Dammed Disrupted Salmon

First published May 23, 2017

When responding to the urge to spawn, Salmon become a powerful delivery system. If allowed to move freely through rivers and streams, they transport ocean nitrogen and other nutrients thousands of miles inland while providing humans and animals with a rich source of food. They did this successfully until man decided to industrialize their reproduction.

Now billions are spent each year attempting to repair a disrupted cycle of nature.

“In 1851, we could observe a great decrease. Like the poor Indian, they are being driven westward into the sea. During hydraulic mining in the 1870s and 80s the salmon population of California was reduced to near extinction” – C. A. Kirkpatrick reporting on the fate of the salmon

Ocean Fertilizer Transport

Conditions necessary for successful spawning;

  • access to inland rivers and streams
  • cool water temperatures (45° – 58° F)
  • highly oxygenated water
  • correct sized gravel
  • not being eaten

“Salmon and steelhead are indicators of river health, from the headwaters to the ocean, when a watershed is able to support strong salmon and steelhead populations, the entire ecosystem can thrive.” – SRYCL and Partners

“West coast salmon runs have been in decline for decades… Analysts estimate that only 0.1 percent of the tens of millions of salmon that used to darken rivers every summer and fall up and down the west coast before white settlement still exist.” – Scientific American

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chinook salmon population along the California coast is declining due to;

  • overfishing
  • loss of freshwater habitat
  • loss of estuarine habitat
  • hydropower development
  • poor ocean conditions
  • and hatchery practices

Fish hatchery managed salmon reproduction has weakened the species.

The video below shows numerous corrective attempts that have been made to restore the salmon along the Columbia River.

Salmon Running the Gauntlet  | National Geographic

Deer Creek Salmon Restoration Efforts

April 2017 – 1:29 – A partnership between the South Yuba River Citizens League and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in leadership and funding for adding spawning gravels to the Yuba River near the confluence with Deer Creek.

Salmon & Steelhead in Deer Creek

“SSI has been monitoring salmon and steelhead in Deer Creek since 2009. From 2011-2013 we implemented three gravel augmentation projects to increase the availability of spawning habitat in Deer Creek, resulting in over a 500% increase in salmon redds observed in Deer Creek in 2013.” – Sierra Streams Institute report

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy Grizzly Entertainment & California Bear Extinction.

click on the image to see more disrupted salmon Life on the Creek art

click on the image to see more disrupted steelhead Life on the Creek art

Resources:

California Fisheries – Yuba River Steelhead
Crow’s Range: An Environmental History of the Sierra Nevada, by David Beesley [KXJZ, Insight interview 35:46]January 2008  – UC Davis panel on Salmon and Tribes – Klamath River System
Native People along rivers have been affected by dams and loss of natural salmon runs.

South Yuba River Citizens League – Species Profile: Rainbow Trout, Steelhead

South Yuba River Citizens League – Yuba Salmon Now

Wikipedia – Chinook salmon

Invasive Species Choke Natives

First published June 2, 2018

California Floristic Province

The California Floristic Province is considered a world biodiversity hotspot. It contains a large number of ecosystems that include alpine forest, mixed evergreen forest, riparian forest, sagebrush steppe, coastal sage scrub, redwood forests and more.

Currently, only 25% of the original vegetation remains unharmed.

Highly populated and a producer of agriculture products for 50% of the country, California is also considered ‘one of the four most ecologically degraded expanses in the US.’

Additional Threats to Biodiversity

  • air pollution
  • mining & oil extraction
  • livestock grazing & wildfires
  • invasive species

Fragmentation [human building] has the capacity to generate persistent, deleterious, and often unpredicted outcomes, including surprising surges in abundance of some species and the pattern that long temporal scales are required to discern many strong system responses. National Center for Biotechnology Information

Characteristics of Invasive Species

  • successful invasion elsewhere
  • ability to live near humans
  • food source variety
  • survives in a wide range of environments
  • alters growth to suit changing conditions
  • grows and reproduces quickly
  • fast spreading
  • difficult to eradicate

Invasive species and biodiversity preservation is a topic much larger than one blog post can cover! Below is a brief list of plants commonly found in Nevada County.

