Volunteer Spotlight: Curiosity Driven by Community, Flowers, and Phenology

Pat Fairchild has been a volunteer for more than 15 years at Riveredge. Back then, she was seeking a flexible volunteering opportunity that worked with her hectic work schedule. The Tuesday Habitat Healer crew was the perfect fit. Whenever able, she’d show up to plant seedlings, snip invasive species, or help with other outdoor conservation work.

Curiosity Leads to New Knowledge and Skills

In order to learn about the flora she saw, Pat asked a lot of questions from fellow volunteers and staff members. “Everyone is so helpful and generous with their diverse knowledge,” says Pat. Being a visual learner, she started photocopying pictures of the species she saw blooming along the trails and posting the pictures on the Visitor’s Center wall for others to learn from as well. But one day a copy store employee told her that wasn’t allowed due to copyright…even if it was for educational purposes. So Pat bought a camera and began shooting and developing her own photographs to post on the wall.

While the Visitor’s Center was closed in spring due to Covid-19 concerns, Pat continued her weekly wildflower walks and we’ve been posting her phenological flower observations to the Riveredge Blog. “It’s great – I get out of the house, see the flowers and get some exercise. I’m a person who needs a purpose…I don’t just go out walking for no reason,” says Pat. “The flowers help me have a reason to get outdoors.”

Connection to Community and the Land

In addition to being a Habitat Healer, Pat has also been an interpretive naturalist and helps us raise Lake Sturgeon. Additionally, Pat also makes the time to volunteer with Interfaith, the American Cancer Society, and the Saukville Community Food Pantry.

The combination of community and love for the land is what keeps Pat coming back to Riveredge. “There are so many volunteers at Riveredge who have dedicated so much time and effort to making this place what it is – some of the people who started this place are still involved!” Pat says. “This land gets in your bones,” she smiles, “And you keep coming back.”

Hidden Summer Gems to Explore at Riveredge

With 379 acres and 10 miles of trails, Riveredge Nature Center has so many ever-changing beautiful places to see and experience throughout the year. Here are a few of our favorite summer places to explore.

Prehistoric Fern Fantasy Land

Step back into the time of the dinosaurs and experience the ferns lining the trail near the Milwaukee River. They grow so dense in early summer that it can play tricks on the eyes; so plentiful that the tessellated greenscape can appear surreal. Rather than flowers and seeds, ferns reproduce by sending out spores. Early in the season they unfurl fronds in a shape known as “fiddleheads.” Later in the season, ferns dry and senesce to look like brown fossils standing out of the earth, testaments to both an earlier time and an earlier season.

Flowers and Insects in the Summertime Prairie

Summer is that time when the prairie really sings, both figuratively and literally. A menagerie of insects and birds flit, buzz, and hover from bloom to branch. From the yellow explosion of Coreopsis, to the wispy scarlet of Prairie Smoke, and the feathery pinks of Queen of the Prairie, a stunning cascade blooms throughout the warm months.

  Larsen Climbing Rocks

What could be more natural to a Riveredge Kid than climbing? The Larsen Climbing Rocks are the perfect place for kids of every age to explore, practice gross motor skills and balance, Conveniently located just past the Yurts, a good rock crawl is the perfect start to any trail jaunt.

The Calm of Riveredge Creek

Many people might not know, but portions of Riveredge Nature Center are a designated State Natural Area, which denotes a high quality habitat. Riveredge Creek winds through this section. Intersections where the trail crosses Riveredge Creek are perfect locations to feel the cool shade beneath cedars and immerse in the tranquil sounds of a burbling creek while listening to the calls and wing flaps of nearby birds.

Visit Riveredge today to discover your favorite spots!

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Spiderwort can be seen throughout Riveredge prairies.

In Bloom

Bullhead Lily
Blue Flag Iris
Canada Anemone
Tall Meadow Rue
Fragrant White Water Lily
Lance Leaved Coreopsis
Hairy Beardtongue
Blue Wild Indigo
White Wild Indigo
Hoary Alyssum
Prairie Golden Aster
Common Cinquefoil
Cow Parsnip
Large Flowered Beardtongue
Wild Garlic
Spreading Dogbane
Northern Bedstraw
Pale Purple Coneflower
Tall Beardtongue
White Avens
Poke Milkweed
Heal All
Pale Spike Lobelia
Black Eyed Susan
Wild Quinine
Wild Four O’Clock

Pale Purple Coneflower

Flower in Bud

Wild Leek

Bug o’the Week – Spectacular Summer Dragonflies

Howdy, BugFans,


This episode originally appeared in 2011 under the title of “Confusing Summer Dragonflies.”  They are confusing in that they all have dark patches on their wings – interspersed with white patches in mature males but not in juvenile males.  The word “pruinose” rears its head again, as the abdomens of males of today’s dragonflies develop some degree of “hoariness,” due to the production of waxy scales, as they age.

