CBEdu Resource: Bees and Flowers

Native Species: Community-Based Educational Resources

Human beings have been harvesting honey and keeping hives for around nine thousand years. Traditional cultures in Africa, Northern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean have worshiped bee goddesses as a way of venerating these amazing creatures. In Lithuania, for instance, the traditional bee goddess is known as Austeja. It is said that in traditional Lithuanian communities, it is forbidden to argue or quarrel in the presence of a bee, and if one comes upon a dead bee, it is buried ceremonially. Closer to home, the custom of “telling the bees” was practiced as a tradition in early America, a custom brought over from Europe. After a death in the family, the beekeeper would “tell the bees” so they too could enter proper mourning. It was thought that otherwise the bees might not produce honey or leave the hive to pollinate our crops. — And why is it that bees are so revered across cultures and time? Could it be that their contributions towards pollination is vital to the survival of 80% of the world’s plant species? Bees and flowers have an amazingly close relationship. Flowers need bees to reproduce, and bees need flowers to feed their colonies. Take away one, and the other would disappear too. It begs the question: When it comes to evolution, which came first, the bees or the flowers?” Find out in this video by It’s Okay to Be Smart:

“Over the past 15 years, numerous colonies of bees have been decimated throughout the world, but the causes of this disaster remain unknown. Depending on the world region, 50% to 90% of all local bees have disappeared, and this epidemic is still spreading from beehive to beehive – all over the planet. Everywhere, the same scenario is repeated: billions of bees leave their hives, never to return. No bodies are found in the immediate surroundings, and no visible predators can be located.” Want to learn more? Check out a copy of More Than Honey from your local library, a documentary that explores the effects of colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon responsible for bees’ recent scarcity.

 

Rowan Jacobson wrote a book, published in 2008, called Fruitless Fall. He identifies multiple causes of stress to the bees, showing how they all work together to contribute to colony collapse. He also interviewed several beekeepers (some local to him in Vermont) who are having success at building stronger and more resilient colonies. Superb book, very readable and informative about bees in general, and groundbreaking in its approach to colony collapse.

Other resources to check out from your library include these titles: The Life and Times of the Honeybee [Ages 5+]; Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive [Ages 11+]; and The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.


“Bee Song” written by Lui Collins, music by Lui Collins and Anand Nayak,
©2009 Lui Collins, Molly Gamblin Music/BMI and Dizzy Dog Music/ASCAP

Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, May 5, 2019

Community Resources Support Interests in Animals, Insects, Fish and More!

Support an Interest in Zoology with Community-Based Resources

Seeking out animals in farms, shelters, zoos, museums, libraries, and your own backyard opens up a world of learning

Directly engaging with animals provide direct ways of learning about biology, habitat, ecology, and other scientific disciplines. Reading or hearing about animals is useful, but actually seeing them upclose is invaluable. Many kids are fascinated by animals- their appearance, their behavior, the way they interact.

For parents of animal lovers, this interest is a ripe opportunity for education via community-base resources and events. Taxonomy, the scientific grouping of biological organisms, is complex. Classes of animal species often encompass their own branch of biology. Kids who collect bugs are budding entomologists, while bird watchers are junior ornithologists. And the great thing about animal studies is that it also strengthens a sense of place, connecting us with animals and habitat that surround us everyday.

Here are a few community-based resources to support an interest and education in zoology, biology and entomology:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: The Importance of Ice

Nature Table for July

Nature Table for July

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

Things are dry this summer, and the landscape shows it. Leaves are droopy, moss is crispy, and the water lines on river rocks are alarmingly high above the current flow. Despite the drought’s impact on our surroundings, it makes rivers especially accessible for exploration. Even the smallest of adventurers can navigate through knee-deep pools and miniature falls – and that’s exactly what we’ve been up to. We’ve rambled up and down rivers and streams, clambering over rocks and splashing in pools, all in search of meaningful sensory experiences that will lead us to a deepened understanding of the place in which we live.

