Bug o’the Week – Once Upon a Fungus

Greetings, BugFans,

When the BugLady was walking in the woods at Riveredge the other day, she found some plate-sized, stocky, very aromatic, gilled mushrooms growing out of the ground – possibly one of the (glorious name) Fetid Russulagroup.  They were pushing up under last year’s leaf litter; some were partly covered, but some were discernable only as an upward swelling of oak leaves.  The cap of the Russula is concave, so water and other stuff collects in it.  A microclimate.

She saw something moving on the rim of an “over-the-hill” fungus, and she had the good grace to think “what’s a bumblebee doing in a place like this?”  The AMERICAN CARRION BEETLE is counting on that reaction, and it enhances the illusion by buzzing its wings as it flies.  No-one messes with bumblebees.

Turns out there were a bunch of American Carrion beetles on that and other mushrooms, on the cap, and deep in the flesh and gills (she also photographed a half-dozen on some carnivore scat, but she may not be able to show that shot in polite company).

Carrion beetles have a fascinating lifestyle, which was chronicled in the early days of BOTW https://uwm.edu/field-station/carrion-beetles/.  They perform ecosystem services in the form of corpse-removal, but they also feed on rotting fungus and animal droppings.

[Sidebar: Russulas can be hard to tell apart; many are considered inedible, but some are mild enough to eat, and some have a spiciness that sneaks up on you (but remember: “There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters”).  They get their nutrients from the roots of trees.  Sometimes the mushrooms, which are the fruit of a large, underground system of mycorrhizal strands that connect with plant roots, grow in a straight line above a tree root.  Just as the fungi get their food from a tree root, the lovely, parasitic woodland flower Indian pipe (which was blooming in the woods, but not nearby) gets its nutrients from a variety of Russula hosts (for which the Indian pipes are dubbed “mycorrhizal cheaters”).  They’re not alone – beetles, slugs, some rodents and deer eat Russula mushrooms.]

When she looked at the mushrooms more closely, the BugLady discovered that there was more going on.  Along with the gang of American Carrion beetles were a few red-rimmed MARGINED CARRION BEETLES https://uwm.edu/field-station/margined-carrion-beetle/.

And, a GOLD AND BROWN ROVE BEETLE, which the BugLady swears is not luminescent, though the yellow hairs on its rear are iridescent.  Find its story here https://uwm.edu/field-station/gold-and-brown-rove-beetle/.

And, between the layers of oak leaves, an ANT NURSERY, with workers poised to rescue the eggs when, suddenly, their roof disappeared.

And a cloud of tiny flies, attracted to the mushroom by its very mushroomy odor.

And the exuvia (shed exoskeleton) of a spider that paused to molt there.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – Summer Survey 2019

Salutations, BugFans,

The BugLady hopes that you’ve been getting out on the trail and drinking in the lushness of the summer.  If this heat and humidity are the “new normal,” we might as well get used to it.

Insect photography in summer uncovers the common themes of eating and reproducing (sometimes, in the case of ambush bugs, simultaneously).

Paper wasp –

A Northern paper wasp has a super power – she chews on plant materials, mixes the cellulose with saliva, and spits out paper that she forms into a hemispherical, “open-faced” nest (https://bugguide.net/node/view/1554212/bgimage) on plants and under eaves and porches; the large and dangerous football-shaped paper nests are made by bald-faced hornets.  Look for her on flowers, feeding on nectar and collecting small insects for the larvae.  Having collected prey, according to bugguide.net, “The wasp then malaxates, or softens the food and in doing so absorbs most of the liquid in the food. This solid portion is given to older larvae and the liquid is regurgitated to be fed to younger larvae.”  Bugguide also tells us that “P. fuscatus has unusually variable color patterns, allowing individual wasps to recognize each other’s faces.”

Planthopper nymph

Been seeing plant stalks that are a bit fuzzy these days?  It’s not your glasses – if you look closely, you’ll see that they are tiny bugs.  This one is the nymph of a planthopper, probably in the family Flatidae.  For more about them, meet the other (original) “Bug of the Week,” this one written by an actual entomologist: http://bugoftheweek.com/blog/2013/1/9/junes-snowfall-planthoppers-family-flatidae-missing-video.

