Of Slugs and Suds

One might think a rainy day is the perfect kind of day to sit inside, curl up in a chair with a good book, sip some tea, and maybe take a nap in the process. Of course, it is. But it’s an even better day to head out the door and into the woods. And so I did.

I learned an interesting thing in the process as I walked along our cow path searching the bark of one tree after another to see what I might see.

The back sides of the trees were fairly dry as indicated by the lighter gray color. That didn’t make sense until I realized that was the southwestern side and today’s storm is a good ole New England Nor’easter. I suspect as the wind increases tonight, all of the bark will get wet.

With that understanding, I continued my search and finally was rewarded with a sighting upon a Red Maple that had long ago suffered a wound. Yes, that slug was the object of my attention.

When not consuming a garden, I find slugs to be fascinating critters. Classified as gastropod mollusks, they are in the same category as snails. The main distinguishing factor is that a slug lacks the external hard shell of a snail. Mostly nocturnal, they tend to feed at night and have a preference for dark, cold, and moist hiding areas during the day so that their skins do not dry out. But on a rainy day–ahhh.

Watching one move requires patience. Being diverse feeders, their diet differs depending on their types. In general, some tend to feed on plant matter or fungi, while others are predators feeding on different small organisms. I suspected this one was finding small organisms to dine upon as it glided ever so slowly on its slimy ‘foot,’ a long sheath of muscle on the underside of its body. The muscular ‘foot’ constantly oozes a slippery mucus to aid movement, which is why slugs leave a slimy trail in their wake.

Finding one slug was certainly not enough, so I rolled a few logs. Did you know this? Slugs are hermaphrodites, meaning they are born with both sets of sex organs and are able to lay eggs after mating.

In optimal conditions, slugs may lay clear, jelly-like eggs every warmish month, which hatch into baby slugs after around two weeks.

I also checked many, many more trees as the raindrops increased in intensity.

Unlike watching a slug’s movement, which can take such a long time, try capturing the travel route of a rain droplet. If you look closely, you might spy one about two inches down and two inches in on the upper left hand side of the tree.

Don’t blink or you might miss the action as the droplet falls. And just as quickly a new droplet forms.

Where exactly did the drop land? Upon a pile of foam. Here’s how it works. As the rainwater flows down the trunk, it dissolves chemicals from the bark. In the process, it changes the surface tension of the water so that as the droplets drip toward the base of the tree, air is introduced due to the turbulence and foam forms because the surface tension is altered.

I found it on pine and oak, but also near the base of Eastern Hemlock and Red Maple. And of those various forms, my favorites were a much looser structure that reflected rainbow colors in an almost hexagonal prism.

This rainy day . . . of slugs (for I did find a second one so I can use the plural form, and my first had moved all of two inches when I returned to it an hour later) . . .

turned out to be also a day of suds, and for both I gave thanks.

Wondering About Nature’s Complexity

As I sat on the porch of our camp this morning, three wafts of smoke blew up from the ground along a pathway to the water. And my heart swelled. Earlier, I’d been out between raindrops taking some photos and my eye was drawn to that very spot. My photos didn’t come out so well, but I believe what I was looking at were bird’s nest fungi. They were cup-like in shape and some were filled with minute eggs, while others were covered in an orangey blanket.

I suspect it was the latter that caught my attention from the porch. It had started to rain and this fungus depends on rain for dispersal of its egg-like capsules that contain the spores. The hydraulic pressure of a raindrop falling into the nest causes the capsule to spring forth, emitting spores in a puff. I could have sat there all day waiting for it to happen again, but . . .

1 hawkweed

there were other things to look at and wonder about. The bird’s nests weren’t the only ones ready to send forth new life. While the hawkweed seeds embraced the raindrops, they waited for a breeze to send their young into the greater world.

2Oleander aphids on milkweed

And then I returned home, where I found some other cool things. It all depends upon your point of view, I suppose, but check out these Oleander mites on the underside of a milkweed leaf. They are so named because they also like Oleander.

4ant milking aphids

Those weren’t the only aphids wandering about. The little gray dots on this leaf are actually another form. So here’s the scoop on ants and aphids. While aphids suck the sugar-rich fluids from their host plants, the ant strokes (milks) the aphids with its antenna to get them to secrete waste (honeydew), which has a high sugar content. And we all know that ants love sugar. Honey-dew just took on a whole new image.

3cranefly

Tucked under the lady ferns, I found a cranefly. I’m always searching for orange in support of our young neighbor who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. When I started posting a photo a day in his honor, I didn’t realize how important it would become to me–making me think about all that he and his family are enduring on a daily basis. He is in remission, but still undergoing treatment and will need a bone marrow transplant. This cranefly almost became today’s post, but a daylily dragon won out for Team Kyan.

5mystery

So dear reader, I enjoy teaching you, but now need you to teach me. I found this under another leaf on a shrub. And I often see the same thing stuck to our house. It reminds me of a caddisfly case. What is it?

 

7daylily

No mystery here. But still, the complexity . . .

8mallow

enhanced by raindrops.

c9omplex world

Nature is complex, but oh so worth a wander. And certainly worth a wonder.

Thanks for stopping by today.