Last July, our bug-centric nature table was dictated by similar circumstances: hikes and swims and river rambles amongst the hills of western Massachusetts. Our focus this year has shifted, and we’ve had our eyes on the river since the warm season began. This month’s nature table is once again bug-centric, but is all about the bugs that we’ve found in the water – or rather, the evidence of bugs that we’ve found in the water.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bee Week Encourages Community Activism

Bee Week Encourages Community Activism

Thanks to environmental activists and concerned citizens, people are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that bee populations have been declining at a dangerous rate for more than a decade. But why are bees dying, and why is their plight detrimental to other species?

One scientifically proven culprit is a specific kind of insecticide called neonicotinoids. Another reason behind declining populations is rising temperatures. Climate change has caused some plant and animal species to migrate, negatively affecting a once thriving habitat for bees. Why should humans work to prevent threats to bees? Potential endangerment of bee species could be devastating for many species since bees are the main pollinators for many fruits and nuts.

There is a seemingly infinite number of ways to become positively involved in this issue. Individuals can apply their abilities and interests towards awareness projects which inspire them. Bee Week, a series of events which educate citizens about bees, is an example of this type of creative effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Interconnections Between the Birds & the Bees

Studies of Birds and Insects Illuminate Interconnectedness in Nature

While they seem to fill very separate niches within the environment, birds and insects share some important symbiotic relationships. Both birds and insects play vital roles in the places and spaces that they inhabit (nearly everywhere), and though their roles are not shared, they are sometimes dependent upon one another. Exploring the relationship between the two can illuminate interconnections found within nature, and highlights the ways in which life forms develop relationships based on one another roles in a landscape.

Though most bird-insect relationships are simply predator-prey relationships, there are ways in which the two types of creatures exist in symbiosis – though the insects serving as meals might beg to differ about the extent to which such a relationship is truly symbiotic. Though bird-insect relationships generally result in someone getting eaten, they’re still important and essential to the survival of not only birds, but some plants as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Miniature Tracks of Insects in our Local Habitat

Exhibit Features the Tracks and Sign of Insects

When we think of tracking in nature, our minds generally drift to following the footprints of somewhat sizable creatures – generally mammals, and sometimes birds. Some of nature’s most fascinating and beautiful tracks and sign are, however, left behind by the smallest creatures of all: insects! Insect tracks and sign can be found in abundance and in many forms – if you know where and how to look.

Families can explore the miniature world of insect tracks through a special photography exhibit at the Westhampton Library featuring the work of Charley Eiseman, one of the country’s best entomologists and inhabitant of the Connecticut River Valley. Co-author of Tracks and Signs of Insects, Eiseman has explored the insect world extensively, and his photographs show not only attention to detail and beauty, but deep knowledge of the habits of insects, whose sign can easily go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Synchronization of the Watershed Flora & Fauna

A River Is Always In Synch

Like tiny submariners bursting up and out of the bottom of the brook, breaking into wings and soaring for a short time above the world they once knew, the stoneflies are here, molting from crab-shells they lived in. On the back of my neck, computer keyboard, every boulder around me: they multiply, skitter all directions, avoiding the rushing water they recently called home. The frenzy begins.  Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Insect Episode with Jeff & Paige (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety ShowListen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Insect Episode with Jeff & Paige

Go on a musical hike with guest DJs Jeff and Paige to explore insects. Through music and story you’ll learn: how to identify an insect, how insects connect with animals, how insects help humans, and how humans can help insects! Jeff and Paige will play some of their favorite songs as well as fun tunes from other children’s musicians and from a few adult acts. Make sure you have room to dance as you explore nature and science with Jeff and Paige. – www.jeffandpaige.org

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
January 30th & 31st, 2016

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: “A Conversation Between an Entomologist and an Insect”


 

