The Pipevine Swallowtail – A Distasteful Beauty

Hi friends, I hope you’re enjoying the butterflies this summer. Have you seen any of these distasteful beauties?

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It was a sunny April afternoon. I was exploring an open woods of oak, hickory, and ironwood near the Broad River in the piedmont of North Carolina. A large velvety black butterfly with flashing metallic blue hind wings caught my eye. It was flitting along near the ground. There were no flowers in bloom in the area but this butterfly was flying up to every young green shoot–honeysuckle, aster, grass, tree seedlings, etc. It wasn’t landing on these plants; rather it flew from one plant to another, spending a second or two at each sprout as if it was checking it out. The butterfly sailed right by taller plants and bushes, pausing only at delicate shoots between about two and four inches in height. This butterfly was on a quest for a rare herb.

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This was a gravid female pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) ready to lay her eggs. These butterflies are so named because their larvae feed only on various species of pipevines. She was searching for Aristolochia serpentaria, the traditional medicinal plant known as Virginia snakeroot. As an adult butterfly she can sip the nectar of many different flowers, but her young can only feed on members of the Aristolochiaceae family, and in this region Virginia snakeroot was her only choice. I watched her start hovering excitedly around one particular delicate sprout with three, light green, unfurling leaves. No doubt she was receiving chemical/olfactory confirmation. “Yes! Finally, I’ve found it!” her rapidly fluttering wings seemed to say. While her wings kept her airborne, her legs reached out and grasped the plant. The tip of her abdomen briefly touched the stem and there she placed a glistening golden egg that was hardly bigger than a poppy seed. Within a few seconds she was on her way again, continuing her plant-by-plant search for the next snakeroot. I followed her (at a respectful distance) for the next half hour or so as she continued her thorough survey of the forest floor. We may have covered as much as a hundred yards, and she may have inspected as many as a thousand plants as she zigzagged back and forth along the ground. In that entire time she found only that one Virginia snakeroot shoot. She eventually flew up into the canopy and I lost sight of her. This was the first time I had a butterfly as an herb hunting guide!

Although there were obviously enough snakeroots in the area to support at least a small population of these swallowtails, this confirmed to me something I had suspected — that even though Virginia snakeroot has a wide range, (from Florida and Texas north to Missouri, Illinois and southern New England), it is rarely abundant. It is an understated, diminutive herb. Any specimen over a foot tall and having more than ten leaves is considered large. Even in areas of ideal habitat where the plant is relatively common, I never see it growing thickly in beds or patches — just an occasional solitary plant here and there. Even the pipevine swallowtail I followed who had dozens of eggs to deposit seemed to instinctively understand the plant’s limited growth habit. She only placed one egg on that plant. A single plant like this could barely support even one caterpillar. Less than a hundred miles from here, up in the higher mountains on the huge Dutchman’s pipevine009pipe vine, (Aristolochia macrophylla), I have seen where the same kind of butterfly had laid more than a dozen eggs on one leaf.

The Dutchman’s pipe is as robust and lush as its cousin the snakeroot is sparse. A mature Dutchman’s pipe vine has hundreds of heart-shaped leaves measuring almost a foot across. The vines can be seen festooning the tree tops in rich Appalachian mountainsides as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The females deposit the eggs in clusters on the stems and undersides of tender young leaves. When the tiny caterpillars first hatch, they often line up side by side in a group and feed communally for the first week or two. As they get older and larger they tend to spread out and go their separate ways.

CRW_6575,I didn’t know what I was seeing the first time I laid eyes on a large pipevine swallowtail caterpillar. It was like a weird, purplish sea slug with rubbery tentacles sticking out on all sides and two rows of yellow-orange spots running down its back. It was calmly munching on a large tender Dutchman’s pipe leaf. When I poked it, a pair of slimy yellow horns oozed out from behind its head and I noticed a strange bitter odor. In a few seconds the “horns” were pulled back into the head and they disappeared. These horns are actually a gland called an osmaterium and the odor serves as a repellant to parasitic wasps and other predators.

