Wildlife

Zebra Longwing: The Friendliest Butterfly Around

A longtime favorite of staff and visitors alike, the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius) is native from South America to south Texas and Florida, and occasionally an immigrant can be found as far north as Nebraska! The zebra longwing is the state butterfly of Florida.

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What’s a Little Frass Flicking Between Friends?

Cecropia moth Caterpillar

I am sure that most of you know what I am referring to when I say “leap year.” Although this is not a leap year, I am suggesting that we unofficially call 2015 “Lep Year”—“lep” being short for Lepidoptera (from the Latin “scaly wing”), the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. It has probably been a decade or more since I have seen the diversity and abundance of butterflies and moths that I have seen this past spring and summer.

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Shrew-ed Observations

Several years ago, while walking the nature trail in McDonald Woods, I stopped, having heard a high-pitched squeaking emanating from the sedges and grasses along side the trail. (This was when my hearing was still acute enough to detect such high-frequency sounds.) It took me a while, but based on the emphatic commotion, I finally realized I was hearing either a romantic interlude or territorial dispute between two of the smallest carnivorous mammals in our woodland: shrews.

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For Some Birds, Constructing a Nest Could Be a Stretch

While working out in the woods this winter, a small lump on the branch of a young elm tree caught my attention. At first I thought it might be a gall, or an injury that had healed-over. On closer inspection, the lump turned out to be a ruby-throated hummingbird nest from last summer. 

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Eastern screech-owl: Tiny hunter of the night

In the middle of the night, an 8-inch bundle of feathers and hollow bones projects a haunting, mysterious sound. It sounds like the rising and falling whinny of a horse, followed by a piercing tremolo. Though it sounds far away, the bird—an eastern screech-owl—could likely be right above your head (that is, if you are out in the middle of the woods at night).

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Five Butterflies to Find at Butterflies & Blooms

Butterflies are sometimes called “flying flowers,” so it’s easy to see why butterflies are always a sought-after addition to any garden. With their range of colors, patterns, and shapes, they bring beauty and life to any environment. Plus, they are fun to see. Find these five winged friends flying, sunning themselves, or having a snack at the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden this summer.

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What are those Bugs?!

They’re all over the Learning Center and maybe around your house, too. They are boxelder bugs, and although they are a nuisance, they are harmless.

So while they are bugging us, let’s find some things to admire about them.

First let’s answer the question: Why are they all here right now?

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Squirrel Drey Query

Most people recognize a squirrel nest, called a drey, when they see one. The eastern gray squirrels in our region build dreys in trees for shelter and protection from the elements. What you see as a messy clump of leaves is actually a structure formed from sticks and then lined with leaves and other materials to make it a dry and cozy home.

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