Posts Tagged ‘burrows’

American Toad

I walked around the corner of the house, and

there was a toad, still, not moving.

It measured roughly three inches in length.

They can live to 10 years, or even longer. They hibernate in burrows through the winter.

I’m not sure what’s covering its eye. It was gone the next time I walked past … an extra eye lid maybe?

The toad was gone in the evening when I walked by. I hope I’m lucky and see it again.

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Great Spangled Fritillary

Great spangled fritillary … sounds like royalty, doesn’t it?

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It’s a common butterfly here in southern Illinois … except for this year after a harsh winter.

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They’re a large butterfly, measuring from 2.6 to 3.5 inches. They also go by the scientific name Speyeria cybele cybele.

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The silver spots on the underside of their hindwings are quite distinctive.

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There’s a single generation of them a year, and the adults fly from mid-May to early October.

Now here’s the interesting thing … the caterpillars feed only on violets. The adult lays an egg near a violet plant. The egg hatches, and the teeny caterpillar burrows into the ground. It stays there all winter without eating. The caterpillar comes out of hibernation in the spring, and then it starts eating on the young violets.

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The variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)  is much less common in southern Illinois. They start migrating north in April. They also feed on violets, pansies, passion-flower and maypops.

Early-Morning Visitor

Since the foxes moved on, the only mammal feeding in the backyard has been rabbits. Not early this morning.

The groundhog obviously found this cluster of resprouting trees quite appetizing. It would pull a stem out and strip the leaves, just munching away.

Cautious and checked around the backyard

We’ve had groundhogs under the barn over the years, usually in late spring, and just for a short time. I would plant flowers during the day. The plants would be gone the next day. The ground hogs would run under the barn if I caught them out.

In the summer groundhogs (also called woodchucks) are active early morning and another hour later in the afternoon. The rest of their time is spent in their burrows. Apparently they use strip mines across Illinois for their burrows. Just so happens we have one behind our house. All we see of it from our house is a pine-covered hill.

Groundhogs don’t usually climb trees. Buffy and I rounded the corner of the weed patch last summer and caught this young one out in the open. It went up the nearest possible place to hide.

I took several pictures. It never moved. Buffy kept standing on her hind legs, trying to reach it, giving me looks like I should help her.

Wolf Spider

I usually don’t see wolf spiders unless I’m committing neatness in the yard. This morning I was moving rocks. The first flat rock I lifted had 100’s of ants and eggs under it. That created pandemonium. The next few rocks also had ants. Then the next rock was flat on the ground. This disturbed a few dried leaves, and this wolf spider ran out and stopped. Usually they don’t pose like this. It must have wanted blog notoriety?

Wolf spiders don’t spin a web, and they roam around at night hunting for food. Most live in burrows in the ground. The female  lays her eggs and wraps them in a large ball web. The ball with this one was roughly 1/2 inch long.  Then she attaches it to her spinnerets and drags it around with her until the eggs hatch about a week later.   Now it gets even more interesting: the spiderlings hatch and climb up her legs and onto her back. She carries dozens of them around on her until they’re old enough to feed themselves. I’ve yet to see one carrying its young.

I searched and searched online to find out how she feeds the young. There are more than 2,000 species of wolf spiders. I found where some don’t feed their young, some feed a liquid and other spiderlings eat their egg yolk. Adults feed on insects, other spiders and similar prey.

Adults are usually patterned with a mixture of black, gray and brown. Like other spiders, they have 8 eyes, 2 body parts (cephalothorax and abdomen), and fang-like mouth parts called chelicerae. These are used to hold prey, inject venom and to eat.

Earlier this spring I removed a large patch of lemon thyme and the stones I had underneath the plants. This uncovered ants, snails, leeches, caterpillars, roly polys and lots of spiders. The picture below is one of the wolf spiders I uncovered.

I know better than to have expectations when it comes to finding specific things in nature, like a female wolf spider carrying her young. Someday it might happen.