European Hornets, Baby Reptiles & Puffball Fungus 0

European Hornets, Baby Reptiles & Puffball Fungus

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Sept.15, 2011

Over the past few weeks, I have seen a number of very large wasps that are yellow and black.  They are not yellow-jackets but a wasp called a European hornet.  They are quite large and at first glance, could easily be mistaken for an Eastern yellow-jacket……on steroids.  Twice, this past week, I have observed European hornets feeding on cicadas.  The cicada is a fairly large insect and it takes a really big wasp to catch and kill a cicada.  In both of my observations, I did not see the wasp catch or kill the cicada but instead, found the large wasps in the process of feeding on cicadas on the ground.  The attached images are of a European hornet feeding on a cicada in my back yard in early Sept. 

  

A large European Hornet feeds on a cicada.  These wasp are very similar to a native species, the cicada killer.

Also in late August and early September, I observed a lot of baby reptiles, which are always a pleasure to see.  I observed numerous hatchling Carolina anoles and 5-lined skinks in my backyard.  What I did not see, were baby ground skinks, possibly due to the high temperatures and extreme drought conditions in our area during late summer.  The baby anoles are especially cute and their heads look too big for their little body.  I also rescued a clutch of box turtle eggs from a yard where a female box turtle was laying her eggs on the morning that a patio was to be poured.  I received a call and went over to dig up the eggs and I hatched them artificially.  They hatched after 65 days and the photographs are of the baby turtles the day that they hatched.  Due to the dry conditions, I waited until we had a good rain to return the little turtles to the yard where the eggs were found.  I also received a couple of newly hatched stinkpot musk turtles whose eggs were collected from a stump that was being removed on the edge of a lake.  My son, Shawn, had 4 eggs and all of them hatched.  Of note, stinkpot musk turtles, at hatching, are the world’s smallest turtle.  The miniature size is quite obvious in the image with a little turtle between my finger and thumb.  I have also added a few other images of baby reptiles that I have observed early this fall.

 

A pair of hatchling stinkpot musk turtles.  The plastron of a baby stinkpot.

 

Baby stinkpots have great mobility with their legs as they have a very reduced plastron.  The Barbour’s Map turtle is a species known only from the Flint, Lower Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers. They are greatly impacted by sedimentation in our rivers.

 

A hatchling Spiny Softshell Turtle and a hatchling group of Eastern Box Turtles.

 

A newborn Northern Water Snake and a female copperhead with one of her 13 babies.

 

Newly hatched Eastern Fence Lizard and a newly metamorphosed Fowler’s Toad.  Smaller than the size of my thumbnail.

One of my favorite creatures……the striped scorpion.  This scorpion is found in habitats of long-leaf pine in the Coastal Plain of Georgia.  Dirk Stevenson and I will soon be submitting a paper for publication on this amazing species.  This is a female with her brood of young.  The young are white but turn brownish following their first molt. 

In regards to reptiles, I want to mention that baby reptiles are extremely difficult to keep alive and they should not be collected as a pet.  Even keeping one for a couple of days is not a good idea as a baby lizard or turtle can be health compromised in a very short period of time.  Keeping one for even 2 days could result in the animals death once released.  They are much better off being observed in the wild and it can very rewarding for parents and their children or grandparents and their grandchildren to find and watch a baby lizard as it moves about searching for tiny insects.  Also, PLEASE keep in mind that little hands of children, not knowing how tightly they should hold an animal can actually hurt, very unintentionally, a fragile little lizard and thus another reason that these little creatures are best observed and not handled.

Puffballs……big mushrooms that a person can “almost” watch grow.  

During late summer and early fall, puffball fungi emerge from the ground and they are frequently topics of question by curious homeowners who have one or more rapidly growing in their yard.  The puffball will grow right up through the grass and within a short period of time may go from just barely visible to the size of a soft ball and really big ones may be twice as large.   When growing, they appear white but at maturity, most turn a dirty gray color.  At this time, any disturbance of the mushrooms top and charcoal colored spores waif into the air like a dark gray cloud of smoke.  They really are interesting subjects of study and observation, especially for children and once the discovery is made, children cannot resist poking the mushrooms to make them smoke which is indeed beneficial for the mushroom as it spores are released for the next year’s mushroom crop. 

 

A puffball stillin its grwing stage.  Some attain a very large size.  At maturity, the puffball turns a dingy gray color and if the top is disturbed, spores are released into the air like a cloud of smoke.  The image at the right is a cloud created by just my touch . 

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  I know the material is extremey diverse but I hope that there is at least one subject that may appeal to viewers of my site.