Hiss and Tell: All About Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Ever wanted to know more about the animals we have here at the museum? Grab a snack, and take a deep dive into the world of Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the comfort of your own home!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are, you guessed it, native to Madagascar! Like all cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches (or “hissers” as they are sometimes called) are scavengers, which means they eat just about anything they come across. In the wilds of Madagascar, they mostly eat dead plant matter, from fallen leaves to rotten wood and decaying fruit. Here at the museum, they’re fed a scrumptious mixture of fruits and vegetables, and for a protein-boosting treat, their favorite: dog kibble!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches (right) live peacefully alongside giant cave cockroach adults (lower left) and nymphs (upper left) at the museum.

Unlike many species of cockroach, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are wingless. Instead of being able to fly away from predators, they have to rely on running and hiding. But what happens when this isn’t enough to keep them away from danger? That’s where the hissing comes in!

When threatened, these cockroaches make a loud hissing noise, like that of an angry cat or snake, that makes them sound much bigger and scarier than they actually are. Their strategy hinges on their would-be-predator becoming scared or surprised by this sudden noise—while cats and snakes hiss as a warning of an incoming attack, hissing cockroaches are otherwise defenseless, and have to make a run for it as soon as they get an opening.

But hissing cockroaches don’t just hiss to defend themselves. Amazingly, they actually have a number of distinct hisses they use to communicate different things to each other. Both male, female, and juvenile cockroaches will hiss defensively and in alarm, but there are two other hisses that only males use: the male-to-female courtship hiss, and the male-to-male dominance hiss.

Male Madagascar hissing cockroach at the museum, with visible “horns” on the dark-colored pronotum above the head.

While these cockroach’s bark may be worse than their bite, they can still pack a punch, at least when it comes to fighting other cockroaches. Speaking of dominance battles, male hissing cockroaches will often fight amongst themselves to establish a social hierarchy, and figure out who gets the best spot on the log or the best food.

But dominance displays between male cockroaches go beyond simple hissing. Male hissers can be differentiated by females from their “horns”, distinctive twin bumps on their pronotum (that’s the shield-like segment on the back of their head). They use these horns much like rams do—by headbutting other males in a display of strength. The male hissing cockroach will attempt to “bulldoze” under his opponent, knocking him off of his perch. However, the funniest part of a Madagascar hissing cockroach dominance battle is definitely the pre-fight posturing. In an attempt to intimidate the other male and end the contest before it begins, the cockroaches will wiggle their butts aggressively at each other. So scary!

Female hissing cockroaches, on the other hand, keep to themselves much more than the males, and will only hiss when they feel threatened. Unlike most species of cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are ovoviviparous, which means that their young develop inside of eggs that stay within the mother’s body for the duration of their development. This differs from mammalian pregnancy because there is no direct placental link between the young cockroaches and their mother, but the end result is quite similar: Madagascar hissing cockroaches give live birth to their young, never actually laying their eggs before they hatch. They can give birth to anywhere between 15-40 baby cockroaches at a time!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are unique in the insect world in a lot of ways, and it’s hard to decide which of their crazy adaptations is the strangest. But there’s one question we still haven’t explored: how do they make those loud hissing sounds? While most insects that make noise do so by rubbing parts of their body together, Madagascar hissing cockroaches actually use their spiracles (the cockroach equivalent of lungs). By pushing air out of the spiracles lining the side of their abdomen, they create audible vibrations in the air, making noise in basically the same way that we humans do when we talk!

Next time you’re in the museum, be sure to check out the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and say hello. While they may look quite different from you and I, we have more in common with them than you might expect!

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Animal Love Languages

Animal Love Languages

Love is in the air, and humans aren’t the only romantics in the world. Today we’re looking at the courtship rituals of the animal kingdom!

Do you know what your love language is? Is it words of affirmation like a sweet letter, quality time like a romantic night in, receiving gifts of flowers and jewelry, acts of service, or physical touch like a hug or a cuddle? Humans have different ways of showing affection, and so do animals. But instead of things like poetry, romantic getaways, and chocolates, animals have their own unique love languages. Which animal love language do you relate the most with?

