10 Places to See Some Cool Wildlife Near (or in) Your Home


My kids and I tested all these ideas in the field:

1. Down by the water. Here, for example, is a dobsonfly, over three inches long and armed with fangs bigger than a tarantula's. Just one of many eerie sights available only in the neighborhood of running water.

2. Beside the road. Roads, especially highways, are a great place to see wildlife because so many things get squished there. Nocturnal animals like badgers, armadillos, and opossums aren't likely to show themselves anywhere else. This is not a good situation for the animals, but, for the strong of stomach, it's a great opportunity. The white-tailed deer pictured here is more likely to hit the highway in the fall, but it can show up any time of the year.

3. In the kitchen. Pests like cockroaches may be available for viewing year-round, but most invaders are more likely to appear in the summer. Here's an insect called a box elder bug, enjoying a dollop of macaroni and cheese casserole left on my kitchen counter.

4. Up high. Above my back door, a Theridiid spider made a meal of one of those pesky box elder bugs. If you develop the habit of looking up, you may find your house filled with interesting wildlife. One spider lived above my bathroom sink for months, entertaining me every day while I brushed my teeth.

5. In the pantry. It's gross to think about, but some bugs like to eat the same food we do. Search through your pantry for carbohydrate-rich food like cereal and flour, and you may find the larvae of moths and beetles—or even the adults. Organic foods are especially hospitable to bugs. Don't worry, though. Most bugs don't carry germs and aren't a danger. These mealworms grow up into darkling beetles.

6. In the dirt. If you can't see anything interesting in plain sight, you're probably standing on it. Dig a couple of inches down in any shady, moist spot and you'll probably see animals you never noticed before. Here's a camel cricket sheltering among clods of mud.

7. In the sun. Here are those box elder bugs again. When it rains or gets chilly, they hide under bark or in buildings. But with the return of warm weather, I find them basking on exposed surfaces. . . like the side of my house. Lots of insects and reptiles do the same.

8. In the moonlight. You've probably never seen most of the wildlife where you live because it hides by day. This little orb-web spider lived in a crevice in the eaves of my house. Its web was almost impossible to see in sunlight, and we only discovered it when we saw a moth fighting for its life one night, seemingly against nothing.

9. In the weeds. Some animals, such as cats and mice, like to live with people. Others, like foxes, hate to come near us. And some thrive where we've been, on land plowed up for building or farming but reclaimed by weeds. Here's a grasshopper that popped up from the weeds nearby to bask on a bridge.

10. Where things are cut. In fact, anything broken or wounded is a natural home for other living things. This one isn't an animal, but it's too cool to leave out. It's a fungus called witches' butter, and it thrives on the stumps of trees.

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