Cattails can be found virtually anywhere there is open water; along the shores of lakes, rivers, streams, marshlands, etc. For people who live off the land they are a veritable supermarket with dozens of varied and useful features. Here are but a few: All parts of the plant are edible. The stems can be used to make paper. The stems and leaves can be woven into baskets. The cylinders can be dried and used as fill for life jackets or thrown into a campfire as an insect repellent; or dipped in wax and used as a candle with the spike on top serving as the wick. Perhaps the most unusual use of all is as a filter to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Cattail (Genus: Typha)
Cattail (Genus: Typha)

Insect Wings

Wings are major identification features for insects, especially when trying to distinguish between two specimens that are very much alike in all other respects. I have always found insect wings to be quite interesting in their own right, but photographing them can sometimes be rather difficult. What I discovered a few years ago is that very nice images can be obtained by simply scanning them with a high definition flat bed scanner. The most important features of wings are the vein patterns, and they show up very nicely using this method.

Common Eastern Bumblebee - Bombus impatiens
Common Eastern Bumblebee – Bombus impatiens


Serpentine Ridge

The most famous wrinkle ridge on the moon is unquestionably the Serpentine Ridge on Mare Serenitatis. It is, so far as I know, the only wrinkle ridge that has a common name. It is so large that it is now recognized as being two systems: Dorsa Smirnov (130 km) and Dorsa Lister (290 km).




Wingless Insects

Nearly all types of insects have wings. The most common “wingless” insect groups are the ants and termites; they are not, however, 100% wingless. A very few of them will have wings at some time in their lives. Fertile females and males will sprout wings for a few hours during the courtship phase, then immediately lose them again. Fleas and silverfish are always wingless. For over 100 years wingless springtails were considered to be insects. Recent advances in genetic research have shown that although they are arthropods with six legs, they are not really insects.

Red Field Ant (Genus: Formica)
Red Field Ant (Genus: Formica)

Leaf Miner

There is not just one creature that is called a Leaf Miner. A Leaf Miner can be the larvae of a fly, sawfly, moth, or beetle – as long as it gets its nourishment by eating its way along the inside of a leaf. It is said that a skilled entomologist can discern the type of larvae (sometimes down to the genus level) that is feeding on the leaf by the pattern it creates while doing so.


Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly

(Great Spangled Fritillary  – Speyeria cybele ) This has always been one of my very favorite names for a butterfly. If I were a mystery writer who was writing a story about a collector who was murdered over a priceless, rare butterfly – it would be called the Great Spangled Fritillary. You can’t make up a more exotic name than that.


Euglypha – Reproducing

Although the Live Protozoan Culture has some interesting occupants, it cannot compare to our humble, local vernal pond in the density or diversity of its inhabitants. For example = this is a testate Amoeba, Genus: Euglypha, (possibly Euglypha acantophora) in the process of reproducing.


Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is one of about a half-dozen woodpeckers common to our area. In addition to its appearance, one element of its behavior sets it apart from all of the other woodpeckers I have seen. It is a woodpecker that does not peck on trees; it digs in the ground for ants and beetles. In the wintertime other woodpeckers are attracted to our suet block but Flickers, even when the ground is covered with snow, do not show any interest in it.


Red-spotted Purple Butterfly

The topside and underside of a butterfly’s wings are never exactly the same. The underside is usually less colorful and not as boldly marked as the top. This one, a Red-spotted Purple Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is definitely an exception. Not only are the two sides radically different, the underside is much more colorful. In fact, it is difficult to believe that both of these images are of the very same butterfly.



Tiger Swallowtail males (Papilio appalachiensis ) cluster together in damp places, such as mud puddles, and use their proboscis to suck up liquids. Butterflies need these liquids to obtain vital nutrients (e.g. salt and minerals) which are not present in the nectar of flowers. Only the males of the species practice mud-puddling; the females obtain these nutrients from the male during courtship.