Represented by 103 species in North America, the Skimmer family (Libellulidae) contains our most common and conspicuous dragonflies – Pennants, Meadowhawks, Gliders, Corporals, Pondhawks, Whitefaces, Saddlebags, Skimmers and the like.  According to Sydney Dunkle in Dragonflies through Binoculars, they are colorful but not metallic, often have patterned wings, and their eyes contact each other at the top of their head.  Skimmers are often sexually dimorphic, with colorful males and not-so-colorful females.


A female Skimmer doesn’t have an ovipositor like females of other dragonfly groups so instead of “inserting” her eggs into the water, she jolts them from her abdomen by smacking its tip on the water’s surface above submerged vegetation.  Males generally “hover-guard” while their ladies are thus engaged, preventing them from being shanghaied by rival males.  Widow skimmers, Whitetails and Twelve-spots prefer shallow ponds and lakes, and very slow streams with lots of organic muck on the bottom.  Submerged aquatic plants are great, but they don’t care for floating duckweed leaves that coat the water.  They are effective predators of mosquitoes and other aerial insects.


Today we take to the air with three big dragonflies that belong to a group called the “King Skimmers” – the genus Libellula.  Four-spotted and Slaty Skimmers are also in the genus, and Chalk-fronted Corporals (Ladona julia) are sometimes included in the group.  Dunkle calls the King Skimmers “the quintessential dragonflies” – strong fliers, feisty, territorial, stout-bodied.  Compared to the damselflies, these are giants; a few damselflies could easily sit on each of their wings.  All have dark eyes; the males are pretty distinctive, but the females can be a bit confusing.


As with most dragonflies, the information sites on the internet are logarithmically outnumbered by the zillions of photography sites that feature the work of happy dragonfly stalkers, and there is a lot of dragonfly merchandise available on the web.



TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMERS (Libelula pulchella) are the largest of the three (pulchella means “little beauty” but their body is about 2” long and their wingspread is 3”).  Males, females and juveniles all have 12 dark spots on their wings, and mature males add white spots between the dark (a correspondent of the BugLady’s says they look like checkered flags).  They used to be called Ten-spotted Skimmers by people who were counting the light spots instead of the dark ones, but that name didn’t describe the female. The wing spots of female Twelve-spots are similar to those of female Common Whitetails, and they both also have dark abdomens, but if you can get one to sit still, you’ll see a “solid” light/yellow stripe” along each side of the Twelve-spot’s abdomen.


The BugLady frequently sees them perched on last year’s weed stalks in her grassy field, far from the waterfront properties where they woo and win female Twelve-spots.  When they’re chilly, they face into the sun and raise their abdomens, to maximize exposure.

Juvenile male


Males characteristically fly, stop and hover, and then chase off in a different direction, and when disturbed, they will often return to the same sentinel post.  They patrol a territory, chasing off dragonflies of all species and psyching out other Twelve-spot males by executing vertical loop-the-loops around them.  Some of the Atlantic Coast Twelve-spots migrate in fall.


COMMON WHITETAILS (Libellula (sometimes Plathemislydia) are the flashiest of the three.  They’re just under 2” long and a little chunky-looking, and the male’s spectacular pruinose, white abdomen (powder blue in younger males) contrasts with his large dark wing spots (just one on each mid-wing).  Females can be distinguished from female Twelve-spots by a white/light line along each side of the abdomen that is broken/zig-zag, not continuous, and the edges of her dark wing spots are more jagged, too.  Juvenile males’ bodies are marked like females, but as they age, the pruinosity covers the abdominal markings.

