Category: ecosystems



oh man oh man this is bad

some people in my neighborhood have a passionvine and it often hosts gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings

just the other day my mom told me she saw tons of caterpillars on it

and today it smelled awful over there and theres dead and dying caterpillars all over the sidewalk, it looked like some were trying to evacuate. some were convulsing. there was stuff on the passionvine. i think they poisoned it. not only were all the caterpillars dying, but there were some ants convulsing from eating poisoned caterpillars. i cant feed them, so i was just trying to transfer all i could (including an egg i found) to these little vine sprouts in the grass away from the main plant, knowing full well its not enough to feed them but knowing its their only hope

i also took one of the vine sprouts that i found further away from where i was dumping the rescues and pulled it out since (and this is another terrible thing) that grass gets mowed and the sprouts get cut down

i rolled the root in rooting powder and put it in wet paper towels, does this sound good for getting the plant ready for transplant? im hoping i can eventually get my own passion vine growing, and we will never ever poison it, because its FOR THE BABIES DAMN IT!!!

any advice would be great, but thats mostly about the vine i took, im pretty sure all those caterpillars are a lost cause 🙁

So so so sorry, that’s horrible 🙁

Passion vine grows like a weed. The growth can be a little slow earlier in the season, but in Texas at least, by later spring the things are exploding with how fast they grow. Towards the end of the summer, the vines were practically invasive all over the back of my yard. I don’t know about transplanting it, but I recently pulled a root out of my garden and transplanted it into a hanging pot (no rooting powder because I don’t have any, I just water frequently). The paper towel sounds good, just make sure it doesn’t end up molding. If you water frequently, you might be find just putting it directly into a well-drained pot. I’ve had success doing this with random plants I’ve found throughout my yard when I replanted them in other locations. Just water frequently!

Gulf Fritillary butterflies are also EPIC egg-layers. They will be back. I don’t even know how they all found my passion vine, but they found it, and they covered it in eggs, and I had butterflies for a solid 9 months. I’m sorry you lost your early season babies, but there will be more. You’re right about those ones being a lost cause. The poisons will destroy their GI tract, so once they ingest it, that’s it. It’s too bad, they probably spray any wasp nests that pop up in their yard, too. I never had any caterpillars mature outside because the wasps took all the young caterpillars to feed their young, Why do humans keep messing things up?

April 8, 2019









But seriously, when we got our property, it was all just…grass. A sterile grass moonscape, like a billion other yards. With two big old maple trees. Just grass and maples, that was it. 

But then I got my grubby little paws on it, and I immediately stopped fertilizing, spraying, and bagging up grass clippings and leaves. I ripped up sod and put in flowers and vegetables. I put down nice thick blankets of mulch around the flowers and vegetables. 

When I first was sweating my way through stripping sod, I saw a grand total of 1 worm and 0 ladybugs. The ground was compacted into something that would bend shovel blades. 

Now, six years later, I can’t dig a planting hole without turning up fourteen earthworms, and there are so many ladybugs here. Not the invasive asian lady beetles; native ladybugs. They winter over in the mulch and in the brush pile. I see thousands of them. 

The soil is soft and rich. There are birds that come to eat, and bees of many sorts.

Like this is something that you, yourself, can absolutely change. This is something that you, personally, can make a difference in.

Like, last year I watched no fewer than twenty-nine monarch caterpillars grow up on my milkweed and fly away as butterflies. I watched swallowtails and moths grow. There are hummingbirds fighting over flowers now.

I did that. Me. You can do the same.

I would like to learn how to do this. Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming. I just want to find someone who can come over for a cuppa, and we can wander the yard and they can make me a plan. 

Preferably a very easy to follow, doesn’t take too much time every day plan.

It’s not nearly so intimidating as it sounds.

You can do a whole lot of good just by not spraying your yard, not mowing it so often, and not raking up leaves and grass.

But as a certified Lazy Ass Gardener, I can tell you for 100% certain that this is attainable, and requires absolutely zero, none, nada, zilch expensive or complicated equipment.

I don’t even have a plan. I just do things.