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Jeff and Paige – “A Conversation Between an Entomologist and an Insect” [Get Outdoors]
  • Ayla Nereo – “Eastern Sun” [Hollow Bone]
  • They Might Be Giants – “Why Does the Sun Shine?” [Here Comes Science]
  • The Smurfs – “Poor Little Silly Shy Smurf” [The Smurfs All Star Show]
  • Banana Slug String Band -“Decomposition” [Singing in our Garden]
  • Jeff and Paige – “New Tree Grows” [21st Century Energy Superheroes]
  • Justin Roberts – “Pop Fly” [Pop Fly]
  • The Bell Hours – “Farther Apart [The Bell Hours]
  • Sarah Jarosz – “Little Song” [Song Up In Her Head]
  • Jeff and Paige – “Bats” [Get Outdoors]
  • Mikey Mike -“Likin’ the Lichen” [Mikey Mike the Rad Scientist]
  • Jeff and Paige – “Thank You Honeybee” [Songs from the Trail]
  • Blitzen Trapper – “Fur” [Fur] 4:08
  • Jeff and Paige “The Great Monarch Migration” [Mighty Wolf]

Citizen Scientists Opportunity: School of Ants

Western MA Families Can Help Scientists Learn About Diversity of Ants Across the United States While Discovering Local Ecology

Adventurous, bug-loving families can help to contribute to ongoing ant research and identification of species by participating in a project called School of Ants. Families are asked to collect ant samples from at least two locations near their home and mail their specimens to an entomology research center.

Ants are amazing…. and sometimes a nuisance – they’re attracted to food when you snack outside, they crawl on your feet when you sit in the grass, and sometimes they’re so brazen as to venture into our homes, snagging sweet treats from our floors, counters, and cupboards. Nuisance though they can be, ants are also fascinating: they can lift enormous amounts of weight, they create a very intricate social structure, and they can live in the most unlikely of places, like cracks in busy city sidewalks.

Ants are one of the least understood crawly critters found around us. There are numerous species of ants found all over North America (and the world!), yet the habits of many of these species have not been extensively researched. Of particular interest to researchers are invasive species of ants – types that have been brought in from other parts of the world and are adversely affecting other populations that they now share an environment with…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Eric Carle: Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs

The Art of Eric Carle:
Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs

On View April 7 – August 30, 2015

Amateur entomology takes the spotlight at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art during the next few months, as a new bug-themed exhibit fills the galleries! The Art of Eric Carle: Bees, Butterflies, and Other Bugs will be on view from April 7th – August 30th, 2015, and brings with it not only beautiful and delightful images featuring a host of insects, but a swarm of special bug-themed and Eric Carle-centric events as well.

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Sparked by copious amounts of time spent outdoors as a child, Eric Carle’s picture books have often featured lovable insect characters, from fireflies to ladybugs to the iconic starving green caterpillar. The images featured in the exhibit are full of wings, crawly legs, and stingers, but portray the crawliest of earth’s inhabitants beautifully, with respect, reverence, and the light, playful style unique to Carle’s artwork.

In addition to a bug-filled gallery, the Eric Carle Museum will hold special events to accompany the exhibit. Over the next few months, families can take advantage of opportunities to engage in bug-themed hands-on art making in the museum’s studio, and can create their own original bug creations to add to a community art project that will adorn the trees in the museum’s orchard. Additionally, special events featuring bug-themed storytelling and comedy will be held, and the museum’s Children’s Book Festival (held on June 6th) will be bug-themed as well!  Read the rest of this entry »

Become A Citizen Scientist & Get to Know Your Local Dragonfly!

Community-Based Education Right In Your Back Yard

Families can join in on an important citizen science project called Dragonfly Pond Watch.

