Remember when you used to run through the yard with an old jam jar in one hand and the lid in the other? You’d tiptoe barefoot across the grass until you saw a grasshopper, butterfly, dragon fly or whatever creature it may have been. Then you’d hold your breath and slowly bring your jar and lid down surrounding the bug. You were hoping that when your jar made that loud “clang!” as the lid came crashing shut that there would be a prize inside your jar. You would have a new pet, perhaps, or maybe just a friend for the next few minutes. During those moments, the most amazing creature was so small that it fit in your hand.
At this time of year there are plenty of insects to visit at SRT’s nature preserves. Although we don’t want you to take them home, we do want to share with you what you can find if you take the time to explore the outdoors. If you are looking for butterflies, there are plenty of painted ladies, tiger swallowtails, and sulfur butterflies— all colorful butterflies. You can spot a painted lady as a large, deep orange butterfly with black and white corners on its wings. A tiger swallowtail is large and yellow and black. You can find them near the milkweed or other late-flowering plants, which are common food sources found in butterfly-friendly gardens.
Along with the butterflies, you may come across another insect, the Praying Mantis, lying in wait at the top of a flower for prey, which it snatches with its long forelegs. However, they are tricky to find due to their ability to blend in with the foliage around them. While looking for a Praying Mantis, be careful not confuse it for a grasshopper. The grasshopper is another elongated insect with long back legs. The grasshopper may be more familiar to some because of the easily recognizable noises it makes by rubbing its hind legs.
There is a lot to see at SRT’s nature preserves. It’s just a matter of how closely you are willing to look. Slow down next time you’re outside. Take a seat on one of the benches in the shade along a trail at Kaweah Oaks Preserve and just observe. You may get the chance to see much more than you anticipated.