Abundant life is just beyond your porch

October 3, 2012

Gold orb weaver hangs from a house roof, waiting to catch prey. History tells us the golden orb weaver’s silk is so strong that fishermen used the silk as fishing line by twisting it into a long thread. Photo courtesy FWC.

No need to venture far to find interesting critters

Backyard Safari by FWC

Fall weather is settling in, and many animals have begun or will soon start foraging for winter. But it is still quite warm in the Sunshine State, and wildlife is frisky and abundant, especially in your backyard.

Take a walk outside. Look in bushes, shrubs, grass, on flowers, in and under potted plants and on the walls of your house. And, don’t forget to look up. Birds are perched in trees and soaring in the sky.

How many critters can you find?
While on my own backyard safari I saw a peculiar moth that didn’t look like a moth at all. At first glance, it looks like a hummingbird but smaller and doesn’t have a beak. It hovers over flowers and flutters its wings a million times a second just like hummingbirds, has a proboscis or antennae that sucks nectar out of flowers, more than two legs and an insect-like body. I didn’t view it for long because it zoomed off quicker than I could say hummingbird moth!

The backyard is an oasis of life. And, just because the sun goes down doesn’t mean the critters go to sleep. Nighttime brings the sounds of raccoons shuffling leaves while foraging for food, crickets chirping and frogs croaking as the human world drifts off to sleep. In certain seasons, dusk brings the tiny flashes of fireflies.

Make a list of the animals you find. In my yard, I have fluttering zebra longwings and three zebra longwing caterpillars, Eastern black swallowtails, two big golden orb weavers, a vulture gliding above, chattering squirrels, crickets, black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars chewing my parsley plant, snails and the list goes on.

Can you identify a unique fact about the animals on your list? For example, zebra longwing caterpillars’ main food source is the passionflower vine. Young caterpillars chomp and chew on the vine until it’s time to transform into the beautiful adult yellow-and-black striped longwing that flutters in your garden, looking for nectar plants that feed them.
Safety tip: While searching, be sure not to handle or touch anything if you aren’t sure if it is harmless. If searching under logs, be sure to roll the log toward you in case there are any slithering creatures living underneath. Rolling it toward you allows any snake (usually the small, harmless ringneck, redbelly, earth or brown snakes) to slither away from you. Wear bug spray, since skeeters are still biting, and have fun!

Also, be sure to visit MyFWC.com/News for past Backyard Safari articles on zebra longwings, golden orb weavers, green anoles and so much more.