Category Archives: Nature: plant and animal identification

Flying Squirrel In Southern Maryland


Today I was surprised to find a Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) in my living room. I speculate that my cat had something to do with this. Lucky I was able to corral this cute little thing into a cereal box before relocating it outside for pictures and then to freedom.

Let’s take this opportunity for a closer look.FlyingSquirrelExtraSkinO

In this picture you can see how it has extra skin along its side. This skin is called a patagium and allows the squirrels to glide from tree to tree. They can’t really fly (like a bird) but it sort of looks like they are flying!FlyingSquirrelFeetNTailO

Check out their feet!

They can be found throughout Maryland. You can also find them throughout the eastern United States, southeastern Canada and parts of Central America.


Flying squirrels are arboreal. This means that they spend most of their time in trees.


FlyingSquirrelTailONotice their flat tail.

Raise Your Own Caterpillars For The Fun Of It: Snowberry Clearwing Moths

I found this snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) caterpillar on my deck last fall (the end of August). It had been feeding on my native honeysuckle plant (Lonicera sempervirens). It soon pupated. To simulate winter, I put it (the cocoon) in a jar in my refrigerator. In the spring I took it out. In early April it emerged! Snowberry Clearwing on Honeysuckle plant

feeding on my native honeysuckle plant (Lonicera sempervirens)


I love the way its back end looks like a dog!SnowberryClearwingStretchO

all stretched out!SnowberryClearwingCaterpillarPupaO

This is how it survives the winter.



Here it is getting its wings ready for first flight.


Almost ready to fly!SnowberryClearwingMothSizeO

This picture gives a size reference. Amazing!

Tips to Successfully Raise Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillars Or Any Others You Can Find

Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar

I think it is so much fun to find an interesting caterpillar especially one I’ve never seen before. Equally fun is seeing what it will turn into. I started raising caterpillars when my kids were small but have been doing it much more frequently in the last few years.

Here are some tips that might help you.

First you have to find a caterpillar. Go on: go out and look.

See my post:

Here is a Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar that I found and successfully raised.

You might want to know what you have found. I use -Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David Wagner.

Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar with Osmeterium extended

The Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar in this picture has its osmeterium extended. It is supposed to deter predators.

It is best when you find the caterpillar munching on a leaf: that way you know exactly what to feed it. If not, you will have to identify it then do some research to find out what food to supply it. (See suggested book above or search the internet).

Spice Jar 4 Raising Caterpillars

Provide fresh food as needed. I like to place a branch or some leaves in a jar of water to keep the plant fresh.

Prevent drowning. Believe it or not, caterpillars aren’t water smart. They will walk right down a stem into a vase of water and drown. I don’t know why they just don’t walk backwards up the stem and out of the water. To prevent this tragedy, you will need to choose small necked jars and fill the opening with stems, plastic wrap or even a bit of cork. I find that spice jars work really well. Fill the holes with leaves or branches of the host plant. I’ve been able to reuse spice jars that have different sized holes. Some tops have small holes and others have larger holes. Choose what works for the plant you are providing.

Zebra Swallowtail begins to Pupate

Here it is forming it’s chrysalis.

Zebra Swallowtail Chrysalis

Zebra Swallowtail Chrysalis other side

I think the chrysalis of a Zebra Swallowtail looks like a mummified cat.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly in Cage

Here it is the day it came out of the chrysalis.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Free

Here it is high in a tree after we set it free. I had to use a ladder to get this picture but it was worth it.

Insectabox With Luna Moth Caterpillars

Rearing box with Luna moth caterpillars.

Use a rearing cage. It is important that you keep your caterpillar friend in a cage of some sort. I’ve had caterpillars venture off somewhere in my house never to be seen again. I like to think that they metamorphosed and eventually flew away.

Recently I bought an Insectabox and love it. It is very well designed. Here is a link.

Here is the link for my homemade box that I’ve used for over 10 years.

You might also be interested in this post:


Hunting for Zebra Swallowtail Eggs and Caterpillars

Make your own fun. Go out and hunt for zebra swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on pawpaw trees! You will first need to find pawpaw trees: Asimina triloba . Here in Southern Maryland, they are common in damp forests.(See pictures below)

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Eggs

The eggs look like tiny pearls.

Pawpaw Tree Leaf

Pawpaw leaves usually get wider towards the tip and this reminds me of a stylized puppy dog’s ears. This might help you remember the name pawpaw because dogs have paws.

Pawpaw Asimina-triloba Fruit

Pawpaws have edible fruit.

Pawpaw tree flowers Asimina triloba

Pawpaws have beautiful maroon flowers.

Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar on pawpaw

Here is a zebra swallowtail caterpillar on a pawpaw leaf.

Found Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar small

Be sure to look closely. Check the underside of leaves because that is where they usually are hiding.

Zebra Swallowtail Caterpillar

So exciting when you find one!

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

The adult zebra swallowtail butterfly.

Pawpaw trees can be found growing in the following states: AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV.

Hermit Thrush Study

Hermit Thrush perched on girl's finger

My daughter and I get a good yet brief look at this beautiful hermit thrush. Life is full of teaching moments.


This hermit thrush bumped into the window of our house. This happens on occasion despite our efforts to prevent bird strikes. We put it in a shoe box inside so it could be safe and warm while recovering (15 minutes or so?). Fortunately it recovered soon after and we snapped a few quick photos before it flew off.