- 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: