Learn, Participate, Conserve
Aside from keeping people informed about what is going on with our many iOS apps, we provide nature and conservation education using this website and blog. There are too many important issues facing our natural world to begin to cover in this one blog or even in thousands over many years, but there is one issue in particular we should focus on and never become complacent about, and that is educating the public about the effect outdoor cats have on our native bird and mammal populations. This isn't an anti kitty post, it's simply education about the devastating effects outdoor cats have on bird and mammal populations.
True story. Recently, I was called to a neighbor's house to help her daughter clean up the carnage left behind by their cat. The scene was indescribable. The photo shouldn't be posted, and my apologies if it offends anyone. This is an attempt to reach and appeal to the outdoor cat owners and urge them, at the very least, to refrain from adopting another outdoor cat once your current one is gone. Our songbird population is reduced by billions (that's with a B) annually because of unnecessary predation by cats. Mammal mortality also numbers in the billions because of cats. If the graphic image below (which shows the remains of a cardinal's body in front of the bed and the entrails in the top corner of the bed) isn't enough to encourage you to keep cats indoors, then remember that outdoor cats have significantly shorter lifespans than indoor cats. They can also bring fleas and ticks into the house which, as we know, is not healthy for other household pets or humans. So please keep wild birds and mammals in mind when you adopt, and keep cats warm and safe inside your home and critters alive and well outside in the natural world where they belong.
Field season is winding down, so this has been the month of app updates. They have all been updated to the new iOS 11, but the one app you'll notice that has just a "few" more changes is Monarch SOS. This was an overdue update, and if you're a fan of this app, you'll notice some very obvious changes and some new additions that we felt would be useful. Here are a few of the cool changes/additions that will be available later this week.
Our first major improvement is the At a Glance section. You'll remember this as the Quick ID section. This is now first on the menu and specific to monarchs and their life cycles. We raised 19 monarch butterflies this year, which is amazing since we haven't had a monarch in our neighborhood for ten years. We actually witnessed a female laying her eggs, then collected and raised them from being laid within minutes through eclosure.
You'll notice a few new buttons on the navigation screen. We broke out look-alikes from the monarch section so you can get to them quickly and instinctively. We also added the side by side slide to the Compare tab, so users can immediately compare the look-alike to a monarch rather than scrolling through the Quick ID slides to find the right one. Makes sense! We also broke out programs from reports. If you are a citizen scientist in the western US, you will definitely appreciate this change. Our reporting Monarch Joint Venture partners now have their own separate report section, rather then a buried report tab as part of their general program pages.
We included a Support Monarch SOS section in the slide out menu and updated the How to Use this App section, also in the slide out menu.
Our next major update will include several new milkweed photos thanks to Brad Grimm of Grow Milkweed Plants and others who have offered their milkweed images to help users better ID milkweed in their region.
Check out our slideshow below for a pre-release preview of the new Monarch SOS update!
This week is all about updating our apps for iOS 11. Not much fun but necessary if you want our apps to work on your devices! We are also working on a pretty major update to Monarch SOS that we think you'll love.
You can hear the familiar song of the katydid (above) during spring and summer when they are breeding. In all species the front wings have special structures that can be rubbed together to make their unique sounds, which sounds a lot like "katy-did...katy-didn't!" They hear these sounds with flat patches on their legs (see above) that act as ears. Males may all "sing" together to attract females.
So what happens to these insects during the winter? Katydids typically only live a year. The eggs that are laid either on plants or in the soil in late summer/early fall can overwinter, but adults cannot. Once they hatch (nymph stage) they resemble adults without wings. They then shed their skin (molt) to grow. Once they're adults and have developed wings, they will no longer molt. The adult females then lay their eggs and the cycle begins again.
The forest sounds eerily quiet when katydids disappear, so make sure to sit outside for the next few weeks if you want to hear them once more before the temperature drops and the singing stops until spring.
We have finally gotten the Naturedigger YouTube channel populated with videos from our monarch rearing adventures this summer. You can view the one of a monarch eclosing from its chrysalis below. Such a cool thing to catch!
The last half of July and the entire month of August was dedicated largely to raising monarch butterflies. Other fieldwork included photographing invasive species for upcoming app updates as well. But monarchs took up the majority of our time. It has been ten years since monarchs visited our garden, and we had the amazing good fortune to witness a female laying eggs on very young (up to 1 foot tall) milkweed plants. We collected 20 of those eggs and 18 made it to the chrysalis stage. We chose one butterfly to monitor daily and called her Truman.
We released Truman yesterday to embark on an epic journey to Mexico where, if she makes it, will overwinter until the spring when she begins northward to mate, lay eggs and die. She is special because she is the generation that lives up to 8 months rather than a couple of short weeks. Here's to hoping Truman makes it to Mexico! Below is our very own Truman show from when she was a tiny 1 mm egg to her release into the wild 5 weeks later. See her being released here!
Today we are monitoring several monarch butterflies in various stages. Some are still eating and moving around, others are in their J stage, while several others have just formed a new chrysalis, like our favorite larva (caterpillar) Truman (from the Truman show - we've been watching every stage since he hatched. Truman is the chrysalis just to the right of our very first reared monarch butterfly of the year. She made her appearance around 9:30, and Truman formed his chrysalis alongside her about 1/2 hour later. Needless to say, this has been a very exciting morning at Naturedigger!