Dunkle says that adults are attracted to the dark of mud, where they often perch (of the three, they are most often found on the ground), and they often sun themselves on rocks.  They are most uncooperative, jumpy photographic subjects.  Males fiercely defend a territory about 12 yards long over open water and pond edges.  Dominant males display their bright tails; submissive males lower theirs.  Females lay their eggs in the shallows where there is a lot of submerged vegetation (the habitat their naiads prefer), and the naiads are tolerant of low dissolved oxygen in the water.  If she wants to lay eggs on his prime real estate (up to 1000 eggs in a sitting, repeated every other day), she must mate with the owner.  According to Legler in his wonderful Dragonflies of Wisconsin, a naiad that is ready to transform into an adult may crawl as far as 150’ from its watery home before emerging.


The exquisite WIDOW SKIMMER (Libellula luctuosa) is the BugLady’s favorite of the three.  Widows are so named because they oviposit without the protection of their mates (one source reports that luctuosa means sorrowful and compares their wing color to mourning crepe).  They perch down in the tall grasses and fly up unexpectedly as the BugLady explores, spotting her long before she spots them.

They’re just a bit bigger than Common Whitetails but, to the BugLady’s eye, they look sleeker.  In both sexes, the base of the wing is brown (in the Common Whitetail, the dark patch is toward the middle).  Males have big bluish-white spots next to the brown, fading to clear-ish patches at the wing tips and may have a blue tinge/pruinosity on the abdomen.  The center of the female’s abdomen is a black stripe, bordered on each side by broad, gold stripes that merge at the thorax like an inverted V.  Juveniles start out looking like females, and the juvenile male’s abdomen gradually changes color.


When there aren’t many Widows around, males each defend their own territories (up to 250 square yards), but the territories move daily.  Defense of their home turf can be a contact sport.  With overcrowding, a dominant male emerges and he gets all the ladies.  In dense populations, the male will guard his female as she lays eggs; if she gets raided by an intruder, he will discard his rival’s reproductive material and replace it with his own.


Besides the Legler and Dunkle books, the BugLady recommends Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, by Paulson, and the Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies.


Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – Black fly – The Bug. The Legend.

Howdy, BugFans,

Here’s a slightly enhanced episode from 2012

Nobody’s on the fence about black flies.

Black flies are also called turkey gnats and buffalo gnats, and people who live in black fly country have a whole bunch of other names for them that can’t be repeated here.  Entomologists call them true flies (order Diptera) in the family Simuliidae.  There are more than 1,800 species in the family worldwide (100 in North America; 30 in Wisconsin), and most of them belong in the huge genus Simulium.  What do they look like? Their hump-backed thorax and down-tilted head makes buffalo gnat a good nickname https://bugguide.net/node/view/1808934/bgimage.  BFs are tiny (5 to 10 mm) and dark, with clear wings, many-segmented antennae, and big eyes (and teeth) (just kidding).

If you don’t have cool/cold rivers and streams, you don’t have black flies, and if you do have black flies, it’s a compliment to the quality of those running waters.  Black fly larvae like lots of oxygen and are not tolerant of warmer waters or pollution, a fact that was lamented in an Ohio Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet.  In the No-Good-Deed-Goes-Unpunished category, the black fly populations increased when Ohio streams were cleaned up.

Adult BFs live for about three weeks, laying 150 to 500 eggs either individually on the water’s surface or in clumps attached to rocks, branches, etc. in/above the water (larvae that hatch above the water line immediately drop into the stream).  BF larvae are superbly adapted for staying in place and feeding underwater without being swept away by the current.  The nether end of their bowling-pin-shaped body is equipped with little hooks that they sink into the surface of whatever they are sitting on https://bugguide.net/node/view/1673475/bgimage.  They can also make silk web that helps them to stick tight or to move slowly to another spot.  There usually are several generations per summer, with the final generation overwintering as eggs or as mature larvae that are poised to complete their transformation in spring.  The summertime larval period takes a month or so, but the pupal stage is only a few days long, spent inside a cocoon submerged in an open-ended basket woven by the larva https://bugguide.net/node/view/877917/bgimage.  Emerging adults float up to the water’s surface on bubbles of air.

BF larvae are passive feeders who expand a fringe/fan around their mouth in order to grab/filter out tiny critters and organic (living or once-living) bits that float past them.  It’s the adults’ feeding habits that provoke profanity (“Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” Mark Twain).

