It's been a whirlwind the past few days. I left Columbus at 1:00 am last Friday morning, and drove about seven hours due east, to Millersville, Pennsylvania. Destination: Millersville University, home of the Native Plants in the Landscape Conference. This was its 20th year, and my fourth time to visit. The event draws upwards of 300 people every year, and always sports an interesting slate of speakers, and a gymnasium packed with native plant vendors. I was there to give the Friday night keynote, and then another breakout session talk the following morning.
On Friday afternoon, escorted by botanist Tim Draude, we were able to visit a nearby park and look for bugs. As might be expected, we found many, including some very cool insects, and I made many photos. In the picture above, your narrator (left) and Dave Wagner stand by one of our more maligned native plants, which scarcely shows up as most of its foliage has been eaten away. If you look closely to the right of Dave's collecting sheet, you'll notice numerous little tubular squiggles on the plant stems.
Most animals, us included, quickly learn to avoid nettles, and the plants' toxicity probably affords these caterpillars some degree of protection against predators.
Nettles may be much despised by people, but nearly all of them that are found in these parts are native species, and clearly contribute to the production of animals that we enjoy.
If you want to learn a lot more about native plants, their relationships with animals, including caterpillars, attend the Midwest Native Plant Conference! It is held in Dayton, Ohio, and the dates are July 27, 28, & 29. David Wagner is one of the speakers, and there'll be field trips and opportunities to see caterpillars, plants, and much more in the field. All of the details are RIGHT HERE.