The caterpillars shed their outer skin several times as they grow. When a caterpillar is ready to pupate, it usually crawls some distance onto a tree trunk or branch. There it spins a silken pad for its hind end (the cremaster), a silken sling around its middle, and sheds its skin for the last time as a larva and it becomes a greyish-tan speckled chrysalis.pipevine pupa,, When the pupation is complete, the chrysalis splits along the back and a soft, soggy adult butterfly emerges. Within an hour or two its wings expand and harden and it flies off in search of nectar and a mate.  Depending on the climate, there may be several generations a year, and in subtropical areas the butterflies sometimes overwinter as adults. The adult swallowtails have a pungent, penetrating odor and disagreeable taste which is believed to come from chemical compounds in the pipevine. This is similar to the monarch butterflies that derive their protective chemistry from compounds in the milkweeds that their larvae feed upon. In much the same way that the viceroy butterfly may have evolved as a mimic of the monarch, it is believed that other butterflies such as the red spotted purple, the female Diana, and the dark phase of the female tiger swallowtail (which are about the same size as the pipevine swallowtail with dark forewings and blue on their hind wings) may have evolved as mimics of the pipevine swallowtail. They all may gain a survival advantage by resembling their foul-tasting cousins.

The yellow and black striped tiger swallowtail is one of the most common and familiar butterflies in the East. I was surprised to learn that some females are almost all black with blue on the hind wings. These dark females have a selective survival advantage in areas where there is also a population of pipevine swallowtails. Since they resemble the distasteful pipevine swallowtails they are less likely to get preyed upon than their yellow “sisters”. But even though the dark swallowtail females have the survival advantage and are more likely to reproduce successfully, the males still mate more frequently with the yellow females. So even among the butterflies it seems that gentlemen prefer blondes and perhaps blondes have more fun.

Even Darwin investigated the question of whether blondes have more fun!

These three tiger swallowtails and more than a dozen pipevine swallowtails are imbibing sodium rich moisture from a patch of earth (probably moistened by urine). These are all males acquiring a nuptial gift to pass on to the females during mating. Along with his sperm, he also fortifies her with a mineral supplement.

These three tiger swallowtails and more than a dozen pipevine swallowtails are imbibing sodium rich moisture from a patch of earth (probably moistened by urine). These are all males acquiring a nuptial gift to pass on to the females during mating. Along with his sperm, he also fortifies her with a mineral supplement.

 

Feel free to check out the products page of my website for various books and recordings

If you want more butterfly-ology you might enjoy the chapter in my Swarm Tree book entitled “Another Roadside Attraction –The Passionate Quest of the Butterfly Hitchhikers” about the times I picked up hitchhikers carrying butterfly nets. You learn about the time one of them brought a bag of hickory horned devil caterpillars to a burlesque show (and other encounters with wildlife!)

Swarm Tree: Of Honeybees, Honeymoons, and the Tree of Life

160 pages Softcover $18.00

160 pages Softcover $18.00

Following tracks, messing with bees, chasing butterflies, stalking deer, tickling trout, and picking up pawpaws—and hitchhikers. This lively collection by celebrated storyteller Doug Elliott will delight readers with its blend of natural history and heartfelt, hilarious takes on life. Whether tracking skunks, philosophizing over dung beetles, negotiating with the police, or reading divine script on the back of a trout, Elliott brings a sense of wonder and humor to every story. His broad scientific and cultural knowledge of the Appalachians and beyond is a treasure. Join him on this down to earth spiritual journey as he probes creation, asks the deeper questions, and reveals fascinating details of the great narrative of life that connect us all. Dive deeply into the richness of the natural world; climb high into the tree of life, and return–with amazing tales, humorous insights, and surprising truths that explore and illuminate, and celebrate the confluence of nature, humanity and spirit.

I didn’t think I was going to produce another CD album, but when I heard the recording of this live performance at the National Storytelling Festival it was such a hoot I just had to put it out.