Syrphid/hover/flower fly

Syrphid flies are bee mimics that can be found feeding harmlessly on nectar and/or pollen on flower tops.  The BugLady loves the exquisite patterns on their abdomens.  “Hover fly” comes from the males’ practice of hovering in the air, hoping to attract the attentions of a female.  They are great little pollinators.

Jumping spider meets syrphid fly

Jumping spiders are beautiful, bold little spiders that look you right in the eye and don’t back down (though they’re great at zipping around to the back of a leaf when they see a camera). Find out more about them at https://uwm.edu/field-station/jumping-spider/.  We all are, potentially, someone else’s lunch.

Syrphids again

When the BugLady photographed these delicate, green aphids, she did not notice the pale larva just north of them on the stem until she put the picture on the screen.  It’s the larva of a syrphid/hover/flower fly, and it eats aphids.  Death from above.

Land snail

It’s humid here by the lake – gotta’ keep moving or stuff will grow on you.  The wall-snail population is possibly a sign from the cosmos that it’s time to round up a pressure washer.  Or get more snails.

Ambush bug

The BugLady loves these small-but-mighty ambush bugs that hang out on flower tops and often take prey that’s much bigger than they are.  They grasp in firmly with their hook-like front legs and inject meat tenderizers.  Here, its catch is a sweat bee.

Rainbow Bluet

What’s a summer survey without an Odonate?  This incredible creature is about 1 ¼” long from his peachy face to the sky-blue tip of his abdomen.

Creepy aphids

First of all, this clump of aphids was being protected by some very alert ants, and when the BugLady brushed against the plant, she suddenly had about 20 ants on her hand and sleeve (she’s a wee bit ant-averse).  The ants were there for the honeydew secreted by the aphids, which is a staple in the diet of many ant species.  But then, the BugLady put the aphid picture up on the screen and saw the creepy “eyes.”  BugFan Freda pointed out that the aphids are plugged into the stem, drinking plant juices, and their eyes are facing down.  The glowy “eyes” are the twin tailpipes (cornicles) at the rear of the insect).  But still…..

Baltimore Checkerspot

Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars feed on a late-blooming wetland plant called turtlehead.  In fall, the gregarious caterpillars make a communal web on their food plant and stay inside, inert, for the winter.  When they emerge in spring, they need to eat some more before they’re ready to form a chrysalis, but there’s no turtlehead around, so they pick alternate hosts, including white ash.

They’re spectacular with wings open https://bugguide.net/node/view/1245900/bgimage, and the caterpillars are orange and black, too https://bugguide.net/node/view/1076839/bgimage.  Orange and black were the colors of the livery worn by the servants of Lord Baltimore at the time that the early settlers were arriving in this country, and it’s his name, not the city’s, that’s attached to the oriole and the butterfly.

Thread-waisted wasp

Like the paper wasp, these wasps cruise the flower tops looking for nectar (she also finds sustenance in extra-floral nectaries – for the amazing EFN story, see https://uwm.edu/field-station/ants-in-my-plants/).  Solitary where the paper wasp is social, each thread-waisted wasp makes her own mud nursery for her offspring, and she provisions it with small insects and spiders, depending on her species.

The Black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium) (caementarium means “mason, or builder of walls”) is found in a big chunk of North America.  Her nest may contains about as many as 25 brood chambers (https://bugguide.net/node/view/1480753/bgimage), each cached with a few dozen spiders.

Black firefly

Fireflies (lightning beetles is a more accurate name) wow us with their nocturnal light show, blinking or streaking across the sky with a species specific signal to the females waiting below (https://uwm.edu/field-station/lightning-beetle-again/).  But, the Black firefly (Lucidota atra) is a day-flying firefly and would have to use a lot of energy to compete with the sun (males may glow briefly immediately after they emerge from their pupal case).  If he cannot glow, how does he woo?  By flying close to the ground, searching for the “perfume” of the pheromones released by the female.


The BugLady is sickened by the number of dead ash trees sticking out of wetlands and uplands, and this is the beetle that’s responsible.  The Emerald ash borer is an immigrant from northeast Asia that left its natural checks and balances at home.  Its larvae burrow in and feed on the living tissues just under the bark of an ash tree, creating squiggly tunnels called galleries.  Eventually, there are so many galleries that the tree’s “plumbing” is disrupted and it can’t move nutrients up and down the trunk.

Thanks to the EAB we have a new indoor sport during the Polar Vortex – figuring out whether it has gotten cold enough for long enough to kill the majority of the larvae.  Not yet.

