Almanack Contributor Jackie Woodcock

Jackie Woodcock

Jackie Woodcock was born and lives in the Adirondack Mountains. She is an apiarist, lepidopterist, conservationist, teacher, writer, artist, and a co-owner of SkyLyfeADK. You can find her SkyLyfeADK on Instagram and Facebook.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rainbows: Beyond the Arch

rainbowRainbows require two things: sunlight, and water. Rainbows can be seen not just in the rain but also in the mist, spray, fog, and dew. 

The best place to consistently find both of these things and spot a complete rainbow, is a tall mountain or ridge where it is or has just rained, making the Adirondack high peaks an amazing place to view this natural wonder. A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky.  Similar to a mirage, a rainbow is formed when light rays bend, creating an effect that is visible, but not able to be touched or approached. 

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Striped Maples: Changes happening below the surface

striped mapleDuring the fall, a change occurs with maple trees that is prominent and apparent.  As the daylight hours decrease green leaves turn to colors of vibrant yellow, burnt orange and an array of shades of red. 

There is a list of species of Maples that add to this colorful splendor, from Sugar, Norway, Amur and more but one in particular changes more than its leaf color — the Striped Maple. 

Many people have a hard time identifying the different species of maple by the bark in Summer but the Striped Maple possess a smooth, variegated green, reptilian-looking bark that can be noticed with ease. 

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Adirondack Moose Sightings: Rare and Majestic

Most of New York’s moose are located in the Adirondack Mountains and the Taconic Highlands along the Massachusetts and Vermont borders although young males have been known to wander south of the Adirondacks to mate and establish territory.

It is estimated that approximately 400 moose reside here in the mountains. Currently there are six moose in New York that carry GPS collars, which allow biologists to track their movements and determine the number of calves that are born to adult females.

The moose is the largest and heaviest species in the deer family. Two of the most amazing attributes of a moose are its sheer size and its antlers.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Adirondack Monarch Tagging:  Tracking Migration

Monarch butterflies are an iconic species, easily recognized by their vibrant orange and black wings speckled with white dots and can be seen feeding in fields and open areas here in the Adirondacks.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Winged With Hope: Fixing broken monarch wings

Most people have seen the small, flying murals called butterflies.  Nature’s living pieces of art that remain an endless show of life and beauty drawn upon wings of flight.  The carrier of this splendor, a delicate butterfly. 

A butterfly has four wings – two on each side. They are broken into two forewings and two hindwings. The wings are attached to the second and third thoracic segments. When a butterfly is in flight, the wings move up and down in a figure-eight pattern.

Butterfly wings are made up of two chitinous layers. Each wing is covered by thousands of colorful scales and hairs.  These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly wing only seen in detail under a microscope. They are attached at the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae or hairs.

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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Honeybee Festooning: Stretching for the Comb

One of the most amazing activities in a honeybee’s lifetime is rarely seen by humans and occurs by the workings of numerous architect-minded, honeycomb-building, wax-producing bees. 

Building comb is a multi-skill effort, involving bees strung from comb to comb like a tapestry of lacework, hanging together leg to leg in sheets between the frames to build new comb in a process called “festooning.”  While festooning, bees measure the open space, create blueprints for future comb, act as self-made scaffolding, promoting stretching of the abdomen which aids in wax production.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Hidden Inside: The Miracle of Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is a process in which animals undergo extreme, rapid physical changes that occur within a particular time after birth. The result of metamorphosis may be a change to the organism’s entire bodily makeup, such as a change in the animal’s number of legs, its means of eating, or its means of breathing. Metamorphosis is also required for sexual maturity, as pre-metamorphic members of specific species are typically unable to mate or reproduce.

This process is undergone by most insects. Animals that undergo metamorphosis include fish, mollusks, and many other types of sea creatures which are related to insects, mollusks, or fish.  

Metamorphosis is a miraculous process. The speed and extent of cell growth and differentiation is astonishing. The process of metamorphosis involves a re-activating of genes that allow animal cells to change from one cell type to another, and is triggered by hormones, which the animal’s body releases as conditions for metamorphosis approach. These hormones cause drastic changes to the functioning of cells, and even behavioral changes such as the caterpillar becoming a chrysalis.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

How the Honey Pot is Filled

Honey is the only food made by an insect that is eaten both by humans and the insect itself.  Bears, badgers and other animals also eat honey and have long been raiding the winter stores of their winged friends to harvest this tasty treat. 

Honey is a very stable food that naturally resists molds, fungi and other bacteria, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration.  It is well known that honey is made by a colony of honey bees living in a nest or in a hive if kept by a beekeeper.

A typical bee hive will house about 60,000 bees, most of them workers, industriously making honey and the honeycombs in which the honey is stored.  That’s a lot of honey bees, working very hard to produce honey for the colony.  It takes about 556 foraging bees to visit 2 million flowers, just to make a pound of honey!

