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Invasive Beetles of New England

Invasive Beetles of New England

Oriental Beetle

Anomala orientalis Waterh,

 Oriental Beetle Anomala orientalisThis invasive beetle might not be much of a pest as an adult, but the larvae can do a number on your turf grass.  This individual was found in early July on a King George Day Lily in Scituate, MA.

 Lily Leaf Beetle

Lilioceris lilii

The Lily Leaf Beetle is an invasive pest species that is very commonly found on most (if not all) Asiatic Lilies throughout New England.    It is a very distinguishable bright red beetle on an Asiatic Lily with black head, under-body, legs, and long antennae. This LILIOCERIS LILII individual was photographed feeding on the leaves of our Asiatic Lilies in Massachusetts after their blooming period.  In the last few years, we checked on the plants almost daily and killed any adults we could find.  A few vacations early in the season this year meant that we were not as vigilant, and our lilies paid the price.  We did get to see the beautiful orange blossoms, but with a few holes in the petals and damaged leaves.  One of them even fell over while still in bloom.

Now for lilyleafbeetlethe gross part.  If you notice these critters munching on your lilyleafbeetle larva2lilies, and then notice what looks like mud stuck to the leaves elsewhere, it is really the larva stage that has covered their bodies with their own feces.  Your best bet is to kill as many of these invaders by hand as you can find.  Remember that they are invasive and have not had the chance to co-evolve with natural predators.  You are the only predator available.


New England Turtles

New England Turtles and Turtles of Atlantic Canada

Try to guess the species common name of the New England turtles and then hover your mouse/cursor over the image to see the answer.

Blanding’s Turtle (Emys blandingii or Emydoidea blandingii)
Eastern Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta (Pond and Box Turtle Family)
Plymouth Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris)
Red-eared Slider Turtle Trachemys scripta elegans (not native to New           England but found due to pet releases)
Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentine
Spotted Turtle Clemmys guttata (Pond and Box Turtle Family)
Wood Turtle Clemmys [Glyptemys] insculpta
Musk Turtle Sternothaerus odoratus (Musk and Mud Turtle Family)

Not Shown:
Common Box Turtle (Pond and Box Turtle Family)
og Turtle Clemmy muhlenbergi

Sea Turtles (not shown)

Loggerhead Caretta caretta
Green Turtle Chelonia mydas
Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea


Garden or Garter Snake?

Garden or Garter Snake?

Thamnophis sirtalis

Yes…I said it….”garden snake”.  I was one of those who thought Common Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalisthat this species was called a garden snake when I was growing up before I knew better.  However, it seems most people that dislike all snakes in general wrongly misjudge the docile nature of this species; these same people call them “garden” or “gardener” snakes to further support the fact that they are misinformed about this beautiful snake.  Garter snakes should be revered as a garden protector since they almost exclusively eat bugs, which are more detrimental to ones valued flowers/plants.  This species is a perfect example of a biological control for insect nuisances in the garden. I, for one, get excited to find a garter snake making a home in my garden. However, one snake may not be enough to keep all insects at bay from destroying your prized summer gardens.

My grandmother was one such person that fiercely hated snakes, and insisted that the snake in her yard was a garden snake.  I of course asked what species?  She would then tell me to listen better since the species had already been disclosed as a “GARDEN” snake.  My grandmother also loved planting marigolds in her garden beds along the foundation of her cape-style summer cottage, and my grandfather admired her green thumb.  Therefore, he had to obey her orders to discard  any snake immediately upon discovery since she would refuse to return to her garden until the snake had been exiled. In the same breath, my grandmother would also curse the slugs that devoured her precious, softball-sized marigolds.  I tried explaining to her that she was creating an environment where the (also mutant-large) slugs could thrive: a garden filled with marigolds, which had no natural predators (i.e. garter snakes) to the slugs.  Instead, my grandmother spent a sizeable amount of money on salt for the slugs (not in a nice way).


This little common garter snake (pic above), approx. 18″ in length, was well camouflaged alongside Beech Mountain Trail, which is on the “quieter” side of Acadia National Park.  Garter Snakes are extremely common throughout New England and Atlantic Canada, and can often be found in residential gardens; hence the similar-sounding nickname (i.e. misnomer) “garden” snake.  I have also heard of people referring to  black racer snakes (also a very common type of non-venomous colubrid) as garden snakes as well; I suppose any snake found in a residential setting may be incorrectly referred to as a garden snake. Garter snakes vary in color (from black, brown, grey, and/or olive), and some darker phases may make distinguishing marks, such as (typical) three light stripes that run along the length of their body,  imperceptible.  Garter snakes range in size from approximately 1.5′ to 4′ at maturity.  These snakes are usually docile in nature, but be warned that they will protect themselves by releasing a putrid-smelling fluid from their postanal glands.

