Questionmark Pears

There are more than a few Bradford pear trees on our 84 acre campus. One, a volunteer that sprouted next to our north parking lot has been dropping fruit. The rotting fruit is attracting flies, bees, and butterflies. One butterfly in particular is the question mark. It belongs to a group of butterflies known as anglewings, referring to the angular edges of the wings. Question marks are named for small whitish markings on the underwings, a “c” and a dot.Read more

Mergansers, Kingfishers, Shiners, and Gambusia (mosquitofish)

Last week, I posted that hooded mergansers, annual visitors from the north, have arrived in our wetlands for the season. They’re busily forming pair-bonds as I write. Over the years I’ve counted as many as 41 mergs at one time floating on our wetland’s water here at the museum. Early in the season it’s not unusual to see larger numbers until the fish-eating diving birds disperse, pairs and small groups choosing their favorite ponds and lakes at which to rest,Read more

Strange Goings On

The photos above and below are of glowworm beetles. The light colored areas of the beetle glow in the dark. They eat millipedes, which may explain why I’ve seen so many of these strange beetles. Millipedes are plentiful this year. So, whatever eats them should do well too. I’ve seen more glowworms this year than my previous nine seasons here at the museum. The beetles pictured are either adult females or larvae. The females carry certain larval characteristics into adulthoodRead more

Some Sights From the Wild

Hearts a bursting or strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) is showing off its namesake fruit. There are a dozen or so of these plants across the campus. The easiest to see and photograph is on the Dinosaur Trail, on the right side of the path just past the Albertosaurus. While on the Dino Trail, keep an eye out for a flatworm or land planarian, especially on warm, rainy days. Most people are familiar with planarian worms from biology lab back inRead more

Potter Wasp

A hot, humid, and quiet day and a potter wasp has secured a looper caterpillar for its “pot” nest chamber. The wasp descended on the caterpillar as it was looping along the path in front of Into The Mist in Catch the Wind. I was lucky to be there when it happened. Potter wasps are solitary wasps, which means they nest alone, not in colonial gatherings as do some burrowing wasps or in collective hives as do yellowjackets, paper wasps, orRead more

August Has Gone By

August is over and we’re sliding into fall. Here’s a small sampling of sights I witnessed this past month above and beyond what I’ve previously posted. At the top and below are pictures of Bembix wasps. The various, rather gentle, non-aggressive wasp species in the Bembix genus burrow into sand to house and feed their young. They feed the larvae flies. They’re often called sand wasps. The picture above is of a Bembix wasp standing at the entrance to itsRead more

Brief Wetland Look

There’s little doubt that the Wetlands is the most outstanding feature of the Explore the Wild section of our outdoor adventure loop. Fall’s approaching quickly so here’s a very brief glimpse of the summertime wetlands which includes a few subjects you may have to look more closely to see. The most abundant tree of the wetlands is the black willow. Here, it doesn’t reach a height of more than fifteen feet of so. Yellow-bellied sliders are the most common aquaticRead more

July, gone but not forgotten

On its way to the ocean via the Eno River, Falls Lake and Neuse River, Ellerbe Creek runs through our 84 acre campus. Before it reaches us, it flows under an interstate highway (twice), through a golf course, through quiet neighborhoods and under and through a mall, mostly unseen by the local human population. There are a handful of preserves along its 20 mile meander through Durham but for the most part, I’d wager, most folks don’t know it exists.Read more

Mountain Mint

  These large, black wasps are specialist in orthoptera. They provision their underground burrows, or nests, with grasshoppers and katydids. Thread-waisted wasps of the ammophila variety provision their burrow nests with caterpillars or sawfly larvae. Great-golden digger wasps (Sphex ichneumoneus), like the great black wasp above, is an orthopteran specialist. It too uses grasshoppers and katydids to stock the chambers of its burrow nest. Both bees and wasps seem mesmerized by the diminutive flowers. Indirectly attracted to the flowers, thereRead more

June Sightings in The Wild

It’s near the end of June. Below (and above) are photos of some of the creatures I’ve seen during the month. They’re arranged in no particular order. The top photo is of one of the milkweeds, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It attracts many insects to it’s flowers, leaves, and seed pods throughout the summer season. Here, you can see new flower buds on the left and older flowers to the right. Some insects go out of their way to attractRead more