OF GINSENG, GOLDEN APPLES, AND THE RAINBOW FISH
Ancient Tales, Traditional Lore, Lively Tunes, and a Modern Mythic Adventure

of Ginseng

SALE $15.00

Doug Elliott visits Appalachian storyteller Ray Hicks, who is famous for his tales about the mythical folk hero Jack. Along with Jack’s exploits, Ray tells a few of his own hair-raising adventures, like when he was followed by a panther. He also recounts colorful folklore about the love life of ‘possums, bloodsucking owls, and tips for successful ‘seng hunting.

Driving home with his head full of wild tales, Elliott embarks on a true modern-day mythic journey where he catches a trout by hand; harvests wild apples, ginseng, and mushrooms; ponders Greek myths, Biblical verses, and the fungal web of life; meets three strangers; and finds himself living out his own folktale.

You’ll hear a poem by William Butler Yeats, quotes from the Roman poet Ovid, and a risqué herbal ballad by the great botanist Jim Duke. You’ll find out what happens when Artemis (aka Diana) gets caught skinny dipping and when Atalanta loses a foot race, as well as what happens when Jack leaves home to sell a cow and comes back with a rock. In this live recording of a standing ovation performance at the National Storytelling Festival, Elliott is accompanied by guitarist Keith Ward and his son Todd Elliott on fiddle.

Feel free to order the new CD and check out the products page of my website for the Summer Sale on my DVD.

An Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

cover-eveningElliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.

Normally $25 — NOW only $15

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New CD release party! Of Ginseng, Golden Apples and the Rainbow Fish

Hi Friends!   I didn’t think I was going to produce another CD album, but when I heard the recording of this live performance at the National Storytelling Festival it was such a hoot I just had to put it out. We’re having a performance and a CD release party at the Trade and Lore Coffeehouse in Asheville Wednesday May 17. Hope you can make it.

of GinsengOF GINSENG, GOLDEN APPLES, AND THE RAINBOW FISH
Ancient Tales, Traditional Lore, Lively Tunes, and a Modern Mythic Adventure

Doug Elliott visits Appalachian storyteller Ray Hicks, who is famous for his tales about the mythical folk hero Jack. Along with Jack’s exploits, Ray tells a few of his own hair-raising adventures, like when he was followed by a panther. He also recounts colorful folklore about the love life of ‘possums, bloodsucking owls, and tips for successful ‘seng hunting.

Driving home with his head full of wild tales, Elliott embarks on a true modern-day mythic journey where he catches a trout by hand; harvests wild apples, ginseng, and mushrooms; ponders Greek myths, Biblical verses, and the fungal web of life; meets three strangers; and finds himself living out his own folktale.

You’ll hear a poem by William Butler Yeats, quotes from the Roman poet Ovid, and a risqué herbal ballad by the great botanist Jim Duke. You’ll find out what happens when Artemis (aka Diana) gets caught skinny dipping and when Atalanta loses a foot race, as well as what happens when Jack leaves home to sell a cow and comes back with a rock. In this live recording of a standing ovation performance at the National Storytelling Festival, Elliott is accompanied by guitarist Keith Ward and his son Todd Elliott on fiddle.

Feel free to order the new CD and check out the products page of my website for the Spring Sale on my DVD.

An Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

cover-eveningElliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild storie
s, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.

Normally $25 — NOW only $15 !

Chinquapin Eyes

It’s been a good mast year here in the Southern Appalachians. That means the oaks, hickories, and walnuts have been very productive. (Though in some areas the nuts are getting roasted by the wildfires!) (For an enlightening perspective on the fires check out Clint Calhoun’s recent blog:
http://clintcalhounadventures.blogspot.com/2016/11/fire-on-mountain-blessing-or-curse.html

One of the most interesting native nuts is the chinquapin, Castanea pumila, (sometimes spelled “chinkapin”). This shrubby miniature chestnut produces prickly burs with delicious, tiny, dark brown nuts no bigger than a filbert. They can be peeled and eaten raw, boiled, or baked.

photomontage

The name, “chinquapin” is a corruption of “chechinquamin,” the name Captain John Smith recorded in his history of Virginia. Smith noted that, “they esteeme (it) a great daintie” and that they were dried and stored as part of the community’s regular store of provisions. “Of their Chesnuts and Chechinquamins (they) boyled them (to) make both broath and bread for their chiefe men at their greatest feasts.” Some translate the name to mean “prick” or “jab” and “eye” with the suffix “min” which is the Algonquian root referring to “food” or “grain”, as in the words, “persimmon”, “asimin” (pawpaw), and “menomin” (wild rice).

