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.

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.