Cicadas and Other Things Around the Campus

Top Photo: Magicada tredecim, one of two species of periodical cicadas emerging this spring in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina. You’ve most likely heard about the emergence of two broods of cicadas this spring, Brood XIII and Brood XIX of seventeen year and thirteen year periodical cicadas, respectively. Here in Durham and surrounding counties there is no overlap of the two broods but there are two species emerging at the same time from Brood XIX. Magicada tredecim and MagicadaRead more

How do they do it?

Top Photo: Banded sphinx moth caterpillar barely hanging on. Following the night of our first frost of the season I ventured out to the Floating Walkway in our wetlands to see if I could find a banded sphinx moth caterpillar that had been seen the day before. I was interested in learning about their behavior in regard to pupation, where, when and how they go about that process. The caterpillar was still there. It was, however, only hanging on byRead more

Paper Wasp, Caterpillars, and Butterflies

Top Photo: Paper wasp investigates fall webworms’ protective “tent.” Fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) are already forming their protective webs in some of the trees here at the museum. The webs, or tents, are full of caterpillars who spend their lives inside the web, never venturing out to eat. The webs cover the area in which the caterpillars are feeding. The larvae only come out when its time to pupate in the leaf liter, the soil, or cracks and crevices inRead 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

More May Sightings

Top Photo: Common snapping turtle contemplates its next move. The snapping turtle pictured here was heading towards our wetlands. It may be a new arrival, having come up the creek which lies a dozen or so meters behind it. The creek is where our wetland drains. There’s a substantial drop where a large pipe delivers our wetland’s overflow into the creek. The drop keeps creatures like this snapping turtle from continuing their journeys via a direct route to our wetlandsRead more

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

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

And Along Came Summer

Top Photo: Eight-spotted forester and dogbane. Summer’s here and the time is right for checking out nature. Sure it’s a little hot, but you might just as well accept it and get out there. You’ll be missing a lot of interesting sights if you don’t. Here’s some photos of some of what you might see. There’s a patch of dogbane in front of the Butterfly House which attracts numerous flying insects to its tiny flower’s nectar. One such insect isRead more