Daily Nature Diary

Yellow jackets (Vespula maculifrons)

I am the official Bug Wrangler for our household. It’s a pretty great gig. I help my friends feel more at ease in our home, I interact with cool arthropods, and I save innocent creatures from a cruel and unusual demise by slipper. A real win-win-win. Now that we’re all stuck home in springtime, business is booming.

Yesterday, we propped our back door to let in the warm breeze and a yellow jacket zipped inside. He immediately whizzed up the stairs into my housemate’s bedroom.

And that’s when you call in the Bug Wrangler.

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Daily Nature Diary

Daily Nature Diary 2: Groundhogs (Marmota monax)

On the surface, today is an ordinary Saturday. I didn’t set my alarm, but still got up before sunrise. I had my breakfast, then sipped my customary earl grey tea at my desk while I listened to NPR’s Weekend Edition. I did some computer work. I read while I ate lunch: my weekend treat of cheese, crackers, apple, and peanut butter. I read some more burrowed under a blanket on the couch. I took a stroll around the neighborhood. And now I’m back at my desk writing.

I saw two groundhogs on my walk. One was trundling along the overgrown bank of the stream at the end of my road. The other was munching clover on the edge of a planted row of trees by the train tracks. I loved watching them rustle around in the greening grass, noses twitching, backsides wiggling. Today has been a groundhog day.

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Science

Phidippus audax

The little black jumping spider tickles its way up my forearm. I turn my head to get a better look as it climbs over the knob of my elbow. It stops, sticks its two front legs up in the air, and stares at me. At least I think it does. With all those glittery eyes it’s hard to tell where it’s looking.

Is the spider reacting to me? Legs up could merely be its resting position. It could be stretching out tight muscles after a long crawl or preparing for an acrobatic jump from my arm to a nearby tree. Or it could be trying to steady its balance.

I cock my head to the side. It rocks back on its abdomen but maintains the posture. I slowly extend my finger toward its face. It scuttles backwards a couple steps, then raises its legs again. Three times in a row, my movements triggered a response. It seems to know I’m here.

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