The Singer
Much like the romantic poet, some animals like to shout their love from the rooftops. Frogs, birds, crickets, and even whales use their songs to attract mates, constantly trying to out-do their competition with the loudest and most attractive voice. Frogs even have regional dialects – members of the same species may have different croaks if they have originated from different places where their local songs are slightly different. And in places where there are several different species of frogs all singing at once – like in Florida, where the invasive Cuban tree frog has been introduced into the territory of native American green tree frogs – the frogs will purposefully alter their croaks to differentiate between species and avoid confusion.

The Dancer
But maybe you’re more of a visual person. There are plenty of animals whose main courtship rituals involve elaborate dances and displays of beautiful fur and feathers. But some animals forget the flashy outfits and just focus on their moves. Hirtodrosophila mycetophaga is a species of australian fly which performs mating displays on shelf mushrooms. The males wave their wings around and perform a dance – but only on lighter-colored fungi, as these mushrooms act as a better backdrop for their performances. On darker fungi, they blend in too well, and females pass them by!

The Show-off
Not to be outdone, some animals go all in, with song, dance and color! Take the peacock spider: while you may be familiar with this small jumping spider’s namesake and its colorful plumage, this arachnid goes a step further and incorporates sound and movement into its mating display.

While displaying their brightly-colored abdomen, they wave their legs in an elaborate dance and create deep rumbling vibrations while they perform. The males who put the most effort into their displays, including both the dancing and vibrating, are more likely to get the girl.

The Collector
Some animals speak the love language of gift-giving. Native to New Guinea and Australia, bowerbirds build elaborate ‘bowers’ from nature to attract mates. First, the male Bowerbird gathers sticks and arranges them into an upright structure, often in the shape of an arch or an avenue. Then, he populates his bower with brightly-colored objects. These can be shells, flowers, even pieces of plastic and metal that he finds. Some bowerbirds even have favorite colors, and will collect only pieces that fit into their preferred color scheme! When she’s ready to find a mate, the female bowerbird tours the bowers of all the local males, and chooses the bird with the best crib to be her mate.

The True Romantic
But maybe you’re a real classical romantic. You want long walks on the beach, hand-holding, and slow-dancing. Don’t worry. Not everything is about flashy displays. Some animals like to take it slow, and build up deep bonds with their mates. Seahorses have an elaborate courtship process, with each step of the ritual being repeated again and again, often over the course of days. First, they meet and change colors, brightening in turns at each other. Then they grab hold of the same anchor-point and spin around each other in an elaborate dance with many distinct moves and steps, including leaning away, pointing, quivering and spinning. Finally, they end their dance by floating up through the water column together. While they might only be fish, seahorses are quite the romantics – they mate for life, and their specialized tails, used to anchor themselves to coral and seaweed, also allow them to “hold hands” with their significant other.

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at FCMoD!

Post written by Willow Sedam, Live Animal Husbandry Team Member

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Mindful Mondays: Do Animals Feel Emotion?

Written by Willow Sedam, Animal Husbandry Staff

Mindful Mondays: Do Animals Feel Emotion?

Throughout history, humans have been asking questions about the natural world. But there’s one we keep coming back to with endless curiosity: do animals feel?

The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras was an early ponderer of this very question. A vegetarian, Pythagoras believed that animals and humans had the same souls, and should be treated equally. He was even known for going into markets and purchasing live animals, only to set them free. But Pythagoras’s ideas were controversial – the later philosopher Aristotle created his own theory, a ranked view of nature that put humans at the top and the lesser, “irrational” animals below them. For Aristotle, and many thinkers who followed in his footsteps, the idea of animals having souls or feeling pain, let alone emotion, was a strange one.

 

But is it really that odd to imagine that animals might feel emotions like we do?

 

After all, it’s not hard to find instances of animal behavior that appear to be driven by emotion. Take your dog to the vet or start up the vacuum cleaner around him, and you’ll see a response that looks a lot like anxiety, fear, or even anger. If animals appear to feel negative emotions, couldn’t they feel positive ones as well? Might they feel a similarly wide range of emotions to ours?

Elephants and whales have both been observed behaving unusually around dead herd members, guarding the bodies of fallen friends for days, or carrying deceased calves with them for miles. And great apes have even been able to communicate their own emotions to researchers. Koko, a gorilla who had been taught sign language, responded “Bad, sad, bad, frown, cry, frown, sad, trouble” when learning her adopted kitten had died.

