While recently hiking through a forest in southern Illinois, I noticed this cool creature blending in with the bark of a tree. I occasionally also find this relatively large moth in my yard.
“Underwing Moth” is a common name for a diverse group of moths with distinctive wing patterns. There are more than 200 species of underwings, the majority occurring in eastern North America.
While at rest, the well-camouflaged forewings’ various shades of gray and brown allow the insect to blend in with its surroundings. Most underwing moths are active at night and spend the day resting upside down.
When frightened, it exposes its underwings. It is thought that their bright colors, arranged in roughly concentric markings, resemble the eyes of a predatory animal, and this may confuse whatever wants to eat the moth for a few seconds, while it makes a hasty retreat.
The Sweetheart Underwing Moth’s habitat is forested areas. It is particularly common in Cottonwood (which their caterpillars feed on) stands along rivers, creeks and in urban areas.
I always enjoy coming across this impressive invertebrate whether it be out-of-state or in my own backyard.
Third Eye Herp
While checking the minnow traps that I set in southern Illinois, I discovered this fish which I’ve never seen before.
Pirate Perch are found in clear warm streams, oxbows and marshes with low currents and tend to congregate where there is dense vegetation, woody debris, root masses and undercut banks.
They are small, usually 4 to 5 inches, dark brown and can have a purple sheen on their sides. They often have a dark tear drop shaped marking under the eye.
The Pirate Perch is the sole member of the family Aphredoderidae. What is noteworthy about it is the peculiar position of its anus, which is located near the anal fin when the fish is young but gradually moves forward, to the throat, as the fish matures.
The reason why the fish’s vent was located at the front of the body instead of the back was revealed by field observations. It turns out that females thrust their heads into tangled root masses to lay their eggs and the males quickly follow suit, putting their heads in the same spot in the tangled root mass to fertilize the eggs. No other North American fish does this.
Charles C. Abbott, a pioneer ichthyologist, is credited with giving this fish its common name, after observing that a specimen he kept in an aquarium ate only other fish.
Third Eye Herp
While visiting southern Illinois, I came across two of these fine serpents basking only a few feet away from each other.
This snake is a naturally occurring intergrade between a Speckled Kingsnake and an Eastern Black Kingsnake. They have varying amounts of yellow speckles and in some cases a faint chain pattern on a dark body.
Shawnee Kingsnakes average 36 to 48 inches in length and have shiny, smooth scales. One specimen that I found was going through a shed cycle and had eyes that appeared to be milky blue.
These reptiles are quite adaptable to a wide range of habitats from forests and bluffs, to rocky hills, open woods and stream valleys.
Shawnee Kingsnakes are powerful constrictors and predators of other reptiles, including snakes, as well as eating birds and small mammals.
They tend to be slow and deliberate in their movements. They are a fun snake to encounter in the wild and I enjoy seeing them each time I come across one.
Third Eye Herp
While hiking through a damp, dark forest in Maryland, I noticed some bright coloration on a log. Also known as Scrambled Egg Slime, because of its peculiar yellow appearance, it often appears suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere.
This is common species with a worldwide distribution. In non-natural areas, it is often found on bark mulch or in lawns after heavy rain or excessive watering. Slime molds are most often found in moist, shady areas with abundant organic matter, such as dead leaves and wood.
Though it is often referred to as a fungus, slime molds are now thought to be a different type of primitive organism and more closely related to amoebas and certain seaweeds than fungi. They derive nourishment from decaying organic materials, and will not attack living plants.
The ecological role in nature of slime mold is to break down dead materials to recycle the nutrients for other species to utilize. Although some people may be alarmed, grossed out, or frightened by it, this slime mold is harmless to plants, pets and humans.
Yellow Dog Vomit Slime Mold is without a doubt is one of nature’s interesting oddities.
Third Eye Herp