Fall asters


So pretty popping out along road edges, and such a help to native bees and other insects before the final frosts–which can be November in our area.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Seeing any white flashes in the distance?

Could it be a common flicker? A white-tailed deer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

We’ll be back later to check your answers!


We had correct answer–this is the fluff and seeds of the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.


These seeds will be dispersed through the forests and fields on the wind, bringing new milkweed to more areas.


Those flowers that were pollinated and the milkweed leaves are a popular with dozens of insects, and even more insects that feed on them.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Master Gardener program website shows many of the milkweed community insects in a variety of life stages, that is juvenile to adults.

Humans report that insects are declining, but keep faith in nature! Natural systems ebb and flow, so if you have the place and interest in growing a milkweed community–pesticide free!–you can increase that flow.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these?

Give us a guess in the comments, and we’ll be back to confirm!


These leaves are similar to maple leaves, but clearly maples don’t have berries. This is often called wild grape, a vine that tends to grow up trees, or grow up with trees, and flourishing their canopies. This vine is on a pine tree.

While we squirrels may appreciate the handy way the vine brings the grape fruits up to us, a vine growing a tree isn’t always good for the tree. It can overshadow the tree’s leaves and the extra weight is hard for a tree to support. Because of this, grape vines are often considered invasive, even though this is a native plant.

Now for a confession: We squirrels thought this was a native wild grape. But after consulting with Ms. Flora, we have learned it isn’t. Those pretty blue berries are the give away. They aren’t unripe grape fruits; that is what the fruits look like on a grape look-alike. (And we were caught by it, too!) This is a species native to China, Japan and other Asian countries known as Porcelain Berry, Amur Peppervine or sometimes just creeper. Ampelopsis glandulosa actually is invasive and we recommend that you do not eat them!


Fall is upon us…

With the dry weather and slightly cooler temperatures in our suburban neighborhood of Washington, D.C. we squirrels feel that fall has descended. After all, it’s only a few more days until the autumnal equinox!

The fall plants like this Wingstem are certainly showing off and putting their last efforts at getting their seeds developed. Good for them, and the bees, too!

Coneflowers and Bumblebees

Last year we told you about the humans in our neighborhood planting more native plants in a common space, including coneflowers. Those are coming along and the additional flowers seem to be attracting more bumble bees.

Or maybe it’s that we are on the lookout for them more since hearing they are in trouble.

Anyway, here’s one that Hickory and I watched and then made a second stab at looking up on Bumble Bee Watch.

As we said before, you have to see the head, the thorax and all the segments of the abdomen to make an identification. And those bees move fast! Unless they are taking a nap…this one wasn’t. But he was very intent on getting his nectar so we were able to sneak around the flower.

We discovered that this one’s ‘black’ abdomen wasn’t.

See those two segments that are brownish-red? We think this is a Brown-belted Bumblebee, not only from our Bumble Bee Watch identification, but also from this poster put together by Pollinator Partnership.

It’s nice to see all of the bees in our area at once. On paper, we mean, not in real life!

Here’s the link to the Pollinator Partnership posters. They are out of this one, but it’s still there to look at and read more details about each bee to help with your identifications.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these leaves?

Hint: The plant is blooming nw, but we bet you’d recognize it!

Give us a guess in the comments.


Another hint: This is the plant in bloom.

It’s a shrub native to the southeast of North America, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia. A lot of humans seem to be planting them for their nice flowers and pretty fall leaf color. In the wild, the shrub grows in the understory, but does best in light shade to full sun.

Make sure it has forest-like rich soil and steady moisture. We squirrels haven’t seen insects or birds attracted to the Oakleaf Hydrangea, nor can we find any references to it being attractive to wildlife. Any real life stories out there?

Have you seen a swallowtail?

No kidding, years ago, we’d see dozens of these big guys. This year, this tiger swallowtail is the first we’ve seen in this bushy garden. True, the these Joe Pye Weed flowers just began blooming, but the dogbane has been in flower for a month and attracting all kinds of bees… Just no butterflies.

What’s your swallowtail count?

On a Milkweed

Insects–including insect pollinators!–flock to milkweed!

Tiger Swallowtail

Monarch laying her eggs.

The caterpillars will feed on the leaves and the butterflies on the nectar.

Large Milkweed bugs, which look like this as juveniles and…

growing up…

and this as adults.


Silvery Checkerspot

Silver-spotted skipper.

Aphids, which draw in…


Not to be confused with the Milkweed Leaf Beetle, which eats the leaves, not their pests.

Of course with all this bug activity, you will see spiders.

And even ants!

Of course, the insect most humans are interested in these days: Honeybees.

But don’t forget the native bumblebees!

There is room enough for both on these hundreds of little flowers!

Plant milkweed as an anchor for insects your garden!