American Dagger

There is so much going on “in” an oak tree. The biologist E.O. Wilson has written that you could spend a lifetime voyaging like Magellan around a single tree, discovering all the interrelated life associated with it. Quercus is definitely one genus where this applies very well.

This British study found 284 insects associated with oaks. There isn’t a lot of oak diversity in the UK. Meanwhile, searching the combination of insects and oaks on-line gives you a lot of information on pests, as we define them. A lot of things eat oaks, to be sure. Migrating songbirds know it well: an oak in spring is rich with caterpillars. The hungry birds hunt and feast within the emergent leaves, gobbling up caterpillars in the canopy — things we rarely ever see, yet are quite clearly there.

There’s a row of Swamp White (Quercus bicolor) and Pin (Q. palustris) lining a street nearby. I look up into them when I pass. The trees are young enough that the leaves are still within reach. Flies, ladybugs, aphids, galls can all be seen in the trees. This is recent sighting: the caterpillar of the American Dagger moth (Acronicta americana). They can be rather yellower as they grow. Here, several days later, is an even smaller one.
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The New York Times finally gets around to an obit for Florence Merriam Bailey, author of what was probably the very first field guide for birds. Shall we review the gendering of bird-watching/birding?

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