Ask a Naturalist

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Ever wondered who left that footprint? What kind of berries are those? Or why is that White-tailed Deer white all over? Look no further than your local naturalists, the people at your Geauga Park District whose job it is to help you understand the natural world around you.


Use the form below to submit your question – ideally with a photo (if available), description of sighting (including size) and location of sighting (somewhere in Northeast Ohio) – and you’ll receive an email when a naturalist responds.

Please note that while this form does collect your name and contact information, those items will not be posted with your question, only used in case we need to contact you for additional details.

What have other people been asking lately? Scroll below the form and enjoy some other naturalist Q&As on us!

Ask a Naturalist

Step 1 of 2 - Sighting Details

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    • Mushroom ID

      Question

      Is this a Boletus Aereus?

      Naturalist's Response

    • Lots of feathers – who left ’em?

      Question

      Something went down on my street between birds - lots of feathers found, but no blood! Three main types: gray, black with some iridescent, and these half tan, half black. I think I know the origins of the gray and black (Coopers Hawk and crow?), but the tan/black ones are beyond me! Any ideas on the IDs of these feathers, and if you want, your best guesses for what happened? (Don't worry, didn't keep the feathers longer than to take their photos!)

      Naturalist's Response

      I believe these are chicken feathers. Do any of your neighbors have them? My best guess is a predator carried it off. Maybe a coyote, fox or raptor.

      -Naturalist Renell Roebuck

    • Metallic-hued beetles ID

      Question

      I have a lot of these beetles this year. I haven't seen them before. what are they?

      Naturalist's Response

    • Moth ID

      Question

      Came across this little dude. The picture doesn't reflect the amount of blue in it's wings. It was about the size of a quarter. Any idea what it is?

      Naturalist's Response

      Looks like you photographed a Grapevine Epimenis Moth. Can you guess the host plant for the caterpillar? If you guessed “grape,” you would be correct. The adult moths, however, seek nectar from flowers of apple, redbud, sumac and others. It usually flies fairly early in the spring.

      -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

    • Large flying insect ID

      Question

      What is this creature?

      Naturalist's Response

      Thanks for sending a picture of a Crane Fly. There are many different species, and pictures of “pieces-parts” would be required for a definitive ID. These are the critters that everyone thinks are “big mosquitos.” But unlike mosquitos, they do not bite and are harmless to humans. They are sometimes attracted to lights at night. The larva of Crane Flies are stream-dwelling and may indicate that the water quality is pretty good.

      -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

    • Rice-like bugs ID

      Question

      What kind of bug looks like a small grain of white rice? I had them all over my hydrangeas and then spread to my azaleas?

      Naturalist's Response

      Thanks for submitting a question to Ask a Nat. I’m not sure I can help you without seeing a picture of the insect in question. Whiteflies were the first thing that came to mind, but they are pests of garden vegetables and I don’t know if they would be found on ornamentals. Would it be possible to get a photo and send it to me at lgilbert@geaugaparkdistrict.org? Then we can go from there. Pictures really are worth a thousand words!

      -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

    • Where are all the 17-year cicadas?

      Question

      We have been told to be on the lookout for the 17 year cicadas. Why do we not have any cicadas this year. I remember the cicadas from 17 years ago???

      Naturalist's Response

      Cicada question

      Great question!  So what gives with the 17-year cicadas this year?

      “Periodical cicadas,” those who follow a 13-year or 17-year life cycle, are unique to eastern North America. They’re fascinating and mysterious animals!

      In addition to the mystery of why these noise-making insects have settled on prime numbers for their life cycles, they pose the mystery of why they don’t all emerge at the same time (slthough it’d be pretty spectacular if they all emerged, continent-wide, on the same schedule).

      As things stand, periodical cicadas tend to form “broods,” or groups that emerge on a certain schedule and in a particular region. Here’s a map showing where each brood emerges, color-coded by year:

      It’s pretty much guaranteed that there’s always a cicada emergence somewhere in a particular year. (And, for the folks in Tennessee, it can feel like it happens every year!)

      Here in Geauga County, we most recently experienced a cicada emergence in 2016. Our Geauga County cicadas mostly follow the Brood 5 life cycle, emerging in 2016 plus or minus 17 years.

      Brood 5 map - Northeast Ohio

      The cicadas emerging in 2021 follow the Brood 10 life cycle. (Get it? It’s five years after Brood 5. Those entomologists know what they’re doing!)

