Congratulations to “mariagianferrari,” who came the closest to solving the Mystery Photo when she correctly guessed that the missing bark was the result of a partnership between an insect and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). The sapsucker arrived first and pecked the vertical rows of rectangular holes in the trunk of the tree in order to obtain sap as well as the insects that the sap attracts. (Usually these holes are not harmful, but a tree may die if the holes are extensive enough to girdle the trunk or stem.)
The second visitor whose sign is apparent between the sapsucker holes is the European, or Giant, Hornet (Vespa crabro). This large (3/4″ – 1 ½ “) member of the vespid family was introduced to the U.S. about 200 years ago. Overwintering queens begin new colonies in the spring and the 200-400 workers of a colony then forage for insects including crickets, grasshoppers, large flies and caterpillars to feed to the larvae.
In addition, the workers collect cellulose from tree bark and decaying wood to expand their paper nest, which is what has occurred between the sapsucker holes, effectively girdling the apple tree. The nutritious sap that this collecting exposes is also consumed by the hornets. We don’t often witness this activity because most of it occurs at night.
If you’re looking for a present for someone that will be used year round, year after year, Naturally Curious may just fit the bill. A relative, a friend, your child’s school teacher – it’s the gift that keeps on giving to both young and old!
One reader wrote, “This is a unique book as far as I know. I have several naturalists’ books covering Vermont and the Northeast, and have seen nothing of this breadth, covered to this depth. So much interesting information about birds, amphibians, mammals, insects, plants. This would be useful to those in the mid-Atlantic, New York, and even wider geographic regions. The author gives a month-by-month look at what’s going on in the natural world, and so much of the information would simply be moved forward or back a month in other regions, but would still be relevant because of the wide overlap of species. Very readable. Couldn’t put it down. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the natural world, but there was much that was new to me in this book. I would have loved to have this to use as a text when I was teaching. Suitable for a wide range of ages.”
In a recent email to me a parent wrote, “Naturally Curious is our five year old’s unqualified f-a-v-o-r-I-t-e book. He spends hours regularly returning to it to study it’s vivid pictures and have us read to him about all the different creatures. It is a ‘must have’ for any family with children living in New England…or for anyone that simply shares a love of the outdoors.”
I am a firm believer in fostering a love of nature in young children – the younger the better — but I admit that when I wrote Naturally Curious, I was writing it with adults in mind. It delights me no end to know that children don’t even need a grown-up middleman to enjoy it!
I am delighted to be able to tell you that this morning I learned that NATURALLY CURIOUS won the Nature Guidebook category of the 2011 National Outdoor Book Awards. I’m honored and humbled by this recognition. http://www.noba-web.org/books11.htm
If you find a football-size (or larger), gray, papery structure attached to the branches of a tree or shrub, you’ve probably discovered the nest of a bald-faced hornet. (The only other hornets that build a similar nest are aerial hornets, and their nests usually have wider strips, and less of a scalloped appearance than those of bald-faced hornets.) This structure is actually a nursery, filled with several horizontal layers of hexagonal cells, in which eggs are laid and larvae are raised. These horizontal layers are surrounded by a multi-layered envelope, which, like the cells, is made of masticated wood fiber from weathered wood such as fence posts and hornet saliva. The different colors reflect the different sources of wood that have been used. Although only the queen bald-faced hornet survives over winter (in a rotting log or other protected spot), the workers do not die until freezing temperatures have really set in, so wait for another month before approaching a nest!
What Other Naturally Curious People Are Saying