Mimosa and the Web

Top Photo: Mimosa leaves with mimosa webworm infestation. Both mimosa the tree and the webworm are non-native and considered invasive species. The tree was introduced into the United Sates during the mid 18th century. Most sources quote 1745 as the year of introduction as an ornamental. Mimosa is a legume and produces copious amounts of long, seed containing pods. The seeds are very hardy and stay viable for years. New trees pop up all around the mother tree, even sproutingRead more

Golden Afternoon

Top Photo: Common buckeye on goldenrod. Positioning oneself next to a stand of goldenrod on a sunny fall afternoon is a wise choice for a naturalist interested in getting a quick inventory of the local flying insects. The insects are attracted to the yellow flowers for their nectar and accessibility. There are no long tubular flowers requiring a lengthy proboscis to reach the sweet liquid. No hovering necessary either, the flowers are right there on top of the plant. SmallRead 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

Yellow Flowers, Gray Frogs, and Green Caterpillars.

Top Photo: Crownbeard. Crownbeard is a local herbaceous composite, meaning it grows in the area, has no woody stems or branches and has both disk and ray flowers. I refer to it as the unkempt, or messy sunflower. The flowers seem never to be complete. The ray flowers are uneven in shape, and in most cases are missing many petals Yellow crownbeard (Verbesina occidentalis) is common in the piedmont and can be found along roadsides, edges, and water courses. IRead more

Caterpillars Eating Elm Leaves

Top Photo: Polygonia interrogationis on Ulmus. The caterpillars in these photos are question marks (Polygonia interrogationis). They’re butterfly caterpillars. Looking at the photos you may think they’re named for the shape they sometimes assume when disturbed. Not so. They are, in fact, named after the punctuation mark (?) but not because of the way the caterpillars scrunch up when hassled. No, question marks are named for markings on the underside of the adult butterfly’s hindwings which are roughly the shapeRead more

A Prominent Caterpillar

Top Photo: Black-spotted prominent caterpillar. Ranger Becca radioed me saying she had located a couple of caterpillars munching on a plant in our Into the Mist exhibit in Catch the Wind. I went out to see if I could identify the beasts. I knew right away the caterpillars were a species of prominent, they had tail-like projections on their posterior ends. Many of the prominents have these so-called tails which are actually modified anal prolegs. If you’re having trouble remembering,Read 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 Fake Milkweed Bug

Top Photo: Mystery bugs. Just outside the doors leading from Play To Learn in the main building here at the museum, and on your right, is a small garden planted with native prairie plants. I stop here when I pass through Gateway Park to watch goldfinches pick the seeds from the various herbaceous plants in the garden. And, there’s a large pokeweed in the center of the garden which attracts fruit eating birds. Catbirds seem especially fond of poke berries.Read 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

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