      Brood 10 map - scatteredd

      The Brood 10 emergence in 2021 includes most of western Ohio; the Cincinnati region is always a cicada hotspot! However, this means we’re not expecting a mass cicada emergence in eastern Ohio in 2021.

      Since Brood 10 also includes the New York City metropolitan area (the epicenter of noise-making humans), there are a lot of nationally focused reports to the effect of “The Cicadas Are Coming!” Subtleties of geography can easily be lost when a story is shared online; the fact that cicadas aren’t emerging everywhere this year is one such detail.

      (To be fair, though, the Brood 10 emergence is one of the most widespread of all the cicada groups, so if you’re going to trumpet them nationwide, 2021 is the sensible time to do that.)

      With that out of the way, we can ask the fun question: WHY?

      Why is there a line in central Ohio that separates cicadas into two different life cycles separated by five years?

      Biologists are still trying to puzzle this out, but one proposal makes a lot of sense: In every brood, there are always some stragglers who emerge in the off-years.  One possible reason is because the trees they feed on experienced some odd weather conditions that made the cicadas “miscount” the number of sap runs. Whatever the reason, if enough stragglers emerge in a particular year, they can start a new brood following a new cycle; if they turn the tide, their region might become an independent brood.

      Or, maybe not! There are plenty of other hypotheses about the mysterious origins of the cicada broods. The University of Connecticut has a great website summarizing the state of cicada-brood research.

      Be sure to look and listen for any stragglers this year.

      Thanks for your question!

      -Naturalist Chris Mentrek

    • Are there many interested in astronomy?

      Question

      Do you have a lot of people who are into astronomy? I know there used to be a few folks who went to Perkins Observatory but not that many due to light pollution.

      Naturalist's Response

      We have a lot to offer anyone interested in astronomy!

      At Observatory Park, we have two observatories: the Oberle Observatory and the Nassau Astronomical Station. These are both located at Observatory Park, which is registered by the International Dark-Sky Association as a silver-tier dark sky park. As of my posting today, we host nighttime astronomy programs on the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month. We also present a planetarium program on the fourth Sunday of each month, and we hold a full moon hike with moon observation on every full moon. You can see a complete list of our upcoming programs here and even filter them to view only the astronomy programs if you’d like.

      In addition, we have have a terrific partnership with a local amateur astronomy group, the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society (CVAS). They host monthly meetings (including some at Observatory Park), and also lead a monthly observing session at the Nassau Astronomical Station on the third Saturday of each month.

      If you’d like to learn more about astronomy from home, we partner with the Geauga County Public Library and CVAS to offer the Geauga Skywatchers Club – a series of monthly presentations on astronomy topics (currently held online).  What’s more, you can also borrow a telescope from any Geauga County library branch or the Burton Public Library. (The neighboring Mentor Public Library has also begun a telescope-and-binoculars-lending program. It’s catching on!)

      We hope this information helps you get connected to some of the astronomy resources in the Geauga County area. Have fun learning!

      -Naturalists Denise Wolfe & Chris Mentrek

    • Fuzzy red things on leaves?

      Question

      Hello Naturalist, what the heck are these fuzzy little things growing on one of my Oak trees? I believe the tree is ~15 years old and appears to be in good health. I do not see them on other nearby trees nor do I see them on other older oaks ~50 and 100 ft. away. They seem to grow in clusters and are firmly attached to the leaf. They always seem to be at the ends of branches rather than close to the trunk. The presumably younger ones are smaller, reddish and lack the fuzzy appearance. I am not even certain if it is a developing insect or some sort of fungus. What say ye? Come over and take a look if you like.

      Naturalist's Response

      What you’ve photographed are types of galls formed by the tree in reaction to insects (likely a tiny wasp) laying its eggs in its leaves. They are not harmful to the tree, nor to people, and are an important food source to many types of birds who eat the developing larva inside the gall.

      Good question!

      -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

    • Whose egg in my mulch?

      Question

      Hi. While planting flowers in a mulchy area, I found an egg. Just one, oblong, probably a bit longer than 2", off-white with brown speckles. I put it back in the mulch but am curious what it might be. The area is not far from a small creek, so I'm thinking a turtle.

      Naturalist's Response

      The most likely suspect would be a painted turtle egg. This time of year, females are busy laying eggs and can travel quite a distance from their pond to lay eggs.

      Thanks for your question!

      -Chief Naturalist John Kolar