The Elegant Life Cycle of a Butterfly

From its miraculous metamorphosis to the intricate wing pattern, the butterfly has fascinated people and cultures around the world for millennia. In today’s post, Jaret C. Daniels, author of Vibrant Butterflies, shares with us the life cycle of a butterfly. All butterflies go through a life cycle consisting of four distinct stages—egg, larva, pupa (Chrysalis), and adult. Butterflies are one of several insect groups that undergo this complete transition. This process of metamorphosis makes butterflies seem almost magical and enhances their overall interest and appeal. It is also a key component to their evolutionary success. A caterpillar has a very different lifestyle and resource requirements than a butterfly. The developing larvae have chewing mouthparts, feed on plant material, and are generally sedentary. The winged adults are fluid feeders and are highly mobile. This enables both groups to exploit very different food resources, niches, and even habitats, all without competing against one another. This evolutionary strategy also helps them colonize...

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The Wonderful World of Agates

James Magnuson, author of The Storied Agate, shares with us his love for Lake Superior Agates.  These gems are wonderfully diverse and colorful lovers of light. Over 1 billion years ago, the Lake Superior basin was formed by massive lava flows. Inside the cooling lava, air pockets were formed—most no larger than a pea but some much bigger. Over hundreds of millions of years, fissures (cracks) formed in the cooled lava. As silica (quartz) liquids flowed through the fissures, the air pockets were slowly filled, and the liquid hardened slowly, one layer at a time. These layers are commonly known as fortifications. The most common Lake Superior Agates are fortification agates—gemstones with concentric, patterned rings. There are many other kinds of Lakers—eye agates, tube agates, moss agates, and so on. Agates may have formed because of fire, but they are widely distributed thanks to the ice. Over hundreds of millions of years, the lava crumbled and the much harder silica-based agates weathered...

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Butterflies—Favorite Visitors to Flowers and Gardens

Butterflies capture our imaginations. From the miraculous metamorphosis to their intricate wing patterns, these amazing insects inspire feelings of wonder and adoration. Butterflies are among the most charismatic and widely recognizable insects in the world. Their beauty and allure have fascinated people and cultures for millennia. Many are relatively large and easily identified by their prominent wings, which are covered in a myriad of flattened, overlapping, and often brightly colored scales. While the vast majority of butterfly diversity occurs in the tropics, North America is home to around 700 different species. In the U.S., Florida and the mountainous West are home to the most butterfly species. Did you know that they can see more of the visible spectrum than almost any animal and can even see ultraviolet light (UV)? In his new book, acclaimed author and entomologist Jaret C. Daniels brilliantly portrays butterflies from across the United States through a one-of-a-kind collection of images. Along with full-color photography,...

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Frequently Asked Questions About Rock Collecting

Dan R. Lynch, author of Rock Collecting for Kids, answers five frequently asked questions about rock collecting. Where to begin? When you want to begin collecting rocks and minerals, there’s a lot to know first. What tools and safety equipment to bring, when to go looking, and how to stay safe are all very important things to consider. Where can I look for rocks and minerals? Is it OK to search for them everywhere? The best part about rock and mineral collecting is that you can find them almost anywhere! As long as you are in a natural space, you can probably find some neat rocks or pretty mineral specimens. Some places are better than others, though. Good places to look include shorelines of lakes and near rivers, in forests, and even along dirt roads. Any place there is moving water can have a lot of rocks to pick up and examine. If you live near a desert, then you already know there are neat rocks all around...

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About Hornets, Wasps, and Yellowjackets

Tom Anderson, author of Things that Bite: The Truth About Critters that Scare People, shares with us truth and myth about hornets, wasps, and yellowjackets. Like honey bees and bumblebees, these thin-waisted stingers live in social colonies made up of workers. Hornets, wasps, and yellowjackets, in particular, are more aggressive than honey bees. Colonies of hornets, wasps, and yellowjackets remain active for only one summer, after which the fertilized queens fly away to start more colonies. Other colony members die at the end of the summer, and the nest is not reused. Fertilized queens winter in protected places such as hollow logs, stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, abandoned animal dens, and manmade structures. They emerge in the warm days of late April and early May to select a nest site and build a small paper nest in which to lay their eggs. After her first brood hatches, a queen feeds the young larvae for 18–20 days. These young will eventually pupate and...

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Rock Collecting for Kids—A Fun Activity

Nature’s treasures are all around us, waiting to be discovered. Share the thrills of searching and finding with the next generation of rock hounds. Acclaimed author of the Rocks & Minerals Identification Guides, Dan R. Lynch presents Rock Collecting for Kids, a children’s introduction to collecting rocks, an activity that the whole family will enjoy. The book begins with a “how to” section, including details on what to look for, where to look, and what to bring, as well as safety considerations. Next, Dan lays out the basics of geology, explaining everything from where rocks come from to how the Earth’s surface changes over time. From there, young readers are provided with an identification section, which features full-color photographs and ID tips on 75 types of common and collectible rocks and minerals. This fun guide is engaging and informative―with plenty of kid appeal―as it starts children on the path toward becoming successful...

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The Oystercatcher Sleeps with One Eye Open

Stan Tekiela shares with us his observation of the Oystercatcher. Did you know that all birds actually sleep with one eye open? Slowing wading through a clear tidal pool, about knee deep, in coastal Florida, I was trying to move slow enough not to disturb a gorgeous American Oystercatcher that was napping on a small sandbar in the middle of the lagoon. The Oystercatcher is an amazing looking shorebird with a black hood punctuated by a bright yellow eye surrounded by a striking orange ring. Matching the crazy looking eye is a very long, thick, orange-to-red bill that the bird uses for probing into the sand for aquatic insects. It has long, sturdy legs; when resting, it has the habit of tucking one leg up into its belly feathers and slipping its long bill under a wing to conserve warmth. This is a standard resting position for many shorebirds. I slowly moved across the...

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World War II Heroes from Minnesota’s Littlest Towns

In their book Little Minnesota in World War II, Jill A. Johnson and Deane L. Johnson tell the story of more than 140 soldiers from tiny Minnesota towns—places with a population around 100—who served in the armed forces, and died, during World War II. Today they share the story of Private First Class Carl Robert Emery. Carl “Bob” Emery entered the service on September 25, 1942, and was assigned to the 526th Ordnance Company, a tank repair company. Earlier, his family lost a son, Jack Emery, at Pearl Harbor, and they were unhappy to see him leave for training at Camp Bowie, Texas. Carl, the sole remaining son, unsuccessfully requested an early discharge to return home and help on the farm. In December 1943, the unit moved to Berkshire, England, to train for the Invasion of Normandy. As the men prepared for the invasion, the 526th Ordnance organized into two Detachments: A and B. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Detachment A landed on Omaha...

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