Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Invertebrates’ Category

Bass River Students Enhance Pollinator Habitat

Monday, August 13th, 2018
Enriching Learning Experiences while Enhancing Biodiversity

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Sunflower in bloom out front of Bass River Elementary School.

Bass River Elementary is a small school located in Bass River Township, Burlington County. Students and faculty are passionate about protecting wildlife and the habitat that’s required to survive. From headstarting hatching N. diamondback terrapins, composting, and raising monarch caterpillars, they know that hands on education is key to engaging future generations to care about our environment. We knew it would be the perfect place to create a wildflower garden to provide food for nectar feeding insects! (more…)

Frosted Elfin: A Rare Butterfly in New Jersey.

Friday, May 12th, 2017

by: CWF Wildlife Biologist Larissa Smith

The monarch butterfly gets a lot of attention these days, it’s large, showy and easy to spot. My love of butterflies started with my Monarch internship years ago. Monarchs are a great way to get people interested in butterflies of all kinds. Unlike the monarch the Frosted elfin, isn’t all that easy to find. There are four species of butterfly listed as endangered in New Jersey and three listed as threatened in New Jersey.

The Frosted elfins are beautiful in an understated way and approximately an inch in size. They are a NJ threatened species.  It is locally rare and found in isolated populations. Their major food and host plant is (Baptisia tinctoria). Baptisia can be found in dry clearings and open areas often along power-line right of ways and roadsides.

Can you find the Frosted elfin in this photo?

Baptisia with Frosted Elfin May 3, 2017@L.Smith

I went out last week to search for the Frosted elfins. I was lucky to see six adults as it was a windy day and not the best survey conditions. The Frosted elfin is on the left side of the plant hanging upside down. You can see how well they blend in with the environment.

The below photo was taken by ENSP biologist Robert Somes in 2015 while we were out surveying. This photo gives a close up look at the butterfly which had was oviposting eggs on the leaf of the Baptisia.

Frosted Elfin with recently oviposited egg on Baptisia plant@ Robert Somes

Now is a great time of year to see all different species of butterflies. Don’t forget to plant native species  as food, nectar and host plants for butterflies as well as other invertebrate species.

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New Jersey Gains Another Endangered Species: The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

First bee in continental U.S. added to endangered list

By Kendall Miller

The rusty patched bumble bee has been locally extinct from the Garden State since the late 1900s. Once a common sight, the species has been eliminated from 87% of its entire range and has been seen only in isolated pockets of its once wide range.

But finally, the long awaited day has come – the rusty patched bumble bee has officially been added to the Endangered Species List.

The Rusty Patch Bumble Bee is found only in isolated pockets of its former range. Photo taken from Xerces Society.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation first petitioned for the listing of the rusty patch in 2013. The decision to list was finally reached in September of this past year, and the Rule was officially published on January 11, 2017. The official Ruling brings the species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, which will enable it to receive much needed federal protection.

Following the listing of seven yellow-faced bees found only in the isolated archipelago of Hawaii this September, the rusty patched is the first bee to join the ESL that is native to the continental U.S. It seems as if it has not been a good couple of months for bees, however this perception is far from the truth. Pollinators are on the decline across the globe as a result of pesticides, habitat loss and degradation, and the spread of pests and diseases. Listing pollinators for the first time means that their plight is recognized, and it empowers those who are working to protect these species from extinction.

Rare find, this is a species that has suffered drastic declines since the late 1990’s. Photo courtesy of Dan Mullen.

The multitude of ways that we rely on pollinators – for food, clothes, ecosystem functioning – means that their peril is our own. In New Jersey, the service provided by *wild pollinators is valued at $43 million; in the U.S. as a whole, it is $3 billion annually. Since the rusty patch (along with other species of bumble bees) is an excellent pollinator of New Jersey crops like blueberries, cranberries, and tomatoes, it is sorely missed from the Garden State.

This listing is another small step for the protection of native bees and pollinators everywhere.

Helping pollinators takes three steps:
1.  Plant flowering nectar sources spring through fall
2.  Provide safe nesting and overwintering habitat
3.  A pesticide free environment

 

*Wild pollinators are native bee species like the rusty patch bumble bee that have evolved with their native ecosystems. Honey bees that are commercially used for agriculture pollination services and honey production are not native to the United States.



Kendall Miller is a project coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

First Bees Added to Endangered Species List.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

WORLD IS EXPERIENCING A DECLINE IN POLLINATORS, NEW JERSEY IS NO EXCEPTION

By Kendall Miller

New Jersey is not exempt from the worldwide decline in pollinators. We face the challenge of protecting wildlife in a highly modified and populated landscape. But the fight is not without hope.

A milestone has been reached for wildlife conservation in Hawaii – and is a win for the world of conservation as a whole. This month, seven species of bees indigenous to the Hawaiian archipelago were added to the endangered species list and brought under federal protection. These are the first species of bees to be listed in the country.

Hylaeus assimulans is one of the seven species of yellow-faced bee to receive Endangered Species Act protection. Photo: John Kaia. Picture taken from Xerces Society.

Hylaeus assimulans is one of the seven species of yellow-faced bee to receive Endangered Species Act protection. (Photo: John Kaia. Picture taken from Xerces Society.)

