Y is for Yellow Bear Caterpillar

Sometimes known as the Yellow Woolly Bear, this fuzzy caterpillar is striking with his furry spines. He is somewhat smaller than the black and orange woolly bear, but feeds on clover and grass so likely you’ve seen him at some point. After eating his fill and changing to the adult form, he’s known as the Virginia Tiger moth, a white moth that we don’t have a photo of, so here’s a resource at Butterflies and Moths of North America.

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V is for Variegated Fritillary

This orange and black checkered butterfly is sometimes mistaken for a monarch, but a second look usually tells you humans that this species is a lighter orange. Then you wonder what it is, and can’t get close enough to tell because it’s easily scared off–in fact, this fritillary’s genus name Euptoieta comes from the Greek word euptoietos meaning “easily scared.”

Variegated Fritillaries mostly lay their eggs on the Passionflower plant, but if you keep a suitably diverse lawn–what Miz Flora has heard humans call messy–you may see them on violets as well–another ‘V’ in nature for our Blogging From A to Z Challenge!

Their Speyeria fritillary relatives, like the Great Spangled Fritillary, seek out only violets.

R is for Red-Spotted Purple

Isn’t this a beautiful butterfly? We squirrels confused it with the spicebush swallowtail, but the red-spotted purple is far more iridescent. The butterfly will be most anywhere in the eastern North America that the host plants for its caterpillars are found. Some of those food plants are leaves such as cherry, popular, oak, hawthorn, birch, willow and shadbush.

O is for the Orangestriped Oakworm

Oh, you didn’t expect that one did you?

This little caterpillar is found among, yes, oak trees in August, munching his way through the leaves. They especially like red oaks and can easily denude large portions of the canopy, cropping plenty of grass along the way.

And then what? They make their cocoons and become a Anisota senatoria moth…poor little thing doesn’t even have a common name, and nor do we have a photo. But it’s a pretty little orange moth–check out the page on Butterflies and Moths of North America.

N is for Nectar-Feeders!

And by this we don’t mean the human devices that hold sugar water–no, we mean the animals that feed on nectar!

Yes, it’s honeybees

and solitary bees

and other insects besides.

Butterflies,

and moths that we don’t see because they feed on night-blooming flowers.

And even this confusing little hummingbird moth–who looks and behaves like a hummingbird, but is actually an insect. Speaking of hummingbirds…

Yes, they are nectar-feeders and will come to your nectar feeders.

So feed them both ways, and enjoy them in your garden!

Of course, we can’t leave without our Motionless Monday–here’s a different version of a wildlife statue today!

Have a great week!

L is for Lucky Ladybug

What better way to celebrate a Friday the 13th than by honoring the lucky ladybug?

It’s not just us squirrels that think a ladybug–whether seven-spotted or not–can be lucky. Farmers in North America, where the ladybug is from, have always known they help crops, so much so that children were told it would bring bad luck to kill one. A single ladybug–or ladybird beetle–eats 5,000 aphids over its lifetime. That’s a lot of crops saved from having their sap sucked out.

Their fame has spread to other cultures. Some people believe if one lands on you, it will bring good luck. Or if it lands on a object of yours, that thing is improved.

Seven is widely considered a lucky number, but if one does land on you, count the spots. That’s supposedly the number of months your good luck will last. The stronger the red color, the stronger your luck will be.

We squirrels think you better look for one like this!

I is for Insects

Insects of all kinds, but after yesterday’s post, we want to point out that they don’t have to be that helpful to be appreciated as part of our natural world.

Milkweed Beetles

Cecropia Moth

Carolina Praying Mantis

Paper wasps

Eastern Forktail Damselfly

Enjoy our diversity!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Our strange mystery today is an egg case. A praying mantis egg case, and specifically a Carolina Mantis egg case.

The scientific name for it is an ootheca, and this particular one is oblong and larger than a ping pong ball, so that means it was laid by the Carolina Mantis. Remember the mantis we showed a week or so ago? That’s the one.

We admit, we had help figuring out which of the two praying mantis had laid it. Appalachian Feet posted a great description that will help you with future identifications.