Chicago outdoors: What in God’s green earth hornworm and the beauty of indigo buntings

Notes come from around Chicago outdoors and beyond.


“I was watering my tomatoes this morning and found this? What in God’s green earth is this? A caterpillar with larvae?” Ray Namikas email on Monday.

A: Simple answer is yes. It’s that time when hornworms show in vegetable gardens. As to what is on the hornworm, Derek Rosenberger, an associate professor at Olivet Nazarene University and co-director of Olivet Biological Sanctuary, emailed that “looks like Braconids wasp parasitoid cocoons (the eggs are layed internally where the larvae develop and emerge to spin cocoons for pupation and then emergence as adults).”

As usual, he added a tidbit, “Lest people think parasitoids are evil or gross or whatever, here is a cool study I saw that describes how these male parasitoid Braconids `sing’ courtship songs to their potential mates!”


An indigo bunting on a chokecherry at West Ridge Nature Preerve. Crediit: Paul Vriend

An indigo bunting on a chokecherry at West Ridge Nature Preerve.

Paul Vriend emailed the photo above, noting, “Indigo buntings are striking birds that summer in Chicago. Here’s one on a chokecherry in West Ridge Nature Preserve singing its territorial song. They sing as many as 200, two-second songs per hour in the morning.”

WOTW, the celebration of wild stories and photos around Chicago outdoors, runs most weeks in the special two-page outdoors section in the Sun-Times Sports Saturday. To make submissions, email or contact me on Facebook (Dale Bowman), Twitter (@BowmanOutside) or Instagram (@BowmanOutside).


Today, July 29:Most northern Illinois sites

Sunday, July 30:Most Downstate sites, including the Illinois River sites

Details are at


Aug. 10 & 12: Mundelein, (847) 918-6145

Aug. 26-27: Kankakee, 815-935-2700


Aug. 5-6: Introductory clinics, Shabbona Lake SP, (815)757-2949, click here for information and to register

Aug. 19-20: Waterman,


Tuesday, Aug. 1: Applications begin, free upland game permit

Tuesday, Aug. 1: Squirrel season opens

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