Koko with her kitten, photo from the Los Angeles Times

 

It’s no surprise that these animals – some of the smartest in the world – would be able to feel; but it’s not just the big-brained mammals like us who display signs of emotion.

 

Parrots and crows are exceptionally bright birds, and their intelligence seems to extend to the complexity of their emotional lives as well. Crows have been known to form bonds with humans who feed them, and grudges against those they don’t like. They will even bring gifts to humans they like, and teach other crows to attack those they don’t. And parrots can get so bored in captivity that, without anything to occupy their clever brains, they will develop compulsive behaviors similar to neurosis in humans, such as plucking out their own feathers.

Some fish have even been observed to exhibit individual personalities. In a study where new and possibly dangerous things were introduced to a school of fish, some fish would approach aggressively, some curiously, and some would simply hide. Each new item saw the same fish approaching in the same manor – the aggressive one continued to act aggressively, the shy one continued to act shy. Each fish had their own unique temperament!

And let’s not forget invertebrates – those animals without a backbone like insects, worms, and squids. You might not think them very smart or emotionally deep, but you would be doing them a great disservice. Octopuses are renowned for their intelligence, despite their short and solitary lifestyle. Captive octopuses enjoy playing with humans – and will attack ones they don’t like. They’re smart enough to get bored, and smart enough to escape their tanks looking for something more interesting. That’s a lot of complexity for an animal so closely related to slugs.

 

So, problem solved: animals do feel, and they feel quite a lot! …Right?

 

Unfortunately, the scientific jury is still out in this case. While there are plenty of behaviors that we observe in animals that might look like what we think of as emotions, we can’t exactly ask a lizard how it’s feeling. So, we rely on assumptions – assumptions that could be wrong.

The biggest problem we face when trying to answer these questions about animal emotions is called anthropomorphism, the action of projecting human traits onto animals, plants, or even inanimate objects. It’s a bit like seeing faces in clouds – they’re not really there, but we’re so used to looking for them that we conjure them up anyway. While an action or expression might mean one thing to a human, it could mean something completely different to another animal. While humans smile when happy, chimpanzees bare their teeth as a threat display. And while a dog wagging its tail may be excited or happy, a cat wagging its tail is definitely not. It’s easy to misread these behaviors and displays, and easier still to project a human idea of an emotion onto an animal who may experience the world in a vastly different way from us.

 

But just as it is important not to project our own emotions onto animals and their behavior, it’s important, too, to not assume that animals are mindless or emotionless drones. It’s tempting to think that animals experience less than we do – that they don’t feel pain, sorrow, or joy. But nature has proven time and time again that intelligence and emotion come in all shapes and sizes. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to be kind – to your human and non-human neighbors.

 

To stay informed on the latest Mental Health: Mind Matters programs and experiences, visit the Mind Matters webpage and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us in your experiences when you visit the museum to help us #MakeItOk. 

We look forward to welcoming you to FCMoD to experience this amazing exhibit!  

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Mindful Mondays: Animal Enrichment

Written by Willow Sedam, Animal Husbandry Staff

Mindful Mondays: Animal Enrichment

Just like us, animals can get bored. Have you ever been bored stuck inside on a rainy day? Imagine if you lived your entire life in your house –  many animals kept in captivity in zoos, aquariums, and even our own homes do spend their whole lives in one place. And without proper enrichment, animals can get bored quickly!

 

So, what is enrichment?

Behavioral, or environmental, enrichment, is anything that makes an animal’s life more interesting! It could be training a dog to sit and stay, or giving an octopus a complex puzzle to solve. It can be rearranging an animal’s cage for a change of scenery, or introducing new and exciting sounds or scents to them.

 

At the museum, we have our own animals – from black-footed ferrets to tree frogs – who all need enrichment. But enrichment comes in all different shapes and sizes!

Our colony of domesticated fancy rats are smart, omnivorous foragers, and need lots to do to keep their brains working. One day, they might get a new toy or a hiding place like a tunnel or wicker ball in their enclosure. The next, they might get peanuts hidden inside of cardboard tubes that they have to sniff out and chew open to get to. One of the keys to enrichment is variability – if an animal gets the same kind of enrichment at the same time every day or week, the novelty can wear off. Switching up enrichment styles and schedules is as important as the enrichment itself!

