Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Polyphemus Moth Update 2013

Remember that large bright green caterpillar I featured in my Polyphemus Caterpillar & Cocoon post in September 2012?

Recall, I took the caterpillar home in a container lined with paper towels.  It was one of those rare days that I didn't bring my camera to work....anyway, I brought the caterpillar home to take some shots, and while I was downloading the photos, the caterpillar decided to make its cocoon!  And, not having any leaves, it used the paper towels to anchor its cocoon.
Usually, a polyphemus caterpillar would wrap a leaf around itself before making the cocoon--here's a photo of a different caterpillar so you can so what the process would look like normally:
So....after a long winter sitting protected in my garage, and several weeks of the cocoon resting in a clear container on my front porch (to acclimate it to outdoor weather conditions and allow proper humidity), the moth emerged on Wednesday, May 22, 2013....and she's a girl!
I can tell she's a girl because she has thinner, less bushy antennae than a male.  This is what her antennae look like:
Compared to a male's antennae (I posted this two weeks ago--the newly emerged male was perched on a window outside the education center.)
So, after hanging around all day and letting her wings pump up and dry out, off she flew into the night, hopefully to mate and produce more of these breathtakingly beautiful moths.  I leave you with a close up of her eyespots which are thought to startle away any would-be predators.  What incredible color and detail!
More off the beaten path in two weeks!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Spring Things 2013

Here at the Museum, it's a busy time--not just for people, but for animals, too!  I caught a few busy insects over the last few weeks.  When you think of "busy" do you think of ....bees?  Yep, around here, the bees are definitely "busy as bees!"  Here's a photo of a honeybee--note the "pollen baskets" on her hind legs.  When a bee goes from flower to flower, not only does she drink up nectar to take back to the hive to make honey, she'll also pack pollen onto her back legs.  Bees will mix nectar and pollen together and make "bee bread" a food that is fed to developing larvae.  In this photo, the bee is flying to redbud flowers:
Recently, our hive here at the Museum swarmed.  When a new queen is born, the old queen usually leaves and takes part of the hive with her and leaves--or "swarms" to establish a hive in a different location.  Our hive is on exhibit on the upper floor of the Museum.  The hive exhibit and has a clear short tube that connects with a window then passes to the outside.  Visitors can watch the bees in the hive working and watch as the worker bees come and go into the hive.  By the way, did you know that all the worker bees are female?  As the bees swarmed, they gathered on the outside of the window and hung in "chains" or masses of bees all holding on to each other:
Springtime is also the time when moths that have over-wintered as cocoons now emerge as adults.  This beautiful polyphemus moth (spotted by fellow educator Judy Molnar--thanks, Judy!) had just emerged and was perched on a window outside the Wason Education Center.  Ironically, it was sitting on the butterfly decal on the window (the decals help prevent bird strikes.)  The second photo is a close up of the moth's antennae.  I can tell this moth is a boy--males have "feathery" antennae that are bushier than females':
That's all for now..more in two weeks!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Raccoon Antics 1

With their beautiful plush fur....
....and striped tails:
Raccoons are certainly some of the favorite creatures that our guests love to watch.  It sometimes takes a little patience to find them in their exhibit area--they are fond of naps and frequently choose to hide out in their log den:
The male is usually the boldest and the first one to come out of the den:
Hey, wait!  Don't leave without me!--the female is pretty quick to follow him out of the den:
When they aren't sleeping, the raccoons might be feeling for "wild" food at the water's edge--an occasional fish or crayfish perhaps. (The exhibit butts up to the edge of Deer Park pond.)  No, they really don't "wash" their food, but with sensitive and surprisingly dexterous front paws they feel for their food.  Sometimes our animal keepers will hide food in the exhibit for them to find, too, so the raccoons get plenty of enrichment.  This is really a fun behavior for our guests to watch!
Guests often ask me, "What's all the plastic around the tree trunks for?"  Well, raccoons are excellent climbers!  Here's a few photos of the male raccoon climbing a tree....and climbing down, head first!
That's all for now....more off the beaten path in two weeks!