Brown Lacewing

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It’s wintertime, yet if you look around, there are still insects to be found, like the Brown Lacewings that occasionally turn up in my house.

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They are predators both as adults and larvae. These creatures prefer soft-bodied insects such as aphids and mealybugs, as well as insect eggs.

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I suspect the reason I’m finding them indoors is that the were inadvertently brought in when outdoor plants came in for the Winter.

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Brown Lacewings are native throughout North America, though are not as abundant as Green Lacewings (these were the first examples I’ve ever seen).


Adults are small, only about half an inch long, and as their name implies, they have heavily veined wings. The larvae look like tiny alligators with sickle-shaped jaws.

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Although they are fragile-looking, lacewings are one of the most effective beneficial insects to the gardener and I surely don’t mind having them around.

Third Eye Herp

Norway Spruce

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The dark green needles and drooping or “weeping” branches of this tree are two of its key identification features.

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Norway Spruce is perhaps the most common spruce in Ohio, though it is not native; it was introduced from Europe and Asia 150-200 years ago.

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This conifer is often used for windbreaks due to it being the fastest growing as well as the tallest (115–180 feet) spruce in the state. It also produces the largest cone (4-7 inches long) of all spruces.

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With age, the pendulous, dense branchlets in the upper canopy of mature trees hang straight down for several feet, and are called skirts.

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This tree’s bark exudes a substance is known as “Burgundy Pitch,” which is the basic material for a number of varnishes and medicinal materials.

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In addition to all of the above qualities, Norway Spruce is the main Christmas Tree in several cities around the world.

Third Eye Herp

Blue Jay

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As one of the loudest and most colorful birds of eastern backyards and wooded areas, the Blue Jay is one of our easiest birds to identify. Intelligent and adaptable, it often visits bird feeders.

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The Blue Jay mainly feeds on nuts and seeds such as acorns. At feeders it seems to favor peanuts (the individuals that visit our house also like popcorn). Like squirrels, this bird is known to hide nuts for consumption later.

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It breeds in both deciduous and coniferous forests, and is common near and in residential areas. One Summer I even had this Blue Jay nest with three babies in my front yard.

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The nest tends to be cup-shaped and composed of twigs, small roots, bark strips, moss, other plant material, as well as cloth and paper. There are usually between 3 to 6 eggs laid, which are incubated for about 17 days. The young fledge 3 weeks after hatching.

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The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.


Like a Cardinal, the Blue Jay features a feathered crest on the head, which may be raised or lowered according to its mood. When excited or aggressive, the crest is raised. When the bird is feeding among other jays or resting, the crest is flattened on the head.

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The Blue Jay occupies a variety of habitats within its large range, from the pine woods of Florida to the spruce-fir forests of northern Ontario. It is less abundant in dense forests, preferring mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches; I often see them when visiting Metroparks here in Ohio.

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This bird is well adjusted to human activity, occurring in parks and residential areas, and can adapt to a lack of trees with relative ease if human activity creates means food and shelter for the Blue Jays to use as resources. Its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls make the Blue Jay a unique and welcome visitor.

Third Eye Herp

Lion’s Mane Mushroom


While hiking in Brecksville Reservation, I caught sight of a grapefriut-sized odd looking fungus that I’ve never seen before. It usually grows alone or in pairs, fruiting from the wounds of living trees (especially oaks) in late Summer and Fall.

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Native to North America, Europe and Asia, it can be identified by its icicle-like projections, its appearance on hardwoods and its tendency to grow a single clump of dangling spines.

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About a dozen studies have been published on the neuroregenerative properties of Lion’s Mane Mushroom since 1991; tests have confirmed that it stimulates nerve regeneration.

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This historical Chinese medicine is developing a following in the world of modern smart drugs. It is also very tasty to eat.

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Like all fungi, Lion’s Mane Mushroom is a vital decomposer in the ecosystem, breaking down dead organisms and biological waste and freeing nutrients for use by other organisms.

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This mushroom has a variety of common names, including Bearded Tooth, Old Man’s Beard, Satyr’s Beard, Monkey Head, Bear’s Head, Sheep’s Head, Hedgehog Fungus, Tree Hedgehog and Pom Pom.

Third Eye Herp

Autumn Meadowhawk

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As it gets colder out, less and less insect life is out and about. One conspicuous exception is this awesome little dragonfly, which is present long after Summer species have reproduced and died.

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This is a slender, pale, late-flying species. It has minimal black markings and the wings are slightly amber at the bases. Males and some mature females have brilliant red abdomens. In younger individuals, the abdomen is brown.

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The Autumn Meadowhawk is widely distributed throughout much of North America, where it inhabits marshes, lakes, ponds and bogs in areas that are usually somewhat wooded.

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Dragonflies have highly developed sight. Their large, compound eyes are used to capture prey. Insects are their main food, which their catch while flying. Dragonflies help control fly and mosquito popupaltions.

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Because of the cooler weather, this species is easier to approach than most other dragonflies. It can ofen be spotted on tree trunks and utilizes the solar-collector-like surfaces of fallen leaves to warm itself.

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Usually the last dragonfly of the year, Autumn Meadowhawks routinely survive the first frosts and even the first snow falls.

Third Eye Herp