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!

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Beautiful, isn’t it? We feature this beautiful member of the swallowtail butterfly group each year because in a week of hard-to-find nature letters, it’s a staple. But it’s also harder to find this butterfly. Its caterpillars eat only one food, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

This understory tree lives with its roots in wet soil, along streams and rivers.

At least those leaves are huge–10 to 12 inches long and 4-6 inches wide at the middle.

The dark red flowers bloom in the spring and turn into a fruit lumpy with large seeds in the fall. Maybe you can find a tree with caterpillars feeding on it this year.

We’ve had a great time posting this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge! Thanks to our many readers for joining us for a look at nature in suburbia. We hope it helps you to enjoy nature around your home!

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.