Naturalist’s Notebook: Life on a Rosebush

Hello from Mr. Bill, and welcome to Naturalist’s Notebook. I love to encourage you young scientists to explore nature around your house and neighborhood. I hope you have found some neat and interesting things.

Here is a hint to help you be successful in your hunt. To find the greatest number of animals in your yard, think small. You may have only a few squirrels, birds, or rabbits, but your yard could contain hundreds or thousands of much smaller creatures.

When you are being a nature detective, one bush can be a whole city for those small creatures! I recently spent some time visiting with a few animals that call a pasture rose in my yard home sweet home. Today we’ll meet some of the citizens that visit or live there.

Before we meet these neighbors, let’s go over the four things that an animal needs to survive in a habitat: 1. Food. 2. Water. 3. Cover (or shelter). 4. A place to raise young.

Why would my pasture rose bush be a nice place to live? For some animals, it provides all four requirements. Others may be visiting, and it provides at least one or two things they need for a short stay.

I’ve supplied a photo of the rose bush, which is as tall as I am and about 8 feet wide at ground level. Another photo shows the pretty white blooms.

In the third photo you can see that the stems have some very big, scary thorns. I saw a Northern Mockingbird fly into the bush the other day. I think it may be looking for a place to nest, but I can’t see inside the prickly bush! Those stickers would certainly help protect a Mockingbird nest and babies!

I discovered a couple of large ants crawling over the leaves: a Black Carpenter Ant and a closely related “cousin”, an American Carpenter Ant. The first is solid black and the other has a red thorax and abdomen with a black head. I take a lot of pictures of ants that usually are not so good, but have attached the two shots that I’m most proud of.

Both ants were probably searching for aphids. An aphid is a really tiny insect that sucks juices from tender stems and leaves. The ants didn’t want to eat the aphids. Believe it or not, they were looking for a drink. Aphids produce a very sweet droplet of liquid called honeydew from their backsides. Ants love honeydew so much that they will guard the aphids from other things that would eat them. They are almost like a farmer guarding a herd of “cows”!

I continued looking around the rose bush and made my best find of the day!

It was an inchworm, and it was dining on a rose leaf. The attractive caterpillar was orange on top and light yellow underneath. It was in the typical pose of an inchworm, holding onto a leaf with front legs and rear prolegs, with its body humped in the middle.

Inchworms are the caterpillar of a moth that belongs to the large geometer moth family. I don’t know exactly what species of moth this caterpillar will become, but a female moth had recognized the rose as its host plant and laid an egg there.

Stay tuned for another page in Naturalist’s Notebook about other small animals living on my rose bush. Keep looking in your own yard, and remember to think small!

Mr. Bill

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