Take a moment out of your busy week to celebrate these awesome animals! If you're a sea otter fan, definitely visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and learn about the many ways they are helping this endangered species. There are several places to view them in the wild including whale watches and Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing. Remember your wildlife ethics, and if you see them in the water while kayaking keep at least 60 or more feet (+20 meters) away, to insure they are not stressed. Definitely bring your camera, since sea otters are one of the most playful, entertaining and unique marine creatures we have the good fortune to celebrate in our lifetime!
Sometimes it's better to snap that pic and ask questions later. In this case, I ran across a female tarantula hawk wasp nectaring on narrow-leaved milkweed at Ulistac Natural Area in Santa Clara. The wasp is about 2 inches long and truly stunning, so I thought, "whoa, what a cool find!" After about three seconds of research I found out this insect has the second most painful sting in the world. Yes, the world. If stung by one of these wasps, it is recommended that you lay flat on your back on the ground and scream. That way, you won't hurt yourself jumping, running and tripping over or into anything. Thankfully the worst of the pain subsides in about five minutes and the sting isn't lethal to humans, just their prey. So, if you live where tarantulas live, then be on the lookout for these wasps!
We hope you find the Naturedigger website a little more user friendly and can find the app and nature education you're looking for quickly and easily. Each app now has its own designated page with a description of each as well as a slide show preview of what you can expect to see in the app. If you like what you see, you can easily download the app using the download button.
We are still working on updates to Rash Plants, Lakes SOS and Monarch SOS. We have many photos from this field season to include both in the apps and on the site, so you'll see some new content and updates in the next few months.
We would love your feedback if you are already an app user and can think of any information we may be missing. We always love to hear from you! Please use the email feature on the site to contact us.
Aphids and ants have a unique symbiotic relationship. As most know, this type of relationship in nature benefits both parties. For the ants, aphids excrete a sugar- rich fluid called honeydew which feeds them. Ants may even tickle the aphids (or milk them) with their antennae to promote excretion. For the aphids, ants provide protection against predators and also make sure they are well fed. Ants attack any threat to the aphid colony including the eggs or larvae of predators. They will also move aphids from one food source to another once a source becomes depleted. If you've ever witnessed aphid damage, you know this happens to food crops as well as other plants such as milkweed (above image) often.
To keep aphid numbers in check, predators such as assassin bugs and ladybugs (or ladybird beetles) are vitally important. These beneficial insects are effective predators of aphids and are a welcome visitor to any garden or crop. Above, a ladybug feeds on Aphis nerii or the oleander aphid on a common milkweed pod.
July and August have been very busy fieldwork months for us! We've been collecting data all over the country for future updates to our Rash Plants and Monarch SOS apps. We have more Atlantic poison oak pics from Florida to include in Rash Plants as well as tons of new Pacific poison oak berry pics from the California coast. You can expect a more comprehensive monarch life cycle Quick ID section in Monarch SOS that will improve identification of monarch larvae instars. Below is an example of one of our new life cycle images. This is a new fifth instar, an hour after molting (shedding its skin). They rest for an hour or two after a molt, then typically eat the entire skin.
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.