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Woolly Bear Caterpillars–What do they change into?

baby woolly bear caterpillar

Baby woolly bear caterpillar

I get asked this question often. What happens to the woolly bear caterpillar? We see them all the time in the late summer and throughout the fall. Then we forget about it until next fall. To answer the first question: The adult moth isn’t much to look at. Kind of drab beige to yellow, a few black markings. The scientific name is Pyrrharctia isabella, common name, Isabella Tiger Moth.

The caterpillar is the interesting part. No you cannot tell if the winter is going to be longer if the stripes are wider, or shorter. That is a myth. But this caterpillar can do something very interesting. It can freeze. It has to freeze. Freeze solid over the winter. And not just one winter, it can go through up to three winters suspended in a state of cryogenic suspended animation. We should send it into space I say!

The reason it is believed they freeze is to bulk up on more food in the spring before pupation. It is in the spring after overwintering as a caterpillar, not something many caterpillars do, that they spin their cocoons. What emerges, the drab moth you see here. It then lays tiny pearl-like eggs in the grass to start the cycle over again.

Photo by Tom Murray

Photo by Tom Murray

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in insects, Nature Curios, Science

 

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Bug walk and Nature Concert at Field Farm Williamstown

mantis on flowerThe Trustees of Reservations at Field Farm is hosting a music series this summer to heighten the experience of land, nature and architecture.

At 3:00 today, September 14th, prior to the concert, piano and cello duo Dan Kennedy and Stephen Katz, I will be giving a bug walk. Join us!

Bring lawn chairs, blanket, picnic dinner.

The Trustees of Reservations
Field Farm
554 Sloan Road
Williamstown, MA 01267

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in insects, Nature Curios, Science, science in the parks

 

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Japanese Knotweed

japanese knotweedFallopia japonica, common name Japanese knotweed, is a tall, glorious, herbaceous perennial native to Eastern Asia. Here in North America it is very successful growing anywhere there is the least bit of water. It has been classified as an invasive species, and hated by many since it is very hard to remove once it becomes established. It has naturalized here and the question remains, when is it considered non-invasive?

I have to say I love Japanese Knotweed. We have lots of it on our property and it is well managed. We mow and pull it out manually. It is a abundant source of pollen in the late summer for bees, flies and small butterflies when other plants are starting to go to seed. Right now our yard is “buzzing”. Its an amazing sight and sound. One of my favorite parts of the summer.

This plant is incredible. It grows so fast you can hear it. Yes you read that correct. In the spring it pushed up the dead leaves on the ground as it grows and you can hear the shoots moving the leaves aside. One spring I am going to measure the growth daily. I’m guessing 2-3 inches in 48 hours. It grows fast. And its good eating. I prefer it over asparagus. The shoots have a lemony taste.

The leaves are broad and create shade and privacy. Managed right it will create a jungle in your yard that supplies wildlife such as birds, rabbits and mice with a place to forge, hide from predators such as fox and house cats.

And don’t forget the insects. Paper wasps such as Polisties use it for nest making, scraping the fibers off the old canes to make a paste for their nests. Then in the late summer early fall the thick crown of flowers provides pollen for many insects, mostly honey bees. The biodiversity in my yard is 10 fold because of these plants. I love them.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in insects, Nature Curios

 

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Water Filtration

filtering waterThe a bunch of kids at the park learned about where our water comes from, where it goes and how it gets cleaned in the process. To make this more understandable we did some filtration activities. First we simulated what water would have in it at the reservoir, the younger kids ran about and got sticks,seeds, dead and living leaves and grass and dumped it in our container of water. Then they chose from a selection of filtering mediums for the first filtration step, like the giant grate at the water treatment plant. They picked the netting from an onion bag. Then they used a metal mesh strainer. Once the large organic materials were removed, they used filter paper, cotton and paper towels. They figured out that the paper towel worked the best.

To take it a step further they then tried a combination of filters all at the same time to see if they could speed up the process. Good thinking!
filtered water 2filtered water 3

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2014 in Camps, Children's Art & Science Classes, Science, science in the parks

 

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Dr. Augie’s Nature & Writing Camp

pH testing stream waterAre your kids or grandkids getting bored this summer? Well sign them up for Dr. Augie’s Nature and Writing Camp! It will be loads of smart fun, silly fun and just plain fun!

August 4-8, 2014
9am to 1:30pm Cost $175 or $35/day

You can print and mail the application or you can pick up an application at St. Mark’s Church office.

​Students are taken on daily guided nature hikes, where we’ll explore the terrain and examine different kinds of local plant and animal life. Afterwards, everyone adjourns to the classroom to write a fictional story based on some of the flora and fauna we encountered that day.

Additionally will meet Mr. Horace Franklin Turtle and other live animals as we learn about invasive and native species. Ages 7-12.

 

 

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Science in the Park

beetle catching kidThis month I have been having fun with some kids at Pitt Park, doing science. Fun stuff like catching bugs and isopods.catching isopods

sun screen experimentMarcus read to us about the suns UV rays and why we should protect ourselves from too much sun. To test this we did a simple sunscreen experiment using Sunprint paper pdf here to see what strength of sunscreen works best, but our results were: the spray kind doesn’t work very well.

setting up sun printpressing sunprintsetting up sun printFor fun we made some sun prints using nature findings from the park!

 

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Nature and Writing Summer Camp

great spangled frittilaryWe checked out the space for our summer camps this week. Out in the meadow we saw this beauty.

Our Nature & Writing summer camp takes place at St. Mark’s School in Pittsfield, MA August 4-8, 2014 and is run by experienced adult educators and professionals. The camp runs 9am to 1:30pm Cost $175 or $35/day.

Students will go on daily guided nature hikes, where we’ll explore the terrain and examine different kinds of local plant and animal life. Afterwards, everyone adjourns to the classroom to write a fictional story based on some of the flora and fauna we encountered that day. Additionally will meet Mr. Horace Franklin Turtle, bunnies, and other live animals as we learn about invasive and native species. Ages 7-12.

While we do our best to maintain the highest levels of cleanliness at all times, we give students a very hands on approach, and sometimes that gets messy.

To register for the above class contact: Lisa Provencher <Dr.Augies@gmail.com> or print out this Camp class application form.

For more information:http://draugies.wordpress.com/kid-programs/summer-classes/

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in Camps, Children's Art & Science Classes, insects

 

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