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, August 3, 2020

Signs of Southern Pine Beetle

The DEC’s Forest Health Team has seen great success in preventing the southern pine beetle from destroying the pine barrens of Long Island. (Visit this link for more information). If you live on Long Island or the Hudson Valley, be sure to keep your eyes open for signs of the southern pine beetle, which is active and flying around now. Some common signs of this beetle include a group of pine trees with needles yellowing at the same time, pitch tubes or popcorn-shaped clumps of resin on the tree’s bark extending all the way up the tree, and tiny scattered holes on the bark of a tree.

It is not yet established whether the southern pine beetle is in the Hudson Valley, and the DEC asks for help in finding any potential infestations early in order to keep it this way.

If you have seen any signs or suspect and activity in either of these regions of New York, please submit a report of your findings to NY iMapInvasives on their free mobile app, or their online system, available for viewing here.

View photos of the southern pine beetle and find more information on the DEC’s website.


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Weekend reads: Some of our most-read wildlife stories

From time to time, an animal story (or two or three) pops up in the analytics as gaining a noticeable amount of attention, due to people’s searches that land them there, or other online referrals.

Here’s an offering of a few of those popular stories for your reading pleasure:

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Turkey Vultures close loop in circle of life

Every creature plays a role in maintaining the balance in nature. Turkey vultures in particular have an important job. They are “carrion” eaters, which means they scavenge the remains of dead animals.

We often see them overhead, their broad v-shaped, five to six foot wingspan teetering effortlessly from side-to-side on rising thermals, like a kite in a gentle breeze, using their keen eyesight and highly developed sense of smell to locate the carcasses of recently deceased animals. 

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

PSC VIC marks National Moth Week

By Anna M. Butler

Dr. Janet Mihuc is a biologist who specializes in entomology, which is the study of insects. She is a professor at Paul Smiths College in their Natural Sciences Department where she teaches courses in entomology, aquatic invertebrates, invertebrate zoology, and guides senior students’ research for their capstone projects. For several years she has been building a checklist of the moth species present on Paul Smith’s College lands. She served as the Director of Project Silkmoth, a citizen science project designed to document sightings of giant silk moths in northern New York State. She holds a Doctor of Arts in Biology from the Idaho State University.

National Moth Week is an international citizen science project. It runs July 18-26 this year.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

‘Trees in Trouble’ Zoom conversation

On July 23 at 7 p.m., all are invited to join a virtual Cary Science Conversation featuring forest ecologist Gary Lovett. Gain insight into the forest pest problem, hear updates on the newest threats, and discover policy actions we can take to protect trees.

Trees play a critical role in keeping people and the planet healthy. They filter air pollution, reduce flooding, cool neighborhoods, provide wildlife habitat, and store carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change. Unfortunately, trees are in trouble.

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Asian Giant Hornet – Fact vs. Fiction

When the Asian Giant Hornet was discovered in Washington State Dec.19, it gave rise to a series of eye popping headlines and news stories.

The DEC has released a breakdown of the facts on this species in order to clear up any misinformation or anxiety in the general public. In North America, the Asian Giant Hornet has only been spotted in a small area in Washington state and British Columbia. There have been no AGH found anywhere else in the continent, east coast included.

New York has some common look-alikes, including the European Horney which is half an inch to an inch and a half in length, while the AGH is one to two inches in length.

The Asian Giant Hornet also does not attack humans unless you attempt to handle them, you are within 10 or so feet of their nest, or you are approaching a beehive that they are currently attacking. Their sting is more painful then the usual hornet due to their enormous size, but human deaths caused by AGH strings are extremely rare – about 12 per year worldwide. To put it in perspective, there are about 60 deaths a year in the U.S. alone from bee and hornet stings. However, the AGH will attack and destroy honeybee hives.

To find more information on these hornets, visit the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets website. If you think you have found an Asian Giant Hornet, review the ID materials on the AGM website, or email photos and location information to [email protected].


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Monitoring for European Cherry Fruit Fly – You Can Help

I love cherries! Especially sweet cherries. They’re delicious fresh, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may lower your risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and/or obesity.

Growing consumer education about the antioxidant health benefits of cherries appears to be creating increased demand for the fruit. Domestic cherry consumption in the United States is now around 2 pounds per person per year.

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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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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Getting started with bird watching

During this pandemic one of the safest forms of recreation is birding. It’s an activity you can do away from crowds in the woods, or if you have space, in your backyard.

If it’s not an activity you’re familiar with, we have you covered.
Recently, Explorer contributor Molly Ormsbee produced a video on the topic that you can find on our website. In the video, birder and photographer Larry Master provides tips about bird houses, feed, and other information to get you started.

“Hearing the sounds of the birds and seeing them is a great, great therapy. It’s just endless entertainment if you’re interested in nature,” says Master.
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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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Friday, July 3, 2020

Learn About our State Reptile, the Snapping Turtle

This time of year many people are seeing snapping turtles digging in their yards or swimming in home ponds. Snapping turtles and other turtles make their nests in easily dug soil, so they may lay their eggs in backyards and gardens. If the nest can be allowed to remain, hatchlings will emerge in August or September but sometimes overwintering until spring. If the area where the nest has been laid must be disturbed, contact your regional wildlife office for guidance.

Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are often described as aggressive, but a better term is defensive. They try to avoid confrontation and are more likely to defend themselves on dry land. When they are on land, try to give them some extra space, and they will move on. In fact, if you see one on land it is usually a female who is looking to lay eggs. Snappers spend most of their lives in the water, where they will generally swim away from people when encountered and are usually docile.

Unfortunately, like many turtle species, snapping turtles face serious threats—being struck while crossing roads or collection for the food and pet trade. It is illegal to collect or relocate a snapping turtle without a permit, and they can only be hunted in season with a valid hunting license.

Learn more about snapping turtles in the April 2017 Conservationist (PDF).

Photo by Marcelo del Puerto.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Great Gray Owl: One handsome bird

If nature were a fashion show, the Great Gray Owl might qualify as the most handsome owl, with its grey mottled plumage, inflated bonnet like head, expansive facial disk, penetrating yellow eyes, white mustache and a look of perpetual surprise on its face. And yet the great gray is a bag of bones only half full, with its skeleton dramatically smaller than the large physical appearance created by the fullness of its plumage. 

The Great Gray is not as heavy as the Snowy Owl or the Eurasian Eagle Owl, and it lacks the incredible crushing power that the talons of the Great Horned Owl possesses, but in terms of length, it is the largest owl in the world, averaging two to three feet in length, but only one and a half to four pounds in weight, with a wing span which can reach five feet. As with other birds of prey, females are slightly larger than males.  

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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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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Discover Wildflowers Right Outside Your Door

You can find wildflowers just about anywhere! Look for wildflowers at your local park, in your backyard, in fields and forests, and along roadsides. Not only are they nice to look at, but can be food for wildlife, including pollinators.

Learn more in the Conservationist for Kids pollinator issue (PDF). Wildlife may eat the leaves, flowers, seeds or stems.

Below are some species of native wildflowers:

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Support the Adirondack Almanack and the Adirondack Explorer all year long with a monthly gift that fits your budget.