June bugs ‘busting out all over’

Lady slippers have been beautiful this June. PHOTO COURTESY JASON HOLLINGER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Lady slippers have been beautiful this month. PHOTO COURTESY JASON HOLLINGER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

I have had many questions about June bugs. These large, chubby beetles are found all over North America. They become very noticeable around lights at night, as they are attracted to them. Their life cycle takes about a year, and it starts in midsummer when the female lays her eggs in earthen balls beneath the ground surface. These balls hatch into white grubs that skunks, crows, ravens and other wildlife like to eat. The last stage of their grub life lasts all winter. When the first warm days after a cold winter arrive, the grubs become active, and you may find the larvae crawling around on their backs. The June beetle itself is a large, about 1-inch, brown beetle with a hard shell and six legs. They slam against screens and windows, and if they are out in the light too long, they die. You often will find several of them dead under porch lights and outside any bright windows in the morning. In some cultures in the world, they are considered very delicious when fried and eaten. I have tried eating them fried in oil, but it was a bit disconcerting eating them with the legs and antennae. One other member of my family thought they were delicious. “To each his own.”

A short history: June bugs live underground as larva and eat the roots of grasses and other plants. This stage may last from two to three years. As adults, June bugs eat vegetation from trees and bushes. Adults may live up to four years. June bugs go through four stages of development. They may sometimes be annoying but still are interesting creatures and harmless.

Lady slippers have been beautiful this month. The first one I saw was in a photo taken on the island at the end of May. They were starting then to bloom here and there. This exquisite flower is a favorite and best-known native orchid. The single pink blossom is borne on the top of a slender stem. This flower usually likes to grow solitary but in patches, so you may at one time see several in bloom as you scan the woodland floor. I have found it growing almost everywhere from damp, shaded thickets in the depths of some swamp to the dry rocky hillsides and even on cliffs, as well as in the woods and fields not far from the shore. Although the blossoms get all the attention, the large 2-to-3-inch wide veined leaves are well worth noticing. Quite often, there will be one white blossom growing in among all the pink, but this is still a pink lady slipper. True white lady slippers are quite different and very rare.

Take time to notice the unusual blossom shaped like a pink pouch. In the front of the pouch is a cleft where insects enter. That part is easy, but exiting sometimes is impossible, or at best difficult for a big bumblebee, and the bee may get trapped inside.

A great blue heron out on Islesford has been interesting this month. One resident had the bird flying at his kitchen window. Many birds see their reflections but not usually these large herons. The bird finally did fly off to the shore. Another call came to me a week or so later about a heron standing in a field a little ways from the shore. It was facing the sun and as still as a statue. I discovered this myself a year or so ago and had an explanation from Cornell University about the bird’s behavior. Apparently, the bird was trying to get warm by capturing the rays of the sun full on its breast as it held its broad wings open in sort of a meditation pose. It is an interesting sight, a sunbathing heron!

These herons are interesting bids in many ways, for in spite of their size and long legs, they prefer to nest in trees. Great blue herons do nest locally. Their colonies are often near the shore and in a tree. The nest is a large bulky affair and quite disheveled looking. Their massive stick nests placed high in the branches are a sight to see.

Herons prefer fish, frogs, salamanders, meadow mice and other creatures found near water, and they are expert at spearing their food. A friend sent me a fascinating film recently showing a heron using a piece of bread as bait to lure a fish closer to it. It took several attempts by the bird tossing the bread in the water to get the fish close enough so the heron could actually spear the sizeable fish and then go off to eat it. Take time when you can to sit quietly and watch a bird or mammal going about its daily life, and you will no doubt be well entertained and amazed at what they can and will do.

Young herons are fed by regurgitation, which looks almost brutal, but it works for them. The bird jabs its long bill down the throat of the baby bird and expels the “prepared” food in the baby’s throat. Hummingbirds also jab their slender bills down the throat of their tiny babies to expel the sugary nectar they have gathered. They keep feeding the babies one at a time until the babies stop opening their mouths.

June is a very busy month for wildlife as they nest, raise their young and constantly search for food. The weather is usually lovely and we all can almost forget about all the snow and unpleasant conditions we experienced a few months ago. Enjoy every day.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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