They catch my eye this time of the year, the shapes that hang from or perch on or adhere to their supporting structures. They are exposed on tree or bush limbs that used to shroud them in foliage, and in the absence of other living or colorful visual distractions, even the smooth surfaces of walls and roofs give up their secrets.
These artifacts, so crucial to a particular stage of an organism’s life, linger on – maybe to house an opportunistic spider or to be recycled into next year’s nest-building. It’s never certain how long they have been abandoned by their original builders; their structure resists weathering and decay, persisting years beyond their use as a nest. I found this slightly worn cocoon the other day suspended from a holly twig. It dangled and swayed on a thin silken strand. What made this? Who might still be inside? I submitted the photo to Bugguide and soon had a response: Charops annulipes, an ichneumon wasp. It was the first record of the species for Maryland on that site. and a new species for the Maryland Biodiversity Project as well.
I love the fact that an animal’s distinctive creation is sufficient enough evidence of its existence that it counts as a sighting. Work and worker are one and the same.