Protostelid slime molds are relatively unknown and easily overlooked. They were first recognized in the early 1960s and have been little studied since. There are 36 currently accepted species, and possibly twice that number of undescribed species. Most are microscopic. Only a few are visible to the naked eye.
Honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) is the most commonly encountered protostelid slime mold and may be the most common slime mold of any kind in the world. It occurs on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica. It is found in forests on rotting fallen logs and branches. It can form extensive colonies one meter or more long. It is very short lived, appearing after a soaking rain and disintegrating in just a few days.
Honeycomb coral slime mold first appears as a thin, watery, translucent, mucus-like layer, creeping across the wood, engulfing bacteria, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Eventually it fruits, forming clusters of erect, translucent columns. The columns have a frosted or powdery appearance due to a dense covering of tiny, white, spores on long, thread-like stalks.
Gray field slug (Deroceras reticulatum), also known as milky slug, is a common, exotic, terrestrial, smooth land slug. It is native to northern Europe, North Africa, and the Atlantic islands. It was introduced into North America and now occurs across the continent. It is most common in southern Canada and northern United States. It can be a serious crop pest, but is not listed as invasive nationally or in Minnesota. It is usually found above ground but under stones or leaf litter in open areas, especially cultivated areas.
Gray field slug is stout, 1⅜″ to 2″ long and white, cream, gray, or tan. When at rest, the body is contracted and the tentacles are retracted. When traveling, the body is stretched out, the tentacles are extended, and it exudes a clear mucus. When disturbed, it exudes white mucus over its entire body, leading to one of its common names, milky slug.
Orange-banded arion (Arion fasciatus) is a common, exotic, land slug. It is native to northern Europe and was introduced into North America during the colonial era. It has slowly spread from New England north to Quebec, south to North Carolina, and west to Minnesota. It is listed as invasive in Wisconsin, but not in Minnesota and not nationally. It is found in ground litter and on herbaceous plants in forests, wet meadows adjacent to streams, and open and cultivated areas, including old fields and gardens.
Orange-banded arion is 1¼″ to 2″ long and slender when extended, short and bell-shaped when contracted. It is grayish to yellowish-brown and is covered with rows of pale bumps, giving it a granular appearance. There are two lateral, dark, blurry, longitudinal stripes. The area just below each stripe is yellowish, and the area below that is whitish. The head and tentacles are black.
European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. It was introduced into North America in 1907 or earlier and spread quickly, hitchhiking in vehicles and in shipments from other countries. It is now found across the continent and is the most abundant earwig in North America. Adults are omnivorous, feeding on live and dead small insects and on living and dead plant matter.
A common myth is that the name earwig refers to the insects crawling into the ears of sleeping human beings. In fact, it refers to the shape on the unfolded, semicircular hindwing, which vaguely resembles a human ear.
Earwigs are easily identified by the elongated body and long, forcep-like appendages at the end of the body. European earwig is distinguished by the brown coloration; antennae with 14 segments; and the second segment of the end part of each leg with a lobe at the end that is expanded both to the side and forward under the third segment.
Gilled Polypore (Lenzites betulina) looks very much like a Turkey Tail but the pore surface on the underside has gills. It is widespread across Europe, Asia, and North and South America. In the United States it is very common from the East Coast to the Great Lakes states, south to Texas, and on the West Coast. It is less common in Minnesota where it is at the western edge of its range. It is found usually in overlapping rows or columns on logs and stumps of a wide variety of hardwoods, especially oak and willow.
The name Gilled Polypore sounds like an oxymoron but accurately describes this mushroom. The fruiting body is a small, fan-shaped to nearly round, shelf-like bracket. The upper surface is concentrically zoned with varying textures and and colors, and is densely hairy. The gills are white when young but darken as they age. The flesh is thin, tough, and inedible.
Common green lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is a very common, medium-sized, net-winged insect. It occurs in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North and South America. True to its common name, it is the most common green lacewing (family Chrysopidae).
Adults have a long, slender, pale green body, long antennae, gold or copper-colored eyes, and transparent wings with a network of pale green veins. They are not predacious, feeding on flower nectar and pollen and on aphid honeydew. They are active at night and are attracted to lights. They may emit an unpleasant odor when handled.
Larvae are alligator-like in appearance. They have long, sickle-shaped mandibles and well-developed legs which allow them to move quickly. They are predacious, feeding mostly on aphids but also on many other insect adults, larvae, and eggs.
Tree Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria) is common in the northeast and north-central regions on Minnesota. It is found on trees, mossy rocks, and wood in mature coniferous and deciduous forests. It is sensitive to atmospheric pollution and is considered a good indicator of a rich, healthy, unpolluted forest.
Tree Lungwort is leaf-like and is divided into large lobes. The lobes are often attached at just one end and hang loosely. They are pale brown to olive-brown and papery when dry, bright green and leathery when wet or moist. The upper surface has a conspicuous network of ridges and depressions.
Tree Lungwort is a favorite food source for moose in northeast United States. It was once thought by herbalists to be a remedy for tuberculosis because it resembles lung tissue.
Chicken Fat Mushroom (Suillus americanus) is a widespread and very common “Slippery Jack” mushroom. It occurs in North America east of the Rocky Mountains. It is very common in the United States from the northeast to the Midwest, and in adjacent Canadian provinces. It is common Minnesota in the northeast, north-central, and metro regions. It grows on the ground, usually in groups but not clustered, exclusively under eastern white pine. It is found from mid-July to mid-September in mixed and coniferous forests and anywhere else its host is found.
When young, the cap is bright yellow, convex, and slimy. As it matures, the cap becomes broadly convex and sometimes has a small bump in the middle. The mature cap is sticky or slimy when moist, and frequently has reddish-brown scales, streaks, and/or patches, especially near the margin. The underside of the cap is a sponge-like pore surface.
Chicken Fat Mushroom is edible but the taste is not distinctive, and the cap becomes slimy when moistened. After removing the slimy skin and the spongy pore surface, there is little left to enjoy.
Whitewash Lichen (Phlyctis argena) is very common in Europe and North America. In the United States it occurs in the northeast to the Great Lakes region and in the Pacific northwest. It grows on the bark of oak and other deciduous trees, rarely on conifers, and rarely on rock. It neither harms nor benefits the tree.
The vegetative body may be thick or thin, smooth or granular, small or large. It may appear as a small, well-defined patch with a distinct pale border, or as a large, irregular patch with diffuse pale edges, like a smear of paint. The upper surface is pale grayish-green or greenish white and smooth when fresh, becoming grayish-white rough as it ages. It rarely has the disk-like reproductive structures common in many lichens. When it does, the disks are minute, gray to black, and flush with the surface, sometimes hidden by it.
Brilliant jumping spider (Phidippus clarus) occurs across North America from coast to coast. It is very common in Minnesota. A study in 1997 surveyed jumping spiders in 30 locations around Minnesota. The author collected 572 jumping spiders representing 15 species. Brilliant jumping spider was by far the most common, with 299 specimens (52%) collected.
Brilliant jumping spider is found from July to September in moderately moist fields on grasses and perennial plants. It is a small to medium-sized spider (order Araneae) but a relatively large jumping spider (family Salticidae). Adults are mostly black with four pairs of white spots and two red stripes on the abdomen.
The female is a paragon of parental perseverance. In the fall she creates a large white egg sac at the top of a tall grass or herbaceous plant and drops eggs into the sac. She prevents the eggs from drying out by repeatedly adding silk to cover the egg mass. She stays with the egg sac until the young disperse in about a month. During this time she does not feed and usually dies from starvation a few days later.