While a season filled with winged insects may seem months away, now is the time to begin learning how to be on the lookout for seasonal indicator species! Certain creatures who migrate to warmer climes during Massachusetts’ winter can help to make the start of warmer weather with their presence. Just as returning robins dotting late-winter feeders mean that spring is near and the emergence of salamanders marks spring’s first good rain, the appearance of dragonflies can serve as an important seasonal indicator, too! Read the rest of this entry »

Bee Condos: Steps Away from Sweet Educational Opportunities

Kid-friendly global bee revival can start in your own backyard and provide dynamic learning opportunities for the whole family

When looking to attract wildlife for children to observe, we often choose birds. Bird feeders and houses can be fairly simple to create and, especially in terms of food and birds are a very “if you build it, they will come” type of creature. But what if there was another creature in need of support who could just as easily be housed and fed in your yard via DIY projects? It’s no secret these days that bee populations are quickly declining, and as it turns out, families can take some very simple steps in order to offer bees with lots of appropriate habitat.

Since the 1990’s, we’ve been globally aware that bee populations were in danger. Pesticide use is one of the leading causes of this decline in the presence of pollinators, and while there is much being done to raise awareness and change practices, we still have a long way to go before bees will be safe. And in order to support local pollinators, there are lots of kid-friendly things that families can do at home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Entomology: Lessons from the Garden

Multivotines vs. Univoltines: Adapting to Climate Change

I have just returned from a horticultural conference in Boston. One of the more interesting workshops was given by Michael Raupp, Ph.D, Professor at University of Maryland on climate change and plant pests. Thankfully, at least in this area, we are no longer talking about, “is the climate changing?” But what are the implications of climate change, and how does it affect families in western Massachusetts?

For insects, climate change is much more serious than just a bad hair day. There are many environmental factors that influence insects, but the primary one is temperature. As the environment gets warmer, some are winners and others are losers. Within the realm of insect pests – a major concern for farmers and gardeners of any scale – there are clear winners and losers due to the ways in which each species reproduces. The winner in the climate change war are multivotine insects, species who are able to reproduce multiple generations each year. On the losing side are univoltines , whose reproductive cycle makes it impossible to produce more than a single generation in a year.

Multivoltines have historically been hard to control as their ability to adapt to environmental conditions and pesticides is legendary – pesky aphids are a prime example of such a species. Because they have so many generations per year, adaptation of the species happens very quickly – hence an insect with the ability to persist, even as the conditions in its environment change. Univoltines such as the gypsy moth, on the other hand, reproduce slowly and, therefore, evolve slowly as well – making populations more susceptible to climate change-related damage.

Ladybug&Aphids_on_Milkweed_9587a

While it’s impossible to see aphid and gypsy moth populations for yourself during the winter, it’s still possible to learn about this phenomenon as a family while the ground is covered with snow. Instead of aphids and moths, think about dandelions and apple trees. During the summer, dandelions pop up everywhere and go to seed fairly quickly. The seeds, blown by the wind, grow more and more generations of dandelions before the warm weather ends. Apple trees, on the other hand, take years and years to begin producing apples. Instead of reproducing quickly, multiple generations of apple trees can take a century or more to exist. Which of these species do you think might be more easily affected by a climate in which the temperature continues to rise? The one that takes longer to reproduce, of course. And which one is generally considered to be more desirable and valuable? The slow, slow apple, of course.

Apple Blossoms in May

Challenge kids to think of other examples of species that fit this speed and adaptability vs. value to humans dichotomy – there are lots of possible choices to examine… Read the rest of this entry »

Butterfly House Sets Flight in the Berkshires

Project Native
Native Butterfly House
A New Community-Based Educational Resource

“People see a beautiful butterfly but they don’t connect it to their landscape,” Project Native Education Director Karen LeBlanc said. “With the butterfly house they will understand that caterpillars need certain plants to live and eat. If you don’t have the plants, you’re not going to get the butterfly.”