Wait so, dont mow as much, dont pick up the grass when you mow, and dont pick up leaves and your grass is healthier? my dad likes to mow the lawn every one to 2 weeks in the summer💀 what other tips do you guys have?

Yup. Those grass and leaf clippings rot down and fertilize the soil.

Grass does BETTER when it’s not mown short, and gives more hiding places to all sorts of insects.

Don’t spray. Let the bugs and ‘weeds’ live.

i have a 10’x10’ piece of garden that i initially used to grow things, but i abandoned it completely and now its absolutely covered in “weeds” and i even have a volunteer shrub that makes berries! the amount of native bees and other insects i attract is incredible. and all i do to maintain it is nothing.

For reals. I have to mow my front yard (I live in an HOA… ugh), but I don’t bag my clippings. I never water my yard (and I live in Texas!), but my grass is green all year. The clippings and mulched leaves keep in moisture and they’re nature’s fertilizer! Lizards and frogs hide under the leaves and clippings, and when you remove those, you are removing their habitat. Bugs will show up and munch on the clippings, and their waste adds more nutrients as well. I don’t fertilize. I don’t spray. I let nature do its thing. Even just in the front, there are bugs everywhere. I’ve found the tiny green sweat bees nesting in the ground under my rose bush, and the giant cicada killer wasps had a nest somewhere in my front yard last year–I couldn’t find it, but they were pollinating the sorrelvine that randomly showed up and decided to climb up my oak tree (which was the host plant for the Vine Sphinx moths and the first batch of sawflies I raised!)

In the back? I planted a few things in a small garden area, and I intentionally planted three (3) trees, but I’m busy/lazy and the back yard became the paradise jungle it is when I was writing my Master’s thesis after moving into this house, and I never had the heart to start mowing it. A bunch more trees decided to start growing on their own and I constantly have to murder soapberry and hackberry and elm saplings. My yard is covered in a mix of native plants and invasive bunch grass, in addition to random grains and sunflowers growing under the bird feeders. They all serve as hosts for insects. 

In less than three years, I have documented almost 1000 species of plants, insects, birds, fungi, slime molds, and mammals. My yard is 0.10 acres. I have ladybugs crawling out of my ears. The larvae are pupating all over my horse skeleton!!!

So yeah. Want species diversity in your yard? Plant native plants. Are you a lazy ass like me and want species diversity? Then don’t do anything, congratulations, nature still wins (just look out for all those invasives, and have fun pulling out catchweed -_-)

April 5, 2019

thebluehue22: nanonaturalist: nanonaturalist:…








Millions of tiny mystery caterpillars -_-
What do they eat? WHO KNOWS???
What do they turn into? HELL IF I KNOW

Eggs were covered in white fuzz from mamas belly and they have five pairs of prolegs, egg mass was on live oak. I gave them the Polyphagous Caterpillar Variety Pack buffet (rose, live oak, hackberry, and sage). They should eat ONE of those.

Tiny mystery babs are the WORST because how do you keep them in a habitat??? They are SO SMOL. They’re in a lidded food container for now… hopefully they eat everything and grow very large

October 7, 2018

OKAY results of the taste test are in. They are delicious. Wait no that’s not what I meant!!

They nibbled all the plants, but they’re going nuts over rose leaves. So, that’s what they get!

October 8, 2018

The very hungry caterpillars

They are only eating rose, and they have tiny adorable spots. I think they may be tortricid moths.

October 9, 2018

Their hunger is endless

Getting big! Eating the flowers and making pink rose poops 😂

October 12, 2018

#you lucky bastard #where do you keep finding all these babies

In my yard! (with one two exceptions). My recommendation for improving your moth egg/caterpillar-finding skills: 

(1) Get a good headlamp
(2) Go outside at night

It helps if you have access to an area that is somewhat “wild,” which for me is my yard. It can also be a neighborhood hiking trail or the ditch a couple blocks from your home. I don’t treat anything with pesticides, and I’ll let random weeds pop up and do their thing. In many cases, weeds are just native wildflowers, which means they are often the preferred food for lots of insects. Or, you can have a regular garden where you grow vegetables, flowers, bushes, ground cover, trees, etc, but just don’t use pesticides. This includes the whole “spraying the plant with soap” thing. That kills insects, which is why it keeps them from eating your plants.

