29 7 / 2014

True to its name, the fruiting body of the painted suillus (Suillus spraguei) looks like a beautiful impressionist sunset. When you see one, take a step back and look at the nearby pine trees. This fungus’ underground tendrils intertwine with pine roots, taking moisture and other substances and giving the trees a wider net through which to gather nutrients.

True to its name, the fruiting body of the painted suillus (Suillus spraguei) looks like a beautiful impressionist sunset. When you see one, take a step back and look at the nearby pine trees. This fungus’ underground tendrils intertwine with pine roots, taking moisture and other substances and giving the trees a wider net through which to gather nutrients.

27 7 / 2014

Summer beach time is also a great time to look for insects. Here are two spicebush swallowtails (Papilio troilus) on a freshwater beach. They’re “puddling,” consuming moisture and/or minerals. Butterflies become worm and battle-scarred as the season progresses, and these two have lost much or all of the long tails that give them their name, but they’re still pretty dang spectacular.

Summer beach time is also a great time to look for insects. Here are two spicebush swallowtails (Papilio troilus) on a freshwater beach. They’re “puddling,” consuming moisture and/or minerals. Butterflies become worm and battle-scarred as the season progresses, and these two have lost much or all of the long tails that give them their name, but they’re still pretty dang spectacular.

26 7 / 2014

Clubtail dragonflies, like this black-shouldered spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus), are shaped like elite helicopters. This one was patrolling a beach where I was swimming. The name “spinyleg” comes from the many spines that run down its legs and help it capture prey.

Clubtail dragonflies, like this black-shouldered spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus), are shaped like elite helicopters. This one was patrolling a beach where I was swimming. The name “spinyleg” comes from the many spines that run down its legs and help it capture prey.

25 7 / 2014

National Moth Week is almost over, but you still have the weekend to find a program near you. At a moth night, people set up lights and shine them on white sheets, and then they wait and see which of the many, many moth species stop by. It’s endlessly beautiful and exciting, really, even if the term “moth night” doesn’t sound like a rockin’ time. Here’s one find, a joyful virbia (Virbia laeta).

National Moth Week is almost over, but you still have the weekend to find a program near you. At a moth night, people set up lights and shine them on white sheets, and then they wait and see which of the many, many moth species stop by. It’s endlessly beautiful and exciting, really, even if the term “moth night” doesn’t sound like a rockin’ time. Here’s one find, a joyful virbia (Virbia laeta).

23 7 / 2014

Here’s a ragged fringed orchis (Platanthera lacera). There are many orchid species in the northeast, but most are rarely seen, since they often grow in inhospitable places. That’s probably for the best: orchids are frequently targeted by poachers. This delicate beauty is pollinated by moths.

Here’s a ragged fringed orchis (Platanthera lacera). There are many orchid species in the northeast, but most are rarely seen, since they often grow in inhospitable places. That’s probably for the best: orchids are frequently targeted by poachers. This delicate beauty is pollinated by moths.

22 7 / 2014

The harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) is our only carnivorous butterfly. No, I’m serious. Dead serious. As a caterpillar, the harvester preys on other insects: certain wooly aphids. As an adult, it ignores flowers and only drinks honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by those aphids. Tiny, voracious, adorable - why isn’t there a harvester movie? I’d watch it in 3D.

The harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) is our only carnivorous butterfly. No, I’m serious. Dead serious. As a caterpillar, the harvester preys on other insects: certain wooly aphids. As an adult, it ignores flowers and only drinks honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by those aphids. Tiny, voracious, adorable - why isn’t there a harvester movie? I’d watch it in 3D.

21 7 / 2014

A snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) peers through the underbrush. I’ve followed these animals’ tracks many times, but it took me years to find one in the flesh. They mostly feed at night, and they’re camouflage experts, changing to white in the winter and brown in the summer. With snow coming later and later due to climate change, these hares are finding themselves woefully overdressed.

A snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) peers through the underbrush. I’ve followed these animals’ tracks many times, but it took me years to find one in the flesh. They mostly feed at night, and they’re camouflage experts, changing to white in the winter and brown in the summer. With snow coming later and later due to climate change, these hares are finding themselves woefully overdressed.

20 7 / 2014

My butterfly-watching friends have let me in on a secret: when butterflies are backlit by the sun, they turn into glowing stained glass. Here some of my favorite backlit butterflies: an orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme), a silver-bordered fritillary (Boloria selene), an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), a viceroy (Limenitis archippus), a bronze copper (Lycaena hyllus), and a Harris’ checkerspot (Chlosyne harrisii).

16 7 / 2014

It’s World Snake Day, and here’s my favorite species in the Northeast: the eastern black racer (Coluber constrictor). It’s not venomous and can’t harm people, but it compensates with sheer bravery, bluff, and as much smarts as a snake could possess. I like to think that it’s the inspiration for the beloved snake Louise the Larger from Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wind in the Door and others.

It’s World Snake Day, and here’s my favorite species in the Northeast: the eastern black racer (Coluber constrictor). It’s not venomous and can’t harm people, but it compensates with sheer bravery, bluff, and as much smarts as a snake could possess. I like to think that it’s the inspiration for the beloved snake Louise the Larger from Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wind in the Door and others.

12 7 / 2014

We often think of butterflies as denizens of sunny, open areas full of flowers. But the northern pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon) is a true forest butterfly. Rather than drinking nectar, it sips tree sap, as well as rotten fruit, mud, and other unsavory things. It’s an expert at weaving through the trees to dodge predators - this one has a triangular snip on one hindwing from a bird bite, but it lived to see another day.

We often think of butterflies as denizens of sunny, open areas full of flowers. But the northern pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon) is a true forest butterfly. Rather than drinking nectar, it sips tree sap, as well as rotten fruit, mud, and other unsavory things. It’s an expert at weaving through the trees to dodge predators - this one has a triangular snip on one hindwing from a bird bite, but it lived to see another day.