backyard animals · backyard bugs · Berkshire Bioblitz · global climate change · insects · invasive species · leaves · mushrooms · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · plants

Tally for Berkshire Bioblitz 2017

algae 2017This year’s Berkshire Bioblitz was fun and educational! The weather was perfect.  We held it in Great Barrington MA at Thomas & Palmer Brook as part of the 50 year celebration of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

Finally tally for the day was: 542 species.

We found one of the biggest red oak trees in Berkshire County measuring 16 feet across! Some rare algae, and the beaver entertained us during the owl prowl by slapping his tail and getting water all over Berkshire Naturalist: Jason Crockwell.

This year’s Berkshire Bioblitz was hosted by Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and sponsored by Dr. Augie’s and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT). Special thanks to Mariah from BNRC and Elizabeth from BEAT for all their help and organization.
butterfly girl 2017

Next year William’s College is hosting the Berkshire Bioblitz at Hopkins Forest–and its going to be a big one! Keep posted for more details.

backyard bugs · Berkshire Bioblitz · global climate change · invasive species · plants

Berkshire Bioblitz 2017

This September in Great Barrington!

This year’s Berkshire Bioblitz will be held on on September 16-17, 2017 in Great Barrington, MA at Thomas & Palmer Brook as part of the 50 year celebration of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

Join us for 24 hours of biodiversity immersion! Starting at 12 noon on Saturday September 16th and running through until 12 noon Sunday September 17th.

There will be nature walks with over 20 specialist.

You can join us at any time for as long as you would like. Forest walks, meadow walks and pond exploration will be taking place throughout the day.

The Berkshire Environmental Action Team will be setting up an invasive plant species exhibit. And ask to see one of the biggest oak tree in the Berkshires!!

There will be live animals to meet up close and personal. At dark there will be a moth light experience, bring your camera if you want. We will be going on an “Owl Prowl” in the dark, bring your flashlight.

Follow the signs for parking.

This year the Berkshire Bioblitz is sponsored by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Dr. Augie’s Science & Art Programs and hosted by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

backyard bugs · insects · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · winter

Put on Your Winter Coat

It was late November, during the wet snow storm when I spied this moth on the trunk of a tree by the lake. Luckily it was wearing a winter coat. It is a noctuid moth, I believe, belonging in the family “Papaipema” that is only found in North America.

After doing a little research it appears that this is a cold weather moth, not usually snow on the ground cold like it was on this day, but late fall cold. The caterpillar is rarely seen because it bores into roots, rhizomes, and stems of herbaceous plants and stays there all summer. The moth appears late in the season when we are not expecting to see many moths or insects. These hardy leps, then lay their eggs in the fall with the caterpillars hatching in the spring, boring into their food plant and starting the cycle all over again.

We get an added treat in this picture to see the lichen on the tree photosynthesizing in the vapors of the damp snow.

backyard bugs · Nature Academy of the Berkshires

Isopod in the Snow

isopod-in-the-snowWe spotted this little wood louse in the snow during the storm this week. I’m guessing it was blown there by the wind. Poor thing. I gathered it up and placed it in the warm leaves by the foundation of the house.

These creatures are fascinating and there will be more on their life cycle and genetic systems later, but for now, just remember they hide all winter, so if you see one in the snow, save it!

backyard bugs · Nature Academy of the Berkshires

Western Conifer Seed Bug

The Western Conifer Seed Bug is relatively new to this region being first noticed in the north eastern part of the country in the late 1990s.

It is a true bug (Hemiptera) of the family Coreidae, leaf footed bugs, with the scientific name: Leptoglossus occidentalis. Normally it overwinters under bark or in bird or animal nests. Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for the bugs, our homes also make a good overwintering spot. This makes this insect kind of a pest. They do no harm. They do not bite, although being true bugs they have piercing sucking mouth-parts and if handled they may try to stab. They use their mouth-parts to pierce the scales of conifer seeds and suck out the endosperm, the good part of the seed. They do no damage to the trees and the seeds can still develop. Please be aware if you squish them they let out a unpleasant odor, so it is best not to kill them but remove them from the house while alive.

This is a handsome bug, reddish brown with a black and white or yellowish pattern under its closed wings (elytra). It has small spikes on the upper hind legs and widened, leaf-like projections on its hind legs.

backyard bugs · leaves · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · plants

Box Elder Bugs

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Box Elder bugs are “true bugs”–in the order hemiptera, not beetles which are the order coleoptera.

They are black in color with a red orange banding around the margins front wings and red eyes. They are approximately 1/2″ in length as adults.

These bugs use their piercing-sucking mouth parts to eat young foliage of Box Elder trees in the spring but do not damage to the trees, mostly they eat the seeds of the Box Elder Tree, which although it doesn’t look like it, it is a maple tree. They also eat the seeds of silver maple trees. (You can too, they are quite tasty. Just a fun fact in case there is an zombie apocalypse.) You probably noticed Box Elder and Norway Maple and Silver Maple grow like weeds. They grow in hedges, lawns, you gutters. They are nuisance trees. The Box Elder bug is doing good work eating the seeds.

Its been a great year for these bugs here in the Berkshires! That means there are lots of them around. Even the larva are hibernating this year. Usually I get calls from north and south county with concerns of infestations, this year its the whole county.

They like to congregate on the south sides of house in the fall sometimes in the thousands.  Also they congregate in trees where they naturally hibernate under the bark and cracks. In insects this state of hibernation is called  “diapause”. Its not a true hibernation, they will come out on warm days and walk around. But they don’t eat, or mate or lay eggs. They just wander around, maybe drink some water, then go back to sleep. They sleep a lot to conserve energy.

They will NOT harm your house. They will not make piles of frass (insect poop) in your house as Orkin might try and tell you. They pretty much disappear in the cracks and crevices until spring, then they come out with the young leaves and seeds and start the life cycle again.

If these insects do become a nuisance in your house year after year, the solution is to cut down the tree.

backyard bugs

Where do the Mosquitoes go?

mosquitoI saw this old lady hanging out on the side of the house. It made me think, the cool weather is coming, winter will be upon us soon. And what is the best part of winter? No mosquitoes! They go away. But where is away? You would think being insects they all freeze to death and die. What they do is hide or hibernate. With insects we call this time of inactivity: diapause. Adult mosquitoes like to hide in logs, deep tree bark, but there are even better places they’ve discovered. They hide in your HOUSE. Yup, you are sharing your house with a fleet of adult mosquitoes. Most overwintering insects like it cool so they can hibernate, but not freeze. So they seek out cracks in your attics, crawl spaces, protected under the siding of your house. If you think an exterminator will rid us of these pests, nope. Because before they bunk down for the winter the females lay eggs. Rafts and rafts of eggs. Some of these eggs turn to larva, some to pupa. These also overwinter. So when the warmer days of spring arrive, so will these highly evolved winter surviving mosquitoes.It sucks.