On Wednesday, I heard something rustling in the grass near the Arboretum’s hickory collection. Turned out to be this garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), a skinny fellow who was quite afraid of me.
Tag Archives: insects
As I left the Arboretum’s visitor center on Sunday, I noticed a crowd gathered around a shrub. It took me a second to see the shockingly large Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia) that was the subject of everyone’s attention.
This praying mantis was larger than my hand. It had landed on someone’s leg and she had the peace of mind to place it on the shrub, where it stood still for many minutes.
The Chinese mantid is the largest of our praying mantises. Introduced from China in 1896 to control pests, they eat both harmful and beneficial insects, and sometimes each other. They are so large that they are able to attack hummingbirds.
Take a look at this face. It means business.
I saw a few moths, butterflies, and wasps at the Arboretum last week. An eastern comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) rested on a leaf in the shrub and vine garden. It is named for the bright white comma, swollen at both ends, on its wing. I think it looks more like a crescent moon than a comma.
The wings look drab until they open, revealing a rich orange with black spots. This is the winter form of this butterfly, with its hind wings more orange than black.
A bittersweet vine (Celastrus sp.) twists around a tree trunk in the Arboretum with tiny black creatures crawling on it. I believe these are black bean aphids (Aphis fabae). These aphids are sucking the sap out of the vine. While they prefer eating from the bounty of the bean family, they are known to attack bittersweet.
Like other aphids, they produce a sweet waste product called honeydew. Ants are attracted to the honeydew and collect it, tending aphids as we do cows. In the photo below, a black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) watches over a black bean aphid, waiting for its sugary treat.
Aside from the aphids, I spotted a number of other creatures in the Arboretum last week. An American bullfrog was spread out lazily in the marsh waters.
I passed a European alder tree (Alnus glutinosa) on Willow Path at the Arnold Arboretum a couple days ago (accession 1399-73*B), and noticed that many of its branches were covered in a white fungus/mold-like substance. Upon closer inspection, the mold moved!
This was no mold. It was an infestation of woolly alder aphids (Prociphilus tessellatus).
On Tuesday, I walked from the Arboretum’s main gate to the shrub garden. I saw a couple of butterflies for the first time, among them a common sootywing (Pholisora catullus), a dark brown butterfly with white spots.
Late last week, I went to the Explorers’ Garden on Bussey Hill on a pleasant, sunny day. A few butterflies passed me by but did not perch. The eastern kingbird below paused at a the top of a crabapple tree. In about a month, this kingbird will probably make its way to South America for the winter.
The office on the campgrounds has a nice flower and vegetable garden a few feet away. We found a couple of Peck’s skippers (Polites peckius), which settled on a leaf after chasing each other.
I found this white-dotted prominent caterpillar (Nadata gibbosa) crawling across Meadow Road yesterday. A green caterpillar with an opaque, lighter green face, it is covered with white dots. This one had two brown patches on it, perhaps some sort of infection?