The ‘Resources’ section at the bottom of the page contains links for extensive exploration.

Blackberry / Rubus Fruticosus

Blackberry

Origin

Spain

Behavior

Creates an impenetrable thicket (bramble).
Grows in areas where soil has been disturbed such as land grading, agriculture tillage, timber logging, housing construction, wildland firebreaks, animal grazing, and road building.
Provides shelter for rats and food for deer.
Damages livestock.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – Management and Control of Blackberries

Hydrilla / Hydrilla Verticillata – Water Thyme

Hydrilla

 

Origin

Sri Lanka / Korea. Imported as an aquarium plant in the 1950s

Behavior

Aggressively invades new aquatic environments.
Displaces native vegetation.
Forms large dense mats.
Impedes water flow.
Cloggs pumps.
Reduces water clarity.
Alters the ecosystem.
Blocks sunlight.
Decreases oxygen water levels, killing fish.
Reduces recreational water use.
Fragments easily carried to new waterways.
Impedes waterfowl feeding.
Impedes fish spawning.
Devalues waterfront property values.
Impedes water treatment and power generation.

UC Davis – Hydrillia – Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States [PDF]

Yellow Starthistle / Centaurea Solstitialis

Yellow Starthistle

Origin

Chilean-harvested alfalfa imported during the California Gold Rush.

Behavior

Grows in areas where soil has been disturbed such as land grading, agriculture tillage, timber logging, housing construction, wildland firebreaks, animal grazing, and road building.
One plant can produce nearly 75,000 seeds.
Alters water cycles.
Poisons livestock.
Overtakes native plants.

California Invasive Plant Council – Yellow Starthistle Management Guide [PDF]

California Invasive Plant Council – Yellow Starthistle Management Guide [PDF]

Scotch Broom / Cytisus Scoparius

Scotch Broom

Origin

Imported from Europe in the mid-1800s as a land stabilizer and garden accent.

Behavior

Aggressively displaces native plant populations.
Highly flammable.
Fire hazard.
Seeds can remain active for over 80 years.
A mature shrub can produce up to 15,000 seeds.
Seeds can be transported over long distances by animals, water, vehicles, and people.
Grows in a variety of soil conditions.
As a legume, it changes soil chemistry.
After removal, native plants won’t repopulate.

Fire Safe Council of Nevada County  – Management and Control of Scotch Broom

Mussels & Moths

Not pervasive, yet, in California, these animals have caused large-scale agriculture, water and forest management, and recreational problems in other states.

Carefully inspecting possessions after traveling from infested areas, and cooperation with Agriculture Inspection Station agents are ways to help prevent a species invasion.

Quagga / Dreissena Rostriformis Bugensis & Zebra Mussels / Dreissena Polymorpha

Origin

Caspian and the Black Sea and Dnieper River, Ukraine. Brought into the Great Lakes in the 1990s through ship ballast water.

Behavior

Disrupts ecological water balance.
Reduces recreational value, shells overrun sandy beaches.
Impedes water flow.
Encrusts pipes and other structures.
One muscle can produce 5,000,000 eggs during its 5-year lifespan.
Estimated Five billion community costs since first discovery.

Oregon Sea Grant – Zebra and Quagga Mussel Prevention and Control [PDF pg. 7]

European Gypsy Moth / Lymantria Dispar

Origin

Europe and Asia. Escaped from breeding experiments in Massachusetts in the 1960s.

Behavior

Voraciously eats tree leaves and shrubs.
A single moth can consume a square foot of leaves per day.
Leaves caterpillars eat – cedar, pine, fir, spruce, aspen, oaks, birch, alder, manzanita, and western hemlock.