Katydid nymph

With a little luck (OK – a lot of luck) this infant will grow up to be a good-sized bush katydid, probably this one https://bugguide.net/node/view/1275677/bgimage.  in the meantime, it looks like a tiny, jeweled creature.

Go outside – look for bugs!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – Tree Crab Spider

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady was checking around the edge of a gravel parking lot near the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust’s Lake Twelve property (because there are bugs there, too) when she found this beauty (it took two trips and two different cameras to get a few almost-in-focus shots – sometimes it’s like that).

She had two immediate reactions: 1) what is it? And 2) it looks like an octopus clinging to a reef!

It’s a crab spider in the tree crab spider genus Tmarus, probably Tmarus angulatus (thanks, as always, to BugFan Mike).  Mike says that there are a few documented records of this species in Wisconsin, but they are probably more common, it’s just that we don’t typically hunt for spiders in trees.  And, of course, they seem to have the “camouflage” thing figured out.

Crab spiders (family Thomisidae), best known for the species that ambush insects on flower tops, are long-time favorites of the BugLady https://uwm.edu/field-station/an-album-of-crab-spiders/.  They get their name from their tendency to hold those four, extra-long front legs in a crab-like pose and for their tendency to move sideways.  Crab spiders don’t spin trap webs to catch their prey, they ambush it on the hoof.  They paralyze their prey and then introduce (bugguide.net says “vomit”) digestive enzymes into it, wait for its innards to soften, suck out the tenderized tissue, and throw away the empty.

They do spin silk, protecting themselves from a fall by playing out a drop line as they hunt, and this Tmarus spider was guarding her eggs in a chamber she created by bending and webbing together a slender day lily leaf.  She will stay nearby for about a month to protect her eggs from predators.

About the genus Tmarus the BugLady could find very little.  The spiders appear regularly on state biodiversity lists, and there are a bunch of scholarly articles about new species being discovered in different countries around the world (one article from Sri Lanka was titled “Twigs that are not Twigs”).  The BugLady was gratified to find that the spectacular Tmarus marmoreus spider in Australia is, indeed, nicknamed the Octopus spider https://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_spiders/OctopusCrabSpider.htm.  It hunts by dangling from a line of silk with its front legs poised and ready.

Their knobby bodies are usually well-camouflaged on bark and other vegetation, where they look like buds or broken twigs.  The Field Guide to the Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States tells us that with “forelegs along either side of a stem, they wait for an insect to wander between them.”  According to the Kansas School Emporium’s Checklist of Kansas Crab SpidersTmarus spiders have been observed eating ants, which most spiders avoid.

Tmarus angulatus, sometimes called the Tuberculated crab spider, is small spider with a body about a half-inch long (females are larger than males) that is found across the US and southern Canada.  Some are pale and some were dark, and the BugLady saw a picture of a gravid female with a dark cephalothorax (front end) and a pale abdomen, with a caption that said that she looked like a spittlebug nest.  Well, maybe.  Here’s a little gallery of shots of Tmarus angulatus looking like the flower head of a rush https://bugguide.net/node/view/646754,

pale-colored https://bugguide.net/node/view/1168821,

in the open https://bugguide.net/node/view/1516412/bgimage,

a male https://bugguide.net/node/view/1516412/bgimage,

oriented with its legs up https://bugguide.net/node/view/1238420/bgimage,

very well camouflaged https://bugguide.net/node/view/1043877/bgimage,

and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1223511/bgimage,

and a nice egg-to-spiderling series https://bugguide.net/node/view/298740/bgimage.

Tmarus angulatus was described and named in 1837 by Baron Charles Athanase Walckenaer (1771 – 1852), who is described as a French civil servant and scientist.  In fact, he squeezed the pursuits of several lifetimes into his 80 years.  He was a geographer who was named Conservator for the Department of Maps at the Royal Library in Paris, was Secretary for life of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres (where he introduced the French to the English genre of the biography), was a co-founder of the Societe entomologique de France, member of a group of early anthropologists called the Societe des observateurs de l’homme, was mayor of a section of Paris, found a map of the Americas drawn by Columbus contemporary Juan de la Cosa (the earliest known map of the new World), and was an arachnologist and entomologist (author of Histoire naturelle des insects).

