“Butterflies for Science?” was the invitation I emailed my friend. “YES!” she answered, “I want butterflies for my classroom. How do we do it?”
Here’s how we DON’T do it: No kits of generic caterpillars mailed 2nd Day Air with tubs of larval food paste (a “proprietary mixture of vitamins, proteins, and fats”). No butterflies released into the wild without regard to the calendar or what plants are outside.*
Our butterflies are a name brand! The Gulf Fritillary. Our caterpillar food is the real thing, the ONLY thing: this butterfly’s particular larval host plant. There would be no new Gulf Fritillaries without it.
Folklore says the inside of native persimmon seeds can predict winter weather. Alas, Folklore doesn’t say *how* to slice the seeds, which can be tricky. Look for the shape of the embryo (and future “seed leaves”):
Fork = mild
Spoon = snow
Knife = “cutting” cold
The method is as accurate as Woolly-bear caterpillar predictions, which is to say, not at all. Both are fun, but with persimmons, you get to lick your fingers.
Every morning, I resist the temptation to pluck a fig from a sidewalk tree. I walk before dawn, but the plump silhouette is clear against the brightening sky.
I’ve watched this fig grow from the size of a chocolate chip to the size of a . . . fig. There are dozens on offer: stem-down, bottoms-up candy for strangers. But I keep walking. Someone might be looking out a window.
Today was a different kind of June Bug Day: an upside-down kind. Instead of glossy, green grownups flying over grass, these June beetles are weird, white grubs crawling over streets. But the weirdest thing is how they crawl. Despite having six serviceable little legs, these larvae travel on their backs, upside down.
“Crawl” is too weak a word. Squoonch is better. The grubs squoonch, undulate, and wriggle forward while their feet point at the sky. The sky, meanwhile, is raining, which is why these teenagers leave their underground homes to squoonch somewhere less wet.
How do they do it? With “ambulatory bristles.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? Stiff hairs on the outside, plus strong muscles on the inside get the grubs where they wish to go.
But why do they do it? Why not walk on . . . ambulatory legs? No other grubs choose bristles over feet.
Please click the Play symbol to watch 5 seconds of Squoonching:
Even just the endpapers are helpful in Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America. But this is the first time these endpapers don’t end a mystery. There’s this mystery bird, see, who I DON’T see, and who I barely hear: high, fast, faraway.