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!

P is for Painted Lady

Specifically, the American Painted Lady butterfly!

You might see this beauty already. Painted Ladies migrate north in the spring from their wintering grounds in the Southwest. It’s one of the most widespread butterflies North America, so definitely look for Painted Ladies this summer. And you may need to look twice, because the underside of the wings is patterned differently from the topside.

Pretty cool, huh? Their populations vary from year to year, and scientists don’t know why. They do not migrate back in the fall, so die with the first frosts.

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

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.

A honeybee is a wasp who turned vegetarian.

Did you humans know this? We squirrels didn’t. But doing our bee research–actually trying to identify some bees–we learned that honeybees descended from wasps and they aren’t at all good at pollinating some vegetables that originated in North America, like blueberries!

Rather than chitter and chatter about these neat facts, we suggest you readers just go to the Native Bees of North America article on Bug Guide, especially if you have some of those ‘other’ bees and wasps hanging about your garden and want some confirmation they belong.

Or maybe you’d like to know what they are? We did.

Because wasps and hornets are the older species, it only seems right to let them go first. And stay a respectable distance away–this is all the closer Hickory wanted to get to this European Hornet.

european hornet

When they are all black and yellow (or white!), how can you tell it’s a wasp and not a bee? Wasps have little or no hair on their bodies. Their legs hang down while they fly. And maybe you don’t want to get this close to look at one’s face…

european hornet face

but those are biting mouth parts, not sipping ones! Wasps and hornets eat other insects, which is a really good thing in the animal world! Even squirrels leap aside when we see that warning flash of yellow and black–a sting will hurt! But wasps kill and eat many harmful insects…insects that eat your human foods. Insects that eat our food! One tiny wasp feeds on the eggs of Gypsy Moths, which like to eat White Oak leaves, which harms our acorn supply!

You humans have probably all seen a paper wasp nest. Here are the paper wasps.

paper wasp

They live in colonies like honeybees do, and feed on caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae–all of which eat garden plants–so are a huge help to humans growing food.

Most wasps live alone. The potter wasp makes its own little home out of clay.

potter wasp

But they are really hard to find. (In other words, send us a photo if you have one to share!) Other bees hide over winter in hollow stems. You can help them by not cleaning up your yard too much. Or if you do cut those dried flower stalks, set them in a corner until spring warms up. Or consider making and maintaining a ‘bee hotel’.

wasp and bee house

No, it doesn’t need to have this many rooms, and yes, we mentioned maintaining. It’s not something you can just put up and leave alone, according to The Pollinator Garden. These insects can fall ill if the hotel becomes moldy, or is placed in a spot that gets too wet. This website offers detailed instructions, for both Britain Isles and North American species. Start with The Pollinator Garden’s Make A Bee Hotel guide for Britain, which has most of the details and valuable cautions and links, and look for the North American link at the bottom.

Wasps and hornets may scare you humans since you don’t have protective fur, but every species helps our natural world in some way, so we encourage you to give them a chance!

Thirsty Thursday & Bees like tubular flowers!

Nutmeg wrote all about composite flowers yesterday, but Ol’ Wally is here to tell you bees also like tubular flowers. Why? They have more nectar collecting down at the bottom of that tube. So it can be just as efficient to visit one good tube flower–like a Pink Turtlehead!Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Now, that’s the only way to see a bee disappear. And please note, Ol’ Wally is showing you humans a tubular flower that is also a water-loving plant. Pink Turtlehead is a wonderful wildflower if you’ve got a bit of a damp area around your property.