Most moths and caterpillars are active at night. I frequently find moths in the act of laying eggs (I found a Polyphemus moth laying eggs on the side of my house, when I brought her inside and she blessed me with abundant green squishy babs). ALSO, caterpillars and moth/butterfly eggs are often very well camouflaged, and on the underside of leaves. During the day, they are all backlit and effectively become invisible. At night? They’re no longer backlit, and you have the benefit of shadows and superior color perception to find them. Other clues: piles of caterpillar poops, nibbles at the edges of leaves (or missing leaves entirely)

One more tip: Go outside, at night and during the day, and look for bugs every day. I don’t find eggs or caterpillars every time I go outside.  But I go outside so often that I’m bound to find something.

October 13, 2018

Only issue is I actually do keep my plants for them to be thriving and healthy, so this many caterpillars eating my single rose plant would be very detrimental. =/

These are very good concerns to have! I will say, the more “wild” and the less pesticide you use, the less damage a hoard of caterpillars can do to your plants. Unless you get hit by an invasive species, you will never have this many caterpillars on your flowers. 

(1) A healthy ecosystem is balanced. In a healthy ecosystem, you will never have more plant-eating animals than your plants can support, because they will be predated by animal-eating-animals. The reason moths and butterflies lay SO MANY EGGS is because the chances any of them will make it is so small that they have to.
(2) Fate! These eggs were on the underside of a live oak leaf 6 ft off the ground, at the time of year in Texas when it still gets into the 90′s every day. The rose bush is very large and not very close to where the eggs were laid. Any babs who did not instantly get eaten by spiders, ants, wasps, assassin bugs, lady bugs, etc., would likely have shriveled up and died in the hot Texas sun. The few survivors who DID make it to the rose bush would hardly make a dent in it.

I have a passion vine in the back yard, which attracted Gulf Fritillary butterflies eager to lay a million eggs. I also had milkweed for Monarchs and Queens. I had to bring in every single egg/baby pillar I found because they would be taken by wasps within a day of hatching if I didn’t. Every time I watered my garden, I would find several lady wasps wandering around all my plants looking for baby food. Very interesting to see them go straight for the “good” plants. Right now, the weather is starting to cool down a big, and the wasps are slowing down their serious egg-laying duties. This means: for the first time, the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are able to survive long enough to pupate. And the damage they are doing to my passion vine? There is no damage, really. For every leaf they chew off, the vine starts growing a new branch. It’s getting ridiculous.

If you have a valuable plant, it’s okay to treat it to keep it safe. It’s not necessary to treat your entire yard with pesticide, and pesticides will kill the pollinators who help your plant produce fruits and seeds. Another consideration: there may be some pesticide-resistant insects who can damage your plants, but the pesticide will kill the insects who would otherwise be eating them and controlling them naturally.

October 13, 2018

An Invasive Moth is Recorded in Ontario, Canad…


This Box Tree Moth, seen in Ontario, Canada by kyukich is our Observation of the Week!

As our world becomes more interconnected through commerce and transportation, the likelihood of organisms native to one region of the planet being transported another region has of course increased, and the Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis) is an example of how quickly this can happen.

Originally hailing from eastern Asia, caterpillars of the Box Tree Moth host on plants of the genus Buxus, which are often used in for hedges and topiaries. In 2006 or 2007 its first European sightings were in Germany, likely brought in on Box Trees shipped from China. By 2010 it had caused severe defoliation (with many fully defoliated plants dying) of the country’s largest Buxus forest in the Grenzarch-Whylen Nature Reserve. It has spread to much of Europe and Britain and is also established in Sochi, Russia when it was likely imported with topiary plants for the 2014 Olympic Games. While some wasps and flies are known to parasitize Box Tree Moths in their native habitats, very little is known about them, and the larvae seem to be distasteful to birds often being found regurgitated or not eaten.

The moth has not made a splash in the Americas, but several specimens were found in Ontario, Canada in late August of 2018, including the one photographed above, by Karen Yucich. Karen has been an iNaturalist user since 2016 and says “I don’t get into fine points of anatomy or capture insects for close study – my forte is to keep an eye out for small creatures on vegetation and then try to quickly get a decent ID shot.

