Sunday, September 12, 2021

Caterpillar Transfer


Have you ever had to perform an emergency caterpillar evacuation? This monarch butterfly caterpillar is relaxing in its new emergency quarters after being carried across the yard to this host plant.

The plant is an attractive low bushy kind of milkweed called butterfly weed or orange milkweed. In summer it's covered with orange flowers. Now it has pointy seed pods. I grew this from seeds and got it started in the yard a few years ago.

I wanted more of this milkweed, so this spring I planted it in another spot in the yard. The plants were puny, though, so I temporarily filled in around with marigolds. The milkweed did great. It flowered and got bushy. I never got the chance to take a picture of it because, suddenly a few days ago -- this. Do you see the bare stem sticking out of the marigolds? That's one of the new milkweed plants, completely defoliated!

What happened? Just enlarge this photo and count all of the munching monarch caterpillars. I think I see six of them.

Consider the area to the right of the caterpillar, full of fresh delicious milkweed leaves. And to the left, just naked stems. There were hardly any leaves left on this plant. The caterpillars were eating a dwindling supply and getting perilously close to stranding themselves in a sea of unpalatable marigold foliage, which they cannot eat.

So -- they all got carefully carried to the big bush on the other side of the yard where there is adequate food for them to finish their voracious eating stages. It was a long journey in caterpillar miles. Each of them curled up for the trip.

And each of them uncurled and stretched after a few moments in their new digs and recommenced eating. I've transferred eight of them so far. I''m looking forward to upcoming blogs about chrysalises and eclosions.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Happy Labor Day

I'm resting for Labor Day so no blog today, just this picture of hard-working monarch butterflies from a past migration. Click to enlarge. Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Trying to Bee Funny

Here's a two-spotted bumblebee looking lovely in a purple flower. Do you know what a bee says when it's in a sauna? "Swarm in here!" Click to enlarge.

Here's a honey bee in a pink rose. It lives in the United States. It's a USB. 

My favorite bee, the golden northern bumblebee -- big, pretty, and furry. If you hold one of these in your hand, do you know what you'll have in your eye? Beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the bee holder.

This is a big common eastern bumblebee with sacs full of yellow pollen on its rear legs. If you went to a beekeeper to buy some bees and the beekeeper threw in some extras at no charge -- they'd be freebies.

Golden northern bumblebee again. Can't believe this blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Butterfly Season

I spotted a lot of big butterflies this week. Like this monarch.

This eastern tiger swallowtail.

A couple of spicebush swallowtails. Click to enlarge.

And a variegated fritillary -- a name I like to say out loud.

We focus on the beauty of butterfly wings, of course, but their bodies are often lovely, too. Check out the polka dots on the monarch.

And this!

Sunday, August 15, 2021


"The quiet August noon has come, 

A slumberous silence fills the sky, 

The fields are still, the woods are dumb, 

In glassy sleep the waters lie."  

   from A Summer Ramble by Wiilliam Cullen Bryant

The weather is too hot and humid for me right now, but the insects don't mind -- like this cabbage white butterfly hard at work in the noon day sun. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Hummingbird Moth


This hummingbird moth hovered for a rare split second as I watched through the camera lens; I usually photograph hummingbird-moth-blurs as the fast-moving things fly away. Note the detail of this one's lovely long curled proboscis. That thing can snake out and retract like a birthday party noisemaker. Click to enlarge.

People often mistake this big insect for a small hummingbird and it's easy to see why from the body shape, posture, and rapidly beating wings. But on closer inspection you will see that the moth has a pair of antennae, two pairs of wings, and six legs. And that proboscis. To me, seeing one of these is just as exciting as spotting a hummingbird. 

The hummingbird moth belongs to a larger group called sphinx moths or hawk moths that mostly fly by day and hover in front of flowers to feed. This one is in the sphinx moth genus, Hemaris, sometimes called clearwing moths because they have scale-free transparent areas on their wings. Look at the pictures again -- you can see right through their wings. Now that's a cool moth!

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Summer Garden


This is a good time of year to take a walk in a community garden. The zinnias are lovely around here right now. Click to enlarge.

You might see cantaloupes growing on the vine, not like we usually see them in the supermarket.

Or pretty grapes on a weathered wood fence.

Or trendy veggies like this Tuscan kale. It's called dinosaur kale, too, for its presumed resemblance to bumpy dinosaur skin.

Sometimes there are interesting insets to see like this harlequin bug. 

Here's a closer look. The name harlequin comes from a character in 16th century Italian comedy who always wore a multicolored costume. Apt, except that this colorful bug is no joke in the garden where it can be very destructive.  

Harlequin bugs were having a big party on the kale the day I was there.

And look at all the Japanese beetles on this zinnia flower! 

Yet the gardeners seemed to be holding there own against the insets, producing an abundance of lovely summer plants. Good job, gardeners.

Sunday, July 25, 2021



I saw this northern water snake lounging on a tangle of branches on the shore of a pond in a park in Evesham Township, New Jersey. It was about four feet long. Big! The northern water snake feeds on fish and amphibians, which it swallows alive. These snakes are supposed to be common in the eastern United States, especially in the north -- but I rarely see them. I think it's draped nicely over the branches, like the pose of a snake on a caduceus. Click to enlarge the photo and follow its long twining tail through the twigs. Blends in, doesn't it?

And a nice zinnia for color. Zinnias are having their moment right now.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Golden Northern Bumblebee

One of the great things about summer -- golden northern bumblebees on red zinnias.

This is my favorite bee: so fluffy, so pretty, so eye-catchingly yellow-all-over. The golden northern bumblebee is an American native, found mainly in the northern states and particularly in the northeast.

 Click to enlarge.

It's just as pretty on pink zinnias.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Eastern Eyed Click Beetle


Sometimes all I have to do it sit still outside and a blog subject lands next to me. Like this eastern eyed  click beetle. It's about an inch and a half long. It has spots on top that look like eyes. They aren't, although they might fool a would-be predator into thinking the beetle is much larger, like proportionate to the big eye spots. (Which are just spots.) This is known as "self mimicry' wherein a body part mimics another. And the click? That part of the beetle's common name comes from its trick of snapping itself upright with an audible clicking sound if it has been turned on its back or just needs to get away fast. The click and the snap can startle -- long enough for a beetle in danger to escape. Click to enlarge.

With a pink zinnia for color.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy 4th of July


No blog today, just some holiday-appropriate red, white, and blue local birds. Like this perky northern cardinal gathering a gift of grapes. Click to enlarge.

A great egret in a sultry summer pond.

And a handsome insouciant blue jay. Have a great holiday! Click to enlarge.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Raccoon This Morning


I woke up early today. So early that not all the creatures of the night had settled down to sleep. Like this raccoon lounging in the maple tree in my yard.

Looks very relaxed, right? I was going to blog about something else today but raccoons in the yard take precedence over everything.

I went out to take a closer look and the raccoon pulled its arm in, backed up, sat still, and did a raccoon mind trick: "This is not the raccoon you are looking for.You can go about your business. Move along." Then it turned around, curled up with its back to the door and disappeared. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Suummer Is Here

Today marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Let the easy season begin. 

It's time for bees in flowers. Here is a golden northern bumble bee in a rose. It's a favorite bee of mine for which I obsessively search all summer long. Click to enlarge.  

And a haiku for the occasion by Kobayashi Issa:     
the sky colors
of dawn have changed
to summer clothes