US Forest Service – Gypsy Moth Prevention & Control

There is an urgent need for conservation and restoration measures to improve landscape connectivity, which will reduce extinction rates and help maintain ecosystem services. National Center for Biotechnology Information

If you liked this post, you may also like Native Plants for Healing the Land

click on image to see more invasive species Life on the Creek art

 

Resources:

Alameda County Department of Agriculture – Pest Detection (photos)
American Bullfrog – California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Blackberry
 – NCRCD
Blackberry, Wild – the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – California Invaders
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Why can’t I have a hedgehog, sugar glider, ferret, or other restricted, non-native species as a pet in California?
California Department of Food and Agriculture – Gypsy Moth
California Invasive Plant Council
California Invasive Plants A-Z
CBS Video – Invasive Species Spreading Across America
Common Pokeweed – California Invasive Plant Council
Fire Safe Council of Nevada County – Scotch Broom Challenge
French Broom – California Invasive Plant Council
Hydrilla – NCRCD
Invasive Species Council of California
List of California Native Plants – Wikipedia
National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine – Habitat fragmentation and its lasting impact on Earth’s ecosystems (2015)
Nevada County Resource Conservation District
Portuguese Broom –  California Invasive Plant Council
Quagga & Zebra Muscle Infestation & Prevention Program – NCRCD
Scotch Broom – California Invasive Plant Council
Spanish Broom – California Invasive Plant Council
UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources – Harmful Shrubs get a Foothold in California Forests
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation – Quagga and Zebra Muscles
Weed Threats – My Nevada County
Invasive Species – Wikipedia
Yellow Star Thistle – California Invasive Plant Council

Native Plants for Healing the Land after Fire

First publish ed September 19, 2018

“Destructive fires in California have increased in both number and severity over the last decades. … Recent drought and bark beetle tree mortality has resulted in millions of dead and dying trees … significantly weakened to resist fires.”
– Nevada County 2018-19 Fire Safe Guide

 

This is California’s new normal,” says Governor Jerry Brown.

Contributors to the New Normal

  • warmer and longer summers
  • more homes
  • more people in remote areas
  • above ground powerlines
  • weakened trees from 100 years of “no forest fires”
  • flammable invasive species growing near roads

“Cal Fire investigators have determined trees coming into contact with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power lines are to blame for two Nevada County fires in October (2017) that burned a total of 897 acres and destroyed 60 structures.”
– Auburn Journal – Cal Fire pins blame on PG&E in two Nevada County fires (5-31-2018)

Nevada County Fire Statistics for October 8, 2017

McCourtney Fire – 76 acres burned.
Lobo Fire – 821 acres burned, 47 destroyed structures.

 

To date, the 2017 wildfire season was the most destructive and costly in California’s history.

If predictions hold true, this record will be broken.
In urban areas, toxic clean-up becomes necessary after fires.

In areas with steep topography, such as Nevada County, mudslides often follow fires.

If soil from the Lobo Fire has become unstable, Lake Wildwood may have cause for concern.

Native Plants for Healing the Land

As landowners recover from fire, they can make plant replacement choices that will speed land recovery, hold soil in place, create healthier environments, and reverse some of the disruption caused by mass urbanization and exotic ornamental plantings over the last hundred years.

Native plants are;

  • adapted to local soil and microclimates
  • their water needs are small
  • they flourish without fertilizers
  • they have their own natural pest management systems
Native plants also;
  • purify water
  • reduce run-off and erosion
  • contribute to soil health
  • provide food for wildlife
  • attract bees and butterflies
  • prevent the spread of invasive species
  • reflect the unique landscape of the area
  • combat climate change by storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide

What are Native Plants?

Native plants are those that evolved to survive to live in a specific environment.

 

Doug Tallamy, Department of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, University of Delaware, states that native oak trees support over 500 species of caterpillars while ginkgos, an Asian import, only support 5 caterpillar species.

If it takes one baby bird 150-200 caterpillars to grow to adulthood, oak trees will support them while ginkos…

How Do We Know Which Plants are Native?

Plant researchers compare fossil records to notes and drawings that European explorers made of seeds and specimens. While the list of California native changes as new information is discovered, scientists have a solid working knowledge of the plants that originated in the California Floristic Provence.

“The way we garden and create places like meadows will determine what life will look like tomorrow.” Doug Tallmay, author of Bringing Nature Home

Where Can I Buy Native Plants?

