Copyright, Tom Gula
Please stay tuned for the next installment.....
These toads varies in color, but are usually brown, brick-red, or olive-colored. They have patterns of lighter colors on their bodies, as well as brown spots. All of them have warts, and some have a light stripe down their backs.
Both male and female toads have a spotted belly, but the male has a darker throat.
In the Spring, male toads find pools of water and begin calling females. To do this, the male will stretch out his dewlap (the pouch at his throat) to create his unique song. The American Toad call is a long, pleasant trill, that many people mistake for crickets. Remember, crickets sing in the Fall, toads in the Spring!
Copyright, Brad Moon, California Academy of Sciences
Copyright, Scott Egan, Rhode Island Vernal Pools
These toads are predators and they eat a lot. Insects, spiders, earthworms, snails, and slugs make up most of their diet, but they will eat just about anything that fits in their mouths.
American Toads will lash out with their sticky tongues to grab prey. If the prey is large, they will use their arms to stuff it into their mouths.
American Toads hide under rocks, logs, and leaf litter during the day. When the weather gets cold, toads will burrow up to three feet under ground to hibernate.
Predators of American Toads include snakes, owls, skunks and raccoons.
American Toads have special glands, called paratoid glands, which produce a foul-smelling, toxic chemical. This will keep some predators from trying to eat it.
Copyright, David Spier
Other defenses used by American Toads, include playing dead and puffing up their bodies to look bigger than they actually are.
To get around the paratoid glands, raccoons will flip over an American Toad and eat from the underside.
(assorted species, including: Lumbricus terrestris and Lumbricus rubellus)
The two most common species of earthworms in Northern Virginia are the Common Earthworm, or "nightcrawler" (Lumbricus terrestris) and the Red Earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus). These earthworms were introduced from Europe many years ago. Most native earthworms are thought to be long gone.
Earthworms' bodies are soft and long with a cylinder shape. Nightcrawlers, the largest, can grow up to eight inches long. Their coloration is brownish-red.
Dennis R. Linden
Earthworms can regenerate, which means to grow back part of its body if severed (cut). It does not mean if a mealworm is cut in half, it will become two earthworms. If the tail end of the earthworm is removed by a hungry bird, or another predator, the worm can grow a new one over time.
Earthworms will eat just about anything organic (natural), especially dead leaves and other dead plant material. They will also eat manure (animal poop), some living plants (including Red Clover), and dead animals (carrion). Sometimes they accidentally eat tiny live animals because they are in the soil. Some favorite earthworm foods include dead leaves that are high in sugar, from trees such as American Sycamore, maples, ashes, birches, and American Elm.
Earthworms breathe through their skin, so they must stay moist.
Nightcrawlers build a burrow which has a small mound at the surface, called a "midden." At night the worm will stretch its body out to pull food back into its burrow. It keeps its back end anchored in the burrow so it can disappear quickly should a predator show up. This is why you will sometimes see a bird pulling on an earthworm from the ground. The rest of it is in its burrow.
Earthworms are hermaphroditic, meaning they can all lay eggs after they mate. Earthworms lay coccoons which have an egg inside.
Once an earthworm has hatched, it can live up to about three years.
Many people wonder why earthworms are found in great numbers on rainy days. Mistakenly, people think they are "flooded" out of the ground. This is not true. Remember, earthworms breathe through their skin, which must stay moist. Therefore, rainy days are the perfect time for an earthworm to look for a new place to live. If an earthworm population gets too large in one place, many will seek a new location when they can.
Field Crickets are the crickets everyone sees and hears in late Summer and Fall. They grow up to an inch long, and are black and brown. They have large hind legs and two cerci (spiky things coming out of the back of their abdomens).
Photo by Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension Service
Field Cricket eggs hatch in the Spring, usually May. Young crickets are called nymphs. Nymphs eat a lot and grow quickly. They will molt (shed their outer skin) eight or more times as they grow up. With each molt, the nymphs look more and more like an adult. Young nymphs basically look like a cricket with no wings.
Field Crickets eat plant material, especially seeds, small fruits, and living and dead insects. If they are really hungry, they will even eat each other!
Once Field Crickets are fully grown (about a month and a half after they are born) they will look for a mate. Male crickets "sing and dance" to attract females. The "song" is made by rubbing the front wings together. Females hear the song through tympanum (eardrums) on their front legs. Once a female approaches a male, he will do a move back and forth in a sort of courtship "dance."
James H. Robinson
After mating, female Field Crickets look for some damp soil to lay eggs. They inject their ovipositors, like a needle, deep into the soil. She will lay about 50 eggs at a time through her ovipositor. One female can lay over 400 eggs in her short life.
Field Crickets do not survive over the winter. Any adult crickets or nymphs will die when cold weather arrives. Eggs, however, overwinter. They will survive and hatch the following Spring.
Field Crickets are most active at night. The songs of many males can be heard on Summer and Fall evenings. The song is usually a high trill played in threes. To hear the sound of a male Field Cricket, click the link below.
Field Crickets have many predators, including birds, frogs, toads, turtles, and other insects.
Leopard SlugLimax maximus
Shetland Biological Records Centre
Leopard Slugs were introduced to America, but are now common. They grow to four inches. They are usually grayish yellow with black spots or bands. Often they are wrinkled.
Leopard Slugs have four tentacles on their head; two long ones and two short ones.
Leopard Slugs live in fields, woods, and gardens. They prefer damp, shady places. In daylight, you can find them under rocks, logs, and similar places.
These slugs are mostly nocturnal, but will sometimes come out on rainy days.
Courtesty of the Royal British Columbia Museum, Photographer: Philip Lambert
Copyright, Wolfgang Fischer
Leopard Slugs have interesting mating habits. First, they will circle each other, before intertwining their bodies. They do this from a tree branch or near an edge. Next, the two slugs will fall from the branch and hang, suspended by mucus slime. After mating, since slugs are hermaphroditic, both slugs will be able to lay eggs.
Leopard Slug eggs are clear and laid in groups of over 100. New slugs will hatch the following Spring. Leopard Slugs typically live up to three years.
As these slugs hunt at night, they glide on a cushion of mucus slime. This slime leaves a trail, which slugs will use to return to the same feeding spot the next night.