Tag Archives: insects

Special Invitation: Blue Ghost & Moth Viewing Party!

Hey all and happy Monday to you. If you live locally in Asheville or western North Carolina, this post’s for you–a special invitation to come out and join me on Friday night to watch a special firefly. (If not, so sorry! I will feature another post after the party with some photos)

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As you’ve likely heard me say a time or two, my husband and I live in the woods in south Asheville. We discovered some years ago that we have BLUE GHOST FIREFLIES on our property. Don’t know what a Blue Ghost is?

Blue Ghost Fireflies are different from other species of firefly in that their light stays lit for 30-60 seconds, 2 to 3 feet off the ground. So watching them is magical–it’s like ghosts are carrying lanterns as they move silently through the trees.

The firefly is only the size of a rice grain but his light is bright enough to light up the night, especially when there are a bunch in one spot. Females also have a light but have no wings so remain stationary.

On THIS Friday, May 26th, at 8pm, my husband and I are hosting a blue ghost and moth viewing party. We will sit outside and have a drink while we wait for it to get dark, then will learn a bit about these fireflies before going on a short walk to see some.

We will also put out a black light and white sheet to see what moths we might attract. I will mix up a special drink for the moths and will put it out near the sheet. After we watch the blue ghosts, we can walk over and check out what’s on the sheet. You never know what we might see! Here are a few of my favorite moths that I’ve seen other years:

Luna mothVirgin tiger mothInside of tiger moth's wingsTulip MothImperial mothTulip moth,maleA luna moth with another smaller mothUnidentified mothMoths Polyphemus mothTiger mothPolyphemus mothMoth on sheetMoth attracted to black lightMothMothFirefly in daytimeOrange patched-smoky mothA beautiful luna mothMultiple luna moths

If you want to attend, great, I can’t wait to meet you! PLEASE wear comfortable shoes for this! And note that we will not be using flashlights for much of the time in order to allow our eyes to adjust to the night. The driveway is wide and mostly level and we will not be off-trail at any time. But to get the address and directions, you must RSVP at my meetup site   or send me an email saying you’d like to go– sharenaturemore@gmail.com. To avoid overcrowding, I am limiting this to 20 people.

If you want to learn how YOU can attract moths to your yard, see this post or if you want to read about one of our more beautiful moths, check out this Tulip Tree moth. Or, here’s a quiz to see what you know about moths.

Lastly, if you are interested in learning more about moths, such as how to identify them, here is a link to a fabulous book–a Peterson Guide to Moths. 

Posted in Animals, Call to Action!, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , Leave a comment

What Ants and Farmers Have in Common

If you’re like most people, you probably only think about ants when they get into your house or find your sweet crumbs during your picnic in the woods. Ants are truly amazing creatures… for instance, did you know the average ant can carry 10-50 times its own body weight? Consider this for a moment–that’s like a 200 pound man carrying two large cars or 10,000 pounds! And they are fast too, able to run 300 meters per hour. Another amazing fact about ants is their relationship with aphids and mealy bugs. Did you know some ants keep livestock just like farmers?

Here’s a video you have to see to believe–ants tend their flocks, move them and even protect them from the rain. Imagine!

Posted in Animals, Did you know..., Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, It's a Wonderful World! | Also tagged , , , , , Leave a comment

Quote of the Week #80

FLYAWAY-2085I haven’t met many people who don’t enjoy butterflies. After all, what’s not to like? They are beautifully colored, fly gracefully, don’t kill things, have amazing life cycles and just generally bring a smile to your soul when you see one.

They start out as a tiny egg, hatch out, then eat, eat, eat, molt several times, make a chrysalis, and then, some days later, transform into a lovely butterfly–a sure symbol of something we all can use–HOPE.

So, this week’s quote:

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.

If you live locally to western North Carolina, please come out and join me THIS TUEDAY (April 18th) night at 7:30 for my first program –about butterflies and moths–with my new Meetup group, called Share Nature More. To learn more, or to sign up, click here.

If you don’t live locally I’m sorry I will miss you! You can click these links to see some amazing butterfly transformations (these will knock your socks off! )-a monarch here or a red-spotted purple here, or the emergence of a variegated fritillary here. Or if you want, check out 10 things you might not know about butterflies.

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , Leave a comment

Quote of the Week #75

puz-7400Remember that beautiful chrysalis I featured as a puzzler recently? And that I said I hoped I would get to see it emerge? Well guess what?

When I woke up on Saturday and looked at this chrysalis, it was notably different, appearing darker with obvious orange wings visible through the thin layer. Having never watched this kind of butterfly emerge before ( I have only seen a monarch and a red-spotted purple emerge as a butterfly) I wasn’t sure what the timing might be so I set up my camera and tripod a foot away and settled in to watch. It was 8:30.