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Summer Flowers Blossom Beautifully at Riveredge

Milkweed attracting a Monarch Butterfly at Riveredge Nature Center

Summertime is in full swing with flowers blooming in the prairies across Riveredge. Many plants have grown beyond eye-level (yes, for even adults!) and we can now watch the enjoy the phenological cascade of flowers that will appear in succession from now through September. Here’s a glimpse of what’s blooming right now across Riveredge.

Spiderwort at Riveredge Nature Center

Wow, Ohio Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis just seems to bloom forever. These flowers are now blooming in clusters throughout the prairie. Interestingly, whether blue or purple tells the tale of the air surrounding it. When growing in polluted air, Spiderwort turns from blue to purple.

Butterfly-weed blooming at Riveredge Nature Center

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa stands out with the bushy glow of its orange flowers. These are a relatively common native plant that does well in gardens. As its name suggests, this plant attracts Monarch Butterflies. Butterfly Weed roots have historically been chewed to cure pulmonary ailments.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is continuing to bloom its small white flowers. This is an extremely long blooming plant – colonies sometimes lasting up to two months. Earlier in the year it was noted that these more often had a pink or purple hue to the petals.

Black-eyed Susan at Riveredge Nature Center

Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta is what some people might consider the archetypal prairie flower, with its bright yellow leaves radiating straight out like spokes on a wagon wheel. This plant has been bred to show a variety of colors, but here we feature this flower in classic yellow. Parts of this plant have nutritional or remedy value, and portions are not edible.

Queen of the Prairie at Riveredge Nature Center

Queen of the Prairie Filipendula rubra is a fascinating flower to stumble upon with its slight bulbous pink flowers that almost seem to glow in the midday sunlight. These flowers haven’t yet opened and once they do will take on a blustery, bushy appearance.

Purple Coneflowers at Riveredge Nature Center

What would you call a gathering of Pale Purple Coneflowers (other than Echinacea pallida)? A cone-hort? A cone-henge? A cone-vention? These flowers are famous for their unique drooping pink/purple petals. The genus of this plant is named for hedgehogs; referencing the spiny appearance of the central brown portion of the flower.

St. Johns Wort at Riveredge Nature Center

It seems fitting that with its sunny yellow flowers and whimsical collection of anthers, St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum has been use for years as medicinal cure for depression. This plant has also been mixed with Calendula (among other ingredients) to formulate the popular first-aid cream Hypercal.

Wild Bergamot at Riveredge Nature Center

Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa is also known as Bee Balm or Horse Mint, as it is in the mint family. This plant has a variety of medicinal purposes when steeped in a tea. Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies are attracted to this common resident of prairies and savannas.

Milkweed attracting a Monarch Butterfly at Riveredge Nature Center

Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca is blooming throughout Riveredge, and as common knowledge holds, attracts both larva and winged Monarch Butterflies. Other butterflies also use this species as a nectar source. If you have milkweed in your garden, multiple parts of the plant can be cooked and eaten.

Visit Riveredge for a hike today and see how many blooms you can identify!

Bug o’the Week – Majestic Long-horned Beetle

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady is always excited when she finds an insect she’s never seen before – even more so when it’s a giant, orange and gray “Holy S@#&!” beetle. 

She was moseying along the trail at Riveredge Nature Center at the beginning of July when she saw a flash of orange in the vegetation.  A big flash.  She craned and fidgeted and crossed her fingers while the beetle crawled around, revealing itself by degrees.  After posing for a few shots, it flew out noisily and landed on her jeans for a second, and then moved on. 

It’s a spectacular beetle, (Dr. John Hamilton, writing in The Canadian Entomologist in 1885 says that “this appears to be a rare Cerambyan, and among the choicer.”), but there’s not much information out there about it (it isbig enough and beautiful enough, but apparently, it’s not bad enough to warrant attention). 

To put it in context – with about 390,000 species (25,000-plus in North America), beetles (order Coleoptera) are the largest order in the whole animal kingdom, not just in the Class Insecta.  Long-horned beetles (family Cerambycidae), those darlings of the beetle world (because https://bugguide.net/node/view/199424/bgpage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/674692/bgimage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/128536/bgpage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1379236/bgimage, and more), number about 30,000 species worldwide with only about 1,000 in North America.  The MLHB is in the Flower longhorn subfamily Lepturinae, a group of sometimes-dramatically-wedge-shaped longhorns (https://bugguide.net/node/view/131694/bgpage) that hang out on flower tops by day.  There are a dozen species in the genus Stenocorus in North America – more elsewhere.

