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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Venomous vs. poisonous: What’s the difference?

One of the first questions I get from people asking for help with species identification is, “is it poisonous?”. I frequently get pictures of bugs that turn up in people’s houses or snakes spotted in gardens from people with just that concern. If you’ve done any reading up on animals and plants that might pose a danger to you or …

What’s the difference between horns vs. antlers?

Large mammals are some of the most exciting wildlife to watch in nature. Not only are they often somewhat shy and elusive, but they often display some fantastic adaptations. Whether you’re out for a stroll a neighborhood park in England, or India or on safari in the tropics, big furry beasts are super exciting. Among the most impressive characteristics of …

6 important pollinators other than bees 

When you hear the word pollinator, often the first image that comes to mind is a bee. With good reason, too: bees are common pollinators in many natural habitats and are easy to recognize. However, they don’t deserve all the credit. There are plenty of other neat animals out there putting in the work and getting far less attention for …

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 …

Are stink bugs poisonous?

Fall is the time of year when I start hearing from homeowners about insect home invasions. My previous post, Why are there so many bugs in my house? explains this issue specifically. Stink bugs are among the most common unwelcome guests in peoples’ homes, and with a name like that, they are cause for concern. Folks frequently ask, “Are stink …

How do birds navigate during migration?

Bird migration is one of the most impressive wonders of the natural world. Every Fall, birds in the Northern hemisphere fly South to spend the Winter in warmer climates. This can mean fantastic journeys of thousands of miles including trips across oceans! If you’ve read my post on why birds fly South for Winter, then you’re probably aware that there …

Do cicadas have mouths?

As late summer approaches across much of the globe, cicadas emerge from the ground to breed. These large, loud insects are fascinating for backyard wildlife enjoyers. However, they spend most of their time living high up in trees, so it’s much easier to hear them than see them. Encountering a cicada in the wild can be exciting, because they are …

What is molting?

In many previous posts, I’ve mentioned animals that molt. Birds do it, insects and arachnids do it, not to mention many marine animals. Heck, even people do it! But what exactly is molting (or as the British spell it, moulting)? What does it mean for an animal to molt? By now, I have received those questions in one form or …