Promoting the connection between native habitats and local wildlife, Project Native has opened a Native Butterfly House open to the public at its native plant nursery in Housatonic, just 4 miles north of Great Barrington, MA. Take a tour of this new educational facility on Friday, August 16th from 10am-12noon, or come to the kick-off party in the evening from 5-6:30pm.

The new 35-by-55-foot structure encloses a garden of native plants grown at Project Native, all of which support the life cycle of native butterflies. Staff and visiting children have been collecting native butterflies from the Project Native property to populate the butterfly house, which is open to the public daily from 10 to 4.

“This is a great addition to Project Native,” General Manager David Ellis said. “It is a terrific educational resource and a great attraction. It will serve as the keystone for our educational programs which show the importance of native habitats in sustaining our wildlife.” Groups of children have gone on butterfly safaris for several weekends in search of caterpillars and butterflies to populate the enclosed garden. There are two more butterfly safaris this summer, Wednesday, August 21st from 1-2:30pm and Saturday, August 24th from 9:30-10:30am. An advanced bug safari for kids ages 8 and oler happens on Sunday, Augutst 18th from 2:30-4:30pm.

Project Native’s mission is to promote, restore and sustain native habitats in the Berkshire Taconic region. The 13-year-old non-profit organization grows native plants from seeds collected in the region and makes them available to the public. The fields and forests of the 54-acre former dairy farm have been largely cleared of invasive plants to restore its landscape with native habitats that include trails, a native-plant seed bank, and educational activities. Native plants as defined by Project Native, are plants that existed in the region prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century.

LeBlanc first conceived of the butterfly house after placing caterpillars in small butterfly huts on the property. Soon she discovered that visitors and staff were fascinated by watching the life cycle as a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and then emerges as a butterfly, and proposed building a structure large enough to contain permanent plantings and facilitate learning…

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing Butterflies in Springfield All Summer!

Amazing Butterflies at the Springfield Museums
May 25-Sept 2nd, 2013

Amazing Butterflies is an interactive maze experience that allows visitors to explore the world of the butterfly and learn the surprising challenges butterflies face every day. Each station of the maze relates to a different phase of a butterfly’s life cycle, from a caterpillar to a dormant chrysalis and finally to a mature butterfly. As visitors make their way through the maze, they will also be introduced to some of the butterfly’s enemies and the challenges they face in finding food and a mate. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Amazing Butterflies is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together.

What do question marks, painted ladies, and mourning cloaks all have in common? They’re all things that can be found this summer at the Springfield Museums’ newest exhibit. And they’re all species of butterflies!

Opening on May 25th, Amazing Butterflies is an interactive and informative exhibit created for both children and adults. Created by The Natural History Museum in London in collaboration with Minotaur Mazes, Amazing Butterflies takes visitors on a maze-like journey through the lifecycle of a butterfly, following this insect from its first days as a caterpillar to its last days as a fluttering butterfly.

In conjunction with this interactive exhibit at the museums is a Butterfly House – an enclosure filled with numerous native species of live butterflies for visitors to see up close. There’s no better way to observe the colors and patterns of a butterfly’s wings than by having it land on a leaf or flower right next to you for close inspection!

Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Swarmageddon as Magicicada Emerge from the Warming Earth

After 17 Years, Cicadas Scheduled to Emerge from the Earth Along the Eastern Seaboard. Will They Be Emerging Here in Western MA?

This year, for the first time since 1996, a Magicicada brood will emerge from the ground all across the eastern United States.  This special species – unlike other cicadas – emerges every 17 years with the entire species growing and developing at the same time,  creating synchronized cycles of growth, reproduction, and death.  These insects go through a complicated and specialized series of stages of development as a group, taking 13-17 years to grow into adult cicadas and emerge from the ground.  They will lay eggs for the next generation simultaneously, continuing their synchronized cycle of regeneration.

