Fall Update

Top Photo: Eastern phoebe awaits airborne insects. These hardy flycatchers will be with us for most of the winter. The weather is delightful and so are the sights outdoors at the museum. But, you have to be there to see them. Abelia is still blooming and attracting visitors at the Butterfly House Garden. It’s a non-native species but not considered invasive. A carpenter bee buzzes by goldenrod in the garden along the stairway and ramp leading to the Butterfly House.Read more

A Spider and a Resting Monarch

Top Photo: Spider takes refuge under magnolia leaf. After my having walked through it’s partially deconstructed web, the architect and builder retreated to the underside of a sturdy southern magnolia leaf. It was an orb weaver which tells you what kind of web it builds and what family of spiders it belongs to, Araneidae. Araneidae build the stereotypical webs most people are familiar with. The webs are vertically oriented, circular webs placed across paths, roads, walkways, between shrubs and trees,Read more

Cardinal and Pandora, Tortoise Beetle, and Annual Caterpillar Feast

Top Photo: Male cardinal wrestles with large green caterpillar. The cardinal flopped to the ground no more than a dozen feet from us on the Dinosaur Trail. It had a large green caterpillar under its control. Two months earlier, just feet away from where we now stood, I photographed a male cardinal tearing apart two luna moths. May was a busy month for luna moths, mating and laying eggs. Could this big caterpillar which was now committed to being eatenRead more

Something to Look At

Top Photo: Bumble bee takes nectar and transfers pollen in the process. Here, I have a quick list of photos of what you might see on a walk around the outdoor trails here at the museum. Last year we had at least three bald-faced hornet hives on the campus. One was in a dawn redwood tree over the boardwalk, another in a pine along one of the service roads, and the third was in a small maple hanging over EllerbeRead more

A Few Flying Insects

Here’s a quick look at some flying insects I’ve encountered during the past few weeks. American lady butterflies are fairly large and easy to spot in the flower garden at the Butterfly House. These butterflies look similar to a southwestern species which makes it to the state every couple of years. On this species, American lady, note the white dot on an orange rectangular area of the forewing which is visible from both above and below. On the underside ofRead more

Bees, Butterflies et al. of the Day

Top Photo: Honeybees at Fatsia Japonica on the Dino Trail. Today’s unusually mild temperatures have activated insects like it was a day in May. Look in the the vicinity of blooming flowers, you’ll see them. The honeybees above were very busy taking nectar and whatever pollen they could from the simple umbel flowers of fatsia. Everywhere I turned today I saw insects going about their business. Fly species, wasps, and of course, bees and butterflies were literally buzzing about anyRead more

A Few Fall Encounters

Top Photo: Eastern Phoebe. Eastern phoebes can be seen in every month of the year in central North Carolina. Here at the museum, they nest under the boardwalk each spring/summer and are present in all but the coldest months of the year, although some years I see them regularly throughout the four seasons. The phoebe above is in fresh fall plumage. You can see the distinctive greenish belly and chin on this newly molted bird. The green tint will soonRead more

Sawfly Feast

Top Photo: Sawfly larva on oak leaf (note eight pair of prolegs). I walk by the tree numerous times a day. I knew it was a white oak and I knew it had some sort of leaf miners or skeletonizers actively feeding on the leaves. The leaves were turning a lighter shade of pale from their centers outward. I was tempted to find out what was going on with the tree but didn’t act on it. I didn’t act onRead more

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

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