Polyphemus

Top Photo: Polyphemus (pol-uh-FEE-muhs) moth cocoon hanging from twig in Earth Moves. Some silk moths spend the winter in cocoons in the leaf liter. Some burrow underground. At least some Polyphemus moths winter as pupa wrapped up and hanging from a twig or branch of their host tree via a peduncle. The further south Polyphemus moths live, the more likely this behavior. Occasionally, though, these hanging cocoons drop off into the leaf liter. The one pictured here was found hangingRead more

October

Top Photo: Thorny olive flowers. If you happen to be strolling past the Farmyard and sense something powerfully fragrant invading your nose, it’s probably thorny olive (Elaeagnus pungens). It’s related to autumn olive and Russian olive, two invasive shrub species from Asia. We have much autumn olive on our campus, no Russian olive that I’m aware of and just a few locations overgrown with thorny olive which tends to ascend trees and nearby structures when it can. Thorny olive, unlikeRead more

Time to Get Outside

Top Photo: Banded sphinx moth caterpillar. A banded sphinx moth caterpillar is an impressive sight. The one shown here is munching away on wing-leaved primrose-willow in our wetlands. Banded sphinx moth caterpillars are variable and may be nearly all green, much like its relatives the tobacco hornworm and tomato hornworm, mostly green with black, red and yellow markings or like the one pictured, which is marked with red, black, and yellow. Regardless, they all have the white diagonal stripes characteristicRead more

From Hummingbirds to Mushrooms

Top Photo: A lichen “pipe.” What appears at first to be some sort of corn-cobish kind of smoking pipe is actually a ruby-throated hummingbird nest. Ranger Dakota noticed it lying in the leaf litter adjacent to the Farmyard. As soon as I saw the object I knew it was a hummers nest, about 1 3/4” high, 1 1/2” across and covered with lichen. The nest must have fallen from a loblolly pine above us on the path. The delicate lookingRead more

More Fall Sights

Top Photo: Hearts-a-bursting on the Dinosaur Trail. The second week of fall brought even more new sights than the first. Read on to find out what. Euonymus may be known to gardeners by various names, burning bush, golden euonymus, winter creeper, and others, all non-native plants in the genus Euonymus. However, hearts-a-busting, or bursting hearts (Euonymus americanus) is a native understory shrub which can be seen at various places along our outdoor trail loop. It’s also know as strawberry bushRead more

Meteorologically, Fall

Top Photo: Green heron works the “turtle logs” in the wetlands. It is, according to climatologists and meteorologists, fall. I agree. Days are getting shorter. Trees that’ve been pumping water and nutrients from their roots to their leaves have slowed down production. And although it’s still mighty hot outside during the day, the night time temps seem to be moderating. Here’s some of the things that have been going on during the first week of Fall. Though they’ll be leavingRead more

Eggs, Caterpillars, Stinkbugs and Laternflies

Top Photo: Hummingbird moth (Hemaris thysbe) egg on viburnum flower buds (shiny, round, green object). Hummingbird moth eggs are very small, about 1mm – 1.5mm. To see one of those swift flying, diurnal moths lay an egg requires being in the right place at the right time. Standing next to a viburnum (frequent host plant for this species) is a good place to be. I’m not sure of the right time, though a bright sunny summer’s day seems about right.Read more

Hackberry

Top Photo: Hackberry emperor caterpillar. Sometimes things just present themselves to you. While walking through Catch the Wind, a small green caterpillar dropped out of the sky and onto the pavement at my feet. I couldn’t quite place the caterpillar at first. Due to the “forked tail” on the caterpillar I assumed it was one of the prominents, a family of moths (Notodontidae) which consist of 60 some species of eastern forest moths. After searching through a most helpful guideRead more

Hummingbird Moth Caterpillar

Top Photo: Can you find the caterpillar amongst the leaves? The literature states that hummingbird clearwings (Hemaris thysbe) lay their eggs on honeysuckle and viburnum, less frequently on a few other tree species. The moths have been documented laying eggs on viburnums here on campus and their caterpillars have been spotted on two different varieties of viburnum. The caterpillars reach a length of about 2 inches, a little less than half the size of some of the more familiar sphinxRead more

Mid July Check-in

Top Photo: Eastern rat snake, or black rat snake, smells its way across the path in Explore the Wild. Black rat snakes are known by many different names, chicken snake, alleghany snake, pilot snake with variations on those names and more. Though it may be confusing to consider the various names of the snake, the only other snake you’d likely mistake it for is the black racer. But, racers have smooth scales, all black undersides (except for the chin andRead more