U is for…Uh-oh!

Yes, we missed U day yesterday. We’ll chalk it up to three days of rain! No squirrel wants to be out in that! Not mentioning the procrastination that went on the day before because U is an exceptionally hard letter to find in nature.

So in the interest of saving time, we’ll repeat a past Blogging From A to Z Challenge post, one you humans might have missed in nature:

Underwing Moth!

This moth sits calmly on tree bark, blending in with its upper wings of gray–up until it feels threatened! Then it flashes those underwings of bright orange…enough to scare even the hardiest squirrel–*cough* Hickory *cough*–off a branch.

Go looking for them if you are bored!

K is for Katydid

It’s an itty bitty katydid, an early ‘instar’ which means it recently hatched from its egg and is going through its growth by eating and shedding exoskeletons. It’s on a magnolia petal, for size estimations.

We squirrels want to share that K is a hard letter in nature. Local nature, at least. And now that we posted that, please feel free to write us with your suggestions! Miz Flora looked up wildflowers and of the few, none worked…meaning we had no photos of them. Trees, there is one, which doesn’t live around here and one shrub that we used last year. Birds…like Killdeer, again, no photos. Sigh.

When is a stick not a stick?

When it’s a stick insect!

Walking Stick

Can you believe that’s what human scientists call these? We kits grew up calling them walking sticks, but when I was doing a bit of research, I discovered you humans also run those words together: walkingstick.

As much as we are in trees, stick insects are good at camouflaging themselves, and move soooo slowly that we squirrels don’t see them that much.

“We’re too busy!” Hickory shouts, his words garbled by an acorn.

Still, I know what he’s saying, because he says it every day. Luckily, one of our human readers saw this stick insect away from a tree and was able to catch a photo of it. (Thank you!) Kind of fun to see how their legs each bend at different angles and the antenna fold to hide the head and make the bug even longer. Great disguise!

The Monarch emerged!

This morning we happened by those Passion Flower plants again and look what we saw!

Monarch chrysalis about to emerge

The Monarch was close to emerging. We got a few acorns hunted down and by the time we came back, the butterfly had broken out of her chrysalis.

newly emerged Monarch butterfly female.

She hung there while her wings expanded. Look at the fluid that dripped off of her.

Fluid from newly emerged monarch

Another time we ran by, she had moved into the open and was spreading her wings.

female Monarch butterfly

That’s how we knew this was a girl–no spots on her hind wings.

female-monarch-butterfly_2

It’s a great feeling to see one be able to succeed at making it to the butterfly stage!

Warm fall days in the Passion Flower leaves

variegated-fritilary-caterpillars

With these warm days, we still have active Variegated Fritillary caterpillars around the neighborhood. And they must be getting enough to eat!

variegated-fritelary-chrysalis

This monarch chrysalis is well on its way to maturing, too!

monarch chrysalis

Ladybugs

Folks, we are falling behind. The chillier mornings make us squirrels want to stay in our leaf nests longer. Then we eat to get warm. Then we need to run around and collect acorns, and that makes us tired again. It puts other tasks out of our heads. I’m sure you humans experience this from time to time.

So let’s go simple today: a little photo sequence of ladybugs, from larvae growing to adulthood.

ladybugs mating with ladybug larvae

ladybug larve shedding exoskeleton

plump ladybug larvae

ladybug with exoskeleton

Ladybug

Pretty neat, huh? Though closer looks at those Milkweed leaves makes us squirrels wonder why any animal would eat them–meaning Monarch caterpillars, not ladybugs. They live on the Milkweed leaves because of the aphids–look for the smaller orange dots–which both ladybug adults and larvae eat.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ever seen something as crazy as this?

mystery #165

Let me know what you think is!

