Well… seems no one loves the stink bug anymore. But I do. In fact, it inspired my 1st series of brown paper bug paintings. Slow-moving and awkward, more like a dinosaur than an insect, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug has ARRIVED. They're everywhere – in jacket sleeves, under a stack of boxes, walking across the computer monitor. The stink bug comes by its name honestly, protecting itself by emitting odor that can only be described as old cucumber.
You’ll find these beautiful little damselflies along wooded, slow-moving streams and small rivers or perching on low shrubbery in the sun-lit openings of the forest canopy. They flutter, butterfly-like, a short distance when disturbed, but they’re are easy to get close to as long as you approach slowly and don't make any sudden movements.
Sleek, scary, aerodynamic - these wasps (and their paper nests) are a marvel of engineering. The nest, which cradles the wasp’s eggs, is created by chewing wood fiber and forming the resulting paper paste into hexagonal cells – a joint activity shared by up to 30 wasps in each colony. Most gardeners appreciate the paper wasp since its diet consists mostly of caterpillars and other garden pests, but if you’ve ever been stung by one, well...
Soft and unassuming in appearance, ground beetles can be black and shiny, but a few species have bright colors. They look like they’re made of leather. During the day, they mostly hide under rocks, logs, and fallen leaves – nighttime is reserved for hunting other insects. They’re fast runners when they need to be, but for the most part don’t mind being picked up and admired.
The queen snake is very particular about its habitat – it can only live in clean running streams and watersheds with stony and rocky bottoms and the water temperature must be a minimum of 50°F (10°C). This is mostly due to the snake’s dietary requirements – it subsists almost entirely on newly-molted freshwater crayfish (which are unable to defend themselves with their pincers). Sensitive to the acidification and accumulation of heavy metals resulting from the pollution of our waterways, crayfish populations are decreasing, resulting in the decline of the queen snake population. Hey! Another good reason to keep our streams clean...
Northern Green Frog
This little frog will eat ANYTHING it can capture and swallow. And (I'm happy to say) it's a common and abundant frog that can be found from eastern Canada west to the Great Lakes, south to coastal Texas and up the entire Atlantic coast to Maine. The northern green frog lives in freshwater marshes, shallow ponds and small streams. Maybe you've heard its song, like the loud plunk of loose banjo string?
Eastern Painted Turtle
North America's most common turtle... and so named because of its bright markings. Some painted turtles can live up to 30 years! They inhabit ponds, marshes, rivers and streams and feed on an omnivorous diet of worms, insects, crayfish, tadpoles, small fish, plants and algae. Because they're cold-blooded creatures, you're likely to see them basking in the sun for warmth on a comfy rock or log. Spook them and they slip silently into the water.
Smooth Green Snake
Born with an olive green, brown or even blue-grey skin, the smooth green snake turns green only after the first time it sheds its skin. It prefers moist habitats and areas near a permanent water source, usually staying in green areas for camouflage – marshes, meadows, the edges of streams, and in open woods. Since it prefers to be on the ground, the smooth green snake is vulnerable to many predators... the red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, rough-legged buzzard, bears, raccoons, foxes, even the common house cat. In turn, smooth green snakes prey mostly on insects and spiders, as well as millipedes, centipedes, salamanders, and slugs. Also called a grass snake...
A very adaptable toad! Living in open woodlands, meadows, along beaches and rivers, Bufo fowleri's North American range stretches from Ontario south to the tip of Texas and from the Atlantic coast west to Arkansas. Favorite snacks include insects, but NOT earthworms like the American Toad. This toad uses its earth-toned camouflage as a natural defense against predators and will emit a noxious odor to protect itself as well. If you ever have a chance to see one in its natural habitat, you're lucky - it's shy, preferring to hide and playing dead when handled.
Eastern Box Turtle
My favorite turtle. No, it’s not possible to pick a favorite...
Important: Never relocate a turtle. Box turtles possess a homing instinct. If you find a box turtle on the road, don’t take it home with you and release it. A box turtle released away from its home range will often wander until it dies. Rather, if it is safe, move the box turtle to the side of the road in the direction it was already going. Eastern box turtle populations are declining over much of their range. Susceptible to habitat fragmentation and road-related mortality, they also suffer from collection as pets. And because they take so long to mature, it’s difficult for box turtle populations to recover from these pressures.