Exploring Exotic Places

People are constantly telling me I should travel to the tropics, so I can see all the strange and exotic creatures there. I’m sure the tropics are very nice, but I’m perfectly content with the strange and exotic creatures in my own yard in western Massachusetts. I don’t think any of the photos below would look out of place if they were slipped in among series of shots of insects from the Amazon Rainforest. All three insects were found within 50 feet of my house on August 23 last year.


An assassin bug nymph (Reduviidae: Pselliopus) on flowerbuds of pilewort (Erechtites hieraciifolia).


Larva of a dogwood sawfly (Tenthredinidae: Macremphytus tarsatus) on alternate-leaved dogwood (Cornus alternifolia).


Caterpillar of a beautiful wood-nymph (Noctuidae: Eudryas grata) feeding on a leaf of summer grape (Vitis aestivalis).

Unfortunately I don’t get to spend much time exploring my own yard, since I have to work pretty much nonstop during the growing season. In the first year of living here (August to August), I documented 235 invertebrate species in and around the house (not counting the ones I brought home from work, of course). This would be an embarrassingly low number if I had devoted any appreciable amount of time to making a list. We’ll see how I do in year 2.

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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11 Responses to Exploring Exotic Places

  1. Sara Moore says:

    I agree with you! I also am perfectly happy with all natures excitment going on right here in northeast Ohio. Every year brings new discoveries! I throughly enjoy your posts and learn a lot from them.

  2. kentiki says:

    My sentiments exactly!

  3. Carol Senske says:

    You re-won my heart and admiration. There is more to see here in Green Lane, Pennsylvania that a lifetime would allow. May I mention your “Bug Tracks” blog in my blog? Just so you can see where it would show, here is the link. http://mothernature2014.blogspot.com/

  4. Jenny G. says:

    Thank you so much for all your posts, the biodiversity that you are able to document is truly inspiring, I am learning a lot!

  5. Sue Cloutier says:

    Yes, I am also working on an inventory and it will take the rest of my life… just counting moths for 3 years and am over 740 species… Being a naturalist is great. You are never bored. Thank you for the post!

  6. Sharie says:

    Hey, Charley – I recently wrote a blog post for Backyard Science over at Kos about all the different kinds of wasps and bees I encountered this past summer on one plant, the mountain mint. It really is amazing the diversity to be found if you just look for it.

  7. Sharie says:

    Crap. Half my comment disappeared! Just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed your site. The post about primrose moths was great. We just discovered those this past summer, too. I’ve seen the little birds ripping apart the seedpods and assumed they were after the seeds but I guess they may have wanted the larvae, too. There’s so much to learn! 🙂

  8. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening! says:

    I’ve always wanted to do a casual inventory of invertebrates in my own garden, but how exactly? Where to start? So overwhelming a task once you start paying attention.

  9. Ron Parry says:

    You are so right! There are amazing, mysterious creatures right under our noses if we would only take the time to see what’s there. There is no need to go to Mars when there is so much to discover here. I think your blog is terrific.

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