One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a tricky one–can you actually see the thing we’re asking you to identify?

I’ll be back to check your guesses later!

~~~

That was decidedly hard to see. How about this?

This little critter camouflages really well!

Its a walking stick–the kind that’s an insect. And look at the size of him! Compare him to the oak and maple leaves–about 4.5 inches long. It’s so cool that the body is speckled like tree bark and the undersides of the flat legs are orange. Maybe that’s to make it look like stems coming from a twig, or to break up the look of a body. The color perfectly matched some Virginia Pine needles the walking stick was walking over.

Walking sticks or stick-bugs are members of the insect order Phasmatodea, which includes many different species. We aren’t sure which this is, but we squirrels do see them often in the treetops where they feed on leaves. In fact, we understand that in the warmer climates of the American south, walking sticks can endanger trees by defoliating them if the insects overpopulate.

This one might have fallen with the leaves, or, if it’s a she, it may have actually descended on purpose to lay her eggs in the soil. They usually only live one season, and appear large in the autumn just like wolf spiders and praying mantids because they have had all summer to grow.

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C is for Camouflage

Do you see the….

Read on for what we are looking for; we won’t identify it yet, just to give you a chance to see it for yourself. This photo was shared from our field correspondent in the Rocky Mountains, Coney the Pine squirrel, but animals all over use their natural coloration to blend with their surroundings and stay safe. You humans have even mimicked it.

So? Want to try again?

Can you see the owl? A Great Horned owl with ear tufts? (Shudder…the danger our correspondent went to get this photo!)

Here, she has turned her head, watchful of her surroundings, because she’s sitting on her eggs.

Gray Tree Frog

Hey there,

Hickory here taking over for Nutmeg. We’ve all fallen a bit behind here because of preparing for winter. I may as well announce to our newer followers that The Squirrel Nutwork goes into hibernation over the winter. We don’t have a set day yet, just whenever Nutmeg thinks we need to. Kind of weather dependent.

So on to today’s post:

Sometimes we squirrels are forgetful. Not one, but two readers sent us photos of gray tree frogs over the summer, and we just found them again. Oops. Time to share, even though these little frogs will soon be hibernating.

Gray Tree frog 2

Tree frogs are named because they live in trees, in damp areas but directly in water. These arboreal amphibians are small, about an inch long, so we pass along our congratulations to our readers, Nancy and Michael, for spotting them!

Gray Tree Frog 3

Like all other frogs, they do eat insects and if they are living near your human houses, they will come out at night to catch the insects that are drawn to lights.

Gray Tree Frog 1

Yes, even though it’s green, this is still a gray tree frog. They can change color to camouflage to what they are sitting on, ranging from nearly black to a very pale color. It’s a very slow change though.

Obviously, being so small, tree frogs are prey to many larger animals, including snakes and birds. That’s where the camouflage comes in handy, as well as this:

Gray Tree Frog 4

See that stripe that goes right through the eye? It hides the frog’s eye and along with the other mottling on the tree frog’s skin, it makes it hard to see their face and specific shape. Good trick, huh?

Thank you again to our readers who shared their photos!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

Nutmeg says to tell all of you human readers sorry we’ve been busy this week. I myself–Hickory Squirrel, here!–am here with a little Sunday mystery:

Mystery #128

Know what this is?

Give me your guesses!

~~~

Hey! We had guesses today–leafhopper and treehopper. I know Nutmeg always called them leafhoppers when we saw them while out leaping branch-to-branch or while digging acorns. They are common, if you are poking around plants. But when I went to look up a few fun facts about this bug, I discovered its real name is ‘planthopper’.

Funny thing is, there are other little bugs, with long bodies–in a variety of colors, some even striped–that are called leafhoppers. But they don’t look like leaves and this one does! These are Candy-striped Leafhoppers.

Candy-sriped Leafhoppers mating

Ms. Flora kindly stepped in: “It’s a matter of common names, just like for plants.” Her tail twitches. “We–both squirrels and humans–call them what the  look like. Sometimes that varies for different regions of the country. Scientists will only use the scientific name so they don’t get mixed up, just like I do for flowers.

So those guesses are right, folks. One thing I did learn is they all hop! While  these insects can fly, hoping moves them quickly from leaf to leaf but it risks drawing attention. Most planthopper walk slowly, and since they look like a leaf, avoid notice. We have seen them scuttle around the other side of a stem to hide instead of hopping away. That’s cool, but here’s the bad thing: Planthoppers tend to transmit diseases from plant to plant. We couldn’t find out why but think is because they sip the juices from plant stems and carry the disease along to the next stem.

Well, I ended up with a lot to say about a bug that I didn’t even know the correct name of! Thanks for visiting and commenting today!

U is for Underwings

Underwing Moth

Underwings are a group of moths that fall under another group of moths—you go look it up if you need that level of detail. We don’t! We just know that these moths, for all the world a gray splotch blending into bark, sometimes flash those lower wings at us when we run upon them. It scares the beegeebees out of us squirrels, and we’ve seen many a bird take off. No one likes surprises in their food, making Underwings very well protected.