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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Happy National Moth Week!

Last week we learned about pollinators such as insects and bats. This week is National Moth Week, so I thought we could celebrate by learning about these special insects!

The beautiful Rosy Maple Moth seen above. This moth’s attractive colors could be warning predators that it would not be tasty to eat! Photo: craigbiegler on iNat

Moths, like butterflies and other pollinators, enjoy eating nectar as a main food source. Most moths are nocturnal (they only are active at night). But a few moth species do come out during the day.

Because of nocturnal moths, some flowers have evolved to open up their blooms at night. They can be pollinated even when it gets dark.

Let’s take a look at two Ohio moth species below!

Pandorus Sphinx Moth

The Pandorus Sphinx Moth, seen above, has olive colored tones. Photo © Madison Donohue

Some butterflies and moths have specific host plant. They use only that plant for food or shelter at certain stages of life. Monarch caterpillars are famous for depending on milkweed like this.

The Pandorus Sphinx Moth relies on grape vines and Virginia creeper. You have probably seen Virginia creeper in woods and yards in Ohio:

Virginia Creeper, seen above, is a host plant of the Sphinx moth. © nicolealbers on iNat

These vines are a good place to look for sphinx moths!

Life Cycle
  • An adult Pandorus Sphinx Moth lays green eggs on its host plant.
  • The caterpillar emerges from the egg and begins to eat the host plant.
  • The caterpillar eats for about 25 days!
  • Once the caterpillar has eaten and grown enough, it buries itself underground to become a pupae.
  • When metamorphosis is complete, the adult emerges to reproduce. The life cycle begins again.

Pupae – The life stage when the caterpillar is in a cocoon or protective shield, before becoming an adult moth.

Metamorphosis – The transformation from a younger life stage (in the moth’s example, a caterpillar and pupae) to an adult life stage (a moth).

This moth can have up to 3 generations of offspring in a year!

If an egg is laid in fall, the caterpillar will become a pupae and bury underground over winter to survive the colder environment. It will wait to emerge until spring.

Seen above, the larval stage of a Pandorus Sphinx Moth. Photo: craigbiegler on iNat

Cecropia Moth

The Cecropia Moth, seen above, has interesting wing patterns. Photo: Madison Donohue

This caterpillar will eat and eat. But when it becomes an adult, it doesn’t eat at all. It doesn’t even have a mouth that works! Its sole goal is to reproduce as quickly as possible and lay eggs.

A Cecropia Moth larvae, seen from above. Look at those spikes! Photo: craigbiegler on iNat

These moths are extremely attracted to light sources, and you may be able to see them fluttering around street lamps in summer. No one knows for certain why moths are so attracted to light sources, but scientists have one promising theory:

This theory explains that moths use the light from the moon and stars as a way to navigate and orient themselves, and have done so for millions of years. But why exactly would moths be attracted to artificial light?

Watch the video below, provided by National Geographic, to learn more about this theory.

Why are moths obsessed with lamps? Watch this video to see one theory.

Activity: Moth Observations

Want to discover moths for yourself? Since moths are attracted to light, it is easy to observe them at night using a few tricks!

Materials needed:

  • light source (flashlight or porch light)
  • light colored sheet (a white one is perfect!)
  • camera or paper and colored pencils to record your observations 
Step 1. 

Set up your white sheet near your outdoor light source. If you are using a porch light, hang the sheet vertically close to the light. This will let the moths have a place to rest as they are mesmerized.

If you are using a flashlight, you can hang your sheet anywhere outside.

Step 2. 

When it gets dark, turn on your light source. Now wait for the moths to come closer! You might see them fluttering around the light, or even landing on your sheet.

Step 3.

Record the moths you observe by using a camera or by drawing what you see. Hopefully you get a wide variety of moths to look at!

Step 4.

Find any moths that really interest you? Check out this field guide from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources to identify the moths and discover more about them.

Another great resource for insect identification is here.

Want to celebrate National Moth Week even more?

Join the Mothing Ohio Facebook group!

You can also check out our Bioblitz project of insect observations on iNaturalist.

As always, happy exploring!

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Distance Learning Uncategorized Young Naturalists Club

Pollinators Part 2

Last week Madison taught us about pollination. Besides insects, one important mammal can also assist in plant pollination: BATS! Today we will learn about bat pollination and what plants you can grow around your home to attract pollinators.

BATS AS POLLINATORS

Nectarivorous bat flying to a flower to drink nectar © Preston Sheaks.

In tropical and desert biomes, bats play an important role in pollinating flowers on fruit trees and cacti.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

What is Pollination?

This is a question that I have been exploring as I watch all sorts of insects and animals visit the sunflowers I planted outside my window. I see bees sitting in the middle of the flowers seeming to cover themselves is the bright yellow dust of the flower, I see crickets sitting on the unopened blossoms and I’ve even seen birds pecking away at the flowers. Are all these animals pollinators? Do sunflowers(or any flower) need to be pollinated to make seeds? What even is a pollination?! All these questions and more can be answered if you keep scrolling.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Are you wearing plastic?