We were lucky to observe two garter snakes on the side of the Beech Mountain Trail (at Acadia National Park) slithering between the last few patches of snow during spring melt.  These snakes had just emerged from hibernation (most likely), and were trying to soak up the warmth of the sun.  They were still cold to the touch, and much slower in trying to evade our capture.  Snakes, like all reptiles, are endothermic; this means that they must absorb energy/heat from their surroundings.  Therefore, they will sun themselves in the heat of the day, and will retreat within stonewalls (or under rocks), which retain heat.


Goutweed (aka. Bishop’s Weed)

Aegopodium podagraria L.


Family: Carrot Family

Gout Weed Leaves 2

Goutweed invades coreopsis

Do not ever plant Goutweed Invades English IvyGoutweed intentionally.  I’ve read that some people like it as a ground cover…..not a good idea.

We’ve been fighting Goutweed in our garden for the last 6 years since we’ve moved in.  You can’t just pull it up, you have to carefully follow the rhizomes (underground stems) as you remove it, otherwise it will just pop right back up.

It is especially hard to remove around large boulders or other objects that it’s rhizomes can hide under.

You can see that it has grown right through some landscape fabric that we put down to help control weeds.  This fabric was in our garden for 3 years.  The benefit of pulling the landscape fabric out this year was that we pulled out a lot of goutweed with it.

goutweed runner length Goutweed runner through landscape fabric goutweed runners

Great Blue Heron

This Great Blue Heron was filmed and photographed on an après work canoe paddle at Jacob’s Pond in Norwell, MA. The Great Blue Heron has great size and stature at 4’ tall. I highly recommend this pond for anyone looking to see wildlife by canoe or kayak.

Despite the heron being so large, it easily takes off from the water and doesn’t seem to care that it’s 6’ wide wingspan is pushing though tree branches. They wait motionless on their stick-like legs in the water or slowly stalk their prey before they ambush them. They swallow their prey whole, rather that be fish, frogs, or even rodents. You may find that they show up at your backyard koi pond so beware..

There is no sexual dimorphism, meaning that the males and females look the same. Their backs and wings are a bluish-grey. Their neck is brownish-cream and has a scruffy appearance. Their face is white. They’ve got two black stripes above their eyes, and the middle of their crown is white.

This bird can be found around freshwater or brackish water habitats all over New England and into Atlantic Canada. The Great White Heron in Florida was thought to be a separate species, but it is now accepted that they are the same species with different coloration.

I hope that all of you can also add the Great Blue Heron to your own species list. Please visit and click on Blue Heron to add your own sightings to our range maps or tell us about them in our comment section. Check our other pages on species from around New England and Atlantic Canada.

Balsam Poplar Catkin (not a cocoon) on Balsam Fir

Balsam Poplar Catkin (not a cocoon) on Balsam Fir Tree

If you see these strange structures on a Balsam Fir tree, it may at first look like an insect cocoon or egg case, but the structure in the photo is of a Balsam Poplar catkin  (Populus balsamifera) that has fallen onto a Balsam Fir tree.   The part that looks like a fuzzy caterpillar is the catkin/flower of the Balsam Poplar tree and the Reddish-brown structure, that looks like a smaller version of a moth cocoon, is the bud scale.  These structures are adapted for wind dispersal and often land on trees together, making them look sometimes like they are physically connected to the tree.   The attachment is aided by a sticky substance the buds are covered with that smells like balsam — perhaps the source of the name.

These pictures were taken on Memorial Day weekend in Spruce-Fir Northern Hardwood Forest in Northeast Vermont.


unknown species on fir

unknown species on fir 2 unknown species on fir 3

How to Tell a Balsam Fir from a Red Spruce Tree

Seven Ways to Tell a Balsam Fir from a Red Spruce Tree

New England and Atlantic Canada forests are full of balsam fir and spruce trees; the red spruce is the most wide spread.  Here are few simple ways to tell the difference:
Balsam Fir vs Red Spruce

1. Fir needles are soft (like fur)

2. Spruce needles are Sharp

3. Fir needles have two white lines on the underside (so do Canada Hemlock, but their needles and cones are much smaller)

4. Fir needles are Flat

Note the two white stripes on the underside of the needles.
Note the two white stripes on the underside of the needles.