At 1 ¼” the Majestic long-horned beetle (Stenocorus schaumii) is indeed majestic.  It comes in two colors (https://bugguide.net/node/view/1499994/bgimage) and some are more chiseled than others https://bugguide.net/node/view/6759/bgimage (the BugLady’s MLHB was not svelte), and females are notably larger than males.  It is mostly eastern-ish – bugguide.net says New Brunswick to North Carolina to Manitoba to Oklahoma.  A number of the search hits were from eastern Canada, in French. 

Cerambycid larvae are vegetarians; some are pests of living plants, some feed inside dead or dying wood, and the interests of many do not collide with ours.  MLHB larvae feed/develop in ash, beech, maple, serviceberry, and other hardwoods, and the adults eat nectar and pollen. 

The MLHB was described by LeConte and is one of several insects named for German entomologist Hermann Rudolf Schaum, a go-to guy for all-things beetle in the mid-1800’s, who wrote and corresponded prolifically with American entomologists.  Schaum apparently believed that the Continent should be the clearinghouse for insect classification.  In a history of American entomology called Brethren of the Net: American Entomology, 1840-1880, author Willis Conner Sorenson tells us that “Schaum…..objected to the notion that ‘American insects ought to be described by American entomologists.’  The result, he said, had been the proliferation of isolated descriptions, a practice that had been characterized by Schaum’s colleague Erichson, as ‘the nuisance of science.’  Schaum regretted that American entomologists had added to this nuisance.” 

Entomology as Blood Sport.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady 

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – And Now for Something a Little Different – Slime Molds

Hi, BugFans,

The BugLady wrote this article for a recent newsletter of the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog (an organization that would love your support).

Slime molds are strange and wonderful life forms that can exist as tiny, single cells, but can also form a mass of cells that acts like an organism – and moves!

Back in the days when fungi (now placed in their own Kingdom) were classified as plants, slime molds were classified with the fungi. Today, slime molds defy exact classification (slime molds can’t be plants because slime molds eat!). They’re placed in a catch-all group that some people call the kingdom Protista, made up of often unrelated single-celled or colonial single-celled organisms that have similar structures and life styles. Australian researcher Chris Reid calls Protists “a taxonomic group reserved for everything we don’t understand.” They’ve been around for a billion years.

They may be so small that they live their whole lives under our radar, moving slowly through the soil; or they may aggregate to form bright yellow or white, spongy blobs on the forest floor, or pink spheres on decaying wood, or tiny, brown cattail shapes on branches. Or, they might start as the first and end as the second. They have great names, like wolf’s milk, tapioca, pretzel, white coral, red raspberry, chocolate tube, dog vomit and scrambled egg slime.

Two of the main groups are the cellular slime molds (Dictyosteliida) and the plasmodial or acellular slime molds (Myxogastria). Both kinds start out as tiny, single-celled amoeba-like critters in soil or rotting material, both can use chemicals to communicate, and both, at some sign from their environment, may congregate and go into reproductive mode, transforming from a single-celled organism to a giant “megacell” (one scientist calls them “a bag of amoebas”). They feed on bacteria, algae, and fungal spores and help organic materials to decompose. They are eaten by many small animals (there are little, shiny, brown beetles apparently feeding – and cavorting – in the pink slime mold), and some are said to be edible by humans.

Their orientation is deliberate; their ability to pick the most direct route to food mimics the efficient layout of expressways and railroad systems; they were the inspiration for the Sci-fi movie “The Blob;” the math that describes their orderly aggregation is applied to video games; and some can anticipate change, learn to solve mazes and remember. And when they are chopped up, they reassemble and remember.

For more information, see

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brainless-slime-molds/ and

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/the-sublime-slime-mold and


Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Bug o’the Week – The Dance Fly

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady loves these fancy little flies (and their habitat preferences, for the damp and the dappled, are similar to hers).  Dance flies are abroad in June, and they are one of the BugLady’s “nemesis bugs;” they seem to object to being in focus, but this small spider managed to capture one.  They starred in a BOTW episode at the very end of June, ten years ago: https://uwm.edu/field-station/dance-fly-family-empididae/

Go outside – look at bugs.  Tell the BugLady what you see.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Findings of Milwaukee Public Museum Riveredge BioBlitz

Researchers at the Riveredge BioBlitz.

