Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bluet. Not a flower.

At least these are, indeed, blue. There are also Scarlet Bluets, Orange Bluets, Rainbow Bluets... You get the idea. These two damselflies are Familiar. No, not to me, but that's the name: Familiar Bluet. And they were even bluer in person than the photos show. Had to look closely to find them; being only an inch and a half or so long, they weren't flying much more than a few inches off the ground... Three cheers for a slow day at work--and an "office" in a location where you can step outside to the road and find little gems like these.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Pretty, vibrantly pink peonies... Lovely aroma, too.

Many thanks to the biologist who brought some of her heirloom peonies to brighten the table at the shorebird banding house...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

We interrupt cute crawlies posts for...Clematis.

Newly open. And purple, of course...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two Tent Caterpillars

How wonderful! By sheer luck I found two species of tent caterpillars in my yard...

A caterpillar quite common to most of us, Eastern Tent Caterpillars are quite fond of cherry trees--anyone raised in even a suburban area should be familiar with the thick white webs in cherry trees--but they will utilize many other members of the Rose family as well. (Yes, apples, pears, plums, peaches and cherries are actually in the same plant group as roses.) Large, older caterpillars have spread in my yard from the black cherry tree where I found the egg case and web to the multi-flora rose bushes (food plant in the photo below).

While puttering around my front deck, I found the beastie below on the wall of my house. This blue beauty is a Forest Tent Caterpillar. I assume it earned the name "Tent" because of its similarity to the Eastern Tent (they have been put in the same genus, Malacosoma)… Thing is though, Forest Tent Caterpillars don't build tents. But the "Forest" is apt; this species prefers oaks and maples--trees that form what we call forests.

My caterpillar book likens the white spots to "footprints" but is it just me or do they look exactly like dancing Snoopy's…? (Or penguins the other way round, as was suggested by a fellow caterpillar lover.)

Comparison shot. Forest Tents average smaller than Eastern Tents, but there might be two instars (age/development levels) represented here as well. That's about as big an Eastern Tent as I've ever seen. And still it spent the afternoon eating--yikes.

Please don't expect a follow up to the metamorphosis of these… While the caterpillars are absolutely stunning, they form drab cocoons rather than chrysalises, and the moths they turn into are about as bland as a plain brown moth can get.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What's in a name?

Names can be a nuisance. They either get it right or get it wrong. And sometimes they correct a misnomer...

Eastern Tent Caterpillar:

This is the variety found in the eastern US (yes, there's a western species) and they are not only social caterpillars, they build a three-dimensional triangular web--aka, tent--in the fork of a branch of their food plant and retreat into it for safety (and possibly for temperature regulation).

Forest Tent Caterpillar:

Okay, looks a bit like an Eastern Tent, but this one is predominately blue. Taxonomically, these two are cousins, both assigned the genus Malacosoma. Forest tent caterpillars, like Eastern, are also social, in that they hang out together with their siblings on their preferred tree when they aren't eating. (Many moth caterpillars are gregarious; butterfly caterpillars tend to be loners.) Forest Tent caterpillars do not, however, form tents…

Juniper Hairstreak:

This stunning little (it's maybe an inch long if it stretches its wings) butterfly's caterpillars feed on red cedar trees. Which aren't really cedars… They're, well, junipers.

A rose is a rose is a rose and by any other name… Gosh, I sure hope so.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seed Dispersal.

The continuing saga of a Dandelion...

How do you get your offspring out into the world if you are a living being rooted in the ground? Why, you send out your seeds on built-in parachutes, of course! (Click on any photo to big-ify them.)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Take a deep breath...

And make a wish.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

They come in purple, too.

Instead of the original red. (They look even better big-ified: Click on any photo.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The domestic cat...

"Is by nature a solitary creature."

Unless a comfy chair, cozy blankets and a chilly house are involved.

(Sometimes they even let me sit in the chair. Only with adequate accompaniment, of course.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Red and native! (Sort of.)

Columbine. Growing only in containers, and the original plants came from containers, so I'm unsure of their provenance as truly "wild" but they are probably closer to the parent variety than most of the flowers in my yard...