Like other biting flies, males are blameless nectar feeders.  Females may also consume nectar, but they need that all-important blood meal in order to reproduce.  Using her sharp, piercing (sometimes described as “blade-like”) mouthparts, a female makes shallow slashes in her prey and then sponges up the blood that flows from its surface capillaries  https://bugguide.net/node/view/389265/bgimage.  Injecting a local anesthetic and an anticoagulant allows her to get the job done efficiently (and causes the subsequent itching and swelling).

Different species of BFs target different kinds of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and some travel a great distance to do so.  Purdue University’s Medical Entomology Department reports that only about six species of BF cause grief for humans in the eastern US (and not all species are prolific biters), though other species annoy simply by their clingy presence.  Dense populations of BFs may cause livestock to lose weight and milk production to falter, and here in Wisconsin, a project to reintroduce the endangered Whooping Crane as a breeding species hit a snag when swarms of bird-biting BFs prevented the cranes from bringing off young.

Adult BFs feed by day; they are strong fliers that dislike wind; they love the thin skin on your ears and neck, and your clothing is no barrier; they have temperature receptors on their antennae (the better to find you with, my dear); and they seem to like the color blue.  Your personal mix of CO2, sweat, shampoo, etc. may make you more – or less – apt to draw flies.

Much as she loves and practices irony and understatement, even the BugLady feels a little guilty for saying that BFs are a big pest.  BFs in the tropics are capable of spreading diseases and parasites, but in the North Country, they are the biting fly that drives people inside when they want to be out – gardening, fishing, canoeing, hiking, camping, or just walking leisurely from the car to the house with a bag of groceries.  Getting a few BF bites is irritating; getting a whole bunch can cause “Black fly Fever,” a flu-like reaction to the BF saliva, and people with BF allergies may end up in the hospital.  Even dense swarms of non-biting BFs are annoying, because they fly into ears, eyes, noses and mouths.  An article about BFs in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1993 quoted a clergyman who traveled through the “northlands” (probably French Canada) in 1624 as saying that BFs inflicted “the worst martyrdom I suffered in this country.”

Lots of brain power has been devoted to BF control over the years, and websites, brochures and papers about control measures read like war games manuals.  It’s hard to zap the adults because they disperse away from their natal streams, and many pesticides should not be used in the watery habitats of the larvae because they kill other species indiscriminately.  Some folks feel that the common repellent DEET may actually attract BFs, but tar oil spread on exposed skin is supposed to be pretty good…..  One site recommends wearing an unpainted, aluminum hardhat coated with oil – the hardhat attracts BFs and the oil traps them.  A strain of Bt (Bacteria thuringiensis israelensis) has been successful on the larvae but is expensive and labor-intensive.  Mechanical methods include brush control and temporary damming of streams (still water carries less oxygen).  Fogging provides only temporary relief on small properties.  Out-foxing them by limiting outside activities to fly-free periods is best (they are said not to bite indoors), and a good antihistamine to treat the inevitable bites is a great Plan B.

As The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer (a dynamite publication) points out, black flies are valuable native pollinators of wild blueberries, but black flies’ biggest fans are their predators.  BF’s are an important fish food, and trout often intercept the emerging adults as they float to the surface.  Birds, amphibians, and fellow-insects like dragonflies also eat their share of the BFs that escape into the air.

Some folks embrace the BF.  Several towns in New England host Annual Black Fly Festivals (BFs are the unofficial State Bird of Maine).  Although Vermont’s Adamant Co-Op Black Fly Festival seems to have fallen by the wayside this year, its motto has been “More fun than is thought humanly possible.”  Press releases tell us to “Forget about fiddleheads, peepers, and maple sugaring.  Black flies are the real harbinger of spring in central Vermont” and past festivals have featured “Black fly balloons, Black fly Jeopardy, a Black fly fashion show (antennae optional), the Black fly parade, mugs, T-shirts, and live music by the Fly Swatters.”  Because, “after a long, cold winter here in Adamant, we need something to celebrate, and God only knows we have plenty of black flies.”  The schedule of events for the day concludes with: “4:00 – Grill closes. Festival ends.  Blackflies all die.”

Milo, Maine hosts a festival, as do several Canadian towns.  The Adirondack town of Inlet, NY features an Annual Black Fly Challenge bike race.  Many tourist-related businesses in the Adirondacks close for a month during the peak BF season, which they call “the Fifth Season.”

Go outside – feed the black flies.