24-Hour BioBlitz Uncovers Stunning Species Diversity at Riveredge

Scientists from Milwaukee Public Museum arrived on the afternoon of Friday, June 14 to spend 24 hours at Riveredge Nature Center for the 2019 BioBlitz – a quest to discover as many species as possible in 24 hours.

MPM research scientists, students, and lovers of nature visited Riveredge to forage throughout the Center’s 379 acres of various restored habitats to find as many plants and animals as possible.

Riveredge Land Manager Matt Smith discussing species with botanists Dr. Robert Freckmann and Dr. Lawrence Leitner.

Riveredge has “enormous richness”

Dr. Robert Freckmann, who began his botany career in 1959 and for whom the Herbarium at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point is named, was one of many researchers on-hand to participate in the 24-hour celebration of science. “It’s going to be interesting to see how many species we can come up with in 24 hours, but I think that’s more a function of the number of botanists and their level of energy than it is the place,” said Dr. Freckmann.

“This place has enormous richness, and all we can do [in 24 hours] is get a small sample of it,” added Freckmann.

BioBlitz at Riveredge Findings

Both MPM and Riveredge staff were pleased to document a grand total of 1,254 species within 24 hours across the Riveredge property! This total is the highest number of any of the 5 total locations surveyed since MPM started its annual BioBlitz program. A playful debate ensued about whether to include examples of the Lake Sturgeon, which Riveredge raises onsite for the Return the Sturgeon program.

BioBlitz Species Highlights

UW-Madison mycological students determining species at Riveredge.
UW-Madison students Carl Kemp and Celeste Huff determining fungi species.
  • Dr. John Zaborsky | UW-Madison – reported 536 plant species including garden plants, highlights include Small Yellow lady’s-slipper & rare Handsome Sedge.
  • Gina LaLiberte | Wisconsin DNR – found 120 species of microplants including cynobacteria, red algae, and several species of euglena in the Vernal Pond.
  • Dr. Suzanne Joneson | UW-Waukesha – found 31 species of lichens, which she surmised indicates a “happy forest.”
  • Birds 80 species seen, including Ruffed Grouse and Pileated Woodpecker.
  • Mammals – 16 species, including humans, the highlight being a Southern Flying Squirrel.
  • 343 species of insects were discovered; of which 180 were Lepidopterans (moths & butterflies).
  • Findings of 21 species of fish (22 if you count sturgeon). Highlights include Brown Trout, Iowa Darter, and Mottled Sculpin.
  • Riveredge was the first of the BioBlitz locations surveyed where invasive Jumping Worms were not found.
MPM BioBlitz at Riveredge Nature Center

Reaping Biodiversity Benefits through Long-term Conservation

“Riveredge was one of the first locations in the region to begin restoring habitats, and we have such a diversity of habitat in this immediate area – from wetlands to dry and wet prairies to creeks, marshland, forests and woodlands – and of course the mile of Milwaukee River banks for which Riveredge is named,” said Jessica Jens, Riveredge Executive Director. “I’m pleased by the number of species documented – I was hoping we’d surpass 1,200, but must admit I’m not entirely surprised by the huge number of species that were found,” said Jens.

University of Marquette students speak with a birder overlooking a restored prairie Friday evening. At that moment he’d reported 23 bird species.

“I see the passion, care, and work that goes into our 379 acres everyday and these findings are evidence of not only the work we put in every day at Riveredge, but the legacy of caretakers who came before us,” said Jens.

A Public Science Extravaganza

BioBlitz participants learning about bees through one of the BioBlitz partners in attendance.

A BioBlitz is a unique occasion in that it’s a science event in which, during a portion, the public is invited to participate and learn alongside researchers. Several partner organizations throughout the region were on-hand to engage the public about populations of local plants, rodents, bees, fireflies, large mammals, and other species.

Farm Pond at Riveredge Nature Center.
A family searches for frogs at Farm Pond during the BioBlitz.

In at least one occasion, members of the public found species that researchers had not yet documented. On Saturday afternoon, a young girl presented researchers with a Painted Lady Butterfly that had yet to be discovered during the BioBlitz.

Researchers at the Vernal Pond
Researchers finding frogs and Tiger Salamander larvae at Vernal Pond.

