RSS

Tag Archives: backyard science

National Moth Week 2016, July 23-31

cecropita caterpillarThis Saturday starts National Moth Week!! And its also the week my bug loving niece (the girl that released earwigs in my bed that time because they were so cute) is coming to visit. Exciting, we are going to be doing some citizen science.

I’ll start the week off collecting caterpillars for her, since she doesn’t arrive until Sunday. She is from the west coast, she hasn’t seen the Eastern Tent caterpillar or the Forest Tent caterpillar. Beautiful creatures. Soft and wonderful to hold and let crawl up your arm. I’m also hoping to find some giant green spiky silk worm caterpillars.

photographing mothsMonday at dark we will be off to Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley to see the moth light demo set up by naturalist Jason Crockwell. This is a super fun time, I can’t tell you how much fun, so go for yourself and find out.

geometrid mothAfter that we will see what we can find on the screen doors. I know the mint green geometrids will be out since the inch worm caterpillars were abundant this spring.

We will record everything we see, either with pictures or just write the names down. Then we will upload the data to iNaturalist.

Its easy citizen science!
If you are thinking, yeah, but so what, what good is this data. It is important? Actually it is. There are several local moth collections from the mid 1900s in the Berkshire Museum database. Scientists could compare the abundance, species, lack of species, new species to this area. It can tell us if our environment is changing, is it cleaner? (I hope so) is it more conducive to wild life? I hope so.) Is the climate warmer? Colder? Hotter? and does this effect the lepidoptera species? All kinds of cool stuff can be figured out using these abundant little creatures. Just think of the classic Peppered Moth, so much was learned from that inconspicuous moth. And there is much more to be learned about liferight in our own backyards.

Do your part! Get out there and participate in Moth Week and make a difference!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hot Bugs

Cicada photo by Tom Murray

Cicada photo by Tom Murray

My cousin asked me the other day what real name of the insect that makes the loud buzzing sound in the summer. She told me her husband calls them “hot bugs’ because they make the sound during the hot days. They have to have a real name. They do: Cicadas.

And they are hot bugs, they don’t start buzzing around here until the summer heat hits around 4th of July. They like the hot weather. The buzzing is the sound the males make to attract mates.

There are only 170 species of cicadas in North America and Mexico. And only 10 species in Mass according to current research.*

Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) are true bugs. They spend much of their lives under the ground where they suck sap out of roots of plants. Some live under the ground for 17 years–hence the 17 year cicada. I was going to write about the cyclical cicadas, but its complicated. I thought I’d simplify it, but there is no simplifying it, its a complicated cycle and that’s that. If you want to try and make some sense of it you can find more information and anything you ever wanted to know about cicadas here:
http://www.cicadamania.com/

*Biogeography of the Cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America. Allen Sanborn and Holly Philips
Mexico

 
Comments Off on Hot Bugs

Posted by on July 25, 2015 in backyard science, insects

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Crow Show!

crowsThe crows are gathering! You may have noticed that in several places in Berkshire County the crows have been gathering by the thousands! They are not planning a crime scene, its not a ‘omen’, it is more likely a survival technique. When it gets cold they congregate in huge numbers and its called “roosting” just like with chickens. The hypotheses are they do it for warmth, companionship and discussions about where food can be found and as my friend Laurie Brown says, “for sex”. Yes, sex, breeding season for crows in this neck of the woods, according to the folks at Cornell, is in March. There is a hypothesis that they are checking out their potential mates.
Crows have been roosting for as long as there have been crows. What is interesting is that they congregate in some area away from the final roosting site, as pictured here a hundred or so where in the Black Locus trees by the food pantry garden at sunset, spending a lot of time calling, talking, chasing, and fighting, then just before dark then they join the main group for a final roosting spot for the night. Its quite a scene they make. Its wonderful to watch. I sat in my car shivering in the 5 degrees F just to watch this impressive ‘Crow Show’.

 
Comments Off on Crow Show!

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in backyard science, Science, science in the parks

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,