Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Creatures of Halloween…10 Things You Might Not Know

pump-8537So happy Halloween everyone! I hope you are having a wonderful day and doing something festive for the holiday. Maybe you carved a pumpkin or went to a parade or will give out some candy tonight. Whatever the case, Happy Day!

A Lyle's flying fox from Thailand--these have a 3 foot wingspan!

A Lyle’s flying fox from Thailand

You know the creatures of Halloween, right? Namely BATS, SPIDERS, RAVENS and CROWS. Can you think of any others that deserve being on this list?

Well let’s look at 10 things about these misunderstood critters that you may know know:

1.All BATS do not carry rabies! This is a myth. Less than one half of one percent contract rabies. The best thing you can do to protect yourself from bat rabies is to never touch a sick or injured bat and make sure your children or grandchildren are instructed to never touch ANY wild animal–be it a bat, squirrel, chipmunk, etc.

2.All BATS are not vampires and vampire BATS actually will share their meals with other bats! Of more than 1300 worldwide species of bats, only 3 feed on blood and those all live in Latin America. And they don’t suck it like the movies suggest, they lap it up like a kitten drinks milk. Two feed on the blood from birds and the other–a common vampire bat–usually feeds on livestock or birds. The animal seldom is even aware it has been visited and the bat drinks only about a tablespoon per visit. If a vampire bat can’t find a meal, another bat may share its meal (regurgitated blood) and then, if that bat is ever in need, the favor will be returned! And vampire bats participate in social grooming.

3. BATS are NOT blind! Bats have eyes but many rely on echolocation to “see” their surroundings, more than on their eyesight. Their sonar is so amazing they can detect an object in the air thinner than a human hair. Fruit bats have big eyes and a fabulous sense of smell to find their food–nectar and fruit.

Check out this slideshow of some of the world’s bat species–there are so many cute and amazing faces! And these pictures are truly amazing! All of these slides are courtesy of Merlin Tuttlefounder of my favorite organizationBat Conservation International. This organization works to change public perception of bats, educate decision-makers, and protect valuable bat habitat and the flying mammals these habitats serve.

Medagascan fruit batPainted bat in Thailand--Wow, this is beautiful!!Male Chapin's free-tailed bat during courtshipMinor epauletted fruit bat Africa-- (turned upside down!)Hoary bat of North AmericaEpauletted fruit bat in KenyaAustralian ghost batFish eating batFrog-eating or fringe-lipped bat in PanamaGrandidler's trident bat from MadagascarGreater Long-tongued Nectar bat, SE AsiaMacconnell's bat, Costa RicaOrange nectar bat in tropical forestsVeldkamp's dwarf epauletted fruit batBig Brown bat--one of our common NA batsFormosan golden bat, AsiaGreater Naked Bat, ThailandHairy-legged vampire bat--these feed on the blood of birdsHammer-headed bat, AfricaHonduran white batIndiana myotis--one of our endangered speciesThe world's smallest bat-Kitti's hog-nosed bat, Thailand.jpgLesser bulldog bats in ParaguayLesser short-nosed fruit bat, ThailandPallid bat with centipede--they are not affected by the stings!Rafinesque's big-eared batSpotted bat, UtahStraw-colored fruit batTownsend's big eared bat

Which one is your favorite? Are you surprised at the variety? I was! (If you want to learn more about bats I highly recommend Merlin Tuttle’s book called The Secret Lives of Bats. It is fascinating)

4.  Bats are not pests or flying rodents. Bats provide us with amazing services and are essential parts of ecosystems worldwide. An average-size bat can eat more than 1000 mosquito-sized insects (including mosquitoes) in ONE HOUR! A mother bat will eat her body weight in insects each night. Imagine how many insects an entire colony of thousands or even millions of bats consumes nightly! In addition,bats pollinate many plants, spread seeds, save farmers billions of dollars in pest control, maintain healthy forests, provide guano which is an important fertilizer in many parts of the world, and are important in medical research. Like cats, bats groom themselves regularly to keep clean and are more closely related to primates than rodents.

5.There are more than 50,000 species of SPIDERS in the world! And of those only 1/20th of 1%  have venom capable of causing illness in humans. And guess what? They are HARD to identify–usually requiring a microscope.

tar-0486.You know those TARANTULAS that scary movies always seem to feature? Well one of the reasons they use them is because they are so easy to handle and their venom has such a low toxicity to humans. None of the North American species pose a bite hazard to people–the worst you have to fear when handling one are the irritating hairs on their abdomen which can cause mild skin rashes or inflammation of the eyes and face. Tarantulas can live to be 30 years old!

7.SPIDERS are not “out to get you” despite what the scary Halloween movies may suggest. Spiders use their venom solely for subduing or killing their prey–usually insects or other invertebrates. Wasting it on you for no reason is not likely. Despite what popular media and medical professionals may suggest, spider bites are uncommon.

A crab spider with a beetle. These spiders do not build webs.

A crab spider with a beetle. These spiders do not build webs.

8.All SPIDERS do not build webs. Many hunt and stalk their prey or ambush unsuspecting insects. Those that don’t build webs use their silk for protecting their eggs and as a dragline when moving around.

9.RAVENS have been known to play–just for fun. Check out this video of ravens sledding down a metal roof!

Crows are very smart

Crows are very smart

10. Crows have the largest brain to body ratio of any bird. Like a chimpanzee, they are very smart. They have excellent memories and can find food, move it, stash it again and still find it many days later.

Did you learn anything? Once I got started, I discovered there was SO MUCH to talk about… but of course 10 things is 10 things! So I stopped there. If you want to read more about this you can check out these posts about BATS or SPIDERS.  Or if you want, you can try a Halloween quiz that I created last year. Test what you know! Also, don’t forget–if you are local to western North Carolina, you still have time to sign up for my bat class at the Blue Ridge Community College on November 7th from 1-3.

