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

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

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

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

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

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