Creepy Crawly Creatures- a few Halloween surprises you might find in your restoration
October means a plentiful harvest, brilliant fall colors, pumpkins, and Halloween - a time when things get a little bit dark and spooky! By chance, have you seen anything scary in your restoration? Well, here are a few things that give us the creepy crawlies when we are working in our native restorations!
- These eight-legged web weavers might
look very intimidating but actually provide an important service to our native restorations. They come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and hunting characteristics, making them a very interesting addition to our native landscapes. Some form webs while others dig holes or hunt by the water. A very beautiful spider you might have seen in your restoration is called a Black and Yellow Garden Spider,
. They have black legs and a yellow body with black markings that look like a face! They make intricate webs to catch unsuspecting prey and will even shake their webs if our maintenance crew starts weeding a little too close for the spider's comfort (We must be a little frightening to them too). They are harmless and eat pests that can be a nuisance in your garden. They are perfect for Halloween but deserve to live happy lives in our native restorations!
- Going from eight legs to no legs at all, snakes slither through our restorations looking for food. Most of the time we only see little green, black, and yellow garter snakes. The way they quickly retreat tells us that they are more afraid of us than we are of them. They make our restorations their home and eat mostly frogs and insects, harmless to people...even if they do give some of our crew the jitters!
- These little guys can definitely make you jump in
surprise as they leap from the shoreline into the water; right at your feet! We mostly encounter Leopard frogs by the shoreline and little green tree frogs in upland areas. They are great for eating pest insects and their singing is a wonderful tell-tale sign of spring.
- We usually can't walk through a restoration without coming out of it with a few creepy looking worms or caterpillars trying to hitch a ride on our clothes. These guys come in so many different sizes, shapes, and colors; with some looking a little more alien than others. Many times the hitchhiker is in its larval stage and will soon turn into a butterfly, moth, or other insect. We often find these animals in their early larval stages in a restoration because many species use our native plants for habitat and food. For example, a Monarch butterfly needs milkweed during their larval stages to survive. It can be a little nerve-wracking to look down and suddenly see a small worm-like creature slithering on your shirt, but we just gently brush them off onto a native plant and keep working!
- These are little creatures that can certainly give
you a surprise when you find them unexpectedly underfoot. There are a few different species of field mice we come across in our restorations on a daily basis. We also find them in our greenhouses! We also see moles, shrews, voles, and other small mammals that can make their home in our restorations. As you probably know, these cagey critters are critical components in our food webs.
Even though these creepy critters might make us jump, they still have very important roles in our native ecosystems. They live very interesting and complex lives in our restorations. So, watch out this Halloween, you never know what's lurking in your scary restoration! A frightening frog, a crafty caterpillar, a sneaky snake ----ahhhhhhh!!!!!
Native Plant of the Month
Moisture: Moist or Dry
Exposure: Sun or Partial Shade
Bloom: June to September
Oxeye is a stiff-stemmed plant with rough textured and coarsely toothed leaves. It grows in clumps in full or partial sun but can handle shady conditions as well. The leaves are stalked and opposite. Their golden yellow flowers are long blooming with ray florets that have tiny notches at the ends. Oxeye thrives in dry to moist nutrient poor soils and is drought tolerant. They are often found in dry woods, wood edges, dry to mesic prairies, roadsides, and waste areas. Bees, butterflies, and beetles are attracted to the flowers and their seeds are eaten by birds. This plant is used in folk medicine. Other common names are false sunflower and oxeye sunflower.
Invasive Plant of the Month
Exposure: Sun or shade
Moisture: Dry to moist
Height: up to 20 Feet
Buckthorn is an invasive tree from Europe that was brought over in the ornamental trade. Its black berries are spread quickly by birds. It has dark grey/brown stems with long thorn-like tips on their twigs. Their twigs also have terminal buds that look like deer hooves, giving Buckthorn its name. They have dark green egg-shaped leaves that have small teeth along the edge.
Management: Now is a great time to tackle buckthorn
because its stays green later into the fall; making identification easier. For larger trees cut and treat the stumps with an herbicide. For smaller trees you can spray the leaves.
Pigeon Tremex Horntail wasp
Range: Lower Canada and Eastern United States west to Colorado
Habitat: Deciduous Woodlands
Identification: These amazing insects are not really wasps but a part of a different group called horntails. They are about 1.5 inches long with dark brown wings and lighter brown head. They have a long cylindrical body with a spear-like tip at the bottom. It is not a stinger, but actually an ovipositer, which the female uses to saw into rotting wood to lay her eggs. They also have yellow legs and stripes along the abdomen. Don't worry, these insects are non-aggressive!
The Pigeon Tremex uses maples, oaks, hickories, and other hardwood trees to lay their eggs. The larva then eat the rotting wood for food!