Happy Halloween!

Our dog Schroeder's Halloween costume!


Weekly Puzzler #135: Bats and Rum?

Happy Saturday! Is fall in full swing yet where you live? Are you getting a chance to get out and enjoy it?

As you know Halloween is just around the corner so I thought I would do a puzzler featuring one of the “Creatures of Halloween”–a bat, and probably THE most famous of all the holiday’s creatures. Have you ever bought Bacardi Rum or seen the bottle on the shelf in a bar? Ever noticed the logo on the bottle? It is an attractive bat. This week’s puzzler is: Why does Bacardi feature a bat as part of their logo?

rum-9158 rum-9159

If you want to guess use the comment box below for your chance to be entered in the quarterly drawing. All correct answers will automatically be eligible to win the next prize, given on the first day of winter. Good luck… and really, you have nothing to lose for trying!

Have a great weekend!

Weekly Puzzler Answer #134

puzz-8254Did you recognize last week’s beautiful purple flower and green fruit? It is Purple Passionflower, (Passiflora incarnate)a vine that is also called  maypop, apricot vine, wild apricot, wild passion flower, Holy-Trinity flower, passion vine, maracoe, maycock, sarsaparilla, molly-pop, and granadilla.

Purple passionflower is native to North America and endemic to the southeastern United States. It is a fast-growing perennial vine that sends out tenpvine-7604drils that wrap around other plants for it to grow on. I have seen many of these while out doing photography and find them to be such artful subjects. Vines can grow as much as 20 feet a year.

In the world there are 500 species of passion flowers, most of them are vines but a few are shrubs too. They like filtered sun or partial shade and are hosts to more than 70 different species of butterflies, including the gulf

Gulf fritillary butterfly

Gulf fritillary butterfly

and variegated fritillary. Both of these are lovely butterflies that have equally lovely chrysalises. You may recall I watched one emerge as a butterfly recently. You can see this lovely chrysalis as well as the butterfly emerging from its chrysalis here.

Of the 500 passion flower species, 60 species have edible fruit. It is said to resemble a pomegranate inside. I have not tried it, though maybe next summer I will give it a try!


Passion vine fruit

Have YOU ever tried this fruit? What did it taste like?

If you want, check out the next puzzler here–it is about one of the most famous Halloween creatures... and as always, have a fabulous weekend! See you again soon.pvine-4763

More art in the tendrils of passion vine

More art in the tendrils of passion vine

Quote of the Week #76

Are you anxious for November 8th? If so, you’re not alone! Everywhere I go, it is what people are talking about.

art-3It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the negativity and fearful for the future… so I thought I would offer you a moment of peace and quiet and some beauty to feel inspired by.

It is fall! It is a glorious season! And every day there are great reasons to get outside and enjoy it before it turns to winter.

And so, today’s quote, by John Burroughs:

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

MovementSerenityFloatingFall is here!CalmPearlsReflectionsArtist at workColorful hillsideLayersQuietMusicSpider ArtCaught!Splendid CollisionStillnessSilkWaterNature's jewelry Design

Where do you go to have your senses put in order? Or to feel soothed? Do you have a favorite spot? If so, I hope you make time to visit it soon. Happy day!


Weekly Puzzler Answer #133

On last week’s puzzler, you had a 50-50 chance. Which way did you go? With the dog or the bear? Who has the better nose?


The BEAR has the better nose!

If you said the bear you are correct! While it is true that dogs have an AMAZING sense of smell, the sense of smell in bears is even greater, which is hard to believe, but that’s what research says.

A black bear and a grizzly bear (also called a brown bear) has a smell that’s 7 times GREATER than a bloodhound! They have over a billion scent receptors in that giant nose of theirs and though their brain is just 1/3 the size of a human’s, the olfactory bulb region of the brain is 5 times larger. That’s because unlike people, bears rely on their fabulous sense of smell for survival. They find food, keep track of their cubs, find mates and “look out” for predators–all with their nose. Some estimates that I found online suggested that bears can smell a dead animal 18 miles away, but I can’t say with certainty that this is not an exaggeration. I can say however that their sense of smell is MUCH better than a dog’s–and that’s saying a lot!

Now on to the next puzzler!

And as always, have a fabulous weekend! See you again soon.

Weekly Puzzler #134: Green Fruit & Purple Flower

On a recent visit to that field I had been spending a lot of time I found this one flower, blooming close to the ground. Upon further investigation, I discovered a small green fruit attached to the plant.





Here are the leaves from this “mystery” plant

Do you recognize this? Have you seen it before in a field near you? What is its name?

It is this week’s puzzler. If you can identify it, use the comment box below for your chance to be entered in this quarter’s drawing–on the first day of winter. All correct answers will automatically be entered.

Weekly Puzzler #133: The Better Nose

I thought it would be fun to do another post about an animal from Alaska–one that I got a chance to see and photograph.

Let’s look at the coastal brown bear or grizzly bear as it is sometimes called. Here’s a close up of its nose. Remember a while back when I did a post about the fabulous sense of smell in dogs? Well here’s a question. Who do you think has a better sense of smell–a bloodhound(DOG) or a brown bear?


A coastal brown bear


A dog’s nose (this is not a bloodhound, but you get the idea!)

Check back next week to learn the answer…. and as always, don’t forget to use the comment box below to answer for your chance to qualify for the free giveaway on the first day of winter.

Have a great weekend! Hope you’re doing something interesting and getting to spend some time outside enjoying the lovely fall season.