Every October, the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society holds an annual Native Plant Sale.

 

click on image to go to plant sale page

 

Native plants listed in ‘Native Plants for Healing the Land video.

California Buckwheat | Eriogonum fasciculatum 
Western Redbud | Cercis occidentalis
Narrow Leaf Milkweed | Asclepias fascicularis
Showy Milkweed | Asclepias speciosa
Heart Leaf Milkweed | Asclepias cordifolia

Redbud Chapter, Native Plant Society Resources

click on image for PDF page

 

click on image for PDF page

 

click on image for PDF page

Redbud Chapter Publications (700 local native plant species!)

Wildflowers of Nevada and Placer Counties, California 2nd Edition (2017)

Trees and Shrubs of Nevada and PlacerCounties, California (2014)

*Price discount for Members 
if purchased from Redbud*

Amazon

If you liked this post, check out Invasive Species Choke Natives or Forest Management and Fire.

Resources:

California Fires

CNBC – Gov. Jerry Brown warns ‘new normal’ of wildfires could bring fiscal stress for California  (8-1-18)
Good Day Sacramento – Lobo Fire Threatening Thousands of Homes in Nevada County (9-4-18)
Living Wild Project – Redbud
NASA – Fire and Smoke (8-7-18)
Nevada County 2018-19 Fire Safe Guide – California’s new normal?
New York Times –  California Fire Now the Largest in State History: ‘People Are on Edge’

NASA Photo – Mendocino Complex fires – July 2018

Population Reference Bureau – Human Population Lesson Plan
The Union – Disaster averted; Firefighters save homes in western Nevada County (7-18-18)

Plants & Animals

Audobon – Why Native Plants Matter
Audubon’s handy database.  Enter your zip code for a list of native plants and the birds they’ll attract.

California Native Grassland Association
California Native Plant Society

Calscape – Gardening and Landscaping
Calscape – Native Plant Nurseries in California
Library of Congress – Edible Wild Plants
Monarch Joint Venture – Counter the loss of monarch habitat
MonarchWatch.org
Native American Ethnobotany Database – Nisenan Tribe
Sunset Magazine – Knock-Out Native Plants
UC Master Gardiners of Nevada County
University of California, Berkeley – University and Jepson Herbaria
Wild Seed Project

“By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.” – Audobon

More Books

Bringing Nature Home, How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants
by Douglas Tallamay

Growing California Native Plants, by Marjorie G. Schmidt

Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California by Alicia Funk

Yerba Santa – Fire Follower & Phlegm Fighter

First published Juen 29, 2018

Yerba santa – Eriodictyon californicum – is native to California and Oregon.

Its common name is Spanish for “sainted weed” or “blessed herb.”

Native people are thought to have educated the early missionaries about plant uses.

Habitat

This sun-loving plant generally grows on east or south-facing slopes. It can be found near Douglas-fir, Madrone, Ponderosa Pine, Jeffry pine,  Black, Blue, and Canyon live oaks.

Life Cycle

Seedlings and new growth – spring
Blooms – May through June
Seeds Form – late summer
Drops Seeds – fall

After two years, the plant produces rhizomes, a shallow underground stem system that helps it spread.

Fire Follower

Yerba santa produces hardy seeds. They can lay dormant for ten years or more, waiting for a fire or ground disturbance to germinate.

Glutinous resins produced by the leaves make them shiny. The resins are flammable.

Animal Feed & Honey

Black-tailed deer will eat Yerba Santa leaves early in the growth cycle when the resins are sweet. Seed capsules are consumed by small animals and birds.

Honey made from Yerba Santa flowers has an amber color and a spicy flavor.

Soil Stabilization

Yerba Santa’s shallow root and rhizomes control and stabilize soil erosion.

Human Uses

Commonly called consumptive’s weed, Yerba santa branches and leaves were historically burned in steam baths to relive tuberculosis symptoms.

Leaf compounds, included in cough medicines, dilate bronchial tubes and function as an expectorant – an agent that brings up and expels phlegm.

