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Creature Feature

Orb-weavers put on early fall displays

     The chill in the air has sent nature’s insect and arachnid world scurrying to get in those last meals. Suddenly we start seeing long-legged and acrobatic guests in our gardens and window frames.      Many of Bay Weekly’s Facebook followers sent us their favorite photos of garden spiders. Mainly of the orb-weaver variety, these garden and door-stoop visitors are striking in their white, yellow, black and orange stripes and spots. 

One big, happy fungi family

     As summer ends, toadstools seem to appear from nowhere.

What makes milk chocolate?

     The NPR report that “seven percent of adults still think that chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows,” got me thinking.       Breed and coloration can factor into milk production, reports Anne Arundel 4H-er Patricia Williams, who notes that Holsteins are the best milking cow. A single Holstein produces some 2,674 gallons of milk each year.

With monarch butterfly numbers on the wane, they need our help

     Jane Bishop of Dick and Jane’s Produce Stand in Harwood has been filling empty stomachs for decades. For one set of mouths, however, she goes the extra mile.      Bishop gathers milkweed leaves to hand-feed tiny monarch caterpillars, checking the undersides for new caterpillars.      The caterpillars she finds, she raises in a tent at the farm stand and tags them before releasing the developed monarchs for migration.

This bee drills into wood and flowers

     Gazing out at your garden, you’re sure to see pollinators great and small, from bumblebees to butterflies and wasps. One of these winged creatures is out in abundance this time of year. It’s a big bee. But which bee?      Photos followed by a few hours of research suggested that the large bee with an all-black abdomen absent hair was the Eastern carpenter bee, ­Xylocopa virginica.

For a few days around the full moon, blue crabs are at their most vulnerable    

            Our precious resource, the Atlantic blue crab, grows by backing out of its armored shell. This feat is achieved by the crab swelling its body with water until it literally bursts out of the back seam. The crab will then begin wriggling free, leg by leg times eight plus two claws.             Full moons like the one coming August 7 are prime shedding times.

Holly Lanzaron’s picture tells a whole story of a new family

Amid the ordinary, Holly Lanzaron chanced upon the extraordinary. In a shopping center parking lot in Deale, on the crushed stone, a mother killdeer sat hatching four speckled eggs.     “We didn’t know that she was nesting right away,” said the Southern Middle-Schooler on Deale Elks Club’s sponsored photo safari with Muddy Creek Artists Guild mentor Bea Poulin and Hannah Dove. “At first we thought that the bird was wounded and could not fly.”

It’s not all peanuts and mints for the Naval Academy’s Bill the Goat

The Naval Academy’s mascot is a fighting goat. That goat’s name is Bill, after a pet kept by the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The emblematic mascot is fashioned after the actual animal as embodied over the years by more than 37 goats. The first goat was only a skin, the remainder of a loved ship goat, and worn by naval officers as they danced for the crowd during halftime.

Keep an eye out for this nasty pest

It all started with the best intentions. Kudzu, a plant native to Japan, was imported to the southern United States in the 1800s to enrich soil depleted by tobacco. It then came to Calvert County to prevent erosion, stabilizing the Calvert Cliffs. Wherever it came, the woody vine with distinct three-lobed leaves brought problems.     It’s for good reason that kudzu is known as the vine that ate the South, for it can grow up to a foot a day in temperate climes with mild winters, a category that Maryland falls into.

Those talons are sharp!

As an aide at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Nature Center in Calvert County for almost nine years, one of my duties was to feed the barred owl. The owl was blind, or nearly so, due to a collision with a car. Each morning I would take a couple of mice out of the freezer and put them on a plastic plate to thaw. Before closing I would take the now-thawed mice out back, enter the walk-in cage and touch the plate to the owl’s chin. The owl gobbled down the mice, whole, of course. I accomplished this simple task hundreds of times.