A microfiber sweatshirt.

Have you ever thought about the clothes you buy and wear? Do you ever wonder where they are made or what materials were used to make them? It turns out that what we wear impacts the planet.

A very common material that is used to make most of our clothing comes from something called microfibers. You have probably heard of, seen, or used microfiber products. These days they are everywhere!

And believe it or not, microfiber clothes are plastic.

“The Story of Stuff” explains what microfibers are and where they end up.

Fleece is probably the most popular example of microfiber. You might have a fleece jacket, pants, or blanket. Microfibers are also used in cleaning products, like as towels and mop pads.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Why can I recycle this, but not that?

What ideas did you come up with to reduce and reuse your waste last time? Reducing and reusing are the best ways to make less waste. If you can’t do either of those things, it’s time to recycle.

When something is recycled, it can stay in use because it gets a new life.

The items that get a new life show up on our store shelves. If we buy those instead of things made from all new material, we will end up using less of earth’s precious materials.

The packaging will usually tell you if an item is made from recycled materials. Here are some things commonly made from recycled material:

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

What’s even better than recycling?

Hello Young Naturalists!

This week is all about waste and how to make make less of it!  We will learn how to practice the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)--even if you think you already recycle.

First, we have to understand just what waste is! You’ll see that waste has changed over time and that it can be challenging to responsibly manage our waste.

We’ll challenge you to the most creative ‘reuse’ ideas you can think of. And there are instructions to make fun game that you can play alone or with your friends.

Then, you can test your recycling know-how!

Waste in Our World

Let’s talk about it…

What Did Waste Look Like Way in the Past?

Most of the waste this man produced could decompose or be reused. Same for the horse. Photo: “HorseBuggy_MainST_c1902_2” by Small Town OK

In the “olden days,” our waste looked different than it does now.

Before the invention of plastic and many chemicals used today, people’s waste was mostly made from natural types of things. Basic things. When they were thrown away, they could pretty easily “biodegrade” (safely break down in the environment).

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Honeysuckle Baskets

A man using traditional basket weaving technique to make beautiful baskets

Tool making is something humans have been practicing for over two million years! Tools have not only helped to make our lives easier, but have also helped to create culture. Learning how to make primitive tools can be a fun and useful outdoor skill, like the compass Brock showed us how to make on Wednesday. 

Making tools for yourself wouldn’t be a top priority in a survival emergency. But if you had to live in the wild for a longer period of time, or just want to meet more of your needs with your own hands, it’s useful!

Basket weaving is found in most cultures around the world. Baskets are essential! You can use them for gathering food, as backpacks, as baby carriers, as cupboards, as plates and cups, as cradles, as birdcages, as measuring cups, and to catch fish (just to name a few!). Some baskets can even hold water!

Think about the things in your house. If you couldn’t buy anything at the store, how many of them could be replaced with a basket?

Today we will learn how to weave baskets out of Japanese honeysuckle vine. One reason we chose Japanese honeysuckle is that it’s an invasive plant (remember what an invasive is?). Just like garlic mustard, using this invasive plant is one way to get rid of it! It’s also easy to find, anywhere you live.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Using a map and compass

Everyone can benefit from learning to use a map and compass! Most people nowadays are used to using electronic devices to get from point A to point B. But what if they are not working, you are somewhere without any signal, or you do not have them? Can you make sense of even a GPS map of the forest, without any roads as clues? This is why experienced outdoor adventurers bring their maps and compasses.

Even experienced adventurers have found themselves lost in the wilderness, unsure of the way out. Our co-worker Darcy even got lost in the woods behind her house once. This can turn a simple hike into a dangerous situation. If you know how to use a map and compass, you can prevent this problem, and find the way out more easily.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

Water Filtration and Purification

Last week, we covered the first things you usually need to do survival situations: taking care of your brain, followed by making shelter. But how will you get water? That’s the next priority.

When out in the wilderness, plan how you will get water before you go! Always pack plenty of water in your bag. The average adult should drink 3-4 liters of water a day, and children should drink anywhere from 1-3 liters per day depending on your age and size. So, if you don’t want to carry all of that water with you, you’re going to need a way to collect water when (or better yet, before) you run out.

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Distance Learning Young Naturalists Club

How to Build a Shelter

The first time I slept in a shelter I built myself, I was camping out with many other families. Everyone else had tents. But I was determined to try something new. 

The shelter I slept in that night looked a lot like this.

I found a solid tree to support a stick frame. I covered the sticks with thick, thick layers of leaves. Luckily, the kids helped carry big armfuls of leaves for the roof and the ground. It went much faster with many hands! I only barely fit inside the small lean-to.

As evening fell, the sky grew dark. Gulp…it was going to rain.