I’ll be back later to post the answer!

~~~

Hope y’all knew it was a caterpillar…it’s a Variegated Fritillary just starting  to make a chrysalis. Here’s a before shot of the caterpillar, on the right, sharing a Passionflower leaves with another caterpillar.

variegated fritillary sharing passionflower leaves

This was a little after the first photo.

variegated fritillary starting a chrysalis

About halfway done.

variegated fritillary middle of making chryslis

And nearly done.

variegated fritillary finishing chrysalis

Pretty neat, huh?

Variegated Frittilary on Violets

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve – Bee Quiz!

Hey there!

I–Hickory–posted a little tribute to bees in my Monday’s column, then Nutmeg grabbed the idea and ran with it. She’s encouraged me to quiz our human readers at bit more with a few bee and bee relative photos we’ve received from one of our readers–thank you, Nancy!

So, here’s my idea. I’ll just number the photos and you humans can make your guesses for it you think it’s a honeybee, a different type of bee, a wasp or a hornet. And, if you are really into the identification, you can use the Native Bees of North America on Bug Guide to try your hand at a more specific identification. We have most of these identified, but not all of them–fair warning that I can’t claim we’re experts on bees and bee relatives.

For some general identification reminders, scroll back or click back to Friday’s post.

Even if you only know one or a few of them, guess! Use the number above the photo with your answer.

And here we go!

#1

mystery bee #1

#2

2. mystery bee

#3

3. Mystery bee

#4

4. Mystery bee

#5

5. Mystery bee

#6

6. Mystery bee

#7

7 Mystery bee

#8

8 mystery bee

#9

9. Mystery bee

#10

10 Mystery bee

I’ll check back later for your answers!

~~~

Hi folks! We had one brave human post answers to our quiz–thanks, Kalamain from the UK! If you checked the comments, Kalamain got some correct and some wrong, and two we now aren’t sure of! Told you, we are not experts. I will note those two, and please if anyone knows the correct identification, on those or any, please speak up! We are not at all bashful about correcting our mistakes.

#1 Yellow Bumble Bee

#2 Wasp on Lateflowering Thoroughwort (see the pinched ‘waist’–that usually indicates a wasp, though we squirrels just sort of gleaned that from somewhere and none of us can recall where.)

#3 Honeybee on aster (This is one we now question!)

#4 Diadasia, we believe, from looking at Bug Guide

#5 European Hornet (That biting mouth for eating the insects can seen!)

#6 Honeybee in rose

#7 Unknown native bee in a Morning Glory (Well, we agree it’s a bee, but we didn’t think it was the same species as #3 until Kalamain pointed that out…so it might be!)

#8 Paper wasp on a milkweed leaf

#9 Common Eastern Bumble Bee in a Thistle (Thought this might be a carpenter bee, but we, uh, didn’t know how to tell when the photo was taken..so didn’t get a look or a photo of the back. It looks a bit fuzzier than photos we’ve seen of carpenter bees, so we picked bumble bee.)

#10 Common Eastern Bumble Bee on a daisy (We believe! ID photos seem to have variable abdomens–from all black to striped, so we’re a bit confused.)

We’re looking forward to hearing if anyone disagrees or agrees–confirmation is good, as we squirrels have witnessed human birdwatchers doing over and over!

Honeybees

honey-bee-in-flightWe’ve heard a lot about honeybees in the news, and you humans are very concerned about their decline, but did you realize they aren’t even native? We squirrels kind of knew that, but it’s not like we keep track of your human activities. Even the ‘wild’ bees are escaped from domestic colonies brought to North America, according to the Bug Guide website’s article on bees. (Can you tell we love that website?)

First, the decline. It started in the mid 2000s and is still somewhat of a mystery. Read here for more on how Colony Collapse Disaster unfolded: Earthjustice’s The Perfect Crime: What’s Killing all the bees?

Second, take a gander at some honeybees to you can identify them.

honey-bee-on-a-sneezeweed

Honeybee on a sneezeweed.

honey-bee-on-a-butterfly-bush

Honeybee on a Butterfly Bush

honey-bee-on-a-zinnia

This Honeybee on a Zinnia has pollen sacs on his legs filled with pollen.

Have you ever seen bees swarm?

honeybees-swarming

See all the little gold dots? Bees.

honeybees-moving-into-tree

It takes them a bit to gather after they leave. See the thickening of bees on the branch on the upper right?

honeybee-swarm-1

And the branch below it!

honeybee-swarm-collecting-on-branch

They take a bit to get organized into one swarm.

honeybee-swarm-gathering-before-they-move-on

Then they collect and rest before taking off again. We squirrels don’t want to be in the treetops when this happens, but it’s an amazing thing to watch!

Just how important are honeybees? We squirrels believe our readers know, but if you still haven’t had enough of reading about bees, check out Earthjustice’s 11 Bee facts that will have you buzzing.