5. You can roll a spruce needle between your fingers because it is square in cross section (the flat fir needles won’t roll)

6. Balsam Fir trees are aromatic and smell like a Christmas tree

7. The cones of Balsam Fir trees are much larger and usually fall apart when they fall to the ground.

Boston’s Christmas Tree: A Gifted Tradition from Nova Scotia

Christmas tree
Balsam Fir

The Province of Nova Scotia has gifted an enormous Christmas tree to the city of Boston.  2013 marks the 42nd consecutive year of this tradition, which has served as an ongoing thank you for the aid Boston provided following a ship explosion in Halifax Harbor known as the Halifax Explosion. The explosion devastated the buildings and people within the vicinity of Halifax Harbor.

The Halifax Explosion

A French ammunition ship caught fire after it collided with a second war ship coming through the narrows of the Harbor channel in December of 1917. The fire then piqued the interest of Haligonians who made their way to the shoreline for a better vantage. Unfortunately, the fire triggered a massive explosion that resulted in a few thousand fatalities and several thousand injuries from projectile debris and the collapse of buildings. Many were left homeless, and a blizzard the following day made matters worse, but did not thwart the rescue efforts of the Bostonian (i.e. doctors and nurses).

Boston’s Nova Scotian Christmas Tree

This year’s tree is a 47-foot white spruce, estimated to be 40 years old. Red spruce and balsam fir have also been selected in times past for Boston’s Christmas beacon. The original tree had been delivered for Christmas in 1918. The annual tradition then began in 1971 when the Christmas tree offering was reinstated by the Province of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia arguably has the best Christmas trees, and accounts for a large percentage of trees found in New Englanders’ homes during the holiday. Our very own balsam fir is a Nova Scotian export!

Bela Lugosi Daylily: A Fine Tribute to a Film Legend

Bela Lugosi – a clever or meaningful name can really help sell a daylily. I enjoy classic horror movies, and Bela Lugosi’s performance as Count Dracula in the 1931 Universal Studios film [Dracula] is an all-time favorite. This daylily tribute to the silverscreen legend is fitting being that the (slightly ruffled) flower is a phantom-dark purple with a contrasting creamy-gold throat.

I came across the ‘Bela Lugosi’ name on a spreadsheet at a daylily farm, and made a beeline to the referenced garden bed to pique my interest. It was serendipitous that this daylily was the dark purple I was hoping to find that day.

This flower is one of my favorites of all the (30+) daylily cultivars I have in my gardens, and is positioned at a focal point from my main entryway. Fortunately, this daylily has a good bud count and the 6-inch flowers are supported on sturdy stalks. Unlike dracula, the dark-purple color does not succumb to sunlight that easily. Bela Lugosi is approximately 33″, blooms during mid season, and has semi-evergreen foliage. This daylily is highly recommended for any garden, and the moderate difficulty in acquiring it is worth the effort. I have not seen this daylily for sale at local nurseries, but it is available from daylily specialists. Check out your local daylily farm or display garden.

I would like to start a Universal Monsters-theme garden, and I have the following cultivars on my watch list: Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster; Dracula’s Mistress; Dracula’s Smile. The open registration for naming daylily cultivars has made such theme-type gardens possible from the thousands of named cultivars on record. Look out for the upcoming Star Wars series! According to the American Hemerocallis Society Online Dayliliy Database, Star Wars character names (e.g. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, etc.) have been reserved until 2016. You can search for daylily cultivars here

New England and Atlantic Canada focuses on flora and fauna of New England and Atlantic Canada.  Browse through our photographs and descriptions to help you identify a species that you observed, then share your own observations in our comment section.    This is becoming a guide to the most common and easy to find flora and fauna on the Northeast, so take us with you on your mobile device and look here first when you’re enjoying nature.

We only include species that we actually find, can identify taxonomically, and photograph.   Our goal is to educate others on what they should look for to properly ID these species for themselves, and to provide an online space for people to share in their excitement of finding out more about a part of nature that they enjoyed themselves.


Find out about this Hummingbird Moth and other local species to New England and Atlantic Canada in the links above.