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.

invasive species · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · plants · Uncategorized

White Flowers Along the Road

All over Berkshire county there are beautiful white flowers growing along the road side. My friend who loves plants, called them Queen Anne’s Lace, but its too early for those plants to be flowering.

They look like Queen Anne’s Lace, but they are actually ‘ground elder’ also known as Bishop’s Weed or Gout Weed. They are in the carrot family like Queen Anne’s Lace, but they are not the same plant.

The scientific name for this plant is Aegopodium podagraria, and the scientific name for Queen Anne’s Lace is Daucus carota. They are in the same family ‘Apiaceae’, cousins, but not twins. Although the flowers look alike at first glance.

These plants have leaves that are edible and have medicinal value.

These plants spread via underground root systems made of rhizomes. They make a thick mat and keep out weeds and other plants. I would not recommend planting them in a garden, but they make a great ground cover. They are an introduced species to the Berkshires and not native. On the upside, they are the favorite food of the woodchucks on my property.

Nature Academy of the Berkshires · terrarium

Terrarium Goings Ons

There is not much happening outside this week, a couple of skiddish squirrels, a rabbit I never get to see and a sneaky fox. The crows have been around, but they keep their distance too. Inside its been interesting. Inside the terrarium that is. The caterpillar has been out and about, a cranefly emerged, a spider has been spotted, and the slugs, they have been having a blast! I’ve watched them glide up the glass and slide down as though they are playing. The babies, in the night, I found them free falling from the top of the tank on long strings of slime. Yup. They do that. Today one was sliding over a marble like a circus animal. Wish I had a video of that too. Here is a time lapse video.

backyard animals · Nature Academy of the Berkshires · winter

Cache

squirrel-holeWe have had a good amount of snow fall over the past two weeks. Its pretty. Its white, and its great for animal tracking. But that first heavy snow, when it was windy and cold and nobody wanted to be outside. The squirrels braved it. And in my yard they braved it for peanuts. I found several of these holes in the snow at the base of trees. The squirrels didn’t want to spend any more time in the cold than they had to, so it was jump, dig, grab and back up the tree. The peanut shells were then tossed on top of the snow. I think the squirrels are going to be my favorite winter animals to watch this year.