(more…)

Wildlife returns to the industrial Newark Bay waterfront

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

by David Wheeler

Under the sweltering September sun, our team discovers the earth at our fingertips. We ready the manure, topsoil, and mulch, wield the pickax and trowel, and labor the wheelbarrow through the trees and up the slope of a tidal berm.

osprey-silouette-by-blaine

 

We plant 250 native shrubs and 580 native herbaceous plugs. We hammer in nest boxes, install pollinator houses, construct mounds of brush for local and migrating wildlife, and create nesting habitat for northern diamondback terrapin, an at-risk turtle species.

We lose ourselves in nature for the day.

A migrating butterfly flits past leisurely and I look up from the soil to wipe my brow. Suddenly I remember exactly where this newly vibrant natural ecosystem is. Nearly overhead, I can watch never-ending streams of commuters and tractor trailers motor past over one of the busiest bridges in the nation – the Newark Bay Bridge. Just across the bay, I can see heavy industry. Out beyond the fence, more industry – ancient, tireless, modern progress marching forward.

firmenich-volunteers-by-blainefirmenich-by-blaine

Yet on this morning, and those that follow, we now have ecological progress here as well, in a place that was written off entirely not so long ago. The Newark Bay region has suffered a century and a half of environmental degradation at the hands of industry and unbridled development.

This active industrial site is home to Firmenich Inc., one of the largest manufactures of fragrances in the world. We have transformed the land today to invite wildlife partners to help balance the scales of the region’s damaged ecology.

dragonfly-1-by-blaine

Green Darner dew laden on Echinacea.

These partners are vital to our environment, to our health, to the world around us. They are the butterflies and bees, the wasps and beetles, the flies and moths that make up an army of pollinators that in coordinated effort provide humanity with the lungs of our planet. Without these pollinators, native plants could not sink carbon dioxide and impart oxygen to our surroundings, every minute of every day. Without these pollinators, the bread baskets of the world would wither away, no longer filled with grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The natural partnerships don’t stop with the pollinators born forth from meadow creation. These partners extend to migrating songbirds and mighty raptors, small mammals and diamondback terrapins.

“If we give nature an inch, it’s going to take a yard. Give it a chance and nature will return,” says biologist Blaine Rothauser, who is directing the restoration for GZA Environmental. “Wildlife just needs an opportunity.”

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Immature night heron with crab.

Nature’s inspiring return builds upon decades of ecological recovery in the region. Thanks to President Nixon’s Clean Water Act of 1973, the water began to get cleaner. Improving the water quality reanimated the food chain from the bottom up – phyto- and zooplankton, invertebrates and crustaceans reappeared. In turn, a fishery was reborn, which ushered in the return of herons, ibis, osprey, turtles, and even harbor seals – seen sunning on the banks of tidal shores in winter!

Yet much of the land around the water’s edge is still wanting.

“The restoration site is an important buffer habitat to a large portion of undeveloped tidal bay directly adjacent to the Firmenich complex,” says Rothauser. “Today we have 60 people planting a native community of shrubs, trees and plants on a formerly sterile lawn and an unnaturalized earthen berm. It is vital work that makes a real difference.”

blaine-with-plants

The team has also created opportunities for rare species to nest. Above our heads, an osprey platform has been installed, empowering this magnificent fish-eating raptor to continue its recovery along Newark Bay and many other New Jersey waterways, industrial and remote alike.

A barn owl box offers one of our most mysterious nighttime predators the opportunity to set up shop in a beneficial area – where there is no shortage of rabbits and field mice to help control.

barn-owl-by-blaine

Close up of a barn owl.

Across the pond, a purple martin condominium-like house offers the ample space necessary for these communal swallows to reside, a home base where they can feast on flying insects.

With the first phase of the project almost complete, the second phase will seek to transform the site’s holding ponds into ecologically productive floating wetlands, bringing herons and egrets and other wading birds.

Ultimately, this project is envisioned as one that can be replicated just about anywhere along Newark Bay – or any industrial waterfront for that matter. All it takes is the willingness to look at a site’s land from a different perspective – and in so doing, to understand that the ecological benefits of bringing back many wildlife species aren’t negated by losing economic tradeoffs.

Instead they can mean parallel economic benefits. Natural pest control. Fewer landscaping and pesticide costs. Increased employee morale and productivity, with a newfound opportunity to recharge body and mind with a rejuvenating break outside, enjoying natural beauty and the engagement of your senses.

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Images above from left to right – Killdeer, 12 Spotted Skipper, and American Kestrel.

New Jersey has long served as a primary engine for America’s industry and commerce – and in return has often been derided as the “Which exit?” land of nothing but turnpike and smokestacks. The Meadowlands just to the north of here bore the brunt of that reputation, yet in recent decades has made a mind-blowing ecological recovery to become a wildlife – and ecotourism – destination.

The waters flow south from the Meadowlands along the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, and they come together in the Newark Bay. Now, that next wave of wildlife recovery and habitat restoration has arrived just downstream – along the Newark Bay waterfront.

For wildlife, it’s where the action is.

firmenich-group-pic-by-blaine

David Wheeler is the executive director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation and author of the book, Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State.

 

All photos courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

 

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