Monday, December 5, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Fox snake eggs stick to each other when laid, so you see them here as they were laid.
Within minutes after I took this picture the snake emerged from the egg and sat on top of the eggs. The eggs are 2 1/2 inches long, and the snakes are 12 inches long. Hard to imagine how they fit into what seems a little egg.
The babies are totally on their own. The mother snake leaves the eggs after laying them and never sees them again. The baby snakes will turn the more traditional brown pattern color over the next few years.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Of course they need to eat now to have enough fat to overwinter in their cacoons and have the resources to emerge next spring as one of Minnesota's largest and most beautiful moths.
But since late May they have been eating machines.
Take a look below at the huge green eyes and the mouth on this caterpillar. It has a transparent upper lip! And pretty weird "teeth" below. I took these pictures in the last few days as I waited to photograph the caterpillars as they transformed into cacoon makers. Scrool down to see the action.
This moth is a member of the Saturnid moth group that includes the caterpillars that silk cloth comes from.
Notice the light blue "spiracles" on each segment of the caterpillar. These are the breathing holes that allow insects to breathe. Also notice the three little "true" legs near the head. Three more on the other side account for its six true legs. The large projections from its abdoman that look like legs are called pseudo or false legs. These "legs" will now dissappear for the rest of this insect's life.
You can see in the picture below how the caterpillar begins to have a glistening silk thread emerge from its mouth, wrapping it all around itself and the branch it is on. Meanwhile its body seems to begin turning white. The silk is sticky when it first comes out but hardens to one of the strongest tensile strength "lines" known on earth.
The caterpillar will continue inside to make a thick wall of silk, and after several days will stop, and in a couple of weeks it will turn into the pupae and wait for the warmth of next May and June to emerge as the adult moth. I'll post more pictures then of the moth.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Some cicada species live underground for many years. 13 years is one, along with the well known 17 year cicada. But our common cicada is only underground one year.
Cicadas are in the group of insects called Hemiptera, or True Bugs. This group of insects all have straw-like sucking mouth parts and most use their "straw" to pierce plant tissue and suck out nourishment from the plant. After mating, female cicadas lay eggs in the stems of tree branches. The hatchlings drop to the ground and burrow down to one of the tree's roots. They attach their straw like mouth to the root and stay attached for the next year, growing as the tree feeds them.
After their year in the ground the larvae crawl out on a late summer night and climb a few feet up the trunk of the tree. In the picture below you can see the shell left after they emerge from the ground with the dirt still attached.
Cicadas are very heavy bodied insects and not very good fliers.
The females listen for the "singing" males, and pick one out that sounds perfect to her. She then flies to the tree and locates the male by his buzzing call. After introductions, if all goes well, they mate and the female then finds an appropriate branch to lay her eggs in.
Hearing the cicadas always means the peak of summer is past, and I'd better enjoy what is left.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
They are very curious, but still never get very far from mom, as you can see in the bottom photo. I took these pictures today by Springbrook's feeders
Sunday, July 31, 2011
But dragonflies also get eaten, mostly by birds, who pluck thier wings off and then eat the nutritious bodies. Cast off wings can be found beneath bird's perches, like this plucked wing I found this morning on this blade of grass.
I took these photos today in Springbrook's south prairie about 100 feet apart from each other.
The Viceroy's hind wing stripe is not present on the Monarch as you can see in this picture. This is a male Monarch, identified by the black "scent pouches" along the inside vein on the hind wing. But the two butterflies do look a lot alike.
This caterpillar was on the east end of Springbrook's south prairie this morning, shaking the raindrops off from last night's storms and eating as fast as it could.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
This Painted Lady Butterfly was on some thistle near by. They are medium sized, quick flying butterflies with different colors on the underside of the wings than on the top side.
Right after I took this picture a female Eastern Pond Hawk dragonfly swooped in and grabbed the little skipper and flew off to eat him for lunch.
So, life is not just fun in the sun for these pretty decorations in our gardens. They are working hard to find mates and lay eggs before the needs of other critters intersect with theirs!
See dragonfly below enjoying lunch!!
Monday, July 4, 2011
They are attractive frogs with bright yellow throats, green colors, and jewel like big eyes. The large circular "button" behind the eye is the tympanic membrane of its ear.
Notice the reflection of the boardwalk railing in the eye of the frog below. Lay on your stomach on the baordwalk and you can get close up pictures of the frogs too. But only for the next week or so.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
In these groups of insects, the males and females often look very different, and even the young adults may look very different than adults a few weeks older.
Along with being predators, dragonflies and damselflies are in turn prey for many songbirds and are in constant danger of being eaten.
I took these pictures and lots of others in the last few days while hiking the trails. Take your camera with you. Most point and shoot cameras can take great close up pictures.