- Collect leaves of different colors.
- Notice their shapes.
- Look at their edges. Are they smooth? Jagged?
- Grab a crayon and piece of paper and make a leaf rubbing.
- Press some leaves.
- Write a haiku or other poem about leaves you see.
|Broly0, Wikimedia Commons|
My friend, Colleen, is passionate about all things lepidoptera. She stops to help woolly bears across roads whenever she comes upon them. She picks them up and carries them to the other side, in the direction they were headed. And over the past few years, she’s noticed something interesting about the woolly bears in our part of upstate New York.
“Normally, when you pick up a woolly bear, it curls up in your hand,” says Colleen. This is its defense: hide the tasty soft parts of its body and look like a prickly hedgehog to potential predators. “But some of them thrash back and forth.”
Curious, she decided to raise some “thrashers”. She put them in a container with food – pilewort and dandelion leaves – and put a screen on top. Later, she noticed some bullet-shaped pupae. Tachinid flies, perhaps?
Tachinid flies parasitize other caterpillars. The female fly lays an egg on the unsuspecting insect and the larvae grow inside - eating their host from the inside out. Then they drop to the earth and pupate in the soil. Colleen wonders whether tachinid fly parasites might cause the thrashing behavior of the woolly bears.
|photo by Colleen Wolpert|
A Backyard Citizen Science Project:
You can help collect data. Just pick up any woolly bear caterpillars you come across and make a few notes:
Then, if they were crossing the road, put them on the side where they were headed.
You don't have to raise any of the "thrashers", but if you want to, make sure to give them fresh
food every day – they love nibbling on dandelions and pilewort (shown in the photo). Also put some grass and fall leaves in for them to hide under. Clean out the woolly bear home daily, so moisture doesn't build up and cause mold - and keep a tight cover on the bear cage. You don't want them to escape!
This week look for flowers that are going to seed. Seeds come in all kinds of sizes and shapes and textures. Some are tiny and round. Some, like this calendula, look like they have spiky mohawks. Sunflower seeds look like teardrops, while milkweed seeds have silky parachutes. Lupine flowers produce pods that look like tiny, furry bean pods, while poppies make seedheads that look like salt-shakers.
Today, go on a seed-looking walk. If you want to, pull a pair of wool socks over your shoes to collect seeds that cling and hitchhike on animal fur. Collect a few seeds into paper bags. Then, when you get home, plant a few in a garden space where they can grow next spring.
I love dinosaurs - who doesn't! And I love chicken, especially when it's seasoned with .... I mean, I love the diversity of chickens and their personalities, and the cool way they chuckle and talk to each other. So of course I love this brand new out-in-the-world today book:
Last week was the official beginning of fall ~ but sometimes it doesn't feel like fall until we're raking the leaves and pulling our sweaters out from the storage bin.
Signs that summer is over:
What are the signs of fall you see in your neighborhood?
A couple weeks ago I was weeding the garden and I noticed a web across the top of the bok choy. A funnel web - you can see the opening of the web forming a funnel down the curvature of the leaf. The spider hides inside the funnel. When an insect lands on the web, the spider will run out and check to see if it's prey. If it is, the spider bites it and the fast-acting venom kills the insect within a couple seconds. Then the spider drags the prey down the funnel before eating. Not only does the funnel affords protection for the spider, but dining indoors prevents other insects from recognizing potential danger.
Funnel spiders are shy, so if you want to get a good look here's how: stand so that the sun is in front of you - you don't want your shadow to scare the spider; and look closely without touching the web.
You can find out more about funnel web weavers here at the Bug Guide. You can find their webs on grass, along hedges, and in the garden. Do you have any in your neighborhood?
Last week I noticed a splash of red on my lawn (well, the mix of plantain and clovers and grass that pass for a lawn). It was ... gasp! a RED leaf!
Wait! It's too early for fall to come! And then I looked up at the trees. This was not the only leaf shedding its summer greens. The next morning a flock of geese honked loudly as they flew overhead, further punctuating the certain demise of summer.
Over the next two weeks, take a moment to notice what changes are happening in nature around you as Earth tilts towards the autumnal equinox.
Yesterday morning I was out in the garden watching bees, and I happened to notice water droplets clinging to the hairy lupine leaves. When I looked closer, I could see how the droplet in the center worked as a magnifier. Got me thinking about times when I've dripped water onto a page of the New Yorker, and how the print was magnified.
Water droplets make fine magnifiers - and if you took a trip in the Way-Back machine you would find some scientists using water droplets as microscopes. So why not make your own water-droplet magnifier? All you need is water and some plastic. You can use clear plastic from an old soda bottle or even hard plastic that was used in packaging for batteries or something.
Here's some fun experiments from Scientific American.
And here's a video, with an idea of how to use a water droplet to turn your cell phone camera into a macro lens.
The best time to find spiderwebs is early morning. Especially on foggy days! On this day grass spider webs filled neighborhood lawns like patchwork squares on a quilt, and orb webs filled spaces between plants, fence posts, even the railings on the bridge. What kinds of spiderwebs do you find in your neighborhood?