Naturalist Answers addresses your everyday questions about the natural world. Ever wondered why trees lose their leaves, how birds learn to fly, or how bugs survive the winter? Look no further!

 

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What’s the difference between butterflies and moths?

Butterflies and moths are active, fascinating insects that you’ll find all over the world. With over 160,000 species, these bugs in the order Lepidoptera are a fixture in outdoor spaces. Although most people will be quick to tell you that there is a difference between butterflies and moths, scientists tend to disagree. In reality, when we get down to trying …

Why is bird poop white?

Some people say it’s good luck. Most of us, though, aren’t too thrilled to find a white splat on our car or new sweater. And we know just who to blame: birds. Unlike all the other poo in the animal kingdom, theirs is distinctly white. But why is bird poop white? Let’s find out in this Naturalist Answers post. Not …

What are coral reefs?

Often called “rainforests of the sea”, coral reefs are an iconic marine habitat. Furthermore, they’re a fixture of advertisements for tropical vacations. Tourists are dazzled by the vibrant colors and incredible biodiversity of these busy undersea ecosystems. But what are coral reefs? And how do they form? In this Naturalist Answers post, we’ll learn about coral reefs, what they are, …

Why do bugs die on their backs?

People often uses phrases like “going belly up” to describe dead or dying things. The idea of dead animals with legs sticking up in the air seems especially iconic for insects. For instance, exterminator companies’ logos will often feature a dead bug on its back with its feet high in the air. Furthermore, “dead bugs” are a popular abdominal exercise. …

Are wasps more aggressive in the Fall?

By the time Fall comes around, people are too ready to leave the mosquitoes behind and enjoy the cooler weather. Too often on my own Fall picnics, I’ve been about to enjoy a candied apple or cup of cider when the wasps show up. They aggressively harass my friends and I until, begrudgingly, we head inside and mumble about how …

Why do bugs bite?

Almost every time I pick up a bug to show someone, they ask me the same question. “Does it bite”? Bug bites are certainly one of the most realistic downsides of spending time outdoors. For example, dangers like bear attacks and snake bites are far less common than people think. However, mosquitoes and other insects can be a real annoyance …

Are ticks active in the Fall?

While spending time outdoors has many benefits, biting bugs are always an unwelcome reality. While mosquitoes and other biting insects are most active in summer, we tend to imagine that we’re safe from pesky bites in the Fall and Winter. But what about things like ticks? I often hear people explain that the first frost kills ticks off, leaving us …

What is biodiversity?

The science of nature can be intimidating for beginning nature-lovers thanks to the many specialized terms and words it uses. One of the words that naturalists and scientists throw around all the time nowadays is biodiversity. But what exactly is biodiversity? What does that term mean in the first place? Let’s find out in this Deep Stuff post. Stuff that’s …

What’s the difference between hawks and eagles?

The difference between hawks and eagles comes up often when I take people birding. Dazzled by some large bird of prey, we’ll admire it through our binoculars for a while. Sooner or later, someone asks, “”well, is that a hawk or an eagle?” or, when I answer, they ask “well how did you know that?” As you’ll see, it’s not …

Why do bugs like light?

Many interesting bugs are night-flying or nocturnal, becoming active after dusk. If you’ve ever left a porch light on or had a campfire in the summer, you also know that nighttime bugs are attracted to light. Expressions like “like a moth to the flame” show that people have seen this happen for a long time. But why do bugs like …