A cute common froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) also called spittlebug or cuckoo spit insect on the stem of a plant with its spittle, which acts as protection for this bug. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Nature: That may not be morning dew on your feet 



What is a spittlebug? Often when I mention to someone that I saw quite a few spittlebugs in the grass, they ask me that question. Spittlebugs are strange little creatures living in the grass in their frothy mass house of spit. It is not particularly pretty, but it is interesting, and it is the spittlebug’s house. Spittlebugs repurpose their waste into a protective shelter for themselves. Inside this unusual house, it rests with its head facing down. The spittle actually protects the spittlebug’s body from predation. You may find more than one bug inside the mass. 

After the bug molts, it leaves its unusual nest. First thing in the morning is a good time to look for these creatures. If you walk barefoot in the grass, your feet and legs will get quite wet!  

Sometimes spittlebugs are known as froghoppers. Froghoppers sometimes remind you of a tiny frog. They feed on plant fluids and drink from the plant’s stem. This world around us is full of surprises, large and small, if you stay alert. 

A friend told me about a hummingbird sphinx moth in her garden. This creature is always great to see and does at first look a lot like a tiny hummingbird feeding there. It’s hard to tell at first for it hovers in front of the plant on fast-moving wings like a tiny bird. Watch it for awhile and you can see that it has no feathers.  

The moth is actually feeding through a proboscis, which I think looks like a straw-like tube. When not in use, the moth stores this tube under its head. Instead of moving around at night, this moth is out in the daytime. They are quite beneficial in cross-pollinating many plants and they are quite harmless in their feeding habits. If you’ve never seen one, NOW is the time to look for them. They are exciting to see and it is fun to roam about in a garden. 

Hummingbird moth. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Hummingbird moths are also known a as hawk moths. These particular moths are medium-sized moths with a wing span of 4-5 inches. Look for their thick bodies, long, narrow wings and hovering behavior. If you spend time in a garden, you’ll see them, and it is exciting to do so. Moths outnumber butterflies by a 9-1 ratio! Don’t miss this one. 

Loons are especially great to see on this island and there are many opportunities to observe them during the nesting season. ALWAYs be respectful of their privacy and don’t get too close, especially if they have babies with them. The parent birds always have to be watchful of eagles and hawks or even gulls trying to catch the young. Give the loons their space! Fish and snapping turtles also like to eat the babies. Somes Pond, Eagle Lake and Long Pond are just a few places to see loons. Any lake in Maine is good, too, for hearing them make their plaintive, wonderful call as they communicate with each other from the water. It’s a fantastic, unforgettable sound. If you learn the calls, you can understand what they are saying to each other! 

great blue heron likes to fish in my pond, and I love seeing it. Just a month or so ago, I was in the South and watched these birds building their nests. It seemed to me as I watched that the female did most of the real work and the male supervised and occasionally picked up a stick to hand to her. However, the rather haphazard structure seemed to work, and eggs were laid. I left there before their eggs hatched.  

A great blue heron taking flight on the Songo River flowing into Sebago Lake.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

We don’t really have any rookeries on Mount Desert Island, but in years past, a few pairs managed to raise young on a nearby smaller island. The rookeries in the South are large and impressive. Seeing a great blue heron fishing here, however, is one of our summer delights. My absolute favorite heron was one I saw standing at the edge of marsh on a chilly morning. The bird was facing the sun and had its wings partly open as if meditating to the opening of the day. I’ll never forget it. I think the bird was warming up on a chilly day with the heat of the sun on its breast. 

Herons can also be feisty, for I watched a heron and a gull fighting over an eel one day in the Bass Harbor marsh. They really went at each other until the heron won and swallowed the eel, with difficulty! The gull went off to find another meal. 

 

Let me know what you are seeing or if you have any questions. Send them to [email protected]. 

 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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