Here’s a tricky one–can you actually see the thing we’re asking you to identify?
I’ll be back to check your guesses later!
That was decidedly hard to see. How about this?
This little critter camouflages really well!
Its a walking stick–the kind that’s an insect. And look at the size of him! Compare him to the oak and maple leaves–about 4.5 inches long. It’s so cool that the body is speckled like tree bark and the undersides of the flat legs are orange. Maybe that’s to make it look like stems coming from a twig, or to break up the look of a body. The color perfectly matched some Virginia Pine needles the walking stick was walking over.
Walking sticks or stick-bugs are members of the insect order Phasmatodea, which includes many different species. We aren’t sure which this is, but we squirrels do see them often in the treetops where they feed on leaves. In fact, we understand that in the warmer climates of the American south, walking sticks can endanger trees by defoliating them if the insects overpopulate.
This one might have fallen with the leaves, or, if it’s a she, it may have actually descended on purpose to lay her eggs in the soil. They usually only live one season, and appear large in the autumn just like wolf spiders and praying mantids because they have had all summer to grow.
Give us a guess in the comments–I’ll be checking back later for your answers!
See the little white mark on the underside of the wing? The ‘comma’? This is a comma butterfly, which should certainly not be confused with this butterfly:
The question mark butterfly! Okay, honestly they look very similar, from the bottom and the top…
The undersides of both are described as being brown mottled, but the question mark we saw seems to be unusually orange. The photos we saw on Butterflies and Moths of North America vary, too, and the mottling is there.
Hope you enjoyed your nature punctuation lesson for today!
We’ve still got flowers around, and with no hard freeze, the insects are still visiting them.
Do you recognize this flower and / or the insect?
Give us a guessing the comments and I’ll pop back in to check your answers.
We had a correct guess today–this is a hoverfly (to the best of a squirrel’s knowledge about insects!) They are also known as syrphid flies, named from their family name, Syrphidae. Hoverfly tends to be an easier name to remember because it describes what they do–hover.
And they look so similar to bees! See, the black and yellow body is screaming Danger, get back! But the big eyes were a dead giveaway for Nutmeg and I to figure out that this had to be a fly.
Hoverflies, in the adult fly form, eat nectar and pollen, feeding on wildflowers like these late-blooming asters. Since we are nearing that gruesome holiday that you humans love–Halloween–lets talk a bit about the larvae, which have a much more interesting feeding habits. Fly larvae are…do you remember? Maggots! Different species of the Syrphidae prey on other insects, very much like ladybugs eat aphids, while others eat decaying plants and animals, very much like vultures. That’s quite a family!
After Ol’ Wally’s dramatic tale from yesterday, I decided the blog needed an uplifting moment–and butterflies seem to still fit that idea. No spicebush swallowtails or monarchs died during the time Hickory and I visited these flowers!
But we did find one juvenile hiding!
“As he well should!” Hickory chittered. “Birds. If you can’t trust them to stay out of your sunflower seeds, then when can you trust them?”
Hickory and I saw a little movement in the plants, and really doubted that it was anything but the wind. Then, there it was again.
Have you humans ever tried to get a good look at these tiny butterflies?They’re about the size of my paw and hardly sit still. That’s a zinnia leaf it’s on, to give you an idea. Luckily, Hickory spotted the bright red band running across it, and that made the identification easy–it’s a red-banded hairstreak!