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

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

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

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

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

More Fall Sightings

Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, and their larvae, will continue to be active into October and beyond. Here’s a few species I saw last week. I came across two species that I either hadn’t seen before or hadn’t previously witnessed perform a particular behavior. I’ve seen many datanas here in the outdoor areas of the Museum, but I don’t recall seeing an Angus’ datana (Datana angusii) before. If you don’t already know, datanas are caterpillars of small brown moths. I typically see either yellow-neckedRead more

Caterpillar Time

It’s that time of year again when caterpillars seem to be everywhere. Oh sure, caterpillars can be seen from spring till late fall, sometimes in huge numbers. How can you forget those cankerworms that dangled on silky threads from every tree branch by the thousands, no millions, last April. No, what I’m talking about is the huge variety of species that can be viewed at this time of year. Both moth and butterfly species have been busy all summer producing youngRead more

New Caterpillar

I came upon a new caterpillar last week as I was rounding the bend in the path near the Dinosaur Trail. When I say new, I mean new to me, I had never seen this particular species before. I didn’t know what it was. It took nearly a week to determine its identity. I’m confident now in saying that it is an Eastern Panthea, or Tufted White Pine Caterpillar or Panthea furcilla. As one of its names suggest the caterpillar feedsRead more