Winter Stoneflies, Environmental Educator Award, Christmas Bird Count

For Friday, Dec. 16, 2016

1 – The annual Christmas Bird Count began this week across the U.S. and Canada.

Every year, thousands of volunteers identify and count birds during the count, which is put on by the National Audubon Society. The Count helps researchers, conservation biologists, and others study North American bird populations over time.

Last year more than 2,500 counts were completed and 58.8 million birds were reported.

Anyone can participate in the Christmas Bird Count until Jan. 5.

The Count takes place in geographic circles that include experienced birders. That means even beginners can participate.

In Michigan, counts are planned in locations including Huron County, Tuscola County, Bay City, Midland and Tawas.

2 – Does your child’s teacher go above and beyond?

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers who employ innovative approaches and use the environment as a context for learning.

Award winners receive up to $2,500 for professional development.

The winning teacher’s local school also receives up to $2,500 to fund environmental education activities and programs.

Up to two teachers from each U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regions will receive the award.

Applications are due March 1.

3 – Some flies live through the winter.

winter stonefly stoneflies michigan

Credit: Dysmorodrepanis, Wikimedia Commons

During the coldest months, winter stoneflies hatch from rocky stream bottoms and crawl up through openings in the snow or ice that covers the water.

They have four wings, stay close to the snow and ice, and walk to find mates, according to information from Michigan Lake and Stream Associations.

Little is known about how these stoneflies survive freezing water and air temperatures.

What makes these flies particularly special is that they’re an indicator species. Because the flies are sensitive to poor water quality, monitoring the locations and numbers of these flies can help determine the health of a stream.

Several watershed organizations hold winter stonefly searches in lower Michigan to help understand winter stonefly populations and predict stream health.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkarton Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

Were government flies released to combat caterpillars?

My bug bites have bug bites. After four days in northwest Michigan near Traverse City, I’m home, inside, and enjoying the air conditioning. One thing is still bugging me, though. The story that my brother, Scott, told me about black flies. Word in the woods is that the flies, which land on you every 3 seconds this time of year, were released by the Michigan DNR (now DNRE) to control tent caterpillars.

Sounds like a rumor. But usually rumors start out as truths, if you get my drift. According to a posting on UpNorthLive, with a Traverse City dateline, there’s an increase in black flies this year due to an increase in caterpillars. Black flies eat caterpillar larvae.

Which makes you wonder, what’s causing the caterpillar population to grow? And would the DNRE admit to releasing black flies for caterpillar control if the project went haywire (as in, annoying the hell out of people)?

David Lemmien, a DNRE unit manager, says his Traverse City office has been getting lots of calls about the fly-caterpillar scandal, but the DNRE hasn’t released flies to manage the outbreak of forest tent caterpillars.

Let’s take David at his word. Other words in this story aren’t as believable, such as “In fact, the DNRE doesn’t even have the means to raise flies.” Really? That’s laughable. Anyone with a checkbook has a means.  The story also circulated in New York in 2007, though, so it seems pretty mythical.

And there is a way to control black flies — a tip that comes courtesy of the nice cashier at the Village Market in Alden. Rub a dryer sheet on your skin and they’ll stop landing on you. It works. Too bad you can’t rub sheets on trees.

— Image via  Fat Man of the Mountains.

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