This 16th century engraving by Theodore De Bry depicts natives with some of their traditional foods. It looks like this romantic couple is enjoying a tray of chinquapins.

This 16th century engraving by Theodore De Bry depicts natives with some of their traditional foods. It looks like this romantic couple is enjoying a tray of chinquapins.

The chinquapin is found from Pennsylvania through most of the southeast and west to east Texas There’s an endangered midwestern Ozark chinquapin (C. ozarkensis) which, like our eastern chinquapin is threatened by the same blight that took down the American chestnut.

There are two other genera of nut bearing trees known as chinquapins. Chrysolepis is a small genus endemic to the western United States. The genus Castanopsis is indigenous to Asia. There is also the chinquapin oak which is so named because its leaves resemble those of the chinquapin.

babyTwenty-some years ago when we had a little boy with big brown eyes crawling around the house, occasionally a neighbor would remark, “Well look at the chinquapin eyes on that boy!” I am amazed and delighted to be around country folks who are so familiar with this somewhat rare nut that it has become an adjective in their vocabulary.

Click here for a recording of a medley of two old fiddle tunes: Chinquapin Hunting and Rock the Cradle Joe performed by Walt Michael and Company.

 

Feel free to check out the products page of my website for the Holiday Sale!
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

Special Bonus:
With every order we will include a free copy of the 64 page book,

cover-crawdads-bookCrawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens 
Songs, Stories, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Discover how to catch crawdads, puree pawpaws, gobble greenbriers, noodle catfish, tickle trout, cook squirrel brains, twist a critter out of its hole, and predict the weather with a persimmon seed. Learn how to greet a doodlebug, and find out which rabbit’s foot is actually the lucky one. Hear tales about Queen Elizabeth when she was courted by a frog, Copper John Higgins when he swallowed a lizard, and Davy Crockett when he tried to grin a squirrel out of a tree. The book features two dozen favorite old time, and contemporary songs, more than 90 original illustrations and a plethora of stories and lore. ($5 value –free with any order!)

cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake

From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas, Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.

Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck Ol’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank

Normally $15 — NOW only $10 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

 

cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.

Normally $20 — NOW only $15 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

Spiced Possum in the Kitchen

The spicebush berries have just started to get ripe, and Holly Bellebuono’s book entitled The Healing Kitchen just came out ( http://www.hollybellebuono.com ). Holly contacted herbalists all over the country asking for their favorite recipes for nourishing, healing dishes using herbs and wild foods. She has compiled quite a collection–everything from garnishes, spice mixes, and beverages, to entire meals. I told her that one of my favorite wild herbs for cooking is spicebush. Spicebush is called “Lindera benzoin” by botanists, “spicewood” by many traditional southern Appalachian mountain folks, and “American allspice” by other plant lovers. It is found from New England and the northern Midwest, south as far as eastern Texas.

spicebush2

spicebush1I collect the berries when they turn red, dry them, grind them up, and use them in the same way I would allspice flavoring for applesauce, stir-fries, and curries, as well as in teas, chais, nogs, and other beverages. In her book, Holly also mentioned that I use the twigs for tea, and as a flavoring for wild game. She didn’t have space to include the back story of how I was first introduced to the use of spicebush twigs in traditional Appalachian cookery. The story begins like this:

“Doug, I got you a ‘possum.”

Even on the phone, I could immediately recognize Lee’s familiar mountain drawl.

“You want ‘im? He’s a fat ‘un.”

