Eyed Click Beetle

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As a kid, I’d read “bug books” and always wanted to see one of these fascinating insects “in person.” This year it finally happened.

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At nearly two inches long, this formally attired gray, black and white insect is one of the largest members of the Click Beetle Family; the huge eyespots make it one of the most easily identified. These are “false eyes,” of course – likely an adaptation to scare off potential predators. The true eyes of the Eyed Click Beetle are much smaller and located at the bases of its sawtoothed antennae.

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Click Beetles have a startling behavior that demonstrates how they got their primary name – as well as alternate nicknames of “snapping beetle,” “skipjack,” and “spring beetle.” When placed on its back (or when grabbed by a predator) a Click Beetle bends its front half backward and then straightens out suddenly with a snapping motion; this results in an audible click and launches the beetle several inches into the air.


Another defense is to tightly tuck in its legs and antennae and “play possum” until the predator loses interest. This one displayed the clicking behavior as well as playing dead.

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These beetles eat nectar from flowers and are mainly nocturnal. They can be found throughout the eastern United States Beetles around woods with many hardwood trees, such as cherry, apple or oak and especially in areas with a lot of rotting logs.


I considered myself fortunate to finally experience this interesting insect up close for a little while before it went back into the wild.

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Northern Catalpa


Northern Catalpa, native to a relatively small area of the central Mississippi Valley basin, has been extensively cultivated in Ohio for over 200 years. It is now naturalized in urban and rural areas and these days is primarily used as a large, ornamental shade tree.


Farmers introduced Northern Catalpa to Ohio in order to produce large amounts of relatively lightweight timber for fenceposts, since its wood is very resistant to rotting. Its rapid growth rate assisted in this need, until metal fenceposts were developed and largely replaced wooden posts.


The medium-green leaves of Northern Catalpa are large and heart-shaped. They are some of the biggest leaves on any Ohio tree.


In Spring large, white flowers form in upright clusters from the branch tips, creating a striking floral effect. The flowers are composed of fused white petals with small amounts of yellow, orange and purple.


Pollinated flowers produce long, vanilla bean-like pods in early Autumn. The seedpods are slender and green in the Summer and grow to 10-24 inches, looking similar to an exaggerated green bean.

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The seedpods mature in the Fall, turn dark brown and split open lengthwise to release the seeds inside.


The size, shape and color of the mature seedpods gives rise to another common name for this plant – the “Cigar Tree.”


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American Goldfinch


The brightly colored male American goldfinch is especially recognizable. In breeding season they are bright yellow with black and white markings. In the Winter, the males lose their bright yellow feathers and become dull brown.


Females are of dull coloration year-round.


American Goldfinches live in brushy thickets, weedy fields, gardens and roadsides. Since they eat mostly seeds from grasses and wildflowers, they tend to stay where there are a lot of these food sources available.


They are interesting to observe while they eat, because they have great balance and can perch on any stem while twisting their bodies to get to seeds or fruit.


American Goldfinches are very sociable, and you will often see several pairs together at the same time. You can hear them communicating with each other as they forage for food in flocks along roadsides and in brushy fields in on their quest for thistle and sunflower seeds.


Some of their other foods include ragweed, dandelions, mullein, American Elm, Eastern Redcedar, grasses and Evening Primrose. They also eat some types of insects, including caterpillars.


People tend to like these colorful birds and specific feeders are available for thistle seeds, to attract them; though at my house they seen to enjoy taking apart the Zinnias.


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While walking through this field one morning, I came across a creature that I’ve never seen before. In fact, I didn’t know that such a thing existed. Owlflies somewhat resemble dragonflies, but have clubbed antennae and fold their wings over their backs. Like dragonflies, these insects are predatory both as larva and adults.


Adult Owlflies are aerial hunters that feed on other insects. When disturbed, some types will release a strong, musk-like chemical to deter enemies. They mimic a twig in the daytime to avoid being eaten by predators.


Owlflies get their name from their large eyes which in many species, including this one, the eye is actually divided into two by a groove. They tend to be crepuscular; that is, they’re active during the twilight hours of sunrise and sunset. A bit like an owl, actually.


Owlflies are members of a small order of insects known as the Neuroptera. The name refers to the complex parttern of the wing veins, which resembles a network of nerves.


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Cardinal Flower

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During this time of year, as you approach the edge of a woodland stream or the banks of a secluded pond, you may glimpse a flash of red among all the green.

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By far one of the most spectacular wildflowers of Ohio, this spark of scarlet stands out in the damp places where it tends to grow – mostly along waterways.

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Each flower has three spreading lower petals and two upper petals, all united into a tube at the base. Its flowers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

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The Cardinal Flower’s blooming period corresponds with the southern migration of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to Mexico and Central America for the Winter.

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It has 4 to 6-inch lance-shaped leaves that alternate up the 2 to 5 foot tall stems. The deep green leaves often have a reddish tint, especially on young growth.

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John Burroughs, the 19th-century naturalist, wrote, “When vivid color is wanted, what can surpass or equal our Cardinal Flower? There is a glow about this flower as if color emanated from it as from a live coal.”

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Grass Spider

A couple of weeks ago when I went out to get the mail and opened the back door or the mailbox, I saw a spiderweb. It was apparent that a spider was living in there.

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I thought it was nice to have an insect-free mailbox, with the spider quickly ridding it of any small creature that happened to wander inside it. I mean, who wants bugs in their mailbox?

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The mailman, however, had a different point of view on the subject and did not share my enthusiasm. I have a rock garden in my backyard with plenty of crickets. They sing all the time. So I removed the spider from the mailbox and released him into the garden. You have to keep the mailman happy.

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I kind of missed seeing my 8-legged friend in the days that followed. But recently I went out to get the mail and guess what?

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Grass Spiders are commonly seen in Ohio and are classified as funnel web weavers. The structures they build are recognized by the large, somewhat concave, mostly horizontal, sheet-like web with a funnel or tunnel located off to one side.

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The webs are found on grass, weeds, ground cover and in exterior places such as fencerows, bushes, brush piles, houses and garages. Funnel weavers and grass spiders build their funnel-shaped webs close to the ground. They hide in the narrow end of the funnel, which is usually protected by leaves or rocks.

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Juvenile Grass Spiders emerge from the egg case in Spring and begin constructing miniature versions of typical webs. Throughout the weeks that follow, the web is enlarged, and by late Summer it can be quite sizeable.

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Sometimes the web has a thin tangle of threads above the sheet. These act as “knock-down” threads for flying insects. After hitting these threads, the flying insect tumbles onto the sheet and is attacked by the spider.

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Many common funnel weavers are also characterized by having bristly legs, which may aid in sensing prey. When an insect, spider, or other small creature crosses the wide end of the funnel, the spider feels the vibration and rushes out to grab its food.

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The silk of this spider’s web is not adhesive. The Grass Spider relies upon lightning reflexes to dash out and grapple with its prey on the sheet. They are valuable to humans because they keep the insect population in check.

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There is an old saying about Grass Spiders: When there is dew on their webs in the morning, it will be a beautiful day. 

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