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Creature Feature

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.

Mark your calendar

Cullen Hunter knows firsthand how to help the furry paws at Calvert Animal Welfare League

What ingredients does it take to make a valuable volunteer for cats waiting for their forever home?     Cullen Hunter, 19, and his grandfather Robert Sigona — both of Dunkirk — know firsthand how to help out the hundreds of furry paws at Calvert Animal Welfare League.     Hunter started volunteering to earn his required 75 service hours at Huntingtown High School. He graduated last year but stayed on at CAWL, logging in hundreds of hours keeping cats company.

Our neighbor, warts and all

The American toad may be the most-seen amphibian in Chesapeake Country. I’ve seen several in my yard this summer, and you probably have, too.     Odds for spotting an American toad are best near their preferred habitat: garden, forest or meadow. They are active mostly at night, which is when I always find them hopping around my yard or sitting on my patio.     American toads are large; they grow up to four and a half inches long. Full-grown adults are usually chubby.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have their day

A butterfly or two is an everyday pleasure.     A dozen or more, a sign you’ve planted well, raising a native garden of plants that bloom in sequence so emergent broods find the food they need to survive.     But an atmosphere thick with butterflies, bushes shimmering with butterflies: What is that?     The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail irruption of summer 2013, according to reports from throughout Chesapeake Country.

No messing with worms and insects; this trio eats a five-star diet

Cinco, Patches and Tripod would be homeless were it not for Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian.     Instead, the three female Eastern box turtles live in five-star-hotel style with amenities including rich soil for digging, logs for climbing, flowing ferns for frolicking, May apples, mushrooms and blueberry bushes for foraging and a wading pond for cooling off.     The girls, as they’re called by staff and volunteers, are forest-dwellers, so much of their 16-by-five-foot enclosure is shaded, with sparse sunny spots.

Aggressive as kudzu and nasty as stinkbugs

You know kudzu, that invasive vine driven by heat and humidity to devour whole communities. Now meet the kudzu bug.     The small, flying bugs are as wide as long, resembling yellowish brown or olive-green ladybugs with many small, darker brown spots and ruby-red eyes.     Vine and bug grew up together in Asia. This summer the creatures, aka brown ladybugs — are on the rise in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince Georges and St. Mary’s counties.

If you’ve ever wanted your own fresh eggs, Michele Allman can help you decide if keeping hens is for you

I am not alone in imagining chickens in my back yard. Backyard flocks are on the upswing in suburban and urban America, Chesapeake Country included. Why, the state’s capital allows city-dwellers to raise them.     I’d appreciate their weeding skills to keep the violets, dandelions, and chickweed in check and to work compost into the soil where I’d like to install new garden beds. Most of all, I’d like just-laid eggs, firm with bright orange yolks.