Learn, Participate, Conserve
Giant hogweed has been in the news a lot lately due to its devastating effects on humans who have inadvertently and unfortunately come in contact with it, most recently in Virginia. This plant's range is mainly in New England, a few Mid Atlantic states and the Pacific Northwest. The sap from giant hogweed, when it comes in contact with the skin and is then exposed to sunlight, can cause severe burns and scarring. It will then leave skin sensitive to sunlight for many years. If the sap gets into your eyes, it can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
Naturedigger's Rash Plants app will be including giant hogweed in our next update this fall with dozens of photos and annotated images that will help you identify this plant either by it's massive flower (umbel) in the summer or its leaves, stems or dried canes, so you will easily recognize it and steer clear of it. If you should find it on your property, contact someone experienced with removal of dangerous plants. NEVER remove this plant yourself. The slide show shows Mike Bald of Got Weeds (Vermont) and his field assistant, Nate Stratton with giant hogweed. Mike and Nate are experienced in dangerous plant removal and/or management. They are covered and wash immediately after touching any part of the plant. Below is a sample of images you will find in the Rash Plants app this fall.
We don't often think of ladybugs or ladybird beetles as primary pollinators, but they are! Not only do they pollinate flowers and vegetables, they also eat garden pests such as aphids. Beetles are the largest group of pollinators, so we thought it would be appropriate to give a shout out to hard working beetles this week since bees and butterflies generally take center stage during National Pollinator Week!
Today is a day to really think about our oceans and what they mean to us. This raft of otters is one of the things we are so grateful to see when we visit the ocean in California. Conservation efforts are a major focus of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other organizations that are responsible for increasing populations of ocean fish and mammals, but what can YOU do to help our oceans? It's so simple, and you don't need to spend a dime. If you just stop purchasing or supporting single use plastic, you will be doing a lot to help our oceans. Starting small by refusing a straw at a restaurant, carrying a reusable water bottle and taking your own bags to stores rather than accepting plastic bags will help tremendously. These are easy lifestyle changes to make, they just take a little practice. We know you can do it, so make the pledge today, and the next time you order an iced tea, water or soda at lunch, just say, "no straw please!" It's that easy. Happy World Oceans Day.
Every spring throughout May and June, particularly during high tides and new moons, horseshoe crabs begin spawning. If you happen to catch this event, you won't forget it! The male hooks onto the back of the female's shell with his adapted "boxing glove" claws and hangs on while she digs the nest and deposits thousands of tiny green eggs. The eggs are then fertilized by not only the male hitching a ride, but very often, several additional males. These other males are called satellites.
Several migrating birds depend on horseshoe crab eggs, such as the endangered red knot, making horseshoe crab conservation even more important. Here are some of the ways you can help horseshoe crabs:
Just Flip Em!
The easiest way to help horseshoe crab is to just flip them over if you see them upside down on a beach. This could save their lives and help increase their numbers. You simply grab the outer edges of the shell and flip them over, making sure you don't break the tail, which can retract inward when handled. Don't worry about their tail (telson), it's harmless as are the legs and claws.
Become a citizen scientist
You can help horseshoe crabs by participating in surveys to help conservation organizations tag, count and assess horseshoe crab populations. Yes, this is a thing! We have several of these organizations listed in the Horseshoe SOS app. If you always wanted to participate in a citizen science program, this is a perfect opportunity.
Report a Tag
If you happen to see a tagged horseshoe crab (dead or alive or a detached tag), please download our Horseshoe SOS app and report it to the US Fish and Wildlife service. It's easy and your data is critically important.
Horseshoe crabs are amazing, ancient animals, and if you have the chance to visit one of the many spawning sites along the east coast, please do. It's not every day you see a 450 million year old, virtually unchanged "living fossil" in the wild.
May 18th is Endangered Species Day, so get out and make a difference! Of course, we think it should be a national holiday because we take threatened and endangered species verrrry seriously. Now is the perfect time for you to start participating in conservation of a threatened or endangered species in your neck of the woods. You can start by Googling a species you're interested in, then look for citizen science opportunities to get involved. Naturedigger offers horseshoe crab and monarch butterfly tagging opportunities in our Monarch SOS and Horseshoe SOS apps, which is a great place to begin gathering data on the population of these species. However, there are many other opportunities to become involved, you just have to do a little legwork, send a few email inquiries and make some calls. It really is that easy.
Below is a gallery of the many species we've encountered while doing fieldwork for our iOS apps.
Note: Monarch butterfly numbers are declining rapidly, and there isn't enough data on horseshoe crab populations to make a determination about their status, but we've added them to this list to give them their time in the spotlight, since we think they are more than deserving even though they aren't officially listed at this time.