By Joe Sebastiani, Members Program Team Leader
At this time of year, insects are abundant and easy to find and photograph. Last week I tried recording insects on video at Ashland Nature Center and the Bucktoe Creek Preserve. Most of the videos have the constant buzzing of Silver-bellied Cicada in the background, which is the sound of late summer here in Delaware. Insects are feeding on native plants, and in turn feed birds heading south. Since Black Walnuts are full of insects, these are my favorite trees to watch for migratory songbirds. The flow of energy from the sun to walnut tree to caterpillar to warbler is easy to see these days. Get outside to witness these natural connections yourself as migratory songbirds stop in our area between now and late October.
The odd and somewhat creepy Butternut Woollyworm was found on a Black Walnut, which is one of their favorite foodplants. This insect looks like a caterpillar, but is actually the larva of a sawfly, Eriocampa juglandis. Sawflies are related to wasps, but their larva look like moth or butterfly caterpillars. As you watch the Common Whitetail dragonfly, look at the abdomen flexing in and out, which is how insects breathe. The Ebony Jewelwing damselfly and the fly in the following segment are eating very small insects. Skippers are tough to identify, and I am mostly sure this is a Zabulon Skipper. If you are a skipper expert, let me know if I am wrong and what kind of skipper this is. Finally, enjoy the fall-plumage Chestnut-sided Warbler feasting on a caterpillar.