Riveredge is a Year-round Nature Sanctuary

The BioBlitz only lasted 24 hours, but at Riveredge Nature Center, you can experience this rich tapestry of diverse plants and wildlife year-round. Our 10 miles of trails are open 7 days a week from sunup to sundown for hiking, strolling, birding, sauntering, running, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. Become a member of Riveredge today and begin exploring your nature!

Prairie Flowers are Beginning to Blossom at Riveredge

Within the past week prairie plants have shot up from the soil throughout Riveredge! Many are not yet blooming, but some have begun to display flowers. These pictures were taking in the last few days, and are a few of the plants you can find flowering throughout the prairies.

This weekend Riveredge hosts the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz – a 24-hour celebration and race to find the most species in an area. Join us for free on Saturday, June 15 for the public portion of the BioBlitz from 10:00am – 3:00pm to meet MPM scientists and learn about their research. What’s a BioBlitz? Learn more here.

Daisy Fleabane at Riveredge Nature Center.

Daisy Fleabane Erigeron strigosus is blooming aplenty along the trails. This one is perfect for kids to learn to identify as it’s about perfect eye level for a three-year-old.

Red Clover at Riveredge Nature Center

Red Clover Trifolium pratense is a favorite of Bumblebees and increases soil fertility. Red Clover leaves and flowers are edible and it can even be ground into flour.

Slender Penstemon at Riveredge Nature Center

Slender Penstemon Penstemon gracilis also known as Slender Beardtongue is in the Snapdragon family. These can be seen in our Dry Prairie.

White Wild Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba is just barely beginning to show flowers. This showy legume grows tall and wide in the prairie, shaped like a bush. Despite how pretty it looks, this plant is toxic for humans and cows to eat.

Spiderwort Tradescantia occidentalis is just beginning to blossom and is immediately recognizable by the bright yellow anther against the purple backdrop. This species is named after John Tradescant the Younger (1608 – 1662), who was the head gardener for King Charles I of England.

Prairie Smoke at Riveredge Nature Center

Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum is beginning to display the reason for its name. The flower opens to display a wispy plume that blows in the the wind like a flowery smoke.

A few Sand Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata are just beginning to bloom at our Lorrie Otto Prairie. The interesting thing about Riveredge is that sometimes the same species in different locations will bloom at slightly different times depending on sunlight, soil type, and other factors.

Virginia Waterleaf at Riveredge Nature Center

Virginia Waterleaf Hydrophyllum virginianum looks like a flower that’s straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! These fascinating flowers can be found in shadier spots along the trails.

Blue False Indigo at Riveredge Nature Center

False Blue Indigo Baptisia australis is also known as Wild Blue Indigo and has many other colloquial names. It’s very similar in appearance to White Wild Indigo pictured above, but with deep blue-purple leaves, which seem presently a little farther along in blooming than the white.

Wild Four O’clock Mirabilis nyctaginea can be found beginning to bloom just outside of the backdoor the Riveredge Visitor’s Center. This plant is named for the time of day during which its flowers tend to open. This picture was taken around noon, and one could anticipate a showier flower later in the afternoon.

White Campion at Riveredge Nature Center

White Campion Silene latifolia is another that can be found close to the Visitor’s Center, and was introduced to North America in the early 1800’s. It’s flower petals tend to retract during the day.

Blue Flag Iris Iris versicolor is not a prairie plant, in fact it grows on the edges of ponds or along streams, but it’s blooming right now in its full splendor. Iris comes from the Greek word for rainbow, indicating its variety of colors.

Stop by and see what you discover at Riveredge – make sure to visit for the Milwaukee Public Museum BioBlitz on Saturday, June 15 from 10:00am!

Bug o’the Week – Iris Weevils at Play

Greetings, BugFans,

As long-time BugFans know, the BugLady gets a kick out of weevils.  She found these cute little Iris weevils (Mononychus vulpeculus) recently, scampering around on flowers at the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust’s Cedarburg Environmental Study Area (CESA) site (for directions to and maps of their properties, see https://owlt.org/visit-our-preserves).  Obviously, iris weevils are not exclusive to iris – the BugLady sees them on ox-eye daisy and daisy fleabane (she did find two of them sitting on an iris petal that had tiny holes punched in it, but they were camera shy).  Iris weevils were half of an episode about weevils that was posted four years ago https://uwm.edu/field-station/gardening-with-weevils/

For a story about another CESA adventure, see https://uwm.edu/field-station/the-ants-of-cesa/.

Support your local Land Trust. 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

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