That was what happened on the morning of August 25 this year. When I returned home late morning, I paused before entering our walkway to check our small wild pollinator garden. Sometimes if I go too fast I scare away something interesting, so I’ve learned to check first. This time I saw what looked like a Melonworm Moth (Diaphania hyalinata), a species I’ve seen in south Texas, fluttering inside the Indian hemp…So I carefully snuck past to get my long-zoom camera (Lumix FZ60), and then took a few shots while it moved over to our neighbour’s ornamental shrubs. It soon disappeared into their overgrown boxwood hedge.

After looking at her photos, Karen realized this she was not familiar with this particular moth, so she called her friend Dave Beadle (@dbeadle), co-author of The Peterson Field Guide to the Moths of Northeastern North America and manager of Ontario Moths. Dave tells me,

It all came as a bit of a surprise really. Karen phoned me to say she’d photographed a strange moth and had put it in iNat if I’d care to have a look. By the time I checked it out it had already been correctly identified by Karen and confirmed. I was amazed since this species was not really on my radar to occur in Ontario. I knew that this East Asian native had become rather widespread across much of Western Europe as an adventive species, but didn’t really think of it making it this far!

Another observation of a Box Tree Moth in the Toronto area was also posted in a local Facebook group, and just a few days later Dave himself found one (photo below) in his backyard moth trap, explaining “I knew exactly what it was before I even opened the trap!”

Mike Burrell (@mikeburrell), a Project Zoologist for the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC), tells me “[these look like] like the first records for Canada…This is certainly a great example of Citizen Science for early detection of exotic species.” 

It will take some more digging to see if these are the first sightings for all of North America, but so far I haven’t been able to find any other North American records on either iNaturalist or Butterflies and Moths of North America, so it’s possible they are among the first for the continent. Dave Beadle explains, “I suspect it has the potential to become more common and widespread in Ontario, wherever its larval food plant occurs. This, of course, rather depends upon whether the eggs/larvae can survive the Ontario winters. If it made it into the southern United States it probably would not have a problem surviving the winter.”

Karen (above, in Manizales, Colombia) is not only a backyard naturalist. She volunteers at High Park Nature and helps coordinate the High Park Moth Night, which is co-sponsored by the High Park Nature Centre and the Toronto Entomologists’ Association. It was actually through High Park Nature that she met David Kaposi (@dkaposi), who introduced her to iNaturalist (and alerted me to this finding). Interestingly, she got into nature after her husband, Bob, bought her a field guide for birds in 1980. “I didn’t use it but he got hooked!” she says. “Birding became a big part of his life and we both learned a lot more about nature. We started taking nature trips to local sites and then to the neotropics. In the mid-90s he became similarly passionate about butterflies, and I would photograph some of them with my old SLR camera. After we both moved into digital cameras, Bob became the more serious butterfly photographer and I began to pay more attention to other insects.”

She has embraced iNaturalist and says

I’ve found [it] very useful for identifying species in our region, and especially useful for insects I photograph on our winter trips to Central and South America, for which reference sources are hard to find. Leafhoppers and other true bugs are my particular favorites, but I look out for all kinds of creatures, especially the tiny ones that others may not notice. It’s like finding a secret little gem! And then being able to share my sightings with others and to contribute as a citizen scientist via iNaturalist adds a whole new dimension!

– by Tony Iwane.

– Over 2,000 observations have been recorded for the High Park Moth Study project on iNaturalist! 

– Mike Burrell has helped to create and manage the NHIC Rare species of Ontario project and iNaturalist users have recorded over 15,000 observations of nearly 1,000 rare species!

– The European Boxwood and Topiary Society has a great page detailing the Box Tree Moth and its spread in Europe.

– Check out this time lapse of Box Tree Moth caterpillars going to town on a plant. 

An example of how important iNaturalist is for the early detection of invasive species!

September 9, 2018

pterygota: nanonaturalist: arcticarthropod: …







The cutest baby rat is trying her hardest to drink some water, but the cutest baby cardinals keep scaring her. It’s almost as if birds *enjoy* being buttheads.

