One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

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!


Beware of changing leaves

So folks, it’s that time of the year–or soon will be. We are getting lots of rain from regular weather, as well as Hurricane Florence pushing some up this way, so our trees and hillsides aren’t drying out. But have you noticed it’s dark by 7:30 these days? Fall equinox is this Saturday, at 9:54 pm. (How do you humans figure these things out?) The plants know the daylight hours are waning and will start to pull in their sugars. This makes the leaves pretty, and you humans like to touch them. Except theres one that shouldn’t be touched…

Yep, that’s the very pretty fall variation of poison ivy. The leaves are drying so don’t have as much natural oil as it does in the spring–the stuff that causes itchiness–but it has enough.

Leaves of three, let it be!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Red things are falling on the ground, and they aren’t apples in our woods!

Any guesses for what this is? Leave me–Hickory–a note in the comments and I’ll be back later to check your guesses!


Maybe you humans would have recognized this ‘drupe’ up on its tree?

If not, we squirrels will take that as your absolute dedication to knowing about us–because we don’t eat these! Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, is eaten by many songbirds, game birds, deer, rabbits, chipmunks and rats. But we squirrels would rather stick with the good stuff, acorns.

Staghorn sumac has a tartness to it, so maybe those other animals don’t notice. Also, the trees are kind of skinny for a squirrel to be climbing and not very spread in the branching at the top.

Maybe because the big, compound leaves of the sumac seem to take the place of limbs.

Even if we don’t eat their fruits, sumacs are a pretty little tree that make especially thick groves, and turn beautiful red-oranges in the fall. Look for them in another month!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ol’ Wally beat me to posting a mystery this week…but I’m okay with that because I had already told The Squirrel Nutwork blogging team that I couldn’t be around later today. So here’s the thing: if you didn’t see Ol’ Wally’s column on Thursday, ponder what you think this plant is:

Then go over to the Thirsty Thursday column and check your answer!

I should be back next week with a new mystery!

Thirsty Thursday

Folks, It’s late summer and the rains have been good to us lately. Lots of thick vegetation around the pods in our area. Perhaps you recognize some of these water-loving plants?

Yes, you might say I’m horning in a bit on Hickory’s mystery column…but that’s okay because he won’t be posting this Sunday.

The tall pink plant is Joe Pye Weed.

The shorter but brilliant red one is Cardinal Flower.

Both are good choices if you have a bit of a wet area. Water-loving plants can pull up the extra water in a spot like that and prevent mosquitos from laying their eggs.


One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments. I’ll be back later to check your guesses.


This stunning wildflower is Ironweed, named for its tough stem. It’s also pretty hard to dig up the roots and in some places you humans are finding it more on the weedy side of wildflowers–native, but taking over.

Since Vernonia noveboracensis is a member of the aster family, and has all those tiny flowers that put out gobs of seeds, who would expect anything else?

Miz Flora is pleased with the bright color, and Ironweed loves a wet area, so that might help out in a few awkward garden spots. Keep in mind, it’s almost as tall–7 feet–as a Joe Pye Weed, so don’t put it in front of anything small!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Know what this plant is? The butterflies seem to like it.

I’ll check back later for your answers in the comments!


Maybe this view of the bush in it’s habitat will give an additional hint?

If you’ve guessed that this is a wetland, you’re correct. Like a willow, this bush with the ball-shaped flowers likes its roots wet. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found in freshwater marshes, swamps and along floodplains in eastern and southern North America. It’s a favorite mid-summer nectar source for butterflies because, like composites, there are many small flowers grouped together. That makes for an easy food stop!

And in local flower-bird relationships…

We have long admired the flowers our neighborhood humans have chosen to plant–with decided favoritism to native wildflowers!

Today, Hickory, Miz Flora and I leaped over to a new garden bed they put in this spring. Miz Flora though it was quite resourceful–though long-overdue–that they split their coneflowers and planted the splits in a new location, adding to the beds.

The plants don’t have the fullness of the original bed, but for only being in six weeks or so, they are doing well. Except…why are some of the flowers missing petals?

“Wait!” Hickory chitters. “I want to save that for mystery day.”

We squirrel-grappled with this–which meant lots of running around tree trunks–but finally I won out…mainly because Miz Flora spoke up!

The petals are being plucked off by finches as they eat the seeds on that side of the flower.

Miz Flora asked: “I want you to pose this question to our regular readers: Have you ever observed finches eat flower seeds while they are most definitely still green?”

We are confused, maybe because squirrels don’t eat green acorns.