Hey! I know I haven’t posted for a while, I recently came back from a trip to Massachusetts & Rhode Island. The weather’s a whole lot warmer there. (It’s in the 50’s here – brrrr.) I saw a bunch of new animals, mostly birds (salt water means a lot of species I don’t normally see), such as mute swans, sanderlings, & common terns. But surprisingly, some of the most interesting species were also the smallest. Getting closer to winter, caterpillars are becoming active. In the holes in tree trunks and other little cozy & protected spots, it’s easy to find wooly bears. These fuzzy orange & black caterpillars live a long time, wintering underneath bark & in hollow logs. When spring comes they spin cocoons & transform into the yellow & black Isabella tiger moth. It used to be thought that you could predict the harshness of the coming winter by the thickness of the wooly bear’s orange stripe: the thicker the stripe, the milder the winter. There’s a lot of skepticism over this, but there’s also some good evidence. There are also monarch caterpillars – not-fuzzy yellow & black caterpillars you almost always find on a milkweed plant. Since it’s September, these caterpillars are eating up for their long flight to Mexico when they become butterflies. There are several generations of monarchs born each year – the fall generation lives the longest: 6-8 months! It’s pretty cool the things you discover when you pay attention to the smallest things in life.
A few monarch butterflies have decided it’s spring, & are flitting around busily. Their bright colors are so pretty to watch, & they are pretty much fearless, so they’ll fly right past you on their way to a flower. They don’t seem to mind the heat. Monarchs make their way to & from Mexico each year, flying in huge orange clouds (or so I’ve heard – I’ve never seen one). It’s neat to think that the little orange insects in you garden have thousands of miles across the globe!
Warm weather this week has brought out the first bugs. I’ve seen a couple of flies, & some flying ants. Winged ants usually appear when the ant colony is doing well, & the female winged ones (they’re mostly males) are the future queens. It’s kind of confusung, so here’s a link that explains it: http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Pests/flyant.htm. Ants are incredibly smart insects, & also very strong (they can lift 40 times their body weight). They have been known to use a leaf as a boat to sail across a puddle, & they even breed special “war ants” to defend their colony. I thought this website had some really neat facts about ants; check it out: http://ezinearticles.com/?Facts-About-Ants—Amazing-Things-About-Ants-You-Probably-Didnt-Know&id=1315206.