Lee lived a few miles down the road in a little mountain community named Bee Log, North Carolina. He and his wife had befriended me when I was living in the area. Lee would call me whenever he had a ‘possum. He kept chickens and it seemed like he regularly had a ‘possum raiding his chicken coop. He would either catch it live in a box trap, or he’d shoot it when his dog treed it in the yard. Being a certified possumologist, when someone calls me about a ‘possum, I feel duty-bound to answer the call.

I never knew what condition the ‘possum would be in when I arrived–whether it would be alive, “grinning” and snarling at me from the box trap, or lying there dead. If it was alive, we would stuff it into a sack or a crate.

I’d say, “Thanks, Lee, that ‘possum‘ll be good eating.” And then I’d take it out into the national forest and let the poor thing go. If he had already killed the ‘possum, I would take it home and cook it.

Lee considered himself too affluent to eat ‘possum. Almost every visit he would show me his shelves of canned goods and his two freezers crammed full of deer, beef, chicken, pork, and bear meat. Even though he wasn’t planning to eat the ‘possum, he always had a lot to say about the subtleties of ‘possum cuisine. He wanted to be sure I prepared it properly.

I can remember him holding a particularly robust (but dead) ‘possum by the tail, practically salivating as he pinched the hind legs saying, “Now look at the fat hams on this critter, Doug. Now if you want to cook ‘im right, git you a mess of spicewood twigs. Cut ‘em with your knife so they’re sharp, and then when you get that ‘possum all skinned and cleaned, stick them little twigs in the meat and fill him up till he looks like a little porcupine. Then you par-boil him till he’s tender. See, them twigs’ll cut the gamey taste and give the meat a good spicy flavor. Then bake him in the oven with some sweet taters all around, and buddy, you gonna have some fine eatin’ “

I did just as he advised, and he was right; that spicewood flavored ‘possum meat was indeed, mighty fine eating. Since that time I always try to use spicewood whenever I cook wild game. Now you’ve got the whole story. Next time you’re cooking a ‘possum you’ll know what to do. Maybe spiced ‘possum will be in Holly’s next healing recipe book!

 

The Summer Sale is still going on!

Feel free to check out the products page of my website
for the Summer Sale.
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

As a special bonus, I’ll include a free copy of my Crawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens book with every order.

cover-crawdads-bookCrawdads, Doodlebugs and Creasy Greens
Songs, Stories, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Discover how to catch crawdads, puree pawpaws, gobble greenbriers, noodle catfish, tickle trout, cook squirrel brains, twist a critter out of its hole, and predict the weather with a persimmon seed. Learn how to greet a doodlebug and which rabbit’s foot is actually the lucky one. Hear tales about Queen Elizabeth when she was courted by a frog, Copper John Higgins when he swallowed a lizard, and Davy Crockett when he tried to grin a squirrel out of a tree.

The 64-page book features two dozen songs with musical notations, more than 90 original illustrations and a plethora of stories and lore.

cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake

From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas,Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.

Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck O’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank

Normally $15 — NOW only $10 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.

Normally $20 — NOW only $15 http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

A Snaky Roll in the Hay

The chickens have been laying eggs among the hay bales in our shed. When we went to check for eggs one morning, we found a medium-sized black rat snake in the process of swallowing a large egg. Sometimes when this happens we indignantly take the egg away from the snake and carry the snake out to the garden and put it down a vole hole in hopes that it would devour some of those pestiferous rodents instead of our eggs. But this snake was not that large and her neck was stretched to the limit. She was working very hard to move the egg down her throat. I wanted to honor her efforts, so I didn’t disturb her. However, I didn’t want her to stay around the chicken nest and eat more eggs, so I decided to wait till she was finished swallowing the egg, and then take her to the garden.

