Ask a Naturalist

Understand the world around you We've got answers

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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  • Help with a spider ID?

    Question

    I have a question. We recently moved into an apartment building in June, no sign of spiders at all. Now that is not to say I didn't bring one to our new home. However, I had noticed two of the same kind of spiders coming out from my built in dishwasher. They are brown/amber in color and they look like they have amber see through legs. I found another one by our garbage can in the kitchen and just found another one as I was sitting here this morning. I will try to capture one or at least photograph it. I also have a newborn and a 3 year old and I don't want them getting bit. Do you or can you identify this spider. I want to deter them not kill them to keep my family safe. I also am looking into natural eo but have to make sure they are safe for newborns and children to be around. I do have a trusted certified aroma therapist.

    Naturalist's Response

    A photo would be the best way for us to identify any spider that you have.

    The Ohio Division of Wildlife also has a publication of common spiders from Ohio which can be found here. You can look for the spider in there, but I would also encourage you to send us a picture so we can help you with the identification.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Frohring field flower ID?

    Question

    What are the tall multi-headed yellow flowers at Frohring Field and where can I get seeds?

    Naturalist's Response

    There are several types of sunflowers out there, as well as prairie dock and cup flower, so I’m not sure which one you are referring to. Many of these plants can be purchased from nurseries that sell native plants, and there are some nurseries that even specialize in prairie plants.  Please check on the internet to find these businesses. -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Question #5998

    Question

    What are these bugs on my maple tree? Are they harmful to the tree? Do they bite? Thank you.

    Naturalist's Response

    What I would do without BugGuide.net!!?   I couldn’t really see the insects in the picture very well, so in BugGuide’s search box, I typed, “bugs on maple tree trunk.”  And what popped up???– a picture of insects that looked exactly like yours.  They are bark lice.  They do not bite nor do they harm the tree.  Here is the BugGuide link with more information: https://bugguide.net/node/view/83280

    Thanks so much for sending a picture.  I learned something too, this time!

    Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Why did this tree grow this way?

    Question

    What would cause this kind of odd tree growth along the Old Ironsides Trail in Holbrook Hollows?

    Naturalist's Response

    I have read in the past that it is caused by an injury to the tree when it was younger and something like another larger tree that’s no longer there could have been growing next to it and forced it to develop that way. -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

    I would agree with what Denise said. There might also have been a larger tree that fell on this tree as a sapling and forced it to grow this way. -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

    Yep. Goes like this: tree falls across another tree, bending its crown to the ground.  Branch on the bent tree takes over, growing upward for the sun.  Eventually, upper part of bent tree dies away, as does the broken or uprooted tree that fell over it. -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Name this spider

    Question

    Is this one of the nursery web spiders? Very large! Found in Munson Twp.

    Naturalist's Response

    Looking at the image, I can tell this is a fishing spider, most likely Dolomedes Tenebrosus. They may be intimidating to look at because of their impressive size (female 15-26mm, male 7-13mm body length, not including leg measurement), but thankfully these are not considered dangerous to humans.  They can often be seen on man-made structures and tree trunks. As a member of the Pisauridae family, these spiders are pretty interesting, as they display extended care of their young. The females carry the egg sac, holding it with their jaws, then build a type of nursery with a leaf or other cover and stay to guard the spiderlings until they molt and disperse.

    Thank you for sharing that excellent picture! -Naturalist Nora Sindelar

  • Worried about so many snappers

    Question

    I live on Cedar Road, east of The Rookery. I have a snapping turtle on my premises which I believe is a female because she appears to be laying eggs in a pile of landscaping stones. I have no problem with a turtle or two on the property, but I really don't want 2 dozen. Would you be willing to take a look and move the eggs to The Rookery after she leaves?

    Naturalist's Response

    Indeed, this past couple of weeks have been egg-laying time for painted and snapping turtles. Hen turtles have been conducting “eggs-peditions,” sometimes venturing far from their aquatic homes to find a suitable sunny spot to dig their egg pit and deposit their clutches. I appreciate your concern in inquiring about relocating the clutch, but I don’t think this would be a very successful venture. Odds are, raccoons or skunks will dig up and eat the eggs before long. Even if left undisturbed to hatch, I don’t thing all the hatchlings would stay on your property, all piling into your pond. They would disperse to find a pond or wetland to call home, not all in the same area. They would also have to run a gauntlet of predators on their march to the marsh or ponds, even yours, where a host of predators will further thin their numbers.  Best to let Nature take its course. -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Why does this cardinal look this way?

    Question

    I am attaching a picture of a cardinal (??) which has been coming to my bird feeder (I live in Novelty). One zoologist I asked thought it was an ordinary cardinal with a mite problem, causing loss of head feathers. What is your take on it?

    Naturalist's Response

    Most likely, this cardinal is simply going through a molt into new feathers. For some reason, cardinals often molt all of their head feathers at the same time, appearing bald. We have seen dozens of cases like this over the years. -Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • Which feathered friend camped with us?

    Question

    My friend and I were camping at Chickagami Park in a lean-to this weekend, where a birds nest was in the corner. I’ve attached rather blurry photos of the bird, as well as one of the nestling and nest, hoping you’d be able to tell us the species. If it helps any, they beat their wings awfully fast when they’d come in for feedings! Any help is much appreciated!

    Naturalist's Response

    This bird is the Eastern Phoebe. When it sings, it says its name very emphatically and can be seen bobbing its tail up and down.

    It is a member of the flycatcher family and, as the name implies, it eats insects. They will sit on a branch and dart out to catch an insect and then return to the branch and wait for more insects to fly by.

    They migrate between the United States and Mexico, not quite to the Yucatan peninsula. And they are one of the first birds to return in the spring; all of the naturalists here wait eagerly to hear them. We all try to be the first to hear it.

    Click here for a link to a very good website, All About Birds from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It has a wealth of information. Thanks for sharing your question and pictures.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • What to plant?

    Question

    What are some native plants that I can use to do landscaping and gardening?

    Naturalist's Response

    Here is a horticulture link for your question about native plants. This website also has links to OSU and CMNH that might help inform your decision.

    You may also find information or contacts on the Ohio State University Extension Master Volunteers website here.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • What to plant?

    Question

    I have a creek on my property that is heavily shaded and at the bottom of a hill. What plants would grow best in the shade and help slow erosion and stabilize the creek bed walls? Thanks.

    Naturalist's Response

    Here is a horticulture link for your question about native plants. This website also has links to OSU and CMNH that might help inform your decision.

    You may also find information or contacts on the Ohio State University Extension Master Volunteers website here.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe