Over the past few weeks, I have seen a number of wasps that are yellow and black. They are eastern yellow-jackets. However, twice, this past week, I have observed European hornets feeding on cicadas and today I observed an eastern yellow jacket feeding on a dead moth. In my observations, I did not see the wasps catch or kill their prey but instead, found the large wasps in the process of feeding on dead insects on the ground. The attached images are of the yellow jacket in my back yard in early Sept. The image actually shows how much of the moth has been fed upon by the carnivorous wasp. The same is true of the European hornet in feeding on much of the head and thorax of an annual cicada.
The European Hornet (left) is a very large wasp, similar in color to the yellow-jacket (right) Both are carnivorous at times but they are also attracted to sweet nectars. The European hornet is twice the size of a yellow-jacket.
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 bodies. 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.
Hatchling Eastern Box Turtles are terrestrial turtles that feed on a wide range of invertebrates, fungi. fruits, berries and carrion. The hatchling stinkpot musk turtle (right) is an unbelievably small turtle at hatching, not much bigger than ones thumb nail.
Left, a baby Barbour’s Map turtle. These are a riverine species protected by the State of Georgia. The hatchlings are adorable with the knobs down the center of the carapace (shell) Amazingly, males only get about 5 inches in shell length while females get over 12 inches in length. The spiny soft-shell turtle (right), also a riverine species prefers sand bars in the bends of rivers. The turtles dig just beneath the sand and only have the eye protruding above the sand. In this fashion, they ambush small fish, tadpoles and invertebrates they may swim past. Like the map turtles, female soft-shells and considerable larger than males. Soft-shells do not have a hard shell but rather a leathery shells and these turtles are incredibly fast swimmers.
Baby fence swift on left. These lizards are amazingly cryptic when on the bark of a tree or on a wooden fence post…..hench the name fence swift. The baby Northern water snake on right is a non-venomous semi-aquatic species that is very common along the margins of lakes, ponds, creeks, rivers and virtually all other fresh water wetlands in the northern half of Georgia. Even babies may be pugnacious but their teeth are not long enough to cause any harm. As they mature, the retain much of their color and pattern but some individuals tend to become very drab, especially when dry, such as when basking. Given even a slight chance to escape and Northern water snakes will quickly disappear into the water. When cornered, they may flatten their head considerably giving them a very triangular shaped head and they can strike short distances with fairly accurate precision. They are best left alone to assist the wetland community by removing sickened fish and other organisms.
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.
Puffballs are wonderful mushrooms and many of them seem almost alien as their growth is an incredible thing to monitor. Once they reach maturity they produce millions of spores. Once opened, even rain drops can produce miniature little puffs of clouds but if greatly disturbed a huge dark cloud of spores may erupt such as the disturbance from my hand creating a spore cloud in the picture on the right.