Yerba santa has also been used to for;

  • headache
  • colds
  • stomachache
  • asthma
  • hay fever
  • rheumatism
  • pulmonary and bronchial congestion
  • blood purifier

Applications

Leaves can be used fresh or dried in tea.

Fresh leaves can be applied to the skin (they stick). They can be rolled into balls and sun-dried. Chewing them (bitter at first, then sweet) is a natural mouthwash.

Mashed leaves can be spread over cuts, sores, and to relieve aching muscles.

Responsible Harvesting

Harvest light green, new-growth leaves from early to late summer. Only take a few from each plant, leaving the root systems intact.

 

If you liked this post, you might also like – Native Plants for Healing the Land

Resources:

Calflora – Yerba Santa

Encyclopedia of Life – Eriodictyon californicum

click on the image to see Yerba Santa Life on the Creek art

The School of Forest Medicine – Yerba Santa the Holy Herb

USDA National Resources Conservation Service – Yerba Santa Plant Guide PDF

USDA Forest Service – Yerba Santa

WebMD – Yerba Santa

Wikipedia – Eriodictyon californicum

Mugwort – Dream Plant with a Long History

First published May 23, 2017

Aromatic mugwort has been used to help women with menstrual and menopausal issues, it has been included with greens to stuff geese, and used to make beer before hops became popular.

Its generic name, Artemisia, comes from the Greek moon goddess, Artemis, patron of women.

In Pagan ceremonies, a belt of mugwort was worn while dancing around the fire summer solstice celebrations. When the dance was over, the plant was thrown into the flames to ensure protection for the coming year.

Romans planted it at the edges of roads so travelers could put it in their shoes to relieve aching feet.

Some Native Americans rubbed mugwort leaves on their skin to prevent poison oak rash.

They called it the ‘dream plant’ because they believed that it helped to remember their dreams.

For this purpose, they dried the leaves, burned them as incense, or stuffed them in pillows to sleep on.

Sometimes mugwort was worn on the body to keep ghosts away or to ward off evil dreams.

The next time you are out in the grassy wilds of Nevada County or walking near the creek, look for mugwort. Roll a fragrant leaf between your fingers and smell it while thinking about the many ways people have used this plant.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Yerba Santa – Fire Follower and Phlegm Fighter.

 

 

Resources:

Artemis, Greek Mythology

Botanical.commugwort

Central Miwok Ceremonies, Anthropological Records (PDF), by E. W. Gifford, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1955

Encyclopedia.com, medicine, pharmacology, mugwort

Indian Herbal Remedies: Rational Western Therapy, Ayurvedic and other Traditional Usage, Botany (Google books)

Native American Plant Mythology website

Native American herbal books on Amazon

WebMD  – Mugwart overview, uses, side effects, interactions and dosing

click on the image to see Mugwort Life of on the Creek art

Wikipedia – California Mugwart, Artemsia, douglasiana

 

 

 

Mining Pollution Legacy and Clean-Up

First published May 21, 2017

In the mid-1850’s hydraulic mining filled the stream channels and muddied the waters all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.

Mercury was used in sluice boxes to amalgamate gold. “It is estimated that ten million pounds of mercury were lost into the streams,” comments Kyle Leach, Geologist for Sierra Streams Institute.

“The tale of the Gold Rush is a greedy tale,” says Shelly Covert, Nisenan Tribal Council Secretary. “Miners came for the land and for the gold. All of the trees, waterways, fish, and plants that  our families lived on were gone.”

 

Resources:

Crow’s Range: An Environmental History of the Sierra Nevada, by David Beesley [KXJZ, Insight interview 35:46]

Nisenan Tribal Members Collect Scientific Data to Restore the Land (2017)

Abandoned Mine Clean-Up | Sierra Streams Institute

  • Providence Mine (2015)
  • Stiles Mill (2013) – Under Pine Street Bridge
  • Pioneer Park (2017)
  • Providence Quartz Mill (ongoing) – off Providence Mine Rd.