While I was hanging out waiting for the snake to finish this laborious process, I was astounded to see another larger black rat snake slither into the scene! With no hesitation he crawled right on top of the first snake aligning his body with her every curve (including the grade A-sized lump in her throat). His belly started pulsing and caressing her with waves of undulations. Before long their cloacae pressed together and he inserted his slimy hemipenes. (Yep, like the opossum, he has a double ender.) It seemed that time stood still as they writhed lovingly together there in the hay. (All the while she was still trying to swallow her egg.)

snakes

Finally he accomplished what he had come to do, and with a few fond flickers of his tongue, he slithered off. (We caught him and took him out to the garden.) With him gone she could now focus on her egg. She finally maneuvered the egg down her throat about six inches. She curved her body with the lump of the egg in a sharp angle, and we heard the satisfying crunch of the egg crushing. (Check out the video.) In a few minutes, with the egg collapsed, you couldn’t even tell the snake had just eaten the egg. She had had quite a morning. I wonder which of her endeavors gave her more satisfaction. I’ve always heard that females are good at multi-tasking. Now I believe it!

Here’s a few second video of her cracking the egg.

And here’s an original tune from the Bound for Carolina album celebrating a big black snake:

Hi friends, I hope you enjoyed this snaky roll in the hay! I wish you good luck with your own multi-tasking (and your rolling in the hay)!


Feel free to check out the products page of my website for the Summer Sale.

http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

cover-eveningAn Evening with Doug Elliott DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World
Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.
Normally $20 — NOW only $15
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

cover-boundBound for Carolina CD
A Musical Journey Celebrating the Plants, Animals and People of the Southeast
An All Music Recording featuring the original tune, Big Black Snake
From Oh Susanna to Old Joe Clark, from the crawdad hole to the railroad yard, Elliott wails on his harp and sings a collection of blues, contemporary, traditional, and old-time songs celebrating country life, the natural world, and especially the people, the plants, the critters, and the rich environment and culture of southeastern North America. Elliott is accompanied by fiddles, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bass, drums, buckets, bottles, rattlesnake rattles, frog croaks and even a few blue yodels. This all-music recording features seven newly recorded songs as well as 14 favorites from previous albums. Special guests on this project include, Phil and Gay Johnson, Billy Jonas,Wayne Erbsen, and Todd Elliott.
Featured tunes:
Oh Susanna • Froggie Went a’ Courting • Big Black Snake • Rattlesnaking Papa • Old Joe Clark • Strawberry Picking • Dandelions • Creasy Greens • Root Blues • Crawdad Hole • Mole in the Ground • Bullfrogs on Your Mind • Bulldog on the Bank • Cluck O’ Hen • Who Broke the Lock • Ain’t No Bugs on Me • Sail On Honeybee • Bile them Cabbage • Left Hind Leg of a Rabbit • West Virginia • All Around the Water Tank
Normally $15 — NOW only $10
http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

Free Bees

Everybody appreciates a freebie! But what about free bees?! Nowadays beekeeping can be pretty expensive. A hive setup can run you upwards of a couple hundred dollars. Just the bees themselves often cost more than $100!  But lemmie tell you, in spring and summer there are whole swarms of bees out there flying around looking for a home. If you set up the right sized box in the right place, you may find it brimming over with bees one day.

IMG_7741,

That’s what I did last year. The experts tell us that the box most likely to attract a bees swarm is basically any dry wooden box with a volume of about 10 gallons with a two-square-inch entrance towards the bottom of one wall.

They call this a “bait hive” or “swarm trap”. If it has some old honeycomb in it and the smell of propolis (resinous bee glue) all the better. Well, I had an empty hive body with lots of the resinous propolis on the walls. I put a couple frames of old comb in it and a dab of swarm lure pheromone that I bought from the bee supply store.

They say the optimal height for this contraption is 12-15 feet. And its best to locate it in a fairly open area not close to other hives since swarms are looking to settle in new territory.

I didn’t really want to climb onto a roof with this hive so I set it on our wood pile at about 6 feet. A couple weeks later I noticed a few bees investigating the entrance of the hive–,the next day a few more bees, and the next, an entire swarm came pouring in! I moved them to my bee yard. They built up during the summer and now, almost a year later, they are doing well.

