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Insects! (In December?)

We followed the OHC nature study idea posted for this week, which was “Preparation for Winter — Animals.”  We did a little research about which animals hibernate and which don’t.  We discovered there is a lot of conflicting info out there about who is a “true hibernator” and who is not!  But, since I didn’t think I should count on us stumbling into the cave of a  hibernating bear, I opted for something that might be more accessible.  I have this great little book I picked up at the Green Valley Book Fair for $4.00 called Stokes Guide to Observing Insect Lives (Donald Stokes).  It’s so much more than a field guide.  It includes information on the life cycles of various insects, their habits, where to look for them, and it even has a break down of which insects are best observed in which season — including winter!  In looking over the list of winter insects, I found three I thought we might be able to actually see, or at least see evidence of here around our farm.  And sure enough, after knowing where to look, we actually did find them!

Bag Worm

The evergreen bagworm makes a cocoon covered with twigs placed vertically. (The Abbot’s bagworm has twigs placed horizontally — that’s how we knew which this was!)  This one has tiny cedar twigs covering the outside as well as . . . cedar berries!  We learned that there are eggs “hibernating” in the female bag worm’s cocoon, but the male cocoon will be empty in winter.

Grass Spider egg case

Grass Spiders lay their eggs in cases such as this silky white one under the bark of trees.  Inside the silky stuff there is actually a waterproof sac that holds the eggs until they hatch.

Ribbed Pine Borer

And our most exciting find was this Pine Borer.  And just why (you might ask!) was this creepy fellow an exciting find?  It’s precisely because we read in our above mentioned book an exact description of  a hibernating Pine Borer.  And we also read exactly where to look for them — under the bark of dead pine trees.  One distinct characteristic of these creepy crawlies is that they make a little circle of bark “shreds” and crawl in there just after emerging from the pupa to the adult stage.  The adult bug then stays tucked in this little nest until spring.  We were able to find a dead pine tree (we knew it had to be a pine, because it was in the middle of a thick stand of other pines and had similar bark and branch structure), and as we started pulling back the loose bark of the trunk, what do you know — this little buggie turned up!

The dead pine tree

Yes, it was almost dark when we took our walk this time, but not so dark as the pictures lead you to believe. 🙂


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