Insect frass all over your picnic table this year? You’re not alone. Matt Ayers, an ecologist at Dartmouth is happy to see them. He writes that caterpillar abundance fluctuates by 20-fold, depending on the year. It’s all good, not an outbreak, and many different species of caterpillar are providing food for birds this year.

The big damselflies called ebony jewelwing make it hard to walk the brook any faster than at a snail’s pace. The black wings of the males are pretty, but it’s their shining emerald abdomens that stop you in your tracks. They occur in masses here along the top of a new beaver dam.

Virginia creeper and grapes are foodplants for Abbott’s sphinx moth caterpillars. Large green spots – much like the immature grapes nearby – cover the back of this striking insect. They will pupate soon, so check for them now.

The ground beneath female white ash trees is littered with seeds. Almost white, they look fresh and optimistic. Makes me think there’s hope.

If you’re working outdoors in the heat of the day, consider taking some switchel with you: roughly three cups of cider vinegar in ¾ of a gallon of water, plus some honey and some ginger. Cider vinegar supplies potassium and the ginger helps potassium absorption. Honey both revives your energy and reduces the tartness. Variations of this concoction have been used by farm workers since before the Civil War.

What a tail! Nothing like a gorgeous comet to take a person out of this world. Just after dark, just below the big dipper, in the northwest.

If you have a flashlight and a bit more patience than I have, I think you could see squash plants grow. Overnight they leapt through the garden fence and onto the grass.

So far this summer has been dry as a bone (“near- drought conditions,” the weather service calls it) followed by stream-filling thundery deluges (“rain, heavy at times”).