Dogbane Leaf Beetle

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The leaf beetle family, Chrysomelidae, is one of the largest insect families. In round numbers, there may be 35,000 species worldwide. This insect has a special kind of iridescence that shines and changes color as it shifts position or we change position looking at it.

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Adults and larvae eat the plant dogbane, and even the eggs are laid on plant, or on the ground nearby. They are also fond of milkweed. Their habitat is prairies and grasslands.

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The plants Dogbane Leaf Beetle feed on have toxic sap. To deal with this issue, the beetle the makes an incision on a leaf vein “upstream” of where it intends to feed. As the sap flows out at the cut, the insect moves “downstream” to feed below the “leak.”

A person could easily mistake the Dogbane Leaf Beetle for an exotic creature from a far away rainforest, but this exotic-looking living jewel is rather common in the northeastern United States.

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St. John’s Wort

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This plant is a shrub-like perennial herb with bright yellow flowers. It is an invasive species native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. Colonists brought it to the United States, where it now grows widely.

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The parts of the plant used in herbal remedies are taken from the flowering tops. St. John’s Wort has been shown to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression and causes fewer side effects than older types of antidepressants.

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St. John’s Wort common name comes from its traditional flowering and harvesting on St John’s Day (June 24). The genus name Hypericum is derived from the Greek words hyper (above) and eikon (picture), in reference to the plant’s traditional use in warding off evil by hanging plants over a religious icon.

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This plant is distinguished by its almost woody base, opposite leaves, bright yellow flowers and leaves with transparent dots. It produces flower clusters are at ends of branches with each flower measuring about an inch across.

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St. John’s Wort is commonly found in dry, gravely soils, fields, pastures, abandoned fields and in other sunny locations throughout many parts of the world. I’ve seen it in Brecksville Reservation as well as at Canalway Visitor Center.

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Solitary Sandpiper

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Walking along on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, I occasionally come across this bird. The Solitary Sandpiper is not a social species. It is usually seen alone, although sometimes small numbers gather in suitable feeding areas.

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This bird is usually found along the banks of wooded streams, in narrow marsh channels and sometimes along the edges of open mudflats. Solitary Sandpipers usually forage in shallow water, picking up food items from the surface or probing into the water and mud. They may also use their feet to stir up small creatures from the bottom.

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These birds have a characteristic behavior of bobbing the front half of their bodies up and down. When alarmed, they often fly straight up in the air to escape, a flight pattern that is perhaps an adaptation to the closed wooded areas they inhabit.

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They seek out both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates as their main food source. These include insects and insect larvae, spiders and worms.

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Its habit of nesting in the abandoned nests of other birds is unique among North American shorebirds, which generally nest on the ground.

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A group of these birds has many collective nouns, including a “bind,” “contradiction,” “fling,” “hill,” and “time-step” of sandpipers.

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Western Ribbon Snake

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The Western Ribbon Snake is a long, slender garter snake with a striped body and a very long tail, which makes up nearly a third of its total length. It looks like an elongated version of its closest relative, the Common Garter Snake. It features three stripes – the central stripe, running down the spine, ranges from greyish-tan to gold, reddish or orange. They are medium sized snakes, averaging 20 to 30 inches in length.

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The diet of the Western Ribbon Snake consists mainly of amphibians, including frogs, toads and salamanders. It also consumes fish. This reptile is a day-active predator that hunts for its prey largely by sight.

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This reptile is a semiaquatic species and most commonly associated with brushy or grassy areas close to water. It may be found near swamps, marshes, ponds, rivers, streams, lakes or damp meadows. When alarmed, they are just as likely to enter water than take cover on land. Instead of diving, they skirt effortlessly across the top of the water. They also climb well and are sometimes seen in bushes or shrubs close to water.

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Their streamlined shape, bold markings, bright colors and mild disposition make encounters with these slender serpents on the limestone bluffs of Shawnee National Forest enjoyable ones.

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House Centipede

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Although sometimes known as a “hundred-legger,” up to 15 pairs of long legs are attached to this speedy creature’s body. Its delicate legs enable it to travel surprisingly fast, as it runs across floors, up walls and along ceilings.

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Unlike most other centipedes, House Centipedes have well-developed eyes. Their hind legs are extra long, to mimic the appearance of antennae. When it is at rest, it is not easy to tell its front from its back.

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They prefer cool, damp places. Most live outdoors under rocks, piles of wood and compost piles. Within the home, they are often found in basements. The House Centipede is an insectivore; it kills and eats other arthropods, such as insects and arachnids.

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Though to many they are unappealing, they are actually quite beneficial, consuming Bad Bugs as well as a variety of other household pests.

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