Much like frogs and salamanders, the cicadas will emerge from the ground only when the temperature is right!  Magicicadas require a soil temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, extending as deep as eight full inches into the ground – meaning that cicadas will show themselves much earlier further south, while southern New England soil continues to warm up.  Families can track and predict the burst of bugs by monitoring the temperature of the soil in their backyard – while western Massachusetts isn’t expected to have a huge number of cicadas (check out the web site: Massachusetts Cicadas), their existence is quite likely given that Connecticut and the Hudson River Valley in New York are both home to Magicidadas.

In order to predict the bugs’ appearance in your yard, track the soil temperature using a basic thermometer, which can be purchased online or at a gardening specialty store.  Families can also build their own cicada detectors, which will not only measure soil temperature, but will track the creatures’ movement!  Families with older students can learn valuable STEM skills by building a detector, and can use the data that they collect to contribute to cicada tracking and research.  RadioLab, an online resource for STEM-related projects and information, offers instructions for building and operating your own cicada detector, and also has information about submitting collected data.  Follow the instructions to become amateur entomology researchers, and help contribute to the recording of an unusual scientific phenomenon!

Firefly Watch! Citizen Science Project

Firefly Watch! Citizen Science Project
Thursdays through August 5th in the Berkshires

Firefly Watch combines an annual summer evening ritual with scientific research. Participation requires just a fraction of your time. (Photo credit: James Jordan)

Fireflies are faithful harbingers of summer, but are they disappearing? If so, then why? Help scientists answer these questions by becoming a Firefly Watch Citizen Scientist. Firefly Watch was originally developed by The Museum of Science in Boston, and has taken off around the country with thousands of people participating each year.

This summer join the Berkshire Museum and Department of Conservation and Recreation every Thursday this summer through August 5th at 9:15 pm, to count fireflies in a meadow. Meet at the Mount Greylock Visitors Center(30 Rockwell Road in Lanesborough, 1.5 miles off US Route 7). Bring a flashlight, a pencil & pad of paper, and a stopwatch. Appropriate for all ages, especially families. Activity takes about 15 minutes. Dress appropriately for evening conditions, as bug spray is not recommended. In the event of rain program is canceled.

For more information call the Mount Greylock Visitors Center: (413) 499-4262.

Mug & Bugs in the Hills

Mud & Bugs

Insects by K. Pike

It’s mud season here in the hills and we have a little little time before the torturous black-fly season, followed by the ever so itchy mosquito season – a time when our kids can easily be mistaken for having the chicken pox and adults have at least one token bug bite on their face in an ever so prominent spot.

Towards the end of the summer, copious numbers of tent caterpillars that wiggled all over our trees, bushes, rain gutters and lawn furniture, turn into swarms of butterflies. Ahhhh … the hilltowns, an entomologist’s promised land.

If you have a child that doesn’t scream and run at the sight of a spider, or makes stomping on ants a competitive sport, then you just might have a budding entomologist on your hands – or at the very least,  a child that is open to learning more about INSECTS. There are many books available on arthropods and spiders, including guides to use out in the field to identify any bug your child may thrust towards you while asking if it’s poisonous.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mud & Bugs in the Hills

Mud & Bugs

Insects by K. Pike

It’s mud season here in the hills and we have a little time before the torturous black-fly season, followed by the ever so itchy mosquito season – a time when our kids can easily be mistaken for having the chicken pox and adults have at least one token bug bite on their face in an ever so prominent spot.

Towards the end of the summer, copious numbers of tent caterpillars that wiggled all over our trees, bushes, rain gutters and lawn furniture, turn into swarms of butterflies. Ahhhh … the hilltowns, an entomologist’s promised land.

If you have a child that doesn’t scream and run at the sight of a spider, or makes stomping on ants a competitive sport, then you just might have a budding entomologist on your hands – or at the very least,  a child that is open to learning more about INSECTS. There are many books available on arthropods and spiders, including guides to use out in the field to identify any bug your child may thrust towards you while asking if it’s poisonous.

Read the rest of this entry »

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