair at the axils of the veins on the back of the leaves.