On a related pandemic note – apparently, the pandemic has been keeping people off the trails that the BugLady walked today, because when she arrived, the mosquitoes had a noisy celebration.

The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

2020 Return the Sturgeon and Sturgeon Fest Statement from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The text below was received by Riveredge Nature Center regarding the Lake Sturgeon egg collection program, Return the Sturgeon effort, and also relates directly to the Sturgeon Fest celebration. With no collection of Lake Sturgeon Eggs, we have no fish to raise onsite at Riveredge, and therefore Sturgeon Fest and the Return the Sturgeon program is on hiatus for 2020. Here is the original letter from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Return the Sturgeon Program is a treasured part of our Riveredge efforts. We look forward to resuming this 25-year project in 2021 to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Great lakes and the Milwaukee River!


April 22, 2020
To: Lake Sturgeon Egg Collectors
Subject: Temporary Suspension of Lake Sturgeon Egg Collections

The Bureau of Fisheries Management would like to thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to
Lake Sturgeon management. Your current and future efforts to enhance the sturgeon fishery are greatly

Due to the current COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department of Natural Resources has decided to
suspend the collection of Lake Sturgeon eggs this spring. We are currently under a State of Emergency regarding
COVID-19 and are required to limit non-essential travel outlined in Emergency Order #28 to protect the health
and safety of DNR staff and the public. We realize this decision impacts the hard work you have done and
continue to do to meet your goals of restoring lake sturgeon to their native distribution and historic abundance.
However, the Wisconsin DNR believes this decision is necessary to protect our most cherished resources: our
staff and the public we serve.

Lake Sturgeon egg collections require close contact between DNR staff, other agency staff and volunteers. In
addition, many of the spawning areas we conduct these activities at are currently closed due to the pandemic.
This is a temporary suspension of Lake Sturgeon egg collection operations. The DNR remains committed to
continuing our collaborative efforts to enhance and sustain Lake Sturgeon restoration activities throughout the
United States and plan to resume cooperative egg collections again in 2021.

We encourage everybody to stay safe during this public health emergency.

If you have any questions, please contact Todd Kalish at 608-225-5826 or todd.kalish@wisconsin.gov
Todd Kalish

Department of Natural Resources
Bureau of Fisheries Management Deputy Director
101 S. Webster St.
Madison, WI 53707

Bug o’the Week – Pseudoscorpion

Greetings, BugFans,


“Closed for June,” but here’s a slightly spruced up episode from 10 years ago, part of a series on household bugs.  The BugLady recently found one of these little cuties in her bathroom.


Last week, the BugLady raced a storm to get the episode posted – the electricity went off 4 minutes after she sent it out.  This week, the leading edge of Tropical storm Cristobal has already arrived to drench Wisconsin (and blow it off the map), so she’s getting an early start.


The phylum Arthropoda (“jointed legs”) is HUGE and diverse; it includes the Crustaceans (fairy shrimp. daphnia, sowbugs. crayfish, crabs and horseshoe crabs), the Arachnids (spiders, daddy long-legs, scorpions, pseudoscorpions, mites and ticks), the millipedes and centipedes, and the insects.  The BugLady looks forward to seeing this exquisite little bathroom-dwelling arthropod during the warmer months, and she was pleased to discover that its life is as interesting as its appearance.


They have names that are substantially longer than the bugs themselves.  Pseudoscorpions like today’s star, the Book Scorpion, are in the family Pseudoscorpiones in the order Chelonethida/Pseudoscorpionida.  There are some 300 species of pseudoscorpions in North America (2500 worldwide), and they come in both indoor and outdoor models – the species that live outside are found under the cover of bark, leaves and soil.  They’ve been around for a while – fossil pseudoscorpions date back 380 million years.  They were mentioned by Aristotle and were listed as “land crabs” by Robert Hooke in his amazing 1665 book called Micrographia (no, not tiny handwriting – the other Micrographia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micrographia).

