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Creature Feature

Body snatcher targets mud crabs

When it comes to horror, Mother Nature stands at the top of the class.     Our Halloween Creature Feature comes from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, where scientists have a horribly resourceful parasite under their microscopes. With devilish ingenuity, it takes over its host’s reproductive system for its own replication.     Loxothylacus panopaei (Loxo for short) is a “highly evolved” barnacle preying on white-fingered mud crabs, a Chesapeake species.

Man-made reef alive with seed spat

A new oyster reef lies alongside the Bill Burton Fishing Pier in the Choptank River. Sportsman and Maryland outdoors writer for nearly half a century, Burton retired from the Baltimore Evening Sun and came to Bay Weekly. Over 16 years with us, Burton became increasingly adamant and outspoken about restoring the Chesapeake.

Then throw your Rock Thoughts into cyberspace

Remember Pet Rocks?             The 1970s fad has returned with new legs to Annmarie Garden as a child’s game of hide and seek linked to a global art and collaborative storytelling project called Rock Thoughts.     Closer to home, Sunderland art teacher Maria Lendacky invited her fourth-graders to add their Rock Thoughts to the 1,500 rocks created worldwide.

Keep an eye out for these normally reclusive foragers

Driven by the frenzy of breeding season, deer are coming out of the woods.     From early fall into deep winter, bucks have two things on their minds: breeding and eating — the latter for energy to breed. Normally reclusive, whitetail bucks are out on the prowl. Searching for mates, they leave their thicket lairs and cross open meadows, lawns — and busy roads.     That’s where deer, humans and vehicles meet.

Arachnids are out in numbers this time of year

Almost overnight, the way it happens in Sci-Fi movies, spiders have invaded. Webs are spun under the porch light, draped from the mailbox and suspended like chandeliers from every shrub and tree. Walk out and you walk into one.     The arachnid explosion that ripples across Chesapeake Country in late summer and early fall is what happens when the spiderlings we saw on their mommas’ backs last spring grow up.

A first-time Chesapeake fisherwoman from Virginia beats the odds

Diamond Jim has been caught.         True to the legend tagged to him by Maryland Department of Natural Resources, he brought riches to his captor.

While very hungry, the webworm caterpillar won’t harm your trees

It’s the fall webworm that’s eating your trees from the comfort and security of webby nests.     The greenish larvae’s appetite is huge and undiscriminating, extending to 636 different species of trees. Redbuds, walnut, hickory, fruit trees and some maples are favorites of these fuzzy worms.     Late summer through early fall, when the larvae are most active, is prime time to spot webworms chowing down.     The webs they spin over foliage give them netted protection against predators as they feed.

Cicadas, crickets and katydids can create quite a racket

You hear them everywhere: driving in your car with the top down, sitting outside on a warm, summer evening and falling asleep to their songs with your windows open. Who are they? Cicadas, crickets and katydids — the trio you hear separately or together at all hours — starting in spring and belting out a peak performance this time of year.     Cicadas entice my cats with their buzz when their bodies spasm around on the ground.

Chew on these tales of bad behavior before you add a new member to your family

Through the beveled glass oval of the front door, I could see trouble. My friend and hair-stylist Kathy Burns’ brother was not making a social call. His khaki uniform meant he had come on official business. Dogcatcher business.     The dog in question, Slip Mahoney, wasn’t home. Wherever he was, he had stirred up enough commotion to bring out the dogcatcher.     “He escaped,” I said, holding up my hands in helplessness.

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