Japanese Beetle

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This half-inch insect makes its presence known at this time of the year. It is easy to find in my backyard or while hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

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It has iridescent copper-colored wing covers and metallic green head and body. A row of white hair-like tufts is present just below their wing covers.

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Though not very destructive in Japan, where it is controlled by natural predators, in North America, it is a noted pest which attacks rose bushes and a variety of other plants.

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Japanese Beetles damage plants by skeletonizing their foliage, eating only the leaf material between the veins; they may also feed on fruit on the plants if present.

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Feeding adults release a congregation pheromone with attracts other adults as they emerge later, so that masses of adults gather on unfortunate victim plants.

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Japanese Beetles can apparently live anywhere there is sufficient foliage to feed on. They are not limited to forests or grasslands, but often live on farms, cities and even your garden.

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It is thought that beetle larvae from this insect entered the United States in a shipment of iris bulbs prior to 1912 (the time when inspections of commodities entering the country began).

Third Eye Herp

Deptford Pink

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This is not a native plant, but it’s hard not to like it. It native to most of Europe. The name “Deptford Pink” was coined in the 17th century by naturalist Thomas Johnson, who described a pink flower growing in Deptford in South East London.

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This species usually grows in full sunlight in dry conditions. It appears to flourish in a clay-loam or gravelly soil that is somewhat compacted and heavy. Hard to identify when not in bloom, its grass-like leaves are up to 3 inches long and 1/8 inch wide and are finely hairy around the edges, especially near the base.

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Deptford Pink’s flowers are solitary or in clusters of 3 to 6 at the top of the stem and the occasional branching stem in the upper plant. The nectar of the flowers attracts small butterflies, skippers, long-tongued bees and bee flies. The intensity of their bright pink color masks the great beauty of their extravagant patterning.

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Despite the intensity of the coloration, it is interesting to note that the name “pink” probably derives from the loosely serrated edges of the flowers’ petals (think “pinking shears” rather than the color pink).

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It is hard to call a flower as dainty and attractive as the Deptford Pink “invasive.” In fact, the skinny-leaved plant usually behaves well, mixing invisibly into the weedy wildflowers and vegetation of dry fields.

Third Eye Herp

Northern Black Racer

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This speedy snake is native to my home state of Ohio, but seems to be far more common in the southern part of the state and not as often encountered in Cuyahoga County (where I live). It ranges from southern Maine, west to Ohio, and south to Georgia, Alabama and parts of Tennessee.

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The Northern Black Racer is an alert, day-active species that despite its Latin name of Coluber constrictor, is not a constrictor – rather it subdues its prey simply by overpowering it.

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Its food consists of smaller snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, chipmunks, mice and other small rodents. Juveniles tend to eat mostly such as butterfly and moth larvae, insects and spiders.

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This long, shiny, black snake can reach 6 feet in total length, though most adults that I’ve come across range from 3-1/2 to 4 feet. Although this reptile is swift, its top speed is about 8 to 10 miles per hour, about the same as a quick jog.

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Upon hatching, juveniles have a dorsal pattern of dark-gray to reddish-brown blotches on a light-gray to brown body. The juvenile’s pattern becomes obscure with age, eventually resulting in an all-black snake.

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Northern Black Racers are terrestrial and are found in open, grassy areas. They prefer open, lightly wooded habitats, powerline rights-of-way, roadsides, and transitional zones between forests and fields.

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These serpents migrate to their winter dens by late October, often using the same den year after year and sometimes sharing them with other Northern Black Racers as well as other snake species.

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Northern Black Racers usually emerge from their dens in Spring and begin breeding shortly afterwards. A clutch averaging 16 eggs is laid in June-July. Egg clutches are hidden under logs or in burrows, where they hatch in August-September. The eggs are distinct in that they have a rather granular texture.

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If cornered or agitated, this non-venomous snake may lash out in defense and bite, expel musk or discharge feces. Though its most common way of dealing with a threat it can avoid is to simply race away.

Third Eye Herp

Greenside Darter

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While exploring a creek near Youngstown, Ohio, I came across one of these neat little fish for the first time. Greenside Darters have an elongated body with a long and rounded snout. Their body typically has U- or W-shaped blotches along the side. They typically grow to be about four inches long.

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This fish is an insectivore, mainly feeding on insect larvae, crustaceans and other invertebrates found on the bottom of the waterways that it resides in. The name “darter” refers to the way this fish moves. Rather than swimming like most fish, the darter darts forward then sinks to the bottom.

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It does this because its air bladder is greatly reduced, interfering with the darter’s ability to stay afloat. This allows it to live in riffle areas where fish with air bladders would have the disadvantage of floating and being swept away by the water current. When a darter comes to rest, its fins and tail fin prop up its body in sort of a tripod position with its head angled upward.

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Greenside Darters primarily live in larger streams with cobble, pebble, and gravel on the streambed. In order to survive, they need waterways with high water quality. Due to this attribute, they are often viewed as an indicator of good water quality.

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This was a great and unexpected creature to come across while out and about.

Third Eye Herp

Eastern Carpenter Bee


The Eastern Carpenter Bee is the carpenter bee most often encountered in the eastern United States. Similar in size and appearance to a Bumble Bee, the Eastern Carpenter Bee lacks a fuzzy abdomen, though it may have a few short hairs here and there.

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These insects can be important pollinators, especially of open-faced flowers, though they are also known to “rob” nectar by boring holes in the sides of flowers (thus not accomplishing pollination). They don’t seem to mind sharing flower patch territory with other varieties of bees.

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They sometimes bore holes in wood dwellings (hence the name “Carpenter Bee”) and can become minor pests. They use chewed wood bits to form partitions between the cells in their nests.

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Eastern Carpenter bees are not solitary bees, but are not truly social either. The weak form of sociality they exhibit, with one female doing the majority of the work, and caring for her sisters, may be a transitional step in the evolution of sociality.

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Though noisy and imposing, males do not possess stingers and females (which have stingers) are not aggressive. Though each male will stake out a small area and defend it from anything that comes near. He’ll attempt to drive off rival bees, other insects, and even animals or people.

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This is truly one of the “big bugs” of Summer that is easy to notice.

Third Eye Herp