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 »

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”


 

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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 »

Learn the Ways of Pollinators and then Support Them!

The Berkshire Museums BeMuse Program Series Tells all on Pollinators and how you can get Involved!

The Berkshire Museum will present a workshop and documentary screening with landscape designer and filmmaker Kim Smith on Saturday, September 20, 2014, as part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series. The slide-illustrated talk, Creating a Bee, Bird, and Butterfly Garden, begins at 10am and the screening of the film, Life Story of the Black Swallowtail, will follow the talk, beginning at 11:30am. Both programs are part of the Museum’s BeMuse program series. Come learn about these local pollinators, what habitats they thrive in, how you can support them and join Kim in a Q&A discussion following both the workshop and screening. Come curious and bring your questions!  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 »

The Ripple: The Cure For All Things Pavement

The Cure for All Things Pavement

Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you! Tuning into this “wheel of time” is one way that we leave our pavement-based perception of place. If you are lucky, you’ll get to see mergansers, a sort of river loon, as they hunt for the same trout that are hunting the invertebrates.

Before there were roads, there were trails and before there were trails, there were rivers. The Nile and the Mississippi—can you see Cleopatra and Huck & Jim making their ways on these liquid highways? Have you heard the tale (more or less true) of how Native Americans followed the paths of deer that traveled up and down food-rich riparian corridors; and that Routes 5 & 7 were laid over such paths?

Once upon a time, people knew their places from the perspective of the river; and what is so wonderful is that this perspective is still available to those who pine for a way of seeing, and being, that is not pavement-based. This summer, you could float down the Deerfield or Connecticut Rivers—and you ought to!—but floating down means that you’ve already driven up it. Nothing wrong with that; in fact it can’t be avoided given our moment in time; but the proper way to get the feeling and the vision of being placed in a biome is to head upstream, like the Atlantic Shad are doing right now. (Reminder: the operators of the Holyoke and Turner’s Falls dams open their anadromous fish viewing stations around Mother’s Day, and—despite the fact that both dams are causing extinctions—they are worth visiting.)

If you want to change the way you and your family view your “place” by leaving the pavement and making your way up a river valley, you are lucky! 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 »

The Ripple: Lessons in Floods

An Invitation to Think Outside about Floods

Floods, like weeds, are problems. Occupying places we don’t want them to, they ruin things we are growing.

Weeds are plants in the wrong place. And what’s a wrong place, we decide.

Floods are the return of ocean to mountain. They decide with the objectivity we (would) laud in our courts of justice. They’re not elitist; they are levelers.

Floods would not be a problem if we didn’t take more than we are given, placing things in flood plains like cities, farms and vacation homes. Everybody likes a water view, and to build structures as close as possible to them. The closer you build, the more likely to get leveled…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Insects of Spring

Before May Flies, Meet the Mayfly

Every September, just after the leaves start to fall, I go out with Sienna and Hilltown Families citizen scientists to do a Rapid Biotic Assessment (RBA) of the East Branch of the Westfield River downstream from the RT 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. Returning to the same site as the year before, we collect aquatic bugs—including mayfly nymphs—and, based on what we’ve gathered, we can tell how healthy the river is. If a river has a lot of mayflies, it is a healthy river—with lots of big and healthy trout in it (We’ll invite you to help us; so be on the lookout for our invitation!).

Imagine never getting swarmed and bit by mayflies as you revel in the vivacities unleashed by the ubiquitous green fountain of spring. Imagine gardening, or hiking, or simply sitting on a park bench without having to constantly swat and flinch and keep from going mad as the mayflies crawl on your neck and arms and ears, looking for a sweetspot to slice skin and lap blood. Now, imagine your dream of never getting bit again by mayflies comes true, right now as you read this! Because mayflies don’t bite.

Blackflies: they’re the little flying vampires that mob us in spring—not mayflies. Here is a picture of a mayfly. Notice its two long tails (though some have three), and large transparent wings. Most are an inch or longer.

Here is a picture of a blackfly

Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Reassuring Voice of the River

Get Into the Flow Like a Mayfly

We measure our lives in decades, which is fine; but what if we measured our lives like the mayfly, who reappears in the same place for tens of thousands of years, each individual a facet of single transgenerational being, each individual a carrier of the baton-of-life in the finish-line-less relay-race of the species in time?

“Rivers can take this—don’t worry!” said Jason Johnson, who works with Masswildlife’s Caleb Slater to stock our streams with trout and salmon, after hearing me whine about the drought.

