ASK A NATURALIST

Do you have a nature-related question about something you’ve seen in the park, out on a hike, or maybe your own backyard? How big is a bluegill? What do snapping turtles eat? When do monarch butterflies come back to Illinois? What is this bird?

Check out the Woodhaven Lakes Fishing page for more information on lake details, daily catch limits, and where to find what fish are in the lakes.

question, naturalist

Right now, the tiny black caterpillar looks very different from what it will be a few weeks. In time, the caterpillar will become much more colorful as it eats, grows and molts (sheds its outer skin).

This tiny black caterpillar will become a Black Swallowtail butterfly.

question, naturalist

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come back to Northern Illinois in May, and occasionally as early as April.

question, naturalistThe best food for a hummingbird is a sugar-water mix that you can make at home. The mix consists of 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. There is no need to add red food coloring to the mix as it could be harmful. The red or orange color of the feeder is enough to draw the hummingbird in to feed. Also, do not use artificial sweeteners, honey or molasses. Only use standard white granulated cane sugar.

If your feeder is in the sun and the temperatures are high, you should change the feed daily as it can go bad. On cooler days or in shaded areas, the sugar water should be fine for a couple of days.

To attract a variety of butterflies consider planting a variety of nectar bearing flowers like Milkweed, Coneflowers, Aster, Cosmos, Joe Pye weed, Thistle, Liatris, Lilac, Bee Balm, Sunflower, Red or White Clover, Zinnia and Butterfly Bush. Several of these the butterflies will lay eggs on as well.

question, naturalist

For caterpillars, consider plants like milkweed, dill, parsley, carrots, clovers, thistle, asters, and hollyhocks.

The broken skull you found looks like an opossum skull. 

Opossums are the only marsupial in the United States. Marsupials have a pouch to carry their young, like a kangaroo.

They are nocturnal animals, which means they come out at night.

If they feel threatened by a predator, they can play dead in order to save their life.

We would love to help you solve your natural mystery!

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