Saturday, May 10, 2008

May Nature Day - Mercer Arboretum

We went on our monthly Nature Day outing with our local homeschool nature group yesterday. What a great day! Though hot!!! In Houston, we had our first official 90 degree day of the year on Thursday, and Friday was even hotter!

Before we even got officially started, the kids were busy finding turtles in some water in a ditch. Aren't they cute??? They were "baby" red-eared sliders.

We had our largest group ever... I think we had 19 families. We have really grown this year!!!

Our main topic was moths and the man in the red plaid shirt was our guest speaker, Mr. Don. Mr. Don raises moth caterpillars and brought plent for the families to take home. (The caterpillars or "cats" are on the picnic table on sweetgum cuttings - he had both luna moth cats and regalis cats.) Unfortunately, we're going to be out of town soon and couldn't take any home.
But, we did get to take home one of these cocoons! These are the luna pupa in cocoons. It's pretty neat that they "rattle" to scare you away if you pick them up or disturb them. So, we'll have a lot of fun waiting and watching to see our luna moth emerge! Here's a website that shows the luna moth life cycle.
Here's a photo of a luna cat that was spinning its cocoon. Their false legs kind of go back inside of their bodies.And, here's the photo of the pupa (brown) in its cocoon. They often wrap themselves in a leaf, too - that's how ours is.
Close up of one of the luna moth caterpillars.
And a very small regalis caterpillar. They go through 5 sheddings producing 5 different looking caterpillars - called instars. Bug guide has neat "egg to caterpillar" photos. (The regalis is also known as the Hickory Horned Devil. This is an instar 1 caterpillar.
After Mr. Don talked about moths and how to raise the caterpillars, we ate lunch and then went on a hike. I watched this insect flying and followed it to where it landed and happened to get a quick, decent photo before he took off again. It's a net winged beetle - I actually thought it might be some kind of moth.
We ran into lots of poison ivy, and I'm hoping no one got a rash! Mr. Don showed us how to recognize it by the 3 leaves - the middle one is often bigger than the other 2. It wasn't only growing on the tree, but on the ground, too. A good reason to stay on the paths!

Mr. Don showed us a gall and explained how the leaf protects itself from the wasp larva living inside of it. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know I really think galls are neat! You can search my blog for "gall" - I think I have 5 or 6 posts. Here's one of my favorites.
Another of my finds. Mr. Don said this was a cicada exoskeleton, but it's about 1/3rd the size of the cicado exoskeletons we usually find. And, I loved its stripped abdomen! Cool!

I saw one of the kids studying this leaf and went to take a look. Something has been eating it - what neat holes it has left!
As we finished our hike and went back to pick up our pupa, we were amazed to see one of the moths had emerged!!! So, here is what our luna will look like. :-) We weren't expecting them to emerge until June, but now we're not sure when ours will emerge. This little guys wings still haven't expanded.


Theresa said...

What a great day you had!!!!
Happy mother's Day!

Rhonda said...

Well that is just the coolest outing! My girls would have loved it. Thank you for sharing your day with us and thank you for all of the links. They are always so informative.

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