Interesting Sightings Around the Loop

Top Photo: Dogbane beetle.

While out on the trail I’m often asked, “see anything interesting today?” or “see anything cool?” The short answer is always “yes.”

The truth is, every time I go outside I see something interesting, and it’s all cool. In order to see things, though, you have to be where things are, and you have to look. Part of it is knowing what to look for but it’s mostly just being aware of your surroundings.

Like clockwork, when the dogbane is up, the dogbane beetles soon follow. Whenever you pass a patch of dogbane, give a look for these iridescent leaf beetles. You won’t find these beetles very far from dogbane.

It makes sense that the beetles stick close to the plant. They eat the leaves of the plant. They mate on the plant. They lay eggs on the plant. And when the eggs hatch the larvae fall to the ground, burrow in, and eat the roots of the plant. The following late spring and summer, adults emerge from the ground and start the cycle all over again.

The beetle pictured was NOT on dogbane but a foot away from the plant.

Dogbane shoot in spring. Note slight reddish cast to lower main stalk.
Dogbane beetle, interestingly, not on dogbane leaf.

In 1999 the USPS issued a 33 cent stamp featuring a dogbane beetle.

Bee balm, or bergamot, is a good plant for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. It looks good, too.

Wild bergamot.

Eastern pondhawks are common near just about every eastern pond or lake, no matter how large or small. They’re usually flying or perched low to the ground, if not actually on the ground itself. And, in my experience, this dragonfly is seen with prey more often than any other dragonfly species.

Males are blue and females and young males are green and black with a bit of white on the abdomen.

Mature male eastern pondhawk.
Female eastern pondhawk.

Note the tip of the abdomen on both these dragonflies. The male has two long white appendages at the tip of his abdomen. Females have white appendages too, but they’re a different shape. As mentioned above, immature male eastern pondhawks are green like the females. However, If the green dragonfly in the photo were a male it would have the longer white appendages as the mature male above.

Jewelweed, or spotted touch-me-not is blooming. It’s a very attractive flower.

Jewelweed flower.

Jewelweed’s stalks and stems are full of liquid. The stalks are translucent and look much like a stalk of celery, and we all know how wet celery is. The juice that’s produced by crushing the stalks in your hand is supposedly a remedy for poison ivy (pi).

The juicy jewelweed stalk.

You have to know you’ve been exposed to pi for the jewelweed to work. The juice of the jewelweed has to be applied just after the oils of the pi make contact with your skin. The problem is, often, you don’t know you’ve run through a patch of pi, the rash showing up a few days to a week later.

I tried it once. It didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The rash, though, seemed to dry up a bit sooner than if I hadn’t applied the jewelweed, or was it all in my head?

Don’t walk past a patch of milkweed without stopping to have a look. You never know what’ll show up to munch on the toxic leaves, or nectar on the flowers, like the pipevine swallowtail below.

Pipevine swallowtail.

Finally, Virginia bear was the only one of four bears I saw as I walked past the Black Bear Enclosure on my last trip around the outdoor loop. At somewhere around 300 lbs. and 15 or so years, she looks healthy, and that’s good. She’s the loner of the group. She likes to be left alone. I was lucky to see her. She usually hangs out up on the cliff towards the back of the exhibit in her own little hideaway, resting.

Virginia bear.

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