The common House Pseudoscorpion/Book scorpion (Chelifer cancroides), is one of the larger models, their bodies measuring 0.2” long (there’s a picture of one sitting cooperatively by a ruler https://bugguide.net/node/view/966500/bgimage).  That means that you could put the eraser of a #2 pencil over one (that actually means that you could put the eraser of a #2 pencil over two of them, with some appendages sticking out at the sides).  Pseudoscorpions are flat and wedge-shaped (kind of tick-shaped), and their color has been described as “rich mahogany.  They have 4 pairs of legs, on which they can walk backwards and sideways as well as forwards, and a set of “pedipalps”/pincers on long appendages that are located in front of the legs.  The pincers are armed with poison to subdue their prey and are also used for fighting, for defense, and to build nests. Nota bene – no scorpion stinger at the other end.  Pseudoscorpions are roughly tick-shaped, but they’re not ticks and are harmless (and even beneficial) to humans https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/how-book-scorpions-tend-to-your-dusty-tomes/.


With silk spun from glands on their jaws they make chambers for overwintering, for molting (a vulnerable time), and for brooding.  A spider’s silk glands are at the other end.  Most pseudoscorpions are eyeless, but long sensory hairs on their pincers suggest that they navigate through life by touch.  They practice phoresy – that is, they hitchhike on insects in order to get from Point A to Point B (the Wikipedia entry on Pseudoscorpions has a photo, and here’s a picture of one on an Eyed click beetle https://bugguide.net/node/view/23845.  Most of the specimens that get captured and turned in for identification are adults because, according to one source, older Pseudoscorpions are less agile and more likely to slide down whatever surface they are climbing up, and they find it harder to right themselves after flipping over on their back.  The BugLady can relate.


Book scorpions are predators.  Whether they are hanging out on the BugLady’s bathroom walls or between the pages of a book, they are looking for critters to eat.  Their menu includes flies, ants, clothes moths, carpet beetle larvae, mites, book lice, and other pseudoscorpions, and they reportedly like bedbugs.  All-on-all, nice little critters to have around.

These tiny, sightless critters have developed an elaborate life cycle.  It begins with a courtship dance that may last as long as an hour.  Males create a mating territory 1 to 2 centimeters square, possibly using pheromones (scents) to mark its area.  According to the Little Golden Guide to Spiders and their Kin by Levi and Levi, when a female enters his territory, the male waves his pincers, vibrates his abdomen or taps his legs.  The couple lock pincers and pull each other back and forth; he eventually guides her to a spermatophore (sperm packet) that he has laid on the ground, and she picks it up.  The female carries the fertilized eggs (about 2 dozen) in a silken sac/brood pouch attached to her abdomen; the young stay in the sac after hatching and consume a milk-like substance that she produces in her ovaries.  Even after they leave the sac, the young may continue to piggy-back on Mom for a while. Young pseudoscorpions molt several times over a year or so before becoming adults.  Adults may live for 3 years – quite a life span for such a small creature.


Fun Pseudoscorpion Fact from the Remarks section in the Pseudoscorpion write-up in bugguide.netI remember them being abundant in the chicken houses I was responsible for while growing up and I assume they must have been feeding on bird lice [Troy]

None are known to be parasitic but they feed on arthropods in bird and rodent nests. They are sometimes found on beetles or other large insects where they apparently feed on mites.



Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Diversity Outdoors


Dear Riveredge Family,

On June 5, we shared our reflections and solidarity on the movement to end systemic racism in our society  on our social media channels and website

“As a historically and predominantly white-led environmental organization, we realize there is much ground to cover in diversifying the outdoors, and many reasons why Black Americans and People of Color haven’t always felt welcome in wilderness spaces. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for systemic change in our society. Riveredge Nature Center is a sanctuary where each person can embrace, celebrate, and revel in experiencing the wonders nature has to offer. We pledge to continue to improve the way we make these opportunities available to better serve our communities.

Black Lives Matter. Black Birders Matter. Black Experiences Matter.

Education is an ongoing process, and in-step with the Riveredge inquiry-based philosophy, we’re always trying to improve our understanding of our place in the world and how we can better serve the outdoor adventure community.”

Since that time, we have all continued to reflect on our beliefs, personal biases, privileges, and the realities of experiences that are unfamiliar to us. To be part of a community of change, we must first change ourselves. 

The environmental and outdoor fields have struggled, and continue to struggle, to engage and serve Black people and People of Color. The way our society arrived at the outdoors and nature being inherently NOT a privilege for all extends back to the very moment these remarkable tracks of wilderness and wild spaces were created as such, and for whom they were intended to serve at that time. We encourage you to visit Diversify Outdoors to hear for yourself stories from those who have been distanced and separated from the natural world. 