August 13, 2018

Thats a mouse 😀 baby rats look a bit different from them and are unlikely to be apart from their parents until an adolescent age which they’re a good bit larger. If i were to hazard a guess i’d say its a type of field mouse.

It very well could be! I trained my brain on Rat because I definitely do have a rat family in that spot which definitely is very fertile. They had young with them in early June. Might be too soon for another batch. This was the first time I saw this precious fluffball, so I don’t have higher quality images yet.

Is that a rescue stick because that’s the sweetest

Yes :3

I put sticks in so beetles and other clumsy fliers can get out. But they have also been used frequently by birds and wasps to perch on while drinking. I think the opossums keep knocking them out because I always have to put them back in the morning.

I added all the waters so I could get my yard certified / get my certified wildlife habitat sign. It just came in a few days ago 😀

Need to figure out where to hang it up so the neighbors can see it and not think I’m a crazy/lazy yard-neglecting nutjob (I mean, I am all those things but for a reason!)

oh i remember reading about those! if i ever have a place of my own id love to make it a certified wildlife habitat!!

in the meantime i have one 10’x10’ patch of neglect that doesnt meet the requirements. still fun though because even if it doesnt fit the requirements its still a fantastic bug habitat

There’s no size requirement! You’d be amazed how easy it is to create a healthy habitat for wildlife. And “wildlife” includes insects + other arthropods!

Here is the checklist [link](sorry, PDF and I can’t type it out from my phone):

You could easily put up a couple bird feeders and set out some potted flowers to meet the food requirement. Water, you could set out a little shallow dish for bees and butterflies to puddle, just make sure it always has water in it. For shelter, you could have a “decorative” wood pile (stack of logs or twigs—maybe they could be the walls for your potted flowers?), and if your potted flowers are bushy enough for bugs to hide in, you’ve meet the requirements. Places to raise young includes host plants for caterpillars (which could be your potted flowers again!), and your “nesting box” could be a couple holes drilled into logs in your wood pile (for solitary bees). To meet sustainable practices, make sure your flowers are native to your area, and don’t use pesticides.

That’s it! It seems daunting, but creating a healthy habitat for wildlife is easier than you think!

August 14, 2018

DID YOU KNOW: mushrooms are the fungal equival…

DID YOU KNOW: mushrooms are the fungal equivalent to flowers?

The actual organism, the fungi itself, is a much less noticeable network of mycelium. In the third photo, the white stuff in the mulch you may think of as the mushroom’s “roots” are actually the primary organism. Unlike plants, fungi do not need sunlight to grow, and they are primarily decomposers of dead matter. Some species decompose things that are still alive (rude!), but for the most part, fungi live their lives quietly out of sight. When they sense the conditions are good for spreading spores, they send up mushrooms (or other fruiting body, depending on the species), and off they go! So mushrooms may seem to pop up out of nowhere, but the fungi have been there all along!

Many trees have symbiotic relationships with their own special fungi species, so when you are outside “mushrooming,” it’s a good idea to remember what tree it was growing under to make identification easier later. These relationships are necessary and essential for both fungi and tree: the fungi gets to steal some sugar from the tree roots, in exchange for improved water absorption and additional nutrients. Many species of tree can’t survive without their fungi friends!

Photo of some mushroom TBD last month. Posted August 12, 2018



“Fish are some of our least visible urban animals, but their underwater world is not so very far away from ours. The things we put on our land, and specifically our lawns, are what we put in our groundwater, streams, and aquatic wildlife. From pesticides to erosion, excessive lawn maintenance can have a serious impact on the delicate chemical balance of a river ecosystem.” This painting will be appearing at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Illustration gallery for this summer’s Urban Wildlife show, sponsored by @creatureconserve. It’s inspired by the Trout Friendly Lawns initiative, which aims to raise awareness about how lawn care impacts native trout populations. A lawn full of drought-resistant native plants is the first step toward stewardship of the watersheds in which we live. #conservation #ecology #illustration #painting #watercolor #art #wildlifeart #animals #animalart #animalcreatives #fish #trout #flowers #wildflowers #creatureconserve #risd