Some Insects To Keep An Eye Out For

Top Photo: European hornet inspects bark of tree where hive is located. While you’re walking along the paths of our outdoor loop through the Dinosaur Trail, Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind keep an eye out for large yellow, black and brown wasps, European hornets. The wasps are large and intimidating but are considered non-aggressive. I agree. They’re social wasps. Here at the museum, all of the nests, or hives, of these vespids that I’ve seen were in aRead more

Turtles and Persimmons

Top Photo: Persimmon ripening on tree. It’s well known among catfish aficionados that persimmons will catch a bucketful of the opportunistic, gill breathing, bony fish. In the fall, if there’s a persimmon tree next to the pond there’s probably a catfish hovering nearby. I was surprised to learn this past week that besides catfish, aquatic turtles seek out persimmons. Not surprised so much by what they were eating (the persimmons) but by the length in which they’d go to doRead more


Top Photo: Angle-wing katydid (Microcentrum retinerve). Katydids belong to a group of insects known as Orthoptera which references the straight or parallel-sided aspect of their wings (ortho = straight, ptera = wing). This group includes grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, and katydids. You can usually distinguish katydids from the others by their longer antennae, though some types of crickets do indeed have long, thin sensory appendages. There are many kinds of katydids. The two mentioned here are an angle-wing katydid and aRead more


Top Photo: Spittle on muscadine grape stem. The white gooey substance on the grape stem, above and below, may at first appear to be spit or saliva, it’s not. The viscous, sticky stuff on the stem is called spittle. It’s created by spittlebug nymphs, insects. After hatching from eggs laid in or on the grape vine, nymphal spittle bugs begin feeding, sucking juices from the plant. This goes through the insect’s body and is forced out of the anus. MixedRead more

Tussocks and Other Summer Treats

Top Photo: Sycamore tussock moth caterpillar crawls along railing. If there are sycamore trees in the area you’re likely to run into one or more of these fuzzy, tufted caterpillars. The adult sycamore tussock moth has tan wings crossed with slightly darker bands on translucent membranes. More common and widespread than the sycamore tussock moth caterpillar, is the white-marked tussock moth caterpillar. It’s been reported munching on over 140 host plants including conifers. White-marked tussock moth’s adult form is aRead more

Spiny-backed Spider and More

Top Photo: Spiny-backed orb weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis) Only about 1/2” wide, spiny-backed orb weavers are distinctive for their shape and pattern. The individual pictured is mostly white with black markings and red spikes. But, they may also be yellow or red with shades in between. The spines may be black. Some suggest the spines may deter predators such as birds or even subterranean-nesting, spider-seeking, solitary wasps. I doubt birds would be put off by the spikes. I must admit, though,Read more

Dazzling Sights on the MLS Outdoor Loop

Top Photo: Rat snake crosses path in front of me. A walk around our outdoor loop through the Dinosaur Trail, Explore the Wild, and Catch the Wind can be relaxing and rewarding. You never know what you’re going to run into. Anything from snakes to folded-wing skippers is possible, and frankly, expected. Here’s some of the things I bumped into this past week. The photos above and below are of a common local resident, rat snake. The individual above isRead more

Mimics and Other Amazing Springtime Sights

Top Photo: Brown thrasher belts out his best imitation of other local birds and sounds. Like mockingbirds, thrashers (above) mimic other birds and sounds that occur in their immediate area. While mockingbirds often repeat the same phrase over and over again, thrashers tend to repeat each mimicked phrase or sound twice, then move on to the next one. Physical mimicry is fairly common in invertebrates. Whether to avoid being eaten by predators or as a predator seeking to hunt otherRead more

Spring Heats Up for Plants, Animals, and Staff

Top Photo: Tent caterpillar hustling across path. The caterpillar pictured above has made it’s way down out of its secure, communal silken tent in a nearby cherry tree. It’s in search of an even more secure location to pupate, under siding, tree bark, crevice or other hidden location. By late spring to summer it will become an adult moth and deposit eggs on a twig of another cherry tree, or perhaps the very same tree it crawled out of. TinyRead more