Where There is a Web: Fall Webworm

Yesterday we went looking for more insects in our backyard. We saw some more daddy longlegs…actually lots of daddy longlegs. We saw a tiny little spider on the marigolds but he would not hold still for a photo. I took this pretty photo of my marigold anyway. Look closely and you can see the pollen.

 
Then we found this wonderful web on the crepe myrtle bush. I looked high and low but did not see what made the web. After doing some research, I discovered this to be the web of a Fall Webworm or
Hyphantria cunea. In the larval stage, they create these great webs where they feed entirely inside the web. The adult is a moth that has white wings and has grayish-brown spotting on the forewings.

 



From page 295 of the Handbook of Nature Study:
“While the young pupils should not be drilled in insect anatomy as if they were embryo zoologists, yet it is necessary for the teacher who would teach intelligently to know something of the life stories, habits, and structure of the common insects.”

I am finding this to be essential to our study of insects. I need to know a little information about each thing we find and weave it into our study. It doesn’t take much time to open the Handbook of Nature Study, skim the table of contents, and turn to the page for more information. I am finding that just having read the introductory pages to the section on insects has provided more than enough information to get started.

From page 295:
“From the eggs, larvae (singular larva) issue. These larvae may be caterpillars, or the creatures commonly called worms, or perhaps maggots or grubs. The larval stage is devoted to feeding and to growth.”

Now I have a little vocabulary to use with the boys when we see caterpillars. I can point out that these are insects in their larval stage and their main objective in life is to eat. We can find this stage annoying when they are eating the leaves of our garden plants but we can understand a little more about it.

We observed a bee dancing in the pollen of a cosmos flower. He was digging into the pollen and practically rolling in it. Here is a slightly blurry photo of him…try to get a bee to sit still. You can see the pollen on his body.

My favorite photo of the day is this one. It is a close-up of my son’s dahlia flower. There had been a little insect on it that I was trying to capture but he was too quick.


Well, that is what we saw and observed yesterday. I am finding the more we look, the more we realize that we have to see.

Introduction to Insects


We are covering the introductory pages for insects this week. Let’s just say right now that I am *not* normally an insect sort of person. This is a new world for me as we embark on our study of insects.

From page 294:

“Insects are among the most interesting and available of all living creatures for nature study. The lives of many of them afford more interesting stories than are found in fairy lore; many of them show exquisite colors; and, most important of all, they are small and are, therefore, easily confined for observation.”

I am finding this to be the case in our everyday life…there are insects everywhere. The caterpillar above we found on our hike yesterday. The more we looked, the more we found. We think it is a wooly bear caterpillar which will transform into an Isabella Tiger Moth,Pyrrharctia isabella. We found this really cute website that talks about “How to Catch A Bear”. Next time we will be collecting one of the caterpillars and bringing it home to watch.

Edit: Since writing the above, I have found that I incorrectly identified the caterpillar in the photo above. It is a yellow woolly bear and is the larva of the Spotted Tussock Moth or Lophocampa maculata.
This photo is from a few years ago and it shows a little better what this little guy looks like. No wonder he is called “woolly”, he really is!

Here’s a photo from our travels yesterday…..the aspen trees are just starting to turn a golden yellow. We are hoping to drive this way again in a few weeks and see the reds and oranges of the trees too.

Moth-and-Firefly-Nature-Study-@handbookofnaturestudy

 

Our Square in the Woods: The Tree (Fall Tree Study)

square 9 28 07
Our square in the woods hasn’t changed much since last month. We did find some green acorns on the ground and there were quite a few more crunchy leaves on the ground.This trip we focused on trying to find some insects on our tree but we couldn’t find any at all. We did enjoy the variety of moss and lichen on the tree trunk.
tree bark with lichen and web
Do you see the different kinds of lichen in the photo? Do you see the spider web?We also enjoyed drawing the tree on our notebook sheet that will include drawings of the tree in all four seasons.

Free nature notebook pages that we used: Year-Long Tree Journal

drawing our tree
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This system seems to work for us. We attach an empty ziploc bag to our clipboard and then use it to hold our little “treasures” that we find along the way. Until we devised this system, I always had my pockets filled with items the boys wanted to bring home. Now they can easily slip them into the baggie and hold it themselves.

We used our books to identify the tree as an interior live oak. We collected some leaves and acorns and then took a walk down the hill to see what we could find.

As we walked, we heard some sort of hawk above us screeching loudly. I could tell he was circling around us by the way the sound was carrying over the hill. Here are a few things we saw as we hiked back down the hill to the car.
fungus we think
Some sort of fungus.
buckeye leaves 2
Leaves from a California Buckeye tree
pinecone
A beautiful sappy pine cone.

We had a great morning in the woods and will look forward to checking our square again next month.


That afternoon we ended our day with a bike ride with a friend on a local bike trail. The skies were grey but the boys had enjoyed their day outside.
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