Lost Ladybug 1Z

Ladybugs are one of a handful of insects that do not induce fear, or the overall feeling of dislike, in the general population. (Their cousins the butterflies rank pretty high in popularity too.) Beyond being cute, they are also very important beneficial insects that help keep the populations of plant-feeding insects low.

But did you know the populations of ladybugs in North America are changing, and scientists don’t know why? The Lost Ladybug Project was started as an effort to gather information about ladybug populations, how they are changing, and to help answer some of the questions about why these fluctuations are occurring.

From the Lost Ladybug Project website:

“Across North America ladybug species composition is changing.  Over the past twenty years native ladybugs that were once very common have become extremely rare.  During this same time ladybugs from other parts of the world have greatly increased both their numbers and range. This is happening very quickly and we don’t know how, or why, or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity or the role that ladybugs play in keeping plant-feeding insect populations low.  We’re asking you to join us in finding out where all the ladybugs have gone so we can try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare.”

Lost Ladybug 4Z

Researchers are asking for help in gathering data about ladybug populations. They need people to be their legs in the field to report sightings of not only rare ladybugs, but also some of the more common species, to get an idea of how populations are changing.

This wonderful project provides a neat, and easy, way for families to get involved with some citizen science. The website is very user friendly and gives useful of tips for collecting (including a link to instructions for building your own net), photographing, and identifying ladybugs. (Even if you can’t identify your ladybug, with a decent photo, they can usually figure it out for you.)

Whether a ladybug lands on your picnic blanket, or you head out into a field with a net to collect, the information shared with the researchers will help them find answers to the question of the lost ladybug.

Click on over to the Lost Ladybug Project website to learn more.

 

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Sometimes when out on a hike, something catches your eye and it takes some time to register just what it is. This was the case when we came upon this interesting insect. Our first thought was that we were looking at some kind of large, strange bee. But a closer look revealed that instead, we had encountered a bee fly!

Read on to find out a bit more about bee flies as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about them. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

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Some Interesting Things to Know About Bee Flies

- Bee flies belong to a large family of flies that includes hundreds of species.

- Many in this family look like various bees.

- In mimicking bees, they have a bit of protection from predators that are likely to leave bees alone for fear of a sting.

- Bee flies feed on nectar and pollen.

- Many have a very long proboscis (tongue) that allows them to reach deep into a flower.

- In most species, the young are parasites on other insects.

- A detailed description of their biology can be found here.

- Bug Guide has a great image library that shows the amazing variety of this family.

Click here to download the bee fly nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

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Earth Day

April 22, 2014

The very best way to inspire them to love the Earth…

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Bug-1

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is to get them outside, so that they may get to know the Earth.

Happy Earth Day

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Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

 ………

 

Amazing spring color, and a few eggs and mama birds are showing up over in the Flickr pool; but there are still reminders that spring moves a bit slower in some parts of the world.

 

Frosty-1

Frosty by Dawn

Nova Scotia, Canada 

wolverine peak

Alaska

 

Hummer in Flight

Georgia 

 

Great Crested Grebe on Eggs

Norway

 

Mourning dove nest with eggs

Texas

 

...spring

Spring by Kim
California

 

Snowy Owls - Highland Wildlife Park

Snowy Owls by Katie
Scotland

 

Meet Newt...the newt!

Idaho

 

spring: day 28

Spring: Day 28 by taylor & schmidt
Ozarks

 

Tulip

Tulips by Ship Rock
British Columbia, Canada

 
Many thanks to all of our contributors for their amazing images!
 

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Nature Around the Net

April 19, 2014

CocoonZ

We have some fun links to share today. Go ahead and click away for some nature inspired reading before you head outside for the day (or night).

- Everything you need to know about the Lyrid Meteor Shower peaking April 22nd.

- This article details the current predicament of a very special animal: the world’s rarest bear species.

- For some fun inter-species comparison, check out this article on how chimpanzees make their beds. And then go make your own!

- Earth 2.0?

- Here is some truly weird science. Probably best to share with kids who are already familiar with the anatomical terms involved!