The chrysalis at 8:30am

The chrysalis at 8:30am

All morning I sat close by, watching and photographing the changes–which were so subtle that I would miss them if I didn’t look frequently and carefully. There was a general loosening at the top, more air spaces within the chrysalis and a flattening of the pointy projections on the outside of the chrysalis. I could see the butterfly was slowly moving downward.

The chrysalis at 11:30

The chrysalis at 11:30

There were several false alarms–“I think it’s about to go!” I shouted exuberantly more than once. My husband sat with me in the beginning, enjoying a cup of coffee as we watched. We stared at the tiny chrysalis before us, looking and looking to see if anything was happening. I was hopeful. He was patient.  An hour went by. Then two. After several hours of “I think it’s going!” he eventually moved off to do other things, leaving me to sit alone. (No need for both of us to just sit there and watch it doing nothing!)

At just before noon I saw the bottom “hinge” opening and shouted for him to come join me. Together we watched as the tiny butterfly struggled from its chrysalis. Wow, this is an incredible thing to witness!

You can see it here!

And so, this week’s quote,

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What miracles have you witnessed lately?

If you want to watch a Monarch caterpillar making its chrysalis, you can watch that here.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , 6 Comments

Quote of the Week #74

I have been spending a lot of time in a field near my house looking for Mother Nature’s treasures. Each day when I know I will be doing this I wake up excited and with a feeling of anticipation, like a child on Christmas eve or Christmas morning. I race through getting dressed and breakfast, anxious to get out there and see what I will discover. (Reminds me of a post I wrote called What Inspires you to skip?)

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A most spectacular gulf fritillary butterfly on New York ironweed

There’s no telling WHAT that might be. Since finding that metallic chrysalis recently, I have been keyed in on looking for more chrysalises and amazingly, have found MANY, though most of the others were from a butterfly called a Buckeye (photos below in the slide show). These are much less impressive, though still equally miraculous in how the process occurs.

Today I found 13 chrysalises, though only 7 of them were still intact–the others were hollow inside, already eaten by some hungry insect. I brought the good ones home so I can have a chance to watch them emerge.

I know one of these days when I arrive excited for a heavenly morning of photography, I will find this field mowed… I dread this, knowing it will be a very sad day. It will break my heart in a way I suspect not all that many people will understand.

In my bios and artist statement, I often say I have had an intimate relationship with the natural world since I was a child. I suspect this baffles some people. Intimate? With nature? Huh?

But it is hard to describe it with any other word. When you return again and again to the same plot of wild land–whatever size it happens to be– you begin to learn things about it, just as you would a lover’s body.

I love this intimacy with nature! I am beginning to be able to predict what butterflies I will see, where the turkeys will be, where the deer bed down, where to look for chrysalises, and what plants I can expect to find caterpillars feeding on. I have watched deer browsing along the woods in the back corner, have enjoyed the calls of a pair of red-shouldered hawks that are often nearby, have heard the turkeys gobbling in the adjacent field and have seen goldfinches and other birds feeding on the seeds of the flowers. I have lain in the grass surrounded by yellow and purple blossoms, looking up into a sea of blue, watching turkey vultures soaring on invisible air currents. In spending such quality time there I have become attached to the field and its inhabitants.

And so… this week’s quote, a long one to be sure, but one of my very favorite from a man I very much admire–Henry David Thoreau who said:

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“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs…–that is your success. All nature is your congratulation and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… the true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.

It is a little bit of star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”

I have written about this theme before– quote #42 about each moment of the year, or #44 about everything having a voice, or #58 about getting to know something in nature or #68 about nature making you whole.

What do you think of these? Do you know what I mean when I say an intimate relationship with nature? Have you experienced this during your lifetime?

Check out some of the photos from my recent visits to this field:

A most beautiful gulf fritillaryA buckeye covered with dewA backlit sulfurA monarchA skipperCaterpillar of a buckeyeA crab spider waitsA buckeye chrysalis in NY ironweedA moth with dewLadybugSkipperHaven't identified this caterpillar yet!Ailanthus webworm mothA jumping spider with preyAnother sulfurA variegated fritillaryAnother skipper!Haven't identified this one yet either!Wow, what beauty!A gulf fritillary and a variegated fritillary togetherA buckeye on goldenrodDotted with dewA buckeyeA variegated fritillaryA fuzzy caterpillarBeauty in the little thingsWater on cloverWater art!SuspendedMy favorite--web art!More web artA crab spider with dinnerPraying mantisSwirls of a passion vine

Posted in For My Soul, Just for Fun, Lessons from Mother Nature, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , 2 Comments

Weekly Puzzler Answer #130

Okay, so yes I am guilty of making that last puzzler WAY TOO HARD. I see that now. It was close to impossible! Sorry!

puz-7400Perhaps you were able to determine it was a CHRYSALIS, but had no idea from what butterfly. I didn’t know either and had to look it up when I found it. The problem is that I have amazing reference books since this is what I do for a living and many of you might lack these books.

