An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Archive for July, 2010

Beetles – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

MILKWEED LONGHORN BEETLE

Two milkweed longhorn (named after their long antennae) beetles were busy mating on the edge of a milkweed leaf this morning. Born last summer from eggs laid on the stem of a milkweed plant, the beetle larvae proceeded to feed on the plant’s stems and roots. When fall approached they burrowed into the ground where they spent the winter; after pupating this spring they emerged as adult beetles. Look for holes in the tips of milkweed leaves, left when these herbivorous insects feed. One of their more endearing features is the fact that when they are disturbed, milkweed longhorn beetles are capable of making a squeaking noise by rubbing rough spots on their thorax, or middle section, together. For information on just about anything you could find on a milkweed plant, including milkweed longhorn beetles, get yourself a copy of “Milkweed, Monarchs and More,” by Rea, Oberhauser and Quinn. It’s a gem of a field guide to insects and other invertebrates found in a milkweed patch.


Monarch Caterpillar – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

MONARCH CATERPILLAR

It’s that time of year again! Monarch egg- and caterpillar-hunting is one of my favorite past-times, as anyone who has read my children’s book, Milkweed Visitors, probably knows. Unlike last year, when they were in short supply, monarchs seem to be on every other milkweed plant this summer. Because this is the only stage in which they have chewing mouthparts, monarch larvae are basically eating machines – by the time they split their skin for the 5th and final time they will have increased their body mass by a factor of 2,000. This week, for the first time, I witnessed a monarch caterpillar (see photograph) consuming not a milkweed leaf, but a flower bud.


Warbler – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER FLEDGLINGS

Adult chestnut-sided warblers have just that – chestnut sides. While the male’s chestnut markings are more prominent, there is a streak of chestnut on the females’ flanks as well. This year’s young, however, lack the chestnut sides, making identification challenging, to say the least, for this birder. Thanks to David Sibley's GUIDE TO BIRDS and Kent McFarland's (of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies) expertise, I was able to confirm that the bird I photographed is a first year male chestnut-sided warbler! Earlier this spring you may have enjoyed the “pleased – pleased- pleased to meet you!” song of the courting adult males.


Indian pipe – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

INDIAN PIPE

Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is one of our more common non-photosynthesizing flowering plants. Because it has no chlorophyll, it is white in color and depends on fungi for its nutrients. Interestingly, the fungi that Indian pipe attaches itself to are, in turn, attached to trees in order to obtain their nutrients, so indirectly Indian pipe lives off of photosynthesizing trees. This parasitic plant communicates its pollination status to insects via the erect stance it assumes once it’s been pollinated (until then it nods its flower head).


Wool Carder Bee – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

WOOL CARDER BEE

My daughter, Sadie, happened upon this female wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) and managed to photograph it in the act of “carding wool” this week in Massachusetts. The male wool carder bee sets up his territory and protects the nectar and pollen of the flowers in it from other insects, in the hopes of attracting a female wool carder bee. If he succeeds, mating takes place, after which the female scrapes hairs off of plant stems and leaves (often woolly lamb’s ears or other similar fuzzy plants) within the male’s territory. As she collects the hairs, she forms them into a ball (look between the legs of the bee in the photograph) and flies with it to a cavity which she lines with these hairs. The cavity consists of several cells, in each of which she deposits pollen collected from her mate’s territory as well as an egg, and then seals the cell. When the egg hatches, the larval bee will have a soft bed and a meal awaiting it.


Beavers – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

SUMMER BEAVERS

Summertime…and the living is easy – at least for beavers. Very little lodge repair and dam-patching goes on. In fact, very few trees are even cut. At this time of year, beavers often feed on the tender sprouts of aspen, willow and birch, as well as grasses, sedges, water lilies and berries. Eating, sleeping and grooming make up most of their lazy summer days and nights.


Clearwing Moth – Welcome to a photographic journey through the fields, woods and marshes of New England

Find more of my photographs and information similar to that which I post in this blog in my book Naturally Curious, which is being published this fall.

HUMMINGBIRD CLEARWING MOTH

So many readers mentioned another sphinx moth, the hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemeris thysbe), after yesterday's post that I decided to put a photograph of it on my blog today, rather than save it for another day. Both the gallium sphinx moth and the clearwing were feeding on milkweed nectar yesterday afternoon. Because of its colors, as well as its hovering behavior, the hummingbird clearwing moth is often mistaken for a ruby-throated hummingbird as it drinks nectar from a variety of flowers. In its larval stage, it is a beautiful lime-green caterpillar with a prominent “horn” on its hind quarters.