“Most droughts occur in late summer. The fact that this one is happening as the leaves come out…” I’d worried.

“The tree species that are native to our area can handle this. It happened a few years ago—the buds dried and fell off, but new leaves appeared,” he retorted, determined to make me cheerful.

It’s good to know that; I don’t mind being reassured. Words are just words, though. Real assurance requires the real.

Reassurance can be found, for example, in the flocks of blackflies that greet you when you step into the woods. As a native species, they’re tough survivors—at least as old as the mammal species they’ve supped upon for plus or minus fifteen millenia. Ah, but this is just more blather! To the river we go, sure our blackflies will follow.

At the river, we find the aerial bobbings of the longtailed mayfly. Up and down they flit, yoyo-ing as if played with by kids. They are older as a native species than the blackfly, and form the basis of the aquatic food chain of which trout and salmon are the hungriest. biggest-mouthed predators. Find a boulder to sit on, exposed in mid-stream—a perch fit for a Zen monk or an osprey. Look closely: the twin tails of the mayfly straighten to parallel as they rocket upwards. They linger at zenith for a moment of motionless poise, then drop; their tails split and become V-shaped parachutes they sit on, like children on swings. Wings of chrome-fuzz in the sunlight, bodies slender and dark, they ride for seconds like William Blake’s cherubim: miraculous beyond the ken of science. How can the value of these lives be over-estimated as they do this, as their ancestors have done since before the Ice Age, and the arrival of mammals? We measure our lives in decades, which is fine; but what if we measured our lives like the mayfly, who reappears in the same place for tens of thousands of years, each individual a facet of single transgenerational being, each individual a carrier of the baton-of-life in the finish-line-less relay-race of the species in time?

This is what the river asks us through its tumbling hiss of water against stone, and answers with the yoyo-ing mayfly. In the same place the river speaks its soothing words of white water, the mayfly does its courtship dance, and lays its eggs from which next years dancers will emerge. The kinetic force that gives voice to white water also trebles the oxygen content, and mayfly nymphs—and hungry trout and salmon—need an oxygen-rich environment.

In this way, the voice of the river—even in drought—is voice that reassures. As long as there’s flow, there are the mayflies.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Marko Kivelä]

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 »

HFVS Insects & Spiders Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

INSECT & SPIDERS EPISODE

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Saturday mornings from 9-10am
May 24th, 2008

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  • Steve Weeks – “Yellowjacket” [Alphabet Songs Vol. III: Rabbit Run]
  • Sharp Cookies – “Anteatereater” [Muddy Water Beaver Dam Band]
  • Seth Decker – “Bugville Boogie” [Intergalactic Tour]
  • Marais & Miranda – “What is an Insect? [Nature Songs]
  • Mr. David Musicworks – “La Cucaracha” [The Great Adventures of Mr. David]
  • Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang – “Eensy Weensy Spider” [Get Up & Dance]
  • Joe McDermott – “Spider Magic” [Air Guitar]
  • Randy Kaplan – “The Ladybug Without Spots” [Loquat Rooftop]
  • Kevin Kammeraad – “Frogs and Toads” [The Tomato Collection]
  • Storytelling ID: Steve Weeks www.steveweeksmusic.com
  • FEATURED STORY: Steven Kellogg – The Mysterious Tadpole
  • The Jimmies – “Taddy” [Make Your Own Someday]
  • Dog on Fleas – “Ooooh spider!” [Fairly Good Songs For Fairly Good Kids]
  • The Harmonica Pocket – “The Light of a Firefly” [Ladybug One]
  • The Harmonica Pocket – “Firefly” [Ladybug One]
  • SHOW ID: Harmonica Pocket www.harmonicapocket.com
  • Marais & Miranda – “Why Does a Bee Buzz?” [More Nature Songs]
  • Wee Hairy Beasties – “Buzz Buzz Buzz” [Animal Crackers]
  • Laurie Berkner – “Bumblebee” [Buzz Buzz]
  • Pete Seeger – “Teency Weency Spider” [Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes]

In the Hilltown Family Outdoor Adventure Program we recently went on a Bug Hunt and the kids loved it. Click here to discover clever way family can rig up an insect observation station, or here for a reading list of titles that explore bugs.

VIDEO REVIEW

We L-O-V-E Bill Nye. Know him? Check out these videos below: Bill Nye the Science Guy: Insects & Spiders

What to bring Bill Nye back? Click here.

Other web site worth checking out your bug lovin’ kids are:

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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