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

Toe-Biter

giant water bug headThis guy was flopping around in the sink. At first glance I thought it was a cockroach, but it was a giant water bug (true bug hemipteran), scientific name Belostomatidae. Its an aquatic insect, but they do fly at night in search for mates.  These bugs have  good eyes for both underwater and out of the water vision.  And the fathers are the ones who take care of the young. The female lays the eggs on their backs and the males protect the eggs until they are ready to hatch.

But don’t touch! They may be interesting to look at but they have biting, piercing sucking mouth parts that inflict a painful bite with poison that can hurt for weeks. Their weapon is a rostrum 1/4 the length of their bodies. They use it to inject prey with digestive saliva and then suck the insides out. Prey can be anything from an aquatic invertebrate, snails, fish, frogs and even snapping turtles.

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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.