Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


One tree, three different leaf shapes. 
Aromatic when stems, bark, roots, or leaves are broken.
Dark blue drupes. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Variegated Fritillary

Check out this neat butterfly I saw last week.  First time I've seen this.
The larval host plants include mayapples, violets, and stonecrops.  Check out the gorgeous caterpillar and chrysalis and learn more here.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Chestnut Oak

Quercus prinus
One of my favorites!
Gorgeous deep mountain ridge bark
Chestnut-like leaves

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pink Mushrooms

With tiny wren feather.
York, PA

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall Salamanders

Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda
Shown with pencil for size.

Two-lined Salamander, Eurycea bislineata

Red-backed Salamander, Plethodon cinereas

All three under the same creek-side log at Codorus State Park, PA, October 14, 2012.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jack-O-Lantern Mushrooms

Key Identification Features:
Bright Orange
Gills run down the stem
White to pale yellow spore print
Grows on dead wood
Common in Fall in the East

Key Magical Features:
In the dark the gills luminesce!  Descriptions of this vary by source, but I've seen it with my own eyes!  Since I couldn't look at the above patch in the dark, I took three caps home and turned out the lights.  They didn't glow as much as I had expected, but once my eyes adjusted to the dark, the gills stuck out as if they were a white object (the first things you see when your eyes adjust to the dark).  The stem and the top of the cap were black.  It was clear to me there was some kind of interesting magical activity going on.  I look forward to investigating this further the next patch I see!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Queen Honeybee

Check out the queen honeybee amidst the workers. She's a bit bigger and frequently dips her abdomen into a honeycomb cell to deposit an egg. The hive is busy with winter preparations at Nixon County Park, York, PA.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mile-a-Minute Berries

Mile-a-Minute is a non-native invasive plant in PA originating from India, China, Japan and other parts of Asia.  Mile-a-Minute was introduced from a York County, PA nursery when a seed accidentally shipped with holly seeds from Japan in the 1930's.  Since then, the vine has spread over 300 miles.  

The stems and leaves of Mile-a-Minute vine are covered in recurved barbs, making them physically harmful to humans and wildlife.  As the vine quickly grows, it easily covers understory plant life stealing sunlight and other resources from native plants (environmentally harmful).  The blue berries are eaten and dispersed by birds, ants, chipmunks, squirrels and deer.  

The light green triangular shaped leaves, bright blue berries, and recurved barbs make it easy to identify.  Remove Mile-a-Minute when you see it in your community!  

Read more about Mile-a-Minute: Here

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Virginia Creeper Fall Colors

Virginia Creeper has five palmate leaflets which turn beautiful colors and fall off in autumn.  Beautiful blue berries grow in clusters where flowers once bloomed.  Berries are a winter food source for wildlife like overwintering birds.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Monarch Update!

This year we tagged 100 Monarchs as they passed through Lancaster, PA!

On our top day we tagged 81 monarchs in 2 hours!  They came through an abandoned lot so fast we had to put them in a holding container because we couldn't work fast enough! 

Holding the butterfly gently near the body.  When it's wings are closed it calms down.  The tag (sticker) is placed precisely where recommended by Monarch Watch (monarchwatch.org).  Then the butterfly is released to continue on its way!