Monthly Archives: June 2015

Quote of the Week #26

nite--2I recently spent a night camping on one of the balds along the Appalachian Trail at Roan Mountain. It was one of the those 90 degree days that often brings drama in the afternoons, but my friend Maggie and I figured we’d chance it, ready to take cover below if need be. As we finished our dinner and nibbled on chocolate and hot lemonade with pineapple rum, we heard a faint boom behind us, turning to find a wall of thick, dark clouds on the distant horizon.  Would they come our way?

Contentedly finding shapes in the swirling clouds and chatting pleasantly, we relaxed in our “lounge chairs,” waiting to see what would happen. After the sun was swallowed by the thickening clouds, we watched, seeing a wall of gray fall from the sky above the distant ridge. Rain. But not on our mountain top. Eventually the sky above the city lights darkened and we could hear booms of thunder, like far away bombs. Bolts of lightning behind the clouds lit up the night in a dazzling display of Mother Nature’s fury. What a show!

Amazingly, the storm dissipated before reaching us so we stayed warm and dry at our grassy campsite, retiring hours later to our tents beneath a star-filled sky. Much better than fireworks…or TV!

And that brings me to the quote of the week:

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #66

Hello and happy weekend! For those who were at my Little Wonders program last night, this now is an easy one, right? The only animal on earth with ONE ear is the Praying Mantis. Scientists discovered that they have a single ear in the middle of their thorax–a fact that is helpful if they want to avoid being eaten by bats. Check out the longer article about this HERE from the National Wildlife Federation.

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And have you heard that “fact” that every time a praying mantis mates, the female eats the male? Click HERE to learn whether or not that is indeed FACT, or is it FICTION?

Have a great weekend! HERE is the next puzzler.

Weekly Puzzler #67

What bird has a 6 foot wingspan and specially shaped neck vertebrae, that allows them to curl their neck into an S-shape for a more aerodynamic flight profile and to quickly strike prey at a distance? Check back next weekend to learn if your guess was correct!

Quote of the Week #25

Have you ever thought to wonder why it is that people greet each other with the phrase, “Hi, how are you?”

We seem to use this phrase–automatically and absentmindedly-– all the time, not really wanting to dedicate time to actually listen to what the person says, or not really caring what their answer is.

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If we are out and about around other people we probably hear and utter this phrase dozens of time on any given day.

Has someone ever asked you this when you were having a terrible day, or when you got some tragic news or when things were going so far from smooth you felt seconds away from coming completely unglued? And yet, you answered “good,” and then move forward on auto-pilot?

Would you agree with me when I say it can be easy to lie about what’s going on inside, to put on a good front so that people see only what you want them to see? Some of us are such good actors! It’s so easy to just say, “Good,” and leave it at that, even if it isn’t true. This tactic is much less painful than opening up and sharing a fragile piece of yourself. And in reality, most people you encounter briefly do not want to help carry your burden as they have their own troubles that they are likely dealing with.

Everyone’s life is different. But everyone has their own share of troubles and challenges–something we need to remember before we jump to conclusions about the people we encounter in our daily lives. Is she driving slowly because she just learned her Father died? Is he irritated because he just got laid off at work and doesn’t know how he is going to tell his wife? Is she battling cancer, a terminal illness, depression, physical abuse, addiction…

There is so much going on in peoples’s heads and lives that we know nothing about!

I have made a conscious effort to avoid the empty phrase, “how are you?” Instead, I sometimes ask–but ONLY if I can look the person in the eye and have time to listen to the answer–“How’s your day going?” or “Are you having a good day yet?” or “Has anything interesting/exciting/memorable/awful/ happened to you today?” The people I ask these questions to sometimes look at me funny, sometimes suspiciously, like I have some ulterior motive. Sometimes they answer automatically–the same as they would the How are you question, with a simple good, not even realizing I have asked a different question. But sometimes, they smile and open up some, offering a little more than usual. Sometimes it starts a wonderful conversation at the end of which we are both left feeling a little happier. The effort is more than worth the good feeling it sometimes leaves me with.

And that brings me to this week’s quote:

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Maybe today you can make a difference in someone’s life, just by asking a different question and then truly listening to the answer.

