A Question of Palace Intrigue

The wasps seemed so nurturing.

Last month, I shared photos and videos of a paper wasp nest. I showed adults nourishing larvae until the little ones covered themselves with cozy silk blankies and snuggled in to pupate. So sweet…

Except, I left out the story’s cold-hearted, sinister part.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Wasp Watching

You’re filming what?

A wasp nest, I repeated. The one over the sliding glass door.

We went outside for a look. Bert’s look said, you’re nuts.

I didn’t notice the nest until early August, when a wasp walking up the glass caught my eye. I grabbed a ladder and was mesmerized.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Pop! Goes the Weevil (Larva)

I shipped seven pounds of acorns to Kentucky.

Not to feed any under-nourished squirrels. My acorns are for the University of Kentucky’s multi-year, genetic study of white oaks. Foresters believe the white oak is in decline, and the project’s goal is to identify trees with traits suggesting a higher likelihood of success in the forest. The research team hopes to acquire acorns from every county in every state in the white oak’s range.

What will they do with my (and everyone else’s) acorns?

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Undercover Larva

The fluffball was on the move. And it carried a big stick.

I immediately recognized the fluff as a debris-carrying lacewing larva. These insects wear impressive camouflage. Sometimes I’ll see plant material, bits of lichen, or spider silk. Or dead insects; carcasses the larva piled on its back after sucking out the victims’ guts. But never had I seen a larva sporting such an outsized element of disguise.
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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Brad Smith.

From Petticoat to Ball Gown

The insect looked all wrong.

It had bitty wings on a loooong body. Too many legs. And a big, see-through something that looked like a tail. I leaned in for a closer look.

A tree cricket was molting.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Farewell to a Favorite Tree

Our broken, branchless beech finally fell.

The tree was about fifty-five years old* when we bought our home in 2004. On our well-wooded property, it didn’t command any particular notice. Then in 2015, Pileated Woodpeckers chose it for their nest. That was quite a show, which I filmed. But the poor tree! The woodpeckers removed about five gallons of wood to dig a cavity some 19” deep.

That’s when the tree’s trouble—to my eventual great delight—began.
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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

A Snag, a Storm, and a Surprise

Two white-rimmed ears caught my eye.

Something was inside a cavity in our old, broken tree. That snag had a history of sheltering woodland creatures. But the tree was in terrible condition. It was well-rotted.  And the trunk that snapped years earlier was letting that day’s downpour reach inside.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Farmers in my Forest

The aphid looked like a kid that wants to be called on in a classroom.

But instead of hands, the creature’s rear legs were waving for attention. And in less than a minute, he got it—from an ant. The ant reached for the aphid. Then a glistening drop of honeydew—liquid poop—emerged from the aphid’s posterior.

And the ant…

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

The All-You-Can-Eat Squirrely Buffet

Squirrels are such messy eaters!

They toss their food trash everywhere. In fall, it’s discarded acorn caps and broken shells. These days, they’re dropping bud and leaflet leftovers. It’s raining half-chewed twigs and seed clusters, too.

Yesterday, I saw squirrels scarfing down samaras, the maple seeds we call helicopters or whirligigs. The seeds aren’t quite ready to drop from the trees. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at our walkways. Squirrels seem to drop three clusters for every one they eat.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Joanna Brichetto.

What’s in a Fake-News Bird Name?

Jay! Jay!

I hear that cry and know instantly which bird just flew nearby. The Blue Jay’s squawk and its brilliant blue feathers mirror its name, making it easy to find and remember the bird.

That’s not often true of the fake-news name given to the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.