Thirsty Thursday

Folks, it’s been dry this fall. But this old squirrel, with his comfortable suburban life knowing which houses have a birdbath or backyard pond the humans keep filled, had no idea the local natural waterways were faring this poorly.

Yikes, that is low for our local pond.

We haven’t had a freeze–ha, far from it!–so the place was still abuzz with insects, like this male Autumn Meadowhawk.

Despite finding the pond in less than its best state, I’m happy I took the outing while our weather is balmy.

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Leaf hider

While Hickory and I were looking at the Devil’s Walkingstick last week, we found this fellow hanging out on a nearby sumac.

We were so surprised we circled around the tree. The praying mantis followed us, waving its spiky arms!

Even going under the leaf to get a better view of us with its pin-point little eyes.

“We aren’t prey!” Hickory chittered.

Uh, for a praying mantis at least.

Competition for the flowers

Hickory and I were doing some butterfly watching on a lazy afternoon this week.

We noticed these insects take every opportunity they can to feed, and we assume this Pearl Crescent butterfly was happy to find one Butterfly Weed in bloom when the rest are just buds. But then we noticed another insect coming in on the left.

See him, the green fellow?

That’s a Cuckoo Wasp–a wasp for the love of acorns! We backed away. But did the Pearl Crescent leave?

No.

Hickory flicked his tail from a safe distance. “Guess that milkweed nectar is better than most.”

On a leaf

The Common Milkweed plants are mature, and the Monarchs are finding them. But have you noticed that these native wildflowers attract tons of bugs? A few years ago we showed many of them, and here are three from our recent visit.

A Carolina Mantis on milkweed leaf–an immature one, his wings are just forming.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Pearl Crescent

And here’s that Milkweed Community post in case you’d like to see more!

Cabbage Whites

Those little white butterflies that we see flying about don’t attract too much attention. Until they do this…

Pretty cool, huh? They are gathered on this spot of wet mud–not too hard to find around here these days!–because they are sipping fluids, but also minerals, salts and other nutrients from the soil. It’s called mud-puddling.

By the way, these are cabbage white butterflies. They aren’t moths as some humans mistakenly believe.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Any idea why this looks like a centipede fossil in this piece of not-fossilized wood?

I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

The simple answer is bugs.

The long answer is that the long bumpy center–or body of the centipede–is where a beetle laid eggs back when this branch was alive and had bark. Each of the eggs hatched into a larvae, and each little bug began chewing its way into the softer cambium layer under the wood, and we suppose a little into the wood, making the ‘legs’ of the centipede.

Did you notice that those legs grow larger as the bug chewed along? It was growing bigger! Eventually they matured enough that the larvae chewed a hole to the outside of the bark, metamorphosed into a beetle and left!

So this is like a natural apartment house!

One of Nature’s Mysteries To Solve

Hey there!

This little guy interrupted my nap…and I remembered it’s mystery day!

What is he?

Check back with you later!

~~~

This little Spring Azure butterfly–about a half inch across–can vary in it’s gray to whitish coloring, but the underwings are usually gray with darker markings. They might have marks along the edges or not. The females are the same coloring on top, but the males are a bright blue. If they are sitting–which is even hard to catch them doing!–the wings are up, so the blue or gray upper wings are mostly seen in flight–and they are quick!

We’ve noticed the Spring Azures flying in our neighborhood for years, but only looked them up this year. The adults like the nectar of Dogbane, which we have nearby, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves of spirea…which we also have! So we squirrels will be checking for eaten leaves this summer and reporting back!