 

If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

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Root Observation Text

This is not so much a project or activity in the formal sense, but more like an invitation. An invitation to stop and take a closer look at the things we walk on, and sometimes stumble across, along the trail almost daily. They can be hidden, or woven together to make the trail itself. They might be big enough to play on, or so tiny one can hardly see them. However large or small, underground or above, they play an amazingly important role in our world. They are roots!

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We usually take time to make note of the roots we see along the trail, especially if they are particularly large, or make up the path itself. While thinning some alders that are threatening to take over the yard we had the chance to get up close with not only the alder roots, but the roots of the surrounding plants. We decided to set some aside to examine a little closer later.

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While making these observations outside would have been great, we finally had time to take a closer look on a very wet, windy day so we laid out a large sheet of craft paper, pulled our specimens from the pot where they had been stored, gathered magnifying glass, microscope, knife and cutting board and took a closer look at the roots.

Note: I tried to read up on roots as we were laying them out but my son asked me to stop for fear I would “spoil the surprise” of what we would find when we took a closer look. I took his lead and we explored and talked about what the different parts could be for as we went along. It always amazes me how much knowledge the kids pick up when we talk about what we see on the trail and how little explorations like this simply solidify what they already know.

Some questions came up about if roots had rings like trees (something we can’t really examine in a live tree we see in the forest) so we cut open a root to take a closer look.

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 The outer coat on the root was examined under the microscope, as were the tiny root caps and nodules.

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We talked about the clumps of dirt and rock being held together by the root mass of the alder, along with the many other roots woven together. The variety of vegetation from grass, to moss and other small plants was noted.

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When separated we looked at different types of root structures and talked about why they might be different for different types of vegetation.

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One of the roots had many shoots coming up and we talked about the structure of alder bushes and how they all come from the main root system.

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My son had wanted to trace the main root structure but when we started snipping away to get to the main larger parts of the root he realized just how intricate they are and was not quite up to the challenge on this day.

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In the end we had discussed root function and structure, plant growth, erosion control, and so much more.

This is such a nice way to turn thinning into a fun learning experience. Even those little baby garden seedlings (which I just hate to thin) have enough root to make some observations about root structure. There is no one right way to do an observation like this. Just go wherever it leads and have fun!

Plans are in the works to take a saw into the woods to examine the very large roots of a fallen tree. Who knows where we will go with this little spark in root study.

More information about roots can be found here.

Do you have any root study resources to share?

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In our last post about lichen we shared a general overview of lichen and how they are made up. In this post we are focusing more closely on one type of lichen called the reindeer lichen. It is fun to run across this lichen along the trail as it often has a ghost white glow about it, and almost glows when hit by the rays of the sun peeking through the treetops.

 

Read on to find out a bit more about reindeer lichen as well as to download printable sheets of useful photos and information about it. Each Wednesday, check the bottom of the “What’s That?” post to find a PDF containing a fact sheet about the day’s featured item, as well as photographs and other resources ideal for using in a nature journal, research binder, or lap book.

 

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Some Interesting Things to Know About Reindeer Lichen

- Like all lichen, reindeer lichen are created by a symbiotic relationship between fungi and a partner organism that can perform photosynthesis.

- It is also called caribou lichen, caribou moss, or reindeer moss. (Caribou are known as reindeer in Europe.)
- It grows in northern regions and is very resistant to cold temperatures.
- There are different types of reindeer lichen. This link provides a nice overview of three types found in northern woodlands.
- Lichen are very long living and slow growing. While growth rate slightly varies with different reindeer lichen, some grow approximately 1/8 inches a year and can live to be over 100 years old.
- When water is unavailable it will dry out, but begin to grow again when rehydrated.
- While it can be boiled to make a healing and nutritious tea, eaten raw it could make humans sick.
- This is another great site with lots of information for further study.

Click here to download the reindeer lichen nature journal resource pages to use with your own family.

 

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Nature In Your Neighborhood is a weekly feature that focuses on the nature that we all interact with in our everyday lives. Through the window of these posts you can catch glimpses of nature in action in locations across the country (and sometimes beyond). You are invited to add photos of your own nature finds for sharing here to the Mud Puddles to Meteors Flickr group. Please just remember to adjust your Flickr settings for sharing!

