Around this time of year I find a lot of moth cocoons and newly emerging moths at night. I thought it would be a good time to review some of the big moths that you may find in the Eastern US, and what they look like.
I find it a personal challenge to give gifts that will be meaningful and used well beyond the occasion when the gift was given. This Christmas I decided to buy a trail camera for my partner. In all fairness I thought it might be a good family gift too, mainly because I work in environmental education and I was also excited to see how one works and the potential use for educational programs or observations. What follows is a short article on my observations and suggestions for personal or educational uses of a trail camera (or multiple cameras).
You can't look at Halloween decorations without seeing bats hanging everywhere. They are often lumped with spiders and black cats and relegated to the "scary things" category. Like many "scary" things, bats really aren't that bad if you understand a little bit about them. This is why I want to introduce you to brown bats, a good place to start on your way to appreciating our bat neighbors. After all, Bat Week is October 25th-October 31st (Have you planned your party yet??)!
BATS AREN'T RODENTS
First, let's get this straight, bats are not rodents. If you question this simply throw a mouse in the air and see if it flies. Bats are the only flying mammals. The creature that comes closest are flying squirrels and they simply leap like demented nocturnal paragliders and then float around using the flaps of skin between their arms and legs as they go from tree to tree.
This time of year is one of my favorites, it's warm enough to sit outside around a campfire, listen to the night sounds, play music, tell stories, or roast marshmallows. I've been asked to suggest some fun but also educational science activities for kids at dusk or night-time.
Night-time summer activities can be fun, and what you can depends on where you are, how safe the environment is to move around at night, and the age of the kids. Here are a few ideas you might consider:
As an Educator, working in the field, or looking to fill conversation, I frequently turn to subjects that are close at hand. Often it's cumbersome to carry objects on a trail, you can't always find certain plants or animals when you need them (a general rule of thumb), and sometimes you just need to keep people's minds busy to avoid kids wandering off, people losing attention, or just "losing" your audience all together. One of the constants you can always talk about, especially at dawn, dusk, or for evening programs is the Moon. No matter where you are in the world, there it is. On top of this, the new Next Generation Science Standards have a strong component of space literacy too. Specifically they are targeting 1st and 5th grades, middle school, and high school. This program includes determining phases of the moon and determining distances in space. In this blog post we'll explore some quick moon facts, a fun exercise in proportion and size, and I'll provide you with some books and lesson plans that I like for teaching about the moon.
How to Identify and "Call" Lightning Bugs or Fireflies
An "Enlightening" Conversation
As summer rolls around it's time again for the emergence of fireflies or lightning bugs. These benign insect ambassadors have been many children's introduction to the world of beetles and friendly insects. For today's post I will introduce you to the three most common groups of fireflies in the Eastern US and how you can use LED flash patterns to call the most common species to you. It makes a great lesson plan for evening programs or just something fun to do with the kids on a summer night.
Fireflies, or lightening bugs, are beetles (order Coleoptera). Unlike their cousins, that have hard-bodied elytra (ee-light-tra) or wing coverings. Their bodies and wings are relatively soft and they have leathery wing coverings. The are usually about 2 cm long, and blackish with reddish or yellow spots on their head covering. The head covering is also called the pronotum (pro-know-tum). Around the world, there are over 2,000 species of fireflies, and most live in tropical, moist and damp areas, in part because of their soft bodies. Lightning bugs are called this because their abdomens light up using a chemical process called bioluminescence.
In the Eastern US there are three common families of fireflies that we see, Photinus (Foe-tine-us), Pyractomena (Pie-rack-toe-mean-A), and Photuris (Foe-tur-is). You can distinguish them apart by looking at their head covering and their wings.