James Edward Mills, climber, journalist, author, and Madison, Wisconsin resident briefly outlines some of the reasons behind this legacy in his book The Adventure Gap:

“Historical reasons may also account for why some African-Americans don’t take pleasure in outdoor experiences. After four hundred years of slavery and forced outdoor labor, African-Americans migrated en masse to major US cities after the Civil War and the end of slavery. Even more left the rural communities of the South during the Great Depression. Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination restricted movement and segregated minorities to urban enclaves until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. White supremacist groups typically perpetrated their acts of violence against minorities in wooded areas beyond city limits. Given this legacy, it’s no wonder that African-Americans have often preferred to remain close to home.” 

Mills elaborates on how these factors influence current day demographics: 

“A 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation survey conducted by the Outdoor Foundation reported that of 137.8 million US citizens engaged in outdoor activities, 80 percent were Caucasiona, a trend that is also reflected in the demographics of those who chose wilderness protection as a career. The National Park Service reported in 2010 that white men occupied 51 percent of positions at that agency and white women, 29 percent. These numbers are similar to those of other land and resource management agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service. 

These statistics become significant when compared against the demographic profile of the nation as a whole. According to Dr. Nina Roberts, an assistant professor and social scientist from San Francisco State University, though African-Americans represent 12.6 percent of the US population, they typically make up a lower proportion of national park visitors (around 5-6 percent, depending on the region). Even with a sharp increase since 2006, “minorities still remain well below the number of visits of their white counterparts in proportion to their population across the United States,” says Roberts.”

At Riveredge, we work every day to connect our communities with the outdoor world, and we know that we must do our part to help bridge this gap. 

We do not yet have a complete list of specific action steps that we will take to correct our own struggles in serving communities of color. But we do want you: our neighbors, members, and friends, to know that we have begun this work. Over the past year, the Riveredge staff team has engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training with the intent to create lasting organizational change in the coming months and years. Within our staff and Board, we are working on plans to further accelerate and prioritize this overdue work. Our goal is to create change within our organization and contribute to change within the culture of outdoor access and environmental education  in the coming year and years to come. 

We know we can do better. We will do better. It will take all of us. And the time is now. 

We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress, invitations for involvement, and action to further our growth as an organization and continue our work to serve our communities more effectively each and every day. 


With Great Gratitude,

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

Elizabeth Larsen,  President, Board of Directors

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now. A notation of -P means that the flower has moved past peak bloom stage.

Jack in the Pulpit


False Rue Anemone
Blue Violet
Wild Ginger
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Jack in the Pulpit
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox
Early Meadow Rue
Heart Leaved Golden Alexander
Wild Geranium
Cleaver’s Bedstraw
Lyre leaved Rock Cress
Wild Columbine
Kitten Tails
Golden Alexander
Thyme leaved Speedwell
Bastard Toadflax
Red Baneberry
Grove Sandwort
Cursed Crowfoot
Robin’s Plantain
Wild Lily of the Valley
Tower Mustard
Solomon’s Seal
Small Yellow Lady’s Slipper
Wild Strawberry
Shooting Stars
Blue Eyed Grass
Cream Wild Indigo
False Solomon’s Seal
Dwarf Ginseng
Fringed Puccoon
White Baneberry
Virginia Waterleaf
Yellow Pimpernel
Bullhead Lily
Blue Flag Iris
Sweet Cicely
Swamp Saxifrage
Golden Ragwort
Prairie Phlox

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke

Flower Buds Present

Giant Solomon’s Seal
Tall Meadow Rue
Lance Leaved Coreopsis

Lance-leaved Coreopsis

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Lead Plant
Purple Joe Pye Weed
Hog Peanut
Poke Milkweed
White Sage

Bug o’the Week – Monarch Butterfly Rerun

Howdy, BugFans,


The BugLady saw her first monarch butterfly about 10 days ago, and today saw the first on her property.  Here’s a rerun from two years ago on the status of the monarch, with different pictures, and a few goodies at the end.  For up-to-date information, see https://monarchwatch.org/blog/category/monarch-population-status/.


It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around how populations of an organism that occurs by the millions (like the horseshoe crab, of recent BOTW fame) could be threatened.  And yet.

