Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-39I took several pictures of this fellow while doing my Day Camp Counselor gig, but had no time during the week to look him up. Today I searched the internet for “goldenrod beetle” in hopes of finding something relevant. Turns out, he’s called Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, also known as the Pennsylvania Leather-wing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus).

While the larvae are carnivorous, the adults prefer pollen and nectar.  Birds, mice, mantids, assassin bugs and others avoid eating this soldier beetle because of an acidic secretion which issues from pores along its side when it is disturbed.  (Hmm… I’m tempted to disturb one to see that…  but what will happen?)

One of the more fascinating things I ran across was at the (AMAZING) site BugGuide

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle with Fungus

Click to go to the full account on

There is, apparently, a fungus that attaches itself to the exoskeleton of certain insects as they pass by along the forest floor.  After burning a hole through the armor, the fungus proceeds to attack the “non-vital” organs, while injecting antibiotics and other “medicines” to protect the host for a bit longer.  Eventually the fungus makes its way to the brain where it manipulates the behavior of the insect causing it to climb high into the tree-tops.  There, it devours the rest of the brain, after which the insect body explodes releasing the spores of the fungus.

(I SOOO wish I had known about this when the kids were still at camp… They would have loved such a zombie-esque story!)

This is another example of a story that makes me ask, “How do they know that?”  Do you know of a book that explains how we know what we know?  I’d like to read it!  Send me the title and author, please!

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (a.k.a. Pennsylvania Leather-wing)

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Modeling Appropriate Behavior

I’m a day camp counselor this week. I have a small group of 5 children. One of my duties is to “model appropriate behavior.” To that end, I like to gently handle critters we find in the field, and observe them carefully. Sometimes I end up learning things I never knew before!

For example, take this Katydid (a.k.a. Long-horned grasshopper).

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(I apologize for the quality fo the pictures, but it’s hard to take your time when five kids are all calling, “Jennifer, Look at this!”)

If you look at that photo above, you will see that this katydid did what all grasshoppers are wont to do. As a defense, he has spit “tobacco juice” on my finger. Apparently when they do this inside the mouth of a would-be predator, the taste causes said creature to spit him out again.

I was quite surprised at what happened next:

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The katydid drank the dark liquid back up again! Perhaps he decided I was not a threat after all and wanted to conserve the dark stuff for a real emergency?

And then, he proceeded to wash up. I wish I had video:

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My finger was as clean as can be when I eventually released him back to the grasses.

Try it! Catch a grasshopper and hold it gently in your fingers. See if it regurgitates, then reingests the juice… Report back here. I’m curious how common a practice this might be…

A Gorge-ous Day

It is hard to convey the beauty of Chautauqua Gorge on a summer day.  It really must be experienced first hand…  But, of course, I shall try with my photos and words.

We arrived at around 9:30am and the light was greenish gold.  There were forests above us, and below us:

Looking Upstream Reflections

Straight overhead, the sky was cloudless and deep blue.


The water was higher than we expected it to be on a summer day. Yesterday’s rain must be the reason. We switched from boots to Tevas and found we had much better traction and could walk right through the creek… The water was refreshing.


Terry brought his fishing pole fitted with a small spinner.


It seemed every pool he tried yieled a fish. Many were small, like the one on the left below. But there was one nice big brown trout, too.

Terry Terry's Brown Trout

Brown Trout
This one could have made a meal! But it was a catch and release kind of day.

On the RazorbackBecause the woods are pretty, too, we switched back to boots at one point and hiked a trail we call “The High Road”. It climbs a razorback – with cliffs dropping off on both sides – one to the main creek, and one to a feeder creek. At the summit you can no longer see the creek through the canopy. You can still hear the water rushing, though, and the breeze up there was cool and refreshing.

The trail eventually descends back to the creek – further upstream. We put our sandals back on and followed the creek downstream to our beginning point. Along the way, we could not resist sitting in this mini-waterfall. Very refreshing!


I took… way too many pictures… because every which way I turned there was more incredible beauty.

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