Friday, December 13, 2013

A Fancy Worm

Before I "discovered" Wildwood Park with my camera, I took lots of pictures of critters that I found in my yard as I tended my flowers. One day in July of 2008, I found an interesting "worm" that was well-camouflaged on a yellow yarrow (Archillea millefoliurm) flower. I snapped several pictures and later began to try to find out the worm's species. I didn't know very much about the Internet so I asked several people what it was. No one could give me its name.

Two years later, someone suggested that I email an image of the yellow "worm" to Bug Guide, a website sponsored by Iowa State University. I did that in May of 2010 and waited until December of that year to receive an identification - it was a Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata) caterpillar, not a worm! I also read in the Guide that "the caterpillar adorns its body with plant fragments, usually flowers petals, to camouflage it as it feeds." No wonder it had such a great camo outfit - it could use small petals of its favorite food! There were illustrations showing brown, lavender, and orange ones. I had also gotten a photo of my critter on a yarrow leaf.

I had to wait two more years - another lesson in patience - before I saw a Wavy-lined Emerald moth. In December of 2012, I found one resting on the restroom wall in Wildwood (Bug Guide provided the identification.). 

Bug Guide has become one of my favorite and most useful websites. Experts from all over the United States and Canada identify and provide other interesting information about bugs, spider, butterflies, and moths. The tiny yellow caterpillar was identified by John and Jane Balaban who live in Skokie, Illinois. During the past three years, they have identified many more critters for me. Scroll down to the previous article to learn about this interesting couple.


Citizen Scientists

In October, my husband and I drove up to Waukesha, Wisconsin, to visit our grandchildren. About a week or so before we left, I had sent a critter to Bug Guide to find out what it was. The identity had been sent to me by John and Jane Balaban who live in Illinois and who have sent me much information during the three  years that I have been using the website. When I emailed a “thank you” to the Balabans, I mentioned that we would be driving through Chicago, and they invited us to stop by.

The Balabans live in the village of Skokie which is on the edge of Chicago. They are also about five minutes from the Bunker Hill Forest Preserve where they volunteer as Stewards who guide groups and work with them to care for the natural areas. My husband and I were surprised to see protected recreational and natural areas in the middle of such a large densely urban area. They welcomed us into their home and then drove us to the Forest Preserve.

As we walked along the path, Jane asked to take photos of our visit. Ah, yes, someone else who knows the value of documenting fun and interesting events! Perhaps she had read my mind?

                          We spent a few minutes making sure that each of us was in a photo.

Jane pointed out Fringed Gentian  (Gentianopsis crinita) flowers tucked in the tall grasses. I had never seen that specie of gentian before and was impressed with its gently ragged petals.

We also looked up into a tree to see a honeysuckle species that had bright red fruit and lovely round leaves.   "Round-leaved Honeysuckle (Lambertia orbifolia)", said Jane.

Next, John showed us adult treehoppers, Enchenopa and their egg masses on branches of Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata). Dr. Cote has also seen similar treehoppers in Wildwood. The eggs look like a white crust.These tiny critters have only a single name, the genus, because scientists have not yet decided what to name the specie. 

As we walked through the tall grass, John pointed out a Chinese Mantis resting in an open spot. It was a cool day, and the critter was not easily startled so I picked it up carefully and put it on John’s hand so I could get a closer shot of it as it posed in the bright sunlight.


                                                    What a cheerful, welcoming face!

As the Balabans and I shared our interests in preserving the beauty and usefulness of nature around us in our respective geographic areas and our interests in learning as much as possible about all living things, we decided that we had one trait in common - we are all Citizen Scientists.