2009

 

Development of Lake Wildwood & Current Events

First published May 21, 2017

“Ed Colwell owned the Anthony House [current location of Lake Wildwood] before Boise Cascade bought it…  He had peacocks and big white geese, which he would rent out for such things [as] pulling weeds from spinach beds. He raised turkeys and some cows. Mostly, however, he raised horses. He had 300 brook mares and one Palomino stud…He sold the Palomino colts. This was during the Roy Rogers era; …Everybody wanted a Palomino,”  says Alice Magonigle in the article Long-Time Rancher Looks Back by Marianne McKnight, 1999 – Penn Valley Chamber of Commerce.

  • 1967 ranch land purchased by Boise Cascade
  • 1968 Lake Wildwood Association incorporation
  • 1969 early summer – construction began on the dam, road construction, golf course, marina, and buildings
  • 1969 Lake Wildwood filled

 

E. Coli Contamination at Lake Wildwood

CBS 13 – Sacramento – Geese Euthanization – July 12, 2018
KNCO – E.Coli Restrictions Still In Place Lake Wildwood – Feb. 23. 2018

If you liked this blog post, you might also like, Anthony House & Penn Valley Under Lake Wildwood.

 

Resources:

Article: The Union – Urban refugees, country-seekers flock to Nevada County developments for ‘good life’– The Union – July 27, 2014
Book: Shapping the Sierra; Nature, Culture and Conflict in the Changing West by Timothy P. Duane – LWW sewage treatment plant

1996 Lake Drain

Video: 1969/70 Boise Cascade development in San Bernadino County

Website: Lake Wildwood Home Owners Association

Pill Bug – Heavy Metal Detector of the Underworld

First published September 1, 2018

The shrimp sized roly-poly kids love to play with has a night job making soil a nicer place to live…if you’re a plant or microorganism.

Photo Credit: Franco Folini

Also Known As…

Doodle bugs, potato bugs, wood shrimp, pill woodlouse, armadillo bug, log-louse, boat-builder (Newfoundland), cheeselog (England), chiggy pig (Devon, England), monkey-peas (Kent, England), and slater (Scotland) these tiny animals are best known for a defense reaction.

Conglobation is the act of rolling into a ball. Entomologists say this behavior also preserves water when the surroundings become too dry.

Pill bugs are isopods (without a backbone); not bugs at all, they are crustaceans most closely related to shrimp and lobster.

Photo Credit: Sandstein

The scientific name, Armadillidium vulgare, was given for its likeness to the armadillo conglobation behavior.

Out of the Water but Retaining Moisture

Millions of years ago, these crustaceans moved from the ocean and adapted to life on land.  Gills formed pleopods that act like lungs. These must be kept moist to function.

Staying damp is a powerful pill bug motivator.

A fascinating behavior is a 911 pheromone call. Responding to the chemical communication, a large number (70+) of like-species aggregate. Animals arrive to cover an individual with their bodies to assist with water retention.

Habitat

Typical habitat is under rocks, leaves, or fallen logs and in compost piles. Generally, millipedes, earthworms, and sow bugs are found in the same places. Pill bugs need moisture, but they don’t like saturation.

Studies measuring the biomass (total number) of animals in different locations on farms found that pill bug populations are stronger in untilled soil and in environments where pesticides have not been used.

Because pill bugs need calcium to maintain their exoskeleton; they prefer soil with a neutral pH.

Although Armadillidium vulgare can be found during the day, most of their activity occurs at night.

Diet

Fortunately, pill bug dietary requirements align with the need for moisture. They feed on decaying wood, plant matter, and fungus. Occasionally they will also graze on algae and lichens.

Their excrement further breaks down nutrients making them available for microorganisms and tree roots.

Heavy Metal Indicators

Pill bugs consume copper, zinc, lead, and cadmium. Rather than absorbing and eliminating the metals, they accumulate and store them in digestive glands. Because of this, pill bugs are useful bioindicators of heavy metal pollution.

Predators

Predators include ground beetles, scorpions, spiders, birds, frogs, toads, newts, and lizards. When young are soft after molting, sometimes pill bugs eat each other.