Do you know the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon? Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but this is not correct. The two are very different.

Both butterflies and moths produce silk but they use it differently. One way a butterfly uses its silk is to attach its PUPA to a hard structure. A PUPA is the resting stage of insects, such as butterflies and moths, that undergo complete metamorphosis. (The other kind of metamorphosis is gradual or incomplete. In this kind there are 3 stages rather than 4: egg, nymph/larva,adult.Bugs and beetles are two insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis)

A CHRYSALIS is strictly used for a BUTTERFLY pupa.

A chrysalis is the hard skin of a butterfly’s body beneath its last molting and it can be many different colors, textures,shapes and sizes. If you want, you can watch a chrysalis being made here–this is AMAZING!

A COCOON on the other hand is a silken case that a moth caterpillar (or other insect) spins around it (for protection) before it enters the pupal stage.

So the chrysalis from last week’s puzzler? Well to be honest, I am not 100% certain! At first I was sure it was from a butterfly called a Baltimore Checkerspot but in all my time outside, and especially lately in the same field everyday, I have never seen this butterfly. What I have seen are lots of Variegated Fritillaries, including their

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

A variegated fritillary caterpillar.

caterpillars–which are just as beautiful as the butterfly and chrysalis. These chrysalises are very similar, both surely at the top of the list of most beautiful chrysalises of all butterflies. So having seen so many Variegated Fritillaries in the field, I am pretty sure that’s what it is.

I brought this metallic chrysalis home and am keeping an eye on it, hoping I will notice some change and then get to witness its emergence. That would be AMAZING!! However, not knowing when it was made puts me at a disadvantage. Most butterflies stay in their chrysalis 10-14 days. So of course this one could be right at the beginning of that, in the middle, or nearing the end. I can only look at it regularly and try to be home often to check on it.

A variegated fritillary

A variegated fritillary

If I witness its emergence, you can be sure I will share my photos with you! Cross your fingers for me! Last year I watched some other butterflies emerging from their chrysalises–You can check them out too– a red-spotted purple butterfly emerging from its chrysalis or a monarch emerging from its lovely green chrysalis. If you’ve never gotten to see this–it’s worth a look, as it’s a real miracle of nature…absolutely amazing!

Did you know that all the pictures featured in my blog posts were taken by ME? I spend a great deal of time out in the field and forest and other wild places photographing all kinds of plants and animals so I can share it with you here on my blog or elsewhere in programs that I teach. ( I am teaching a class about bats in November if you are interested!)

Want to check out the next puzzler? It’s about a red-crested bird. I guarantee it is easier than this last one! Don’t forget to add your guess in the comment box below for your chance to be qualified in the next drawing. It only takes a minute!

Have a great weekend! See you again soon!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #120

What are these small globs?

What are these small globs?

Did you have any idea what these tiny globs were on the damselfly’s body from last week’s puzzler?

When I first started noticing them I thought they were eggs that had somehow gotten stuck on the female’s body rather than left behind in the water. But after a little investigating, I learned that they are actually water mites–a tiny critter that rides around on the larger insect, feeding on the damselfly’s body fluid before falling off and going about its life.

Have I mentioned how many odd and awesome animals there are in the world?

There are 1500 species of Hydrachnida–water mites, in North America and over 5000 in the world. Many of these remain fairly unknown to scientists. Water mites are TINY, most only 2-3mm long! Most go unnoticed.

There are mites that live in the water, soil, in birds’  nests, in animals’ homes, on plants and animals–more than 50,000 different kinds! Many mites are specialists–that is they have one animal they parasitize– be it honey bees, dogs, cats, water boatman, damselflies or dragonflies, etc. There is a mite that lives in the tropics that is among the STRONGEST animal on earth, able to lift 1,182 times its weight! And you’ve probably heard of dust mites? Well these are just another kind of mite–these feed on the dead skin and hair shed by humans… yes, I know–gross!

…So back to the water mites.

They go through 4 stages–egg,larva,nymph and adult. In the immature stages they have only 6 legs but as adults they have 8. (Same is true for ticks, which are related to mites) Most are brightly colored to warn fish and other animals of their terrible taste. Check out the red mites on this dragonfly below.

Here are some water mites on a dragonfly--look closely under the wings.

Here are some water mites on a dragonfly–look closely under the wings.

Do the water mites harm the insect hosts? Usually not though if there are enough of them, they could make it hard for the insect to fly or may get in the way of reproduction. Mostly they just feed on the body fluids, ride around some and then drop off to become adults. Sound like fun? I can’t imagine how they know when to drop off–but if it’s over water, imagine the ride!

Check out the next puzzler.

Posted in Animals, AQUATIC, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Weekly Puzzler | Also tagged , , , , , Leave a comment