The Wasp and the Caterpillar

Top Photo: caterpillar lying on its side next to burrow entrance. As I walked past the Pollinator Garden which is just above the Butterfly House Rain Garden, I notice a green object hurriedly angling across the path. It looked like a caterpillar, but it had an odd movement, a side to side wiggle, and speed which most caterpillars don’t display while moving along the ground, or anywhere else. There are a handful of swift moving caterpillars, but none quite thisRead more

Three Birds

Top Photo: Gray catbird. If the catbird in the photos looks a bit disheveled, it’s because it’s molting. By the time it’s ready to migrate south it’ll be neat and trim. Catbirds arrive at the museum by mid April each year. By mid October, most are gone. I’ve seen catbirds on campus in mid winter, but it’s the exception, not the rule. In the photo below you can see the rust colored feathers under the tail which are often overlookedRead more

The Results

Top Photo: A very fresh narrow-mouthed toad. Back in July when rainy days and nights reigned over the wetlands I would hear the bleating, lamb-like call of narrow-mouthed toads calling from in and around the wet areas of our campus. The toads were here to mate. The results are in. Ranger Tim, on duty in Hideaway Woods, spotted a freshly morphed narrow-mouthed toad along the path there. They are very small. Newly morphed toads are about 10 mm, give orRead more

Black Swallowtail and Apiaceae

Top Photo: Black swallowtail caterpillar on carrot. Along with the monarch butterfly caterpillar, the black swallowtail is one of the most familiar butterfly caterpillars. Anyone who has grown carrots, parsley, fennel, or any other plant in the Apiaceae family of plants has, at one time or another, had the black, yellow, and green caterpillars happily devouring the plants before their eyes. Many people, myself included, plant parsley or fennel specifically to attract the butterflies and watch them go through theirRead more

The Cicada and the Spider

Top Photo: Cicada caught in orb weaver’s web. It’s fall, and orb weavers are becoming more and more conspicuous on trails and paths, around gardens, back porches and decks. The other morning while I walked the outdoor loop here at the museum, I noticed a cicada struggling mightily about twenty feet above the path near the entrance to the boardwalk. It had gotten itself caught in the web of an orb weaver. Sticky stuff, those webs. The cicada was flappingRead more

Three Quick Photos

Top Photo: Common checkered-skipper ready to spread it wings. Although this small butterfly, the common checkered-skipper, is flying from March to November somewhere in North Carolina, they’re most often seen here at the museum in September and October. They’re swift flyers. Seconds after perching they tend to open their wings to reveal the checkered pattern for which they’re named. If you see one silvery checkerspot (below), you may see another since they tend to be somewhat colonial. I look forRead more

Transitions, Variations, and Life & Death

Top Photo: Tobacco hornworm on tomato plant. The tobacco hornworm, or Carolina sphinx, and tomato hornworm, or five-spotted hawk moth, both use nightshade as a food plant including tomato and tobacco plants. And, they’re both subjected to attack by a tiny parasitoid wasp called a braconid wasp. With the help of her ovipositor, the minuscule wasp lays eggs just under the skin of the caterpillar. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin eating the caterpillar from within. When the timeRead more

A New Caterpillar for the Photo Achives

Top Photo: Hummingbird moth caterpillar on viburnum. Just last week (8/19) I posted I was keeping an eye out for caterpillars of the hummingbird moth (Hemaris thysbe). I had spotted a moth the previous week laying eggs on a viburnum and wanted to get a photo of the caterpillar. I mentioned my observation to Richard Stickney of the Butterfly House crew and sure enough, he found one on the very viburnum I indicated (8/28). When seeing the caterpillar I wasRead more

Leaf-footed Encounter

Top Photo: Leaf-footed bug encounter on path. About one and a half weeks ago here on this blog, I mentioned an insect called a leaf-footed bug. I also posted a picture of the insect. At the time, I wasn’t sure of the identity of the insect beyond leaf-footed bug of which there are about 80 species in North America. Today, I came across two others of what appear to be the same species on the path in a closed (toRead more

Hummingbird Bird and Moth

Top Photo: Juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird, rapidly beating wings blurred to near invisibility, hovers in front of trumpet vine’s tubular flowers. There are 16 species of hummingbird that breed in the United States. There’s only one species in the eastern states, ruby-throated hummingbird. If you see a hummingbird in North Carolina in summer, it’s a ruby-throated. From October into winter it’s most likely a different species that you see at your feeder, unless you’re on the Gulf Coast or ourRead more