Monday, July 23, 2012

Five in Five Within Five

We entertained guests over the weekend and I took them on a short walk around the field trail.  As they were preparing to leave, they lamented the fact that they didn’t have anything of interest to see at their own house.  Now, I’ve been to their house and I know there’s plenty of interesting stuff going on, at least as far as the natural world is concerned.  I told them they should just go outside and look.  Some discussion followed and somewhere along the way I wagered that we could step out any door of my house and I could show them five interesting items in five minutes all within five feet of the door.  They accepted the wager and chose the rear door to the garage.

The wager changed as soon as we got out the door.  They felt that the Virginia Creeper covering the wall to one side of the door had too much potential of harboring interesting creatures, so I agreed to exclude that area from consideration.

As they smiled at my, in their opinion, impossible situation, I held up my hand and announced item of interest number one, a Walnut Husk Fly.  They acted as if I had pulled it from my pocket, but I argued that it was not unheard of for a fly to land on someone who was standing outside.  These colorful fruit flies feed on Black Walnut husks.  Since we were standing beneath a walnut tree and could see fallen walnuts on the ground around us, it wasn’t hard to see why the fly was here.

Item number two met with some resistance, but I convinced my guests that animal droppings could be quite interesting.  This particular item adhering to the garage wall was evidence that treefrogs were in the area.  After finding this, a person might schedule a night visit to view the frogs prowling the wall in search of prey.  I offered to dissolve the dropping in water and show them the various insect parts too tough for the frog’s digestive system, but they insisted they had to leave as soon as our five minutes was up.

Movement overhead proved to be a ragged Olive Hairstreak alighting on the gutter.  Olive Hairstreaks have two broods per year and had an extremely successful first brood this past spring.  I hope that means that the second brood will be even more impressive.

Item four was a nice mid-sized species of Robber Fly.  I’ve seen many different species of Robber Fly this year, ranging from small to large.  If I stand still for more than a minute, the small Robber Flies begin using me as a perch from which to hunt passing insects.

We were admiring this fifth item with two of my five minutes still remaining.  Many small larvae choose the side of our house as a pupation site.  Cocoons are usually placed along the mortar joint.

Not far from the exposed larva was a moth larva enclosed in a case.  These little guys also like to use the bricks as a secure place to anchor their case and pupate.

One minute left and I pointed out a spider feeding on an Allegheny Mound Ant. 

Several other empty ant exoskeletons hung in the spider’s web, so this must be a regular prey item.  Forty seconds left and my guests, admitting defeat, said they had to go.  Since we never identified stakes, there was no settling up required.  I did ask them to take a few minutes to look around at home and to let me know what they found.


  1. Your posts are teaching me to have a much more discerning and appreciative eye for my surroundings.

  2. Hi Steve..Dear me I'm just glad you didn't have a snake lurking about your doorway, I would have been in my car and gone before you could say the word.HAhaha!!
    I have a big fat toad living in my garage..he leaves a mighty big poop..I'll have to put that in water and see what is lurking in my garage for him
    to feed on!!; }

  3. Hi Pat. I hope you make some amazing finds.

    Hi Grace. The snake was at the front door. I'll be showing him tomorrow.

    If your family comes over and finds you soaking toad poops, please don't tell them where you got the idea.

  4. What an awesome idea! I think I will promote Steve's 5-5-5! You are full of surprises.

  5. Thanks Cheryl. We can split the royalties.