Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, and this week (June 19th-25th) we're celebrating them! What are you doing to help out our pollinators? Maybe you're making a pledge to stop using harmful chemicals on your lawn or in your garden, or maybe you're planting a pollinator garden. We'd love to hear from you, so please leave us a comment below!
We visited one of our favorite stands of cow parsnip today while collecting data for our Rash Plants app. This is a seriously cool looking plant, but don't touch it! If the sap gets on any part of your skin, then sunlight shines on the area, you can come down with a nasty case of phytophotodermatitis, which is a chemical reaction that makes skin hypersensitive to sunlight. Exposure will most likely cause severe burns and leave a nasty scar. Admire this one from a distance! This plant is often confused with its close relative, giant hogweed.
Emily, our field assistant (and very good sport) took a minute to pose for a sweet photo next to poison sumac. She's not only a great field assistant, but we think she'll make a fine biologist, since she can ID this very toxic wetland shrub and is also a poison ivy ID guru. We don't think contact dermatitis is in Emily's future! Check out the Rash Plants app if you're not familiar with poison sumac.
May was invasive species month, so we decided to spotlight invasive species in general rather than focus on one. June is going to be our Clean Drain and Dry month, since many summer vacations begin and boating season is officially in full swing. That means boats are hopping from lake to lake and back again. Although this is great fun for the boater, the reality is that they can be spreading invasive species between waterbodies causing irreparable damage to the wildlife and the recreation potential of the river or lake. The solution to this problem? Clean, Drain & Dry. If we all followed this protocol, our waterbodies would be in much better shape than they are today. It's not too late to start.
The first step is to CLEAN all visible plant matter (stems, fragments, roots, leaves) from your prop, anchor, paddles, life vests, tow ropes, fishing gear, basically everything. This visual inspection can catch about 90% of invasive plants. For invasive animals, it's a bit trickier, since many have microscopic larval stages and cannot be detected with a simple visual inspection. If you run your hand along the hull of the boat or kayak and it feels like sandpaper, there could be juvenile zebra or quagga mussels attached. Entering another waterbody could easily spread those animals. There is little a waterbody can do to fight these invaders, so it is very important to follow this protocol.
Once inspected boats must be thoroughly washed with high pressure water, heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is best, whenever possible. Rinsing the boat, trailer (bunks, especially) fishing gear, dive gear and tackle will ensure you are removing plant fragments and small animals attached to the hull of the boat.
The second step will help take care of microscopic animals hitchhiking in stored or standing water. This is the DRAIN step, which is vitally important since many invasive species survive long periods of time when kept wet. Remember to drain the bilge, motor, live wells and any other containers or compartments that hold water or standing water, FAR FROM A WATERBODY! Remove all drain plugs while transporting, but don't forget to put them in when you get to the next river or lake! Do not throw bait into waterbodies unless they were originally caught there. This is how many invasive fish get their start. Throw all bait in the trash.
The final step, DRY, will ensure you've removed all species from your vessel or gear. Take an absorbent cotton or microfiber towel and dry every part of the boat including the anchor storage compartment. If you dry all areas of stored or standing water, microscopic larvae will be removed. When you've dried everything, let your vessel sit in the sun for at least 5 days, longer during more humid times. This isn't always possible, so if you must visit another waterbody, please be sure to follow all of the steps and then thoroughly dry EVERYTHING.
Be familiar with invasive species in waterbodies you are visiting. Many rivers and lakes have Lake Hosts or Stewards who check boats for invasive species while also educating boaters about the waterbody they are entering. Pay close attention to them and remember all of the steps and spread the word, not invasive species!
This is a busy time of year for turtles. We are seeing them quite often trying to cross the road to get from point A to point B. The problem is that many people disagree with point B and return them to the side they were coming FROM. Please note that they may not seem to know where they're going, but they do! If you see one, please help them across (careful if they're snapping turtles!) and carry or guide them safely across in the direction they were heading. If you see a turtle on a bend in the road, be sure to pull far off the road way ahead of or way behind the turtle and turn on your hazards. Go back for the turtle, making sure you can see and hear traffic in both directions. Safety first. If there is no oncoming traffic, let the turtle cross by itself to avoid unnecessary stress, and if you do help them, do not handle them excessively. Beware that a stressed turtle will often empty it's bladder. Don't drop them if this happens!!!! It's just urine, and it will wash right off.
Why should we help turtles? First, because protecting wildlife from vehicle strikes and other dangers caused by humans is the right thing to do. Second, turtles take a very long time, sometimes over ten years, to reach sexual maturity, i.e. reproductive age. Losing turtles early in their lives can be devastating to any species, particularly those that are already threatened, endangered or a species of special concern. Turtles really can use all the help they can get in order to reach that age and begin reproducing.
Please be safe out there and thank you for helping our turtles!
Photo courtesy of: Connecticut DEEP