Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Why Critters Cross the Road

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, woolybears, woolybears crossing the road, worms crossing the road when wet

Hello fellow readers,

This time of year, on morning walks with Miss Ellie, I come across woollybear caterpillars (Pyrrharctia isabella) and can’t help but help them along. Just as I pick them up, they curl into balls of fur. After ten or so saves, I consider just letting them be, but imagining them squished on the road is too much to bear. They’re scrambling for a place to overwinter in decaying plant debris. The odd thing is, the side of the road they came from has as many plants.

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, woolybears, woolybears crossing the road, worms crossing the road when wet, Hickory Tussock caterpillars

Woolybears with only one black band are a popular style this season.

Woollybears seen in the fall are the second generations of caterpillars that emerge in August. The first generations come in May. In the spring they’ll surface and feed on plants such as birch, maple, clover, aster, herbs, and grass then spin a cocoon. In two weeks, an Isabella Tiger Moth emerges. Eventually the females lay eggs and the cycle continues.

You likely know about the legend of woollybears predicting winter. The narrower the reddish-brown band, the harsher the weather. They say there’s no scientific proof of such, and from my observation, their band fashions run the gambit. From the classic black ends equally sized with a reddish-brown middle, to all brown, or all black. Even an all blonde fuzzy crossed the road. Then there’s those with only one black band, a popular style this season.

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Hickory Tussock caterpillar

Admittedly there’s a contradiction about my kindness of helping woollybears. I’ve come across other critters roadside such as the white fuzzy Hickory Tussock caterpillars (Lophocampa caryae) that I didn’t help cross the road. They are adorable with longish spikes of fur jutting beyond their white coat fashioning a row of black spots. The thing is, they can cause a nasty rash that may require medical attention. (Here’s a link to a previous column on the subject). I feel badly not helping the furry fellas though.

A few weeks ago, during a rainy spell, dozens of worms took to the road. They say worms take advantage of wetness which allows them to move far more quickly than through the soil. I didn’t try to save them. Partly because so many slithery critters seemed daunting, but mostly because of the slime factor versus cute and fuzzy. I’ve helped more than the furry cross the road though. Recently I came across a baby snapping turtle. Quarter sized. The little guy was sluggish, perhaps dehydrated. I carried him to the brook running beneath the road. He quickly roused and raced to the water finding shelter under a heart shaped stone. Helping him especially lifted me…My soulful twin Bill had an affinity for turtles. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog, woolybears, woolybears crossing the road, worms crossing the road when wet, Hickory Tussock caterpillars, baby snapping turtle

Recently I came across a baby snapping turtle. Quarter sized. The little guy was sluggish, perhaps dehydrated.

 

 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. jean Jackson Reply

    Dear Mary,
    I liked the caterpillars and their stripes. The turtle was handsome , but not my favorite!

    Hope to see you today at the party!

    Love, Mom J.

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