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

This Pollinator Hums but is Not a Bee!

Hummingbirds are some of the most vibrant and aerobatic creatures witnessed here in the Adirondacks.  They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in mid-air at wing-flapping rates that vary from around 12 beats per second to an excess of 80 beats per second, the smaller the species the faster the wing flapping.

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds found exclusively in the Americas from Alaska to Chile and are classified as the smallest bird species. With most of this species measuring 3–5 inches in length and weighing about the same as a penny or .09 oz. The runt of these species is the bee hummingbird that is approximately 2 inches long and weighs less than .07 oz.  

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sharing ‘the buzz’ about native bees

There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees native to North American and range in size from carpenter bees, which are over an inch long, to tiny Perdita bees that barely reach 1/16 of an inch. 

Native bees range in color from black or brown with yellow, orange, white, or pearl-colored markings. Others have body parts in metallic green or blue. Some are furry, while others are almost hairless. 

Bees belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, which means “membrane-winged.  These insects possess two pairs of wings, a distinct “waist,” and mouthparts adapted for biting or chewing. Bees are distinguished by their branched body hairs which are helpful in trapping pollen grains, and their wide leg segments. 

The common names of bees often reflect nesting styles and other behaviors. Carpenter, mason, plasterer, leafcutter, digger, and polyester bees are named for the females’ nest-building techniques, whereas orchard, gourd, and alkali bees are named for their preferred habitat. 

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails: Wings of the Woodlands

The eastern tiger swallowtail lives in deciduous woods along streams, rivers and swamps and can be seen flying along the roadways here in the Mountains. Eastern tiger swallowtails are loners but are known to be quite friendly to humans and have been observed following people around their yard or in Fields.  

Males are yellow or yellow-orange with black tiger stripes. Their wings are bordered in black with yellow spots, and there are black “tiger stripes” running across the top of their wings. Their long black tails have blue patches on them.

Females can range in color from the yellow of the male to an almost solid bluish-black. The black form of the eastern tiger swallowtail is most common in the southern part of its range in areas also inhabited by the pipevine swallowtail, a butterfly that has an unpleasant taste. The black form of the eastern tiger swallowtail may be an example of deceptive coloration using mimicry by pretending to be the poisonous pipevine.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

10 ways you can help pollinators

Pollinators are in trouble. 

Unfortunately, pollinators are in decline worldwide. Habitat loss, invasive species, parasites, and pesticides are largely to blame.

You can help save pollinators. Here are 10 ways you can directly help pollinators which protects and restore these critically important wildlife species.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

National Pollinator Week: Who are the pollinators?

Pollinators are animals and insects that carry pollen from one plant to another. Pollinators are responsible for much of our food and flowers and are responsible for the reproduction of 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat.   In order to understand pollinators, we need to know a little bit about plants.

Just like animals, flowering plants need to mate. But how can an organism spread its genes without being able to meet up with others of its species and this is where pollinators come in.  Pollinators are animals of all types that visit flowers and take away their pollen. Pollen is a sex cell of plants and is essential for reproduction. As pollinators move from flower to flower, they deposit the collected pollen, basically allowing the plants to mate. 

Many flowers attract insects and animals with the promise of a sugary liquid called nectar.  Their smell and bright petals advertise fresh nectar to passing insects and other flying pollinators like hummingbirds.  In return for the gift of nectar, the flower deposits pollen on whatever comes to visit.  Pollen is like the sperm of plants – and is the way that plants spread their genes and mate with other plants in the same species.

Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes and include species of insects, birds, and mammals. 

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Friday, June 19, 2020

Operation Pollinator Rescue 

Pollinators are vital to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems many animals rely on for food and shelter. 

Over half of the diets of fats and oils come from crops pollinated worldwide by pollinators alone and facilitate the reproduction in 90 percent of the world’s flowering plants.  Pollinators are needed in the production of over 130 different human food crops and are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat and beverages we drink. 

A world without pollinators would be devastating.  As nature lovers and educators, the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge (in Wilmington) and SkyLyfeADK are collaborating to implement an extensive pollinator project named Operation Pollinator Rescue. 

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Bumblebees: Out of the Shadows

bumblebeeWhen it comes to pollination it seems that honey bees are give the spotlight, but they’re not the only bees that shine for their ability to pollinate.  Bumblebees have their own unique abilities that honey bees don’t. 

Bumblebees are long tongued bees with tongues 15mm – 20mm long and are capable of pollinating tuberous flowers with deep corollas such as cucumber, tomatoes, melons, squash, thistle, honeysuckle among many others. 

In contrast, honey bees are short tongued bees with tongues 5mm – 8mm long and pollinate flowers that are flatter and shallow such as, coneflowers, daisies, apples, cherries, raspberries, cranberries along with a variety of others.

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