Story and Photographs By Joan Herrmann

Whereiwander… is actually on our property and also within short walking distances. So much is happening this time of year and you don’t need to go very far to discover exciting things happening. Within the meadow spouts from the ground and on the trees seem to be emerging while I watch. The same things are occurring in the woods and in the pond. I spent almost an hour sitting and photographing or merely observing, the Wood Frogs and peepers, in the small pond next to our driveway. Numerous clusters of wood frog eggs have already been laid. After sitting quietly for about ten minutes most of the wood frogs emerged and began their serenade again. They are easy to spot on the surface of the pond. The peepers are not so easy to find because like a ventriloquist they are able to “throw their voice”.

This time of year I hope to find one or all of the three species of butterflies which winter over as adults. In our area, they are the Mourning Cloak which is a dark brown butterfly with an inside border of blue and an outside margin of creamy yellow. They are most often found on the road in a sunny spot or near the edge of a stream. You may even find numerous males together “puddling”. When you see one or many butterflies using their proboscis, (tongue-like sipping tube) to suck up minerals, nectar, or sap it is referred to puddling. You may occasionally see numerous butterflies puddling an animal scat, and they are doing the same thing, which is sucking up minerals.

The other two butterflies which I will be looking for are the Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) and similar in appearance to the Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis). With their wings closed, they both can camouflage easily on the bark of most trees. The question mark butterfly has a white curve with a dot beneath which resembles a question mark symbol and the comma butterfly only has the white curve and no dot. Once we move into May many species of butterflies will emerge. The aforementioned are unique because they winter over as adults. Many others soon to emerge butterflies will have wintered over as pupa or chrysalis and some have even wintered over as eggs.

Even though I have missed all the migrating birds and hibernating animals, I believe what I miss most are the insects. There are a few that keep me company in the house all winter, like the Lady Beetles that seek high corners in the cathedral ceilings and a few Eastern Leaf-footed Bugs. This year I noticed that a very fat Cellar Weaver Spider (Pholcus plalnggiodes) was also enjoying the Lady Beetles’ company. One of the early emerging insects that I begin to look for are the Queens, especially the Bumble Bee Queens but, also the Queen Wasps. If you should happen to see a Bumble Bee which seems extremely large it is because it is extremely large. The Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) has dense fuzzy appearing hair, which has kept her warm throughout her long winter sleep, known as diapause. Like all insects, she has a head, thorax, and abdomen, two sets of wings, and six legs. The queens and worker bumblebees both have black heads, yellow thoraxs, and their first abdominal segment is also yellow. The queen is significantly larger than the workers. The male bumblebees are called drones. Their appearance is a little different. Drones have yellow heads and thorax and their first abdominal is also yellow and they are the same size as the worker bumblebees. Common eastern bumblebees live in underground nests that are between one to three feet below the ground. They enter their nests through a tunnel that may be two to nine feet in length. The queen will lay her eggs in clumps within the middle of the underground nest. The worker bumblebees all have different “tasks” within the hive. Nurse worker bees care for the eggs and the emerging larvae. The Forager worker bees stay within the outer periphery of the hive unless they are out foraging. After all of the new queen bees and wasps have been raised in the fall and the new queens have been mated with the drones they will be the only ones left to winter over and begin a new colony of each species the following spring. After the first hard frost, the drones and all the workers will die.

One of the emerging queen wasps that you may have the opportunity to encounter is a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculate). The name wasp and hornet is synonymous. These hornets are the builders of the huge paper wasp nests that you may see throughout the fall and winter hanging from the branch of a tall tree. They are made and used only to raise the queens for the next year’s colony. Once the queens are raised and have mated with the drones the paper nest will not be used again by the hornets. It may be used by many other species of birds, mice, and squirrels to help warm their winter nests.

Another insect that I am anxious to see is a member of the dragonfly family. The common green darner (Anax junius) is one of the first to be seen in our area. I have seen them as early as the first week of April. Some of the common green darners migrate south in the fall. They have a migration that is similar to the Monarch Butterfly and it is believed that it takes several generations to complete the entire round trip. Researchers have studied these migrations and have even fitted miniature radio transmitters on common green darners following their southbound trip.

Hopefully, we will be able to experience all the new flora and fauna waiting to emerge along the trails and byways… I will be looking for you, whereiwander.


As a Professional Nature Photographer, Naturalist, and Outdoor Educator, Joan Herrmann has been teaching and doing programs for Schools, Garden Clubs, Libraries, and Nature Centers, for about 38 years. After moving from the Rochester area in 1995 she began her Photography business, Essence of Nature, and also became a co-owner of The Artworks in Old Forge, New York. As a docent at Munson, Williams, Proctor Arts Institute, in Utica, New York she has been educating children and adults, for nineteen years.

In 2007 she began working with the Black River Outdoor Educational Program (BROEP) and in 2013 and 2014 did a week-long summer program at BROEP in conjunction with Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC). Using her love of both nature and photography she created a Flora/Fauna outdoor educational program teaching students (ages 6 to 14) the joys of nature and creative photography skills.

Joan’s love of nature has been a lifelong study of Birds, Wildflowers, Mosses, Ferns, Trees, Amphibians, Reptiles, Grasses, Insects, Spiders, Tracks, Scat, and Galls. She has assisted in the cataloging of all trails used by the hiking Coaches and photographed and identified seasonal Flora.

Since October 2016 she has been writing a bi-monthly nature column with Adirondack Express Newspaper. In October of 2019, she began a bi-monthly column with the My Little Falls Newspaper. You may reach her at jmhphoto8442@gmail.com