Posted in Nature Study, Our Adventures

Nature Study: Grapevine Beetle / Pelidnota Punctata

Mr. Chivalry and the kids saw one of these giant scarab beetles hanging around some grape vines.  The beetle was about the size of Mr. Chivalry’s thumb.  Apparently these beetles, also known as the Spotted June Beetle, like to eat grapes in mid-summer and do not cause a lot of damage to the vines.

Here are some links to further information about these beetles in case you want to know more about them:



Posted in Nature Study

Nature Study: Northern Cardinal

One bird we hear more than we see in our backyard is the beautiful Northern Cardinal.  Delightful, 9, loves to imitate their call and have conversations with them.  We usually see the females more than the males, at least at bird feeders.  Here are a couple of pictures of what the females look like:

Female Northern Cardinal in my garden

Northern Cardinal Female

Female northern cardinal (6778224297)

And the males:

Northern Cardinal male RWD2

Male Northern Cardinal (9600060696)

Northern Cardinal (17103105617)

Northern Cardinals make calls that sound like birdie-birdie-birdie and what-cheer, what-cheer.  They also make a loud chip call.  Wikipedia describes the calls as follows:

“Both sexes sing clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as “cheeeer-a-dote, cheeer-a-dote-dote-dote”, “purdy, purdy, purdy…whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit”, “what-cheer, what-cheer… wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet”[17] and “cheer, cheer, cheer, what, what, what, what”.[12]

Here is more on the song:

For more information on the Northern Cardinal, visit Cornell’s page here:

Posted in Nature Study

Nature Study: Red-winged Blackbird

As we have continued learning about the birds in our area, here is a bird we saw this summer by a pond beside a highway.  The redwinged blackbird is a beautiful black bird with red and yellow bars on its wings.  Its call sounds like “conk-la-ree!”

Redwinged Blackbird m 4054

Redwinged Blackbird m 7324

USFWS redwing blackbird1 (23770628931)

Redwing the Blackbird, Speckles the Starling

Here and see the Red-winged Blackbird in this video:

See the Red-winged Blackbird’s range, hear its call, and read more about it here:

Posted in Nature Study

Nature Study: Blue Jay

Blue Jay RWD

This past spring and summer, we spent a lot of time learning about birds and trying to identify the birds that visit our backyard.  One such bird is the blue jay.  We hear these birds from time to time throughout the day but especially in the morning.  We love their beautiful color.  Here is a map of their range so you can see if they live in your area:

Blue Jay-rangemap

And some other pictures of blue jays so you can see their coloring:

Blue Jay Ash RWD5

Blue Jay-27527

Blue Jay Searching for Acorns

Beautiful, aren’t they?

A video showing some of the sounds that blue jays make:

To hear the sounds a blue jay makes and to learn more about this magnificent bird, visit this link:

Posted in Homeschooling, Nature Study, Our Adventures, Subject Science

Our Painted Lady Flop

Vanessa cardui MHNT CUT 2013 3 14 Pontfaverger-Moronvilliers

For the past couple of months, Delightful, 9, has been reading Apologia science texts for fun.  When she read through Zoology I, she exclaimed that she reaaaaaaaaaaaallly wanted to try to hatch a caterpillar into a butterfly.  Thankfully, Delightful’s grandmother was able to purchase some Painted Lady caterpillars and a butterfly house at our local teacher store.  We had high hopes for our caterpillar-hatching adventure.  I’m sad to report, though, that the whole thing was a flop.

At the start of our adventure, we received a cup containing five living, wriggling little caterpillars.  Four were around half a cm long and one was at least double the size of all the rest.  All seemed well and good.  The caterpillars had plenty of food, a quiet place to eat, and plenty of room to move around.

Our instructions told us to clean the waste out of the cup 6-8 days after we received it.  When we went to do so, two of the little guys had already died.  They had curled up into little tiny “c” shapes for no apparent reason.  At the same time, one caterpillar was enormous — at least two cm long.  A second was slightly smaller, maybe a little over one cm.  The third remaining one was still very active but didn’t seem to have grown at all.  We were confident we’d have at least one butterfly by the end of the process.

About a week later, none of the caterpillars had tried to make a chrysalis.  They all seemed to be moving around and eating, but that was about it.  Then, one morning, Delightful came down from her room in tears, telling me that something was wrong with her caterpillars.  I took a look.  The little one that never seemed to grow had disappeared.  We never did find it.  The medium one was still alive and was moving around on the lid of the container.  A good sign.  However, the enormous caterpillar was at the bottom of the container – in pieces.  It looked like it had exploded into a big pile of mush and jelly.  Not good.  We cleaned out the mush and unsuccessfully tried to find the little third caterpillar.  We hoped that the single remaining caterpillar would make it to the butterfly stage.

No such “luck.”

Two days later, the remaining caterpillar, which was about two cm long, died.  We noticed when we went to check on it and discovered that it was all stiff and no longer moving.  We left it in case it was trying to shed its skin since some articles on the internet said that caterpillars stay still when doing so.  Unfortunately, that was not the situation for our last chance at a butterfly.  It was dead, dead, dead.  So was our hope of succeeding with this science mission.

And so, our attempt at hatching five caterpillars ended with zero living and no butterflies.  The teacher store doesn’t know if it can get any more caterpillars in this season.  My little scientist is devastated.  On the bright side, though, Grandma knows where to get some monarch caterpillars with a plant to hatch in the fall.  So now we are looking forward to getting more wiggly pets and a chance to finally use our butterfly habitat!



Posted in Nature Study, Subject Science

Nature Study: Boxelder Bugs

Box elder bug

We saw a couple of Boxelder bugs in our house and promptly redeposited them outside.  Apparently, these bugs can be pests but are not harmful to humans and don’t really cause much damage to anything.  You can read more about them here.

By the way, I have decided to pull photos of our nature study subjects from online sources wherever possible since online photos show things much better than the photos I can take with my current camera.

Posted in Homeschooling, Nature Study, Our Adventures, Subject Science

Nature Study: Big-Headed Ground Beetle

One day while standing in our office, I happened to notice a huge beetle crawling across our carpet.  I pointed it out to the girls, who immediately shrieked and jumped onto chairs.  Here is a picture of a type of the beetle we saw:

Kaldari Scarites subterraneus 01Big-headed Ground Beetle (Scarites subterraneus) in Nashville, Tennessee

Scary stuff!  Actually, these beetles aren’t harmful to humans or property and help humans by eating other bugs.  Here is information on them from Orkin:

As beneficial insects that play an important role in curbing populations of pests and weeds, ground beetles generally only become a problem when they occur in large numbers and move indoors. A typical ground beetle infestation comprises just a handful of the harmless insects. In some cases, however, ground beetles will enter buildings in large numbers and cause panic or alarm, even though the pests do not pose a health threat to people or damage property. – See more at: