Have you heard berries screaming for attention or seen bees tucking themselves into bed lately? Those things are happening—probably right outside your window! Every plant and creature is doing something strange and wonderful to prepare for winter.
We all know that berries don’t really scream and bees don’t really tuck themselves into bed. But they do some pretty amazing things without ever thinking or planning. That’s the way they were created. When you watch the amazing things they do, you’re really watching a display of the great love and care God gives every creature, even the “screaming berries” and “sleeping bees.”
Hooks and Barbs
Some plants only live for one growing season. In the fall, before they freeze to death, they make frost-proof seeds that will sprout next spring. Some of these seeds are created to move far from the plant so they can sprout in different places.
If you want to help these seeds travel, just take a walk!
Some seeds hitchhike on animal fur or people’s clothes. Put on a pair of white fuzzy socks, roll up your pants legs a little, then walk through a field or thick woods. Make sure that your socks touch the plants. (The plants will die soon anyway, so it’s OK to walk on them in the fall.) Then go home and pick the seeds off your socks. Look closely at those seeds with a magnifying glass or microscope. You’ll see many kinds of tiny, perfect hooks and barbs, made just to grab on to people or animals.
Mysterious Migrating Monarchs
Although most butterflies overwinter as eggs or in chrysalides, monarch butterflies migrate (just like birds). In the United States, monarchs that hatch west of the Rocky Mountains fly to the California coast; those east of the Rockies fly to forests high in the mountains of Mexico.
Millions of monarchs make this trip every year, flying almost 3,000 miles to the exact spots where other monarchs have overwintered. They hibernate (just like bears) for several months, then wake up and begin the return trip.
Start a Live Collection
You can collect some “nature stuff” with no harm to it or to you. Keep it all winter and see what hatches in the spring.
Collect only what you see out in the open. Bees sleeping under bark or other things under cover should not be disturbed.
Look for leaves and plant stems that have strange lumps or balls on them. The lumps and bumps are called “galls.” (Try oak leaves and goldenrod plants.) Wasp, fly, and moth larvae overwinter in those galls. Cut the dead plant off at the ground and take the whole stem with you. Take several stems and leaves. Galls from different plants hold different bugs.
Collect little black “seeds” you find scattered carelessly on the ground. They may be frost-proof walkingstick eggs.
Collect the fuzzy tan balls you find in abandoned spider webs. Be sure the adult spider is gone. These are frost-proof spider eggs.
Collect cocoons. Take the branch or leaf to which each is attached.
Find an empty aquarium or several wide-neck bottles. Put in a layer of dirt, then scatter the seeds and leaves just as you found them. “Plant” the stems so that they stand upright. Cover the aquarium or jars with cheesecloth and put them in a corner of the yard. They should stay out in the rain and snow. Let them sit there until spring, then see what hatches. You might be surprised!
Be a Nature Spy
Hang out in a wild corner of your yard or some nearby natural area for a while. Be very still, and keep your eyes open. You might see
birds holding conversations. Normally loners, some birds flock together in trees or on telephone wires before they migrate.
ladybugs holding conventions. They gather together to hibernate in protected spots such as cracks in rocks or buildings.
berries screaming for attention. Colored red, blue, or white, fall berries attract birds who love to eat them. The birds later expel the seeds, which lie dormant for the winter and sprout the next spring.
chipmunks “squirreling” away food for the winter. They sleep lightly and wake up often to eat.
Poke gently around trees. You could see bumblebees or paper wasps sleeping alone under bark or dead leaves. These are new queens. Their hive-mates have died. If the queens survive the winter, they will establish new hives next spring.
You might also see sleeping caterpillars tucked away snugly where frost probably won’t reach them. Next spring they’ll become butterflies and moths.
Listen carefully and you might hear a few crickets calling for mates. The females will lay frost-proof eggs before they die.