Life Cycle

Females produce one to two broods per year consisting of 100 to 200 eggs. She carries them in a marsupium-like pouch on her underside for nearly a month. After hatching, the young remain in the pouch for several weeks, feeding off marsupial fluid.

Once leaving the mother, babies molt every two weeks for the next four-and-a-half months gaining body segments and additional legs.

Adults can live for two to five years.

Next time you spot a roly-poly, you’ll appriciate that its much more
than a ‘bug’ that rolls into a ball.

If you liked this post, you may also like Cuckoo Wasp – A Living Jewel.

Resources:

American Orchid Society – Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs
Carolina Biological “Critters in the Classroom” Pillbugs
Encyclopedia of Life – Armadillidium vulgare
GoExploreNature.com – Build a Roly-Poly Terrarium
Insect Identification

Isopod Newsletter
Marine Species.Org – Isopodia
Macalester.edu – Ordway Biodiversity Inventory
Maurizio G. Paoletti, Dipartimento di Biologia Università di Padova
lab. Agroecology and Ethnobiology
–  Woodlice: their potential for sustainability and as bioindicators
Midwood Science Research – macro pillbug photos
PBS – Pill bugs emerged from the sea to conquer the Earth
Science Daily – Invasive Roly-polys Might Actually Help The Soil, Study Reveals (2005)
Scientific American – Student Science – Springtime Science: What’s Home Sweet Home to a Bug?
ThoughtCo. – 15 Fascinating facts about Pill Bugs  (Note: Isopod photo with the article is a Sow Bug.)
University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources – How to Manage Pests in 
Garden Landscapes
University of Illinois Extension – Composting for the Homeowner
University of Florida – Pill BugWikipedia.org – Armadillidium vulgare
Wikipedia.org – Woodlouse

 

Cuckoo Wasp – A Living Jewel

First published May 21, 2017

The Cuckoo wasp is an eye-catching creature that is easy to see.

Its brilliant turquoise color is created when light refracts between hollow layers of the exoskeleton. This adaptation makes the stealthy insect virtually invisible when it enters the dark burrows of its prey.

Foraging for nectar during a hot afternoon. Cuckoo wasps are most active between May and August.

The Cuckoo wasp is parasitic. It watches and waits to find ground bee and wasp nests. To enter, it will often hitch rides on victims being dragged inside. The bumpy exoskeleton of the Cuckoo wasp protects it from stings.  It also has an indented midsection, like a pill bug, that allows it to curl into a ball– another protective measure. Once inside, the Cuckoo wasp lays its eggs inside the host larvae. Its stinger evolved into an egg-laying tube, so it couldn’t hurt you if you wanted to let one crawl on your hand.

One species of Cuckoo wasp first came to California from Africa in the mid-nineteenth century. It parasitized mud dobber larvae aboard sailing ships.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Pill Bug – Heavy Metal Detector of the Underworld.

Resources:

Bay Nature Magazine – Bug Guide

Texas A&M- Cuckoo Wasps

Wikipedia – Cuckoo Wasp

Bird’s Nest Fungi – Spores Spread by Rain Drops

First published May 20, 2017

At first glance, they look like curious, minuscule insect nests. Tiny baskets, holding a collection of

‘eggs,’ clinging to a dead log at the edge of Deer Creek.

Identification investigations revealed something more interesting than ‘just’ insects.  Bird’s Nest Fungi – Nidulariaceae, Cyathus stercoreus – mushrooms that use raindrops to propagate.

Moving with the Rain

Raindrops aren’t the only way they move from place to place. At the base of the peridiole (spore sack) is a cord that unfurls when disturbed. Like newborn spiders, these cords are long and sticky. They cling to whoever or whatever passes by.

Anatomy of a Fungus

Once the peridiole drops off or is eaten and excreted by an animal, the spores are released to begin a new life cycle.

The ‘nests’ are approximately five millimeters in diameter, about half the size of a pencil top.

Bird’s Nest Fungi can be seen in late winter and early spring. Look for them in shady places growing on dead or decomposing wood.

 

Resources:

Fungi of California

Mushrooms, Fungi, Mycology

Wikipedia – Bird’s Nest Fungi – Nidulariaceae