Oakworms, Again.

TOP PHOTO: Early instar orange-striped oakworm caterpillars go to work on red oak leaves. It’s that time of year again when oakworms do their best to defoliate the red and willow oaks here at the museum. There may be thousands of these voracious moth larvae in the oak trees here at the museum but they never do as much damage as to harm the trees in any great manner. The trees seem to thrive regardless of the devouring hordes ofRead more

A Sphinx

Top Photo: Elm Sphinx caterpillar on elm. Each summer I come across a large green caterpillar in an elm tree overhanging the boardwalk in Explore the Wild, an elm sphinx moth caterpillar (Ceratomia amyntor). This species is also known as four-horned sphinx (tobacco and tomato hornworms are sphinx moths). The elm sphinx I see each year is always in the same elm tree, but I’ve never seen the adult, until this spring. Most adult sphinx moths are cryptically colored inRead more

A Caterpillar and a Salamander

Walking down the boardwalk, I noticed a dozen or so pieces of frass ahead of me on the boards. There was a branch of sweet gum tree overhanging the boardwalk directly above the frass. Several leaves had been chewed to mere skeletons. A search through the leaves revealed a large green caterpillar with red spots along its sides. It was a luna moth caterpillar and it was munching away on the leaves of the tree. I see lots of lunaRead more

What’s Happening in the Wild

Above, during a downpour, northern rough-winged swallows take a break from swirling, diving and capturing airborne insects over the wetlands. If, while visiting the museum you park at the parking deck, stop and have a look at the flowers blooming along the path leading to the deck, you may see some interesting insects, including several species of butterfly. Over the past week I’ve been seeing dogbane beetles on their namesake plant along the path of the outdoor loop through ExploreRead 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

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

Datana in the Birch

It’s caterpillar time. Although you can see caterpillars munching and crawling about the landscape from March to October, now is the time when you’ll encounter more of them in both numbers of individuals and diversity of species. Daily, people approach me with smartphone images, or even live caterpillars in their hands, asking “what is this?” Sometimes I know what it is, other times I don’t. Fortunately, if I don’t immediately recognize what it is they hold in their hands or haveRead more

Sand, Dust, Florescence, and Waxy Larvae

A hole in the sand. That’s what I was looking at, a hole in the sand. Ranger Ian had spotted a bee or wasp hovering around and entering a 1/2” hole near the “sandbox” in Gateway Park. I was there to put a name on the bee or wasp and to help determine if the nest would put any children in harm’s way. It’s a large sandbox where kids use mini backhoes to fill up Tonka trucks with sand andRead more

Idle Thoughts?

As we humans hustle through our days occupying our thoughts with whatever it is we think about during our daily routines, a particular project we’re working on, what to eat for lunch, or whether to go to the mountains or to the beach the coming weekend, we unknowingly pass by a myriad of creatures sharing our world whose thoughts, if they have them, are far less abstract and more consequential to life itself. What creatures? Stop and have a lookRead more

Green Stripes

Alerted by the frass at my feet, I looked up into the maple tree branches over my head. It didn’t take me long to locate the source of the frass. Two green-striped mapleworms. Frass is caterpillar poop. If you enjoy finding caterpillars it’d be wise to keep an eye out for frass. If there’s frass on the ground, there’ll be a caterpillar, or a group of caterpillars, feeding above. Green-striped mapleworms are the caterpillars, or larvae, of rosy maple moths.Read more