From the changing leaves on the biggest tree in the neighborhood to a tiny beetle scurrying across a sidewalk, we’d love to see what is happening in the natural world where you are.

 ………

It has been another week of great photos in the Flickr group. It is wonderful to see all of the color that comes along with spring!

Stream

stream by Dawn
Nova Scotia, Canada

 

spring: day 25

spring: day 25 by taylor & schmidt
Ozarks

 

pt louisa

pt. louisa by Jenny
Alaska

 

these last few days......

salamander by Stephinie
Massachusetts

 

Cotton buds

cotton buds by Lesley-Anne
Scotland

 

spring break.  day 2

snow geese by Siri
Montana

 

Mornings

Mornings by Hannah
Idaho

 

90:365:2014

Asparagus by Lee
Wisconsin 

 

Herbertia

Herbertia by Wendy
Texas

 

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane by Ship Rock
British Columbia, Canada

 

Thank you to all of our contributors!

And a quick reminder that you still have time to enter the We Love Nature! book giveaway. Click on over and share a favorite childhood nature experience!

 

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Nature Around the Net

April 12, 2014

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Birds, bees, and other bugs… we found a bit of each one, and more, for you this weekend!

- Everything you want to know about feathers in one place. Wow!

- If you know a bee lover, who is also a sports fan, they will love this video!

- Ever wanted to make a terrarium? We made one this week, but nothing like this one started 54 years ago! (How-to video at the bottom of the post.)

- Hummingbird webcam! Need we say more?

- With spring comes bugs, and that is good news for Jr. entomologists. With this in mind we are getting ready to place another order of watchmakers cases to keep the ever growing collection. (They are actually great for any collection of tiny nature finds.) We get them from the Lee Valley store in Canada but here is the US link.

 If you have come across something interesting that you would like to share please leave a link in the comments. Thank you!

P.S. There is still time to enter the We Love Nature! Giveaway.

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Giveaway: We Love Nature.

April 10, 2014

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Although there are undoubtedly many, many fun things about working with a publisher to produce a book of your very own, it is pretty safe to say that getting the chance to check out other titles put out by your editor or publishing house is a great benefit of the whole process. We were particularly excited to have the opportunity to take a peek at We Love Nature by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer (illustrations by Denise Holmes) because, as you may have gathered from poking around this here blog, we really love nature.

Grow Seedlings

We Love Nature is a unique little book in that it is part journal, part activity guide. The book includes activities for encouraging families to interact with nature in authentic and easy ways, while also sharing prompts for writing, drawing, and taking notes about the experience. An especially nice inclusion in the book is a section at the beginning where a parent can jot down their own memories of favorite childhood nature experiences, providing a foundation for creating a family culture of building on those memories. We Love Nature gives thoughtful inspiration for families who would like to expand upon their children’s experiences of the natural world- without unnecessarily belaboring the process. The activities included are simple and accessible, but also clever and well-chosen.

 

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The book is also written in such a way that it can really grow with a family; with the activities chosen from it changing over time. It could also be very cool to revisit the journal prompts again and again as years pass, taking note of how a child’s perspective on nature changes as they grow older. What did they love at seven? What do they really feel connected to at twelve?

Canoe

We Love Nature can be used simply as a place to gather ideas for getting outdoors, but also has the potential to become a family keepsake and an artifact of a childhood spent enjoying the great outdoors. Children’s thoughts about the wilderness often express some of their deepest feelings of wonder and fascination, and being able to revisit those sentiments in years to come is a really nice idea.

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From canoe trips and cloud observation to weather prediction and animal tracking, there is a bit of everything in We Love Nature, and even for families who already find themselves outdoors much of the time, this book is sure to help them see their experiences from a different perspective.

Observe bugs

Roost has kindly offered two Mud Puddles readers a chance to win a copy of We Love Nature, and we truly think that those of you who read here will find the book to be very much up your proverbial alley. To enter to win, simply leave a comment on the post here. If you feel so inclined, we would love for you to share a favorite childhood nature experience of your own with us in your comment. We will choose a winner next Thursday, April 17th and notify via email.

Thanks to the lovely folks at Roost!

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