Sunday, 6 September 2009

Outdoor Hour Challenge ~ Finding the extraordinary in our backyard

Here are our findings on the 5 critters we chose to learn more about:

water drops on leaf bug
leaf bug

This beautiful green insect is a Broad-winged Katydid. It's about 2 inches long. It lives year-round in Florida, but only from July to October where we live. It feeds on leaves, but it looked quite happy on our flowers too! We loved how he can camouflage himself so easily in the middle of a green plant.

another visitor at our front porch

This toad gave us a bit more trouble to identify it and we are still not completely sure if it is an Eastern American Toad or a Fowler's Toad...Both have ranges that include our area. This toad had come for a couple of nights right on our front porch. The first time my husband noticed him when he came home from work,the second I did when I came back with my dog from our evening walk. I called my son over and he picked it right up. I am not a huge fan of toads, but I like the colours and the patterns on his back.

North American funnel web weaving spider
North American funnel web weaver spider

The spider the kids found one day on our driveway looks like a North American Funnel Weaver Spider. Thank goodness we don't live in Australia, where these funnel weaver spiders are deadly! It still hasn't discouraged my oldest daughter from wanting to visit that country!
There are many spiders around our house, mostly orb weavers, so this one was of interest to the kids.
These spiders are known for weaving their funnel shape spider webs where they feed on their prey after attacking it. We do have a few of these webs around our house, but I haven't been able to take a decent photo of them.

European Mantid

The Praying Mantis that posed for us is a European Mantid (aka Mantis). People call the praying mantis an aggresive insect because they eat things three times its size and its mandables can pierce human flesh. The Praying Mantis is native to Europe but was brought to America at the end of the 19th century for agricultural reasons.
This praying mantis spent a couple of days right by our front door, going from one side to the other.


The Brown Grasshopper is our last little critter that we studied this time. We found a few interesting facts about it:

"Grasshoppers grow and mature through a process called metamorphosis. The egg hatches into a worm-like larva which moults to become the first in a series of nymphs. Nymphs look like miniature adults without wings and reproductive organs. They moult and pass through five or six stages on their way to becoming adults.
When grasshoppers moult, they swallow air to build up pressure in their bodies to split the old cuticle.
The moulted exoskeleton, like the skin shed by a snake, is a perfect replica of the grasshopper’s body. It includes the antennae and eyes, and even the insides of its mouth and anus! "
from Canadian Geographic website.

This was a great introduction for us to the Outdoor House Nature Study. We have been doing our own version of nature study for years, but not as organized. We just have always enjoyed looking at nature, wildflowers, insects, animals, birds, even trees. I am looking forward to trying out some of the other challenges Barbara Mc Coy has on her blog Handbook of Nature Study .


  1. This is so cool - gorgeous pictures. I miss having a yard, but we are heading to a local park on one of the nearby mountains in a couple of weeks. Hopefully we will find some interesting critters.

  2. The katydid is amazing....never noticed the pattern to him before. I think you did a fantastic job of finding out who each critter was in your nature study. Insects are difficult for me to identify and I still have not figured out my caterpillar from our challenge.

    Thank you so much for sharing your entry with us. Inspiring.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  3. My son loved the funnel weaver spider as he's insect and dangerous animal mad. Your photographs are brilliant.

    Just some trivial info for you. The funnel web spider is only found in the northern suburbs of Sydney and is a very common which is scary since it is so deadly.

  4. Love your pics!
    Yes...katydids, cicadas, grasshoppers...tons are here in Florida!


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