In the early 1990s, an estimated 400 million Monarch butterflies (by some accounts, 700 million) overwintered in the mountains west of Mexico City.  By 2010, that number had dropped, but it stabilized at around 100 million, though only 33 million were found in the winter of 2013-14.  This year’s population (winter of 2017-18) is estimated at 93 million; the biomass of Monarchs went, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, from covering 39 football fields to covering about one.  In the mid-1990’s, overwintering butterflies were found on about 44 mountainous acres; in 2013-14 on less than two acres; and this winter, on about 7.5 acres, down about 15% from last year.

The “Eastern Monarchs” that winter in the oyamel fir forests represent the entire migratory population this side of the Rockies.  Pacific monarchs, whose numbers are also in steep decline, migrate along the coast to California, and there are non-migratory populations along the Gulf Coast, South Florida, and South Texas.

Still, 100 million butterflies is a lot of butterflies, right?  Not when you consider the impossibility of what they do, which is to undertake a 2,000-plus mile migration, spreading out from a pinpoint in Mexico to cover two-thirds of the continent.  Monarchs weigh about one-half of a gram each, which means that a Quarter pounder is equivalent to about 225 Monarchs (the BugLady was told there would be no math).  They face the physical dangers of a trip that takes them from as far north as Canada all the way to Central Mexico, where they spend months in resting mode before perking up in late winter and meandering north.  The same individuals that left Wisconsin begin the return trip, but their offspring’s offspring tag home here in May.


They face predators, cars, habitat loss, agricultural pesticides, and the shifting seasonal temperatures and increasingly severe weather events precipitated by Global Climate Change (aka Global Weirdness.  There were three hurricanes and two tropical storms at the start of the 2017 fall migration period http://monarchwatch.org/blog/2017/09/15/forgotten-victims-of-harvey-the-pollinators/).  The fall migration of 2017 along the Atlantic Coast was late, with some butterflies lingering into late October and even early November, lulled by unseasonably warm weather, the late migrants left susceptible to storms and freezes.  For a rundown on Monarch mortality factors, see “The State of the Monarch,” an August, 2015 BOTW, at http://uwm.edu/field-station/the-state-of-the-monarch/).  The only cushion against mortality factors like that is to maintain a huge population.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service tells us that “nearly a billion monarchs have vanished from the overwintering sites since 1990,” and according to a recent article in USA Today, “A 2016 study by the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that because of ongoing low population levels, there is an 11% to 57% risk that the eastern monarch migration could collapse within the next 20 years.”


Not on our watch!

Milkweed has declined dramatically in agricultural areas in the Midwest, where the Monarch’s population strongholds are (the “Milkweed Limitation Hypothesis”).  Planting milkweed for caterpillars (and planting other nectar-bearing wildflowers for adults) as a part of grassland habitat restoration is a good start and it’s pretty and it can’t hurt.  Chip Taylor, of Monarch Watch, goes further, saying that “we need a comprehensive plan on how to manage the fragmented edges and marginal areas created by development and agriculture since it is these edges that support monarchs, many of our pollinators, and the many forms of wildlife that are sustained by the seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, and foliage that result from pollination.”  Late-blooming, nectar-bearing flowers fuel the fall migration and allow Monarchs to gain the fat reserves that will carry them through the winter.


Research strongly suggests that limiting the use of glyphosate pesticide use (and getting Climate Change turned around) hold out the greatest hope for Monarchs.  For two articles about recent studies, see https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1080/4557606 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627118/ (there is math)


Finally, the Monarch is under consideration for Endangered Species protection, a decision that was to have been made by June, 2019 (https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/SSA.html).  It needs to be on that list so that legal protections will apply.  At the time this originally aired, the decision was expected within a few months, but the Fish and Wildlife Service extended their decision until the end of 2020 https://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/monarch-butterfly-esa-listing-decision-deadline-extended.

[Mildly political aside: And, of course, there needs to be an effective Endangered Species Act https://environment-review.yale.edu/biodiversity-brink-consequences-weakened-endangered-species-act.  Wonder what would happen if every school child drew pictures of Monarchs and sent them to their Congress-people and to the Fish and Wildlife Service?]


Bonus goodies:

An animated map https://maps.journeynorth.org/map/?map=monarch-adult-first&year=2020 (the BugLady does love a good animated map);

And a magical flight with a hummingbird drone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWOySU_hAz0


Go outside – plant nectar-producing plants.


Kate Redmond, The BugLady

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