Weekly Puzzler Answer #65

lady-So the spider pictured has only 7 legs, even though spiders have 8 legs. This guy has obviously lost one–who knows how–but thankfully, spiders can regrow lost legs. The next time he molts, he will likely have 8 legs again.

As for the two leg-like-looking things at the front of the body–these are called pedipalps. All spiders have them, just as insects have a pair of antenna. Pedipalps are sensory organs and also used to manipulate prey. In mature males, the palps are enlarged like in this photo–not for boxing! but for storing their sperm. When they find a receptive female, they will transfer sperm to her through these pedipalps. Talk about an odd way to have sex!

Click HERE to check out the next puzzler. Or, if you’d like, read about some spider myths that must be debunked. Want to learn more about spiders and live in or near Asheville, NC? Then come join me this Friday night for an informal FREE program at a nearby store. Click HERE for more info.

Weekly Puzzler #66

Most animals like this deer have TWO ears!

Most animals like this deer have TWO ears!

There is only one animal on earth that has a single EAR… do you know what it is? Click HERE to learn the answer.

10 Things That Might Surprise you About Ladybugs

lbug-Ladybugs are one of the most recognizable insects and one that doesn’t usually provoke fear. Some states even have a ladybug species as their state insect. Do you know everything there is to know about ladybugs? Let’s see as we explore some facts about the red and black insect we call a ladybug.

1. 7 states have chosen a species of ladybug as their state insect, including Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. Interestingly, the species chosen by NY–the 9 spotted ladybug–has become rare if not extinct in parts of its range, replaced by other species like the multicolored Asian ladybug.

2.Ladybugs are a type of beetle. Beetles are the most plentiful animal group on earth. There are 500 different ladybug species in North America and over 5000! species worldwide. Some are yellow, pink, red, orange, and some don’t have any spots! lbug--2

3. Ladybugs eat aphids, and lots of them! One ladybug can eat more than 50 aphids in one day and more than 5000 in their lifetime. For gardeners, this is wonderful news and the reason some actually buy ladybugs to put into their gardens. This is a natural way to control pest insects like aphids. Ladybugs also eat other soft-bodied insects like mealy bugs, white flies, and mites. lbug-8395

4. Ladybugs practice cannibalism–eating others of their kind. They will eat their soft-bodied siblings that have newly molted or emerged from their pupal case. They will also eat ladybug eggs. Of course ladybugs get eaten by a lot of other creatures, such as swallows, martins and other birds, assassin bugs, dragonflies, parasitic wasps, ants, frogs, lizards, and others.

A ladybug getting eaten by an assassin bug.

A ladybug getting eaten by an assassin bug.

5. The larvae of ladybugs resemble tiny alligators, with their long bodies and bumpy skin. Ladybugs spend 7-21 days in the first three stages of their lives before becoming adults. (These stages are egg-larvae-pupa) They will molt 5-7 times before metamorphosing into adults.lbug-0123

6. Ladybugs smell with their feet and their antennae.

7. Ladybugs chew side to side rather than up and down like us.

8. Some people think you can determine the age of a ladybug by counting its spots, but this is a myth. The number of spots have nothing to do with how old the insect is. Sometimes the spot pattern can help identify the species of ladybug. If you want to help scientists, you can look for ladybugs and send in your data–learn more at the Lost Ladybug project.lbug-8187

9. Females are larger than males and can lay up to 1000 eggs in her lifetime and interestingly, entomologists believe she lays some fertile eggs and some infertile eggs. They seem to do this so the hatching larvae will have nourishment immediately–able to eat the infertile eggs. Of course, they might also eat the fertile eggs before the larvae have a chance to hatch out!

The male is smaller than the female.

The male is smaller than the female.

10. Ladybugs bleed from their knees when they are threatened. The foul-smelling fluid that seeps from their leg joints may deter a potential predator. You may have encountered this when the insects entered your house, especially in the fall before hibernation and you were left with yellow stains when you tried to kill or remove them.  As an other defense, their bright red color warns predators of their distasteful nature. This is called aposematic coloration and is common in nature–can you think of other animals who use this strategy? (Monarch butterflies, yellow jackets, etc.)