Audio Guide to Summer: June 26

Jun 26, 2020

An adult and juvenile pileated woodpecker together at a feeder in Benzonia. The adults will be sending the juvenile on its way soon, according to Doug Cook from the Benzie Audubon Society. He added that the juvenile will drift around until it finds a spot that’s not occupied by another pileated woodpecker.
Credit Margot Wynkoop

Fireflies are out and have been spotted in northern Michigan this week. The best place to see fireflies is in tall grass where there is little other light.  The flashing lights are a signal to attract mates. 

Fireflies are carnivores.  In their larval state they eat slugs and snails, so they’re good for your garden and your lawn.

Caterpillars have evolved may forms of camouflage. One technique for locating them is to look for frass. That's the distinctive excrement of some caterpillars. If you find some on the ground, look up and you may be lucky enough to spot a caterpillar in the foliage.
Credit Duke Elsner, MSU Extension

There are also many caterpillars out at this time of year.  In fact, over the next month, most of the more than 150 butterfly and 1,000 moth species in Michigan will be in caterpillar form. It’s good timing for birds since many of them are searching for food for growing nestlings.

Duke Elsner, with MSU Extension, says songbirds and others mostly feed their young insects.

“Caterpillars are amongst the easiest things for them to capture because they’re slow and they can’t jump or fly away,” he explains.

If you’d like to see some caterpillars, Elsner shared a trade secret for finding them: look for frass.  Frass—or caterpillar excrement—is very distinctive looking.  

Margot and Steve Wynkoop have seen a pair of pileated woodpeckers with a juvenile at their feeders in Benzonia for three years.
Credit Margot Wynkoop

Also, this week, we have an unusual photo of an adult pileated woodpecker with a juvenile.  They were photographed together by Margot Wynkoop in Benzonia.

“The adults have big, very sophisticated red caps that are shiny and gorgeous," says Wynkoop. "The young ones look like they have a little crew cut. They just have this little fuzzy, red thing on the top of their head so you can tell that they’re the juveniles.” 

Grape vines should be blossoming in the coming week, a little late this year.  It’s not a very exciting event though, because wine grapes don’t need insects to pollinate them.  They’re self-pollinating and that means their blossoms are not very exciting looking. 

Larry Mawby, a producer for the Audio Guide and a Leelanau County vintner, says you'd have to look carefully if you stepped into a vineyard.

"You’d see that what looked like little bitty grape berries have opened up into flowers," he says. "If you’re a little bit later, those flowers have turned into little bitty grape berries.”

Thanks to Leslie Hamp, Larry Mawby and Cheryl Bartz for help with the show.