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Learn to enjoy garden summer traffic

Published: Thu, August 2, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Dolly Anderson

Ohio certified volunteer naturalist

I think I need a stoplight or a cop to slow down the mass of traffic in my immediate garden.

Oh yes, it is State Route 11 without the pavement.

I am constantly dodging hummingbirds as they dart around right in front of my face, chittering and chattering at each other. Who knows what they are really saying.

And fussy – oh my.

The four-hole feeder is left mostly full because the personal feeder is the one they prefer. So they fight over the little one-hole feeder like it was their own personal pan pizza, (I do call it that), rather than have to share the big feeder. These little buggers can get up to speeds of 49 mph forward – and for showing off, a speed of 30 mph backward.

Did I mention the Ruby-throated hummingbird crosses the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 500 miles, in 18 Ω hours?

And just so you know, we are cheated in the eastern U.S. East of the Mississippi we have only the Ruby-throated hummingbird. Out West, they have 14 hummingbird breeds.

But this is not the only busy place in my garden. The drama, the action, the feeding frenzy.

So I look out my window and notice the catalpa tree looks a little naked. Alright, a lot naked. In fact, it is hard to see if there are any whole leaves left.

I am intrigued, so I go out to see what is causing this defoliation. I stand underneath and see nothing. But as I stand there, little green leaf litter is falling and I hear chewing. I swear I hear the chatter of little teeth just munching away.

And then, I spot the problem. The biggest worm I ever saw on a tree, 3 inches at least, just lounging on a big catalpa leaf, eating away.

I ran to get “the book.”

I learned it is not a worm, but a catalpa caterpillar – Ceratomia catalpa (Catalpa sphinx) or hawk moth. The catalpa tree and the caterpillar have a symbiotic relationship of sorts, not so good in my opinion for the tree, but the caterpillar can literally eat all the leaves and the tree will be no more worse for wear – unless it is a very young or very old tree.

The caterpillars are prized by fisherman, and homeowners will get to see a very cool sphinx moth later in the life cycle of this worm. So don’t kill them and don’t pick them off – just stand underneath and be serenaded by their chewing and you will have hawk moths later flying around your homesite.

And to end my views of natural highways in my yard, I have one more species to mention – the Lucy.

Yes, it is a mammal; and yes, it belongs to the canine family. And yes, I found it abandoned in a wooded area, brought it home and made it part of my family. And yes, it just chewed up the cushion on my wicker chair on the porch. The scientific name for this mammal is Baddoggiechewer.

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