IMG_7754,

For more details about swarm catching check out Dr. Leo Sharashkin’s website: http://www.horizontalhive.com/honeybee-swarm-trap/bait-hive-how-to-catch.shtml

Speaking of bees if you’d like to take advantage of the
BUZZOLOGY SPECIAL SALE!
Go to my Products Page here
(Sale ends June 21 Solstice)

Swarm Tree, Of Honeybees, Honeymoons, and the Tree of Life (book) $15 ($3 off)
Sail On, Honeybee, Adventures in the Bee Yard (CD) $10 ($5 off)

FREEBEE LINKS :

Honeybee Fly Around Song Todd at age 13 singing about honeybees and dancing around (and on) the bee hives.

Poplar Appeal – UNC-TV Celebrating the tulip poplar tree as a source of honey, baskets, and many other things.

Well-Hung Catkins And Sticky Stigmas: The Promise of Spring

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If you’re looking for the earliest flowers of spring it’s time to look up at the trees and shrubs. This is the time year when the dangling male catkins swell and the tiny, female flowers expose their sticky stigmas hoping to catch a few grains of windblown pollen.

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Alder catkins and pistillate flowers

Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower

Hazelnut catkin and pistillate flower

Many plants, like apple trees, daisies, and roses, have what are called perfect flowers, meaning that they have male and female parts in the same flower. (The male parts are stamens, each made up of the filament or stalk topped by the anther which contains the pollen. The female part is the pistil, composed of the ovary at the base, and the stalk-like style, topped by the stigma, which is the part that receives the pollen.) Other plants like persimmons and holly trees have male and female flowers on separate trees, and some plants like the birches, alders, hazelnuts, and ironwoods have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Late winter and early spring is the time to look for the swelling catkins and then challenge yourself to find those diminutive, delicate, pistillate flowers flaunting their finery.

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The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

The female flowers of the hazelnuts are a brilliant red!

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The pollen-bearing catkins can be an important source of protein for the growing honeybee larvae as colonies expand in Spring.

Here you can see a video of an ironwood tree in full flower. When it was abruptly shaken, you can see the huge cloud of pollen coming off the tree, (complete with human and avian exclamations!) I bet there were some satisfied stigmas that day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRkT-kGlvyU

Thanks to Todd Elliott for the photos. You can keep up with Todd’s photo work by following him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/toddfelliott1
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toddfelliott/ or on his website: http://toddelliott.weebly.com/

Feel free to check out the products page of my website to take advantage of the
GETTING READY FOR SPRING HALF PRICE DVD SALE

An Evening with Doug Elliott  DVD
Stories, Songs, and Lore Celebrating the Natural World

Elliott performs a lively concert of tales, tunes, traditional lore, wild stories, and fact stranger than fiction–flavored with regional dialects, harmonica riffs, and belly laughs. One moment he is singing about catfish, the next he’s extolling the virtues of dandelions, or bursting forth with crow calls. He also demonstrates basketry, ponders the “nature” in human nature, tells wild snake tales, and jams and jives with his fiddler son, Todd.

Normally $20 — NOW only $10   http://www.dougelliott.com/products.html

If you’re in the Western NC area March 19:

VERNAL KERNELS
Celebrating the Season with Doug Elliott

Kernels of truth, and kernels of wisdom, woodslore, and foolishness. Blossoming blackberries, sexy slithering salamanders, jumping, humping frogs, courting cardinals, and whistling whippoorwills.

The days are getting longer and juices are flowing! Celebrate the season and the bioregion with master naturalist and storyteller Doug Elliott, who will be sharing a special collection of wild tales, lively tunes, traditional lore, and natural history fact stranger than fiction–all flavored with regional dialects, soulful harmonica riffs, and more than a few belly laughs.

Spring Equinox, Saturday, March 19 at 7PM
Bring snacks and drinks to share starting at 6:15pm
@ Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, North Carolina

Bring your wallets along with your smiles.
* Donations welcome for storytelling. Suggested amt: $10+
* Food and drinks available for purchase.
* CDs, Books, Baskets and more available from Doug.

For other Elliott appearances around the country
check out http://www.dougelliott.com/calendar.html