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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Why do birds fly in a V?

Have you ever looked up at the sound of honking geese or crying gulls to see a big group of birds winging by overhead? Perhaps they’re so close you can hear the air rushing around their wings. The birds may fly in a ‘V’ or check-mark shape, with a sharp point and birds trailing off to either side. These flocking …

Where do bugs go in the winter?

Summertime is always marked by an explosion of life. The air is filled with birdsong, flowers are blooming, and frogs sing from ponds and wetlands. Perhaps the busiest lives in summer, though, are invertebrates. These are small animals with no internal skeletons. They include things like spiders, insects, pillbugs, mites, and snails. For simplicity’s sake, bugs. But where do these bugs …

How do plants and animals survive the winter? (Part 1)

Part 1 – Winter is dangerous! Do you ever wonder how plants and animals survive the winter? It can be a brutal time of year in seasonal climates. While we’re wrapping ourselves up in blankets or bickering over the thermostat, the world outside is going into deep-freeze. We see sparse sunlight and shortening days, plummeting temperatures, biting winds, snow, and …

How do plants and animals survive the winter? (Part 2)

Strategies and adaptations All wildlife at higher elevations or latitudes face the challenge of adapting to winter. In part 1 of this post, we explored the challenges that wildlife faces during winter. To recap quickly: Food can be scarce! Starvation or lack of energy is a major survival risk for all kinds of wildlife—plant, animal, or otherwise. It gets cold. …

Why are trees Green?

Green is such an ever-present and widespread color in nature that it symbolizes the health and vitality of our natural world. Almost anywhere you go in springtime, you can expect to see green; from mosses and algae to all kinds of herbaceous plants and trees, green dominates our idea of natural landscapes and represents life, growth, and abundance. But why are …

Why do trees turn colors in the fall?

The most iconic sign of autumn is the turning of the leaves. But why do the trees turn colors? If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with dramatic “fall colors”, then you’ve experienced the incredible beauty of landscapes painted with dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows.  Poets from all over the world have described this sudden, incredible transformation with over-the-top language …

Is this bug in my house dangerous?

No matter how much we love the indoors, some of us would prefer that it stays, well, outdoors. It’s disconcerting when wildlife starts to cross boundaries and show up in our human spaces. Also, since they aren’t familiar with household habits, many outdoor animals may not always be the most well-behaved guests. At worst, some kinds of bug in your …