 

But enrichment isn’t one size fits all. Every animal is different, and so are the things we give them to keep them interested and excited.

 

The museum’s ornate box turtle, Tara, isn’t very good at sniffing out treats or chewing open cardboard boxes, so her enrichment takes a different form. She gets walks – inside the museum when the weather is cold, and out in the big backyard when it’s warmer. She loves her walks, and spends her outdoors time digging, hunting ants, and finding rocks to carry around in her beak. And even Tara likes treats – though instead of peanuts, she gets mealworms, which she chases down and gobbles up! To figure out what kind of enrichment an animal needs, we have to think about what our animals would be doing in the wild; Tara is actually a Colorado native, so spending time foraging in the Big Backyard is the perfect enrichment activity for her.

But what happens when animals don’t get the enrichment they need? Like us, bored animals can become frustrated, restless, or even depressed. They can get lethargic and low-energy, pick fights with other animals in the same cage, or pace the same path over and over again. Enrichment is important for animals of all shapes and sizes, from lions and tigers to little turtles like Tara.

 

Want to try giving your pet enrichment? There are lots of different ways to, and you might already be doing it without realizing! Training your dog to sit and stay, or playing catch-the-string with your cat are some easy ways to get your pet’s mind and body active. You could also introduce your pets to new (pet-safe) foods, or interesting and novel scents. Or, rearrange their cage, move their bed, and hide their toys in new places around the house. You can even make your own puzzle feeder: take a shallow box, cut holes of various sizes in the top, and sprinkle in some treats. See how your pet thinks through the problem to get to its prize – does it fish the treats out with a paw, shake the box until they fall out, or tear it open to get to the food?

There are tons of different fun enrichment projects you and your pet can work on together – so next time you’re feeling bored, consider designing a new toy for your furry (or slimy, scaly, or feathered) friend. You just might discover that it’s just as enriching for you as it is for them!

 

 

To stay informed on the latest Mental Health: Mind Matters programs and experiences, visit the Mind Matters webpage and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Don’t forget to tag us in your experiences when you visit the museum to help us #MakeItOk. 

We look forward to welcoming you to FCMoD to experience this amazing exhibit!  

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Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Endangered & Forgotten

National Wildlife Day is September 4, 2020! To celebrate, let’s explore some of the less well known endangered species in Colorado.

We hear a lot about endangered species these days, as the climate changes around us and human activities challenge wildlife survival. Often the articles and advertisements you see feature fuzzy and adorable animals like the Giant Panda or the Sea Otter. Here in Colorado, our featured endangered wildlife tends to be appealingly majestic, like the Grey Wolf (whose reintroduction to Colorado is on November’s ballot for 2020) or even FCMOD’s beloved Black-footed Ferrets. These are species that definitely deserve attention – but there are many more of our wildlife neighbors that need our attention and help that may not be so cute or exciting. There are so many ignored species in the world that are in difficult or dangerous situations thanks to habitat loss, pollution, water loss, and many other human activities.

Here are just a few of our Colorado wildlife neighbors in need:

Least Tern (Sterna antillarum), Federally Endangered

The Least tern is the smallest member of the gull and tern family. They’re only 9 inches long. They nest in the summer on sandbars along major rivers in the central U.S., including in Colorado. This bird was listed as federally endangered in 1985. A lot of nesting habitat in the U.S. has been lost to the birds because of the ways that humans have changed the river systems: dams and reservoirs; introduction of invasive plants; stabilizing river banks, hydropower, and diverting water.

Bonytail Chub (Gila elegans), Federally Critically Endangered

The bonytail is a freshwater fish that lives in the Colorado River basin. It can grow up to 2 feet long and can live up to 50 years. It was added to the endangered list in 1980, and is now the rarest big-river fish in the Colorado. The bonytail, along with numerous other fish species in the Colorado, suffered drastic population declines after the construction of Hoover Dam and other human projects that divert water from the river and change how the water flowed and pooled. These fish also suffer from competition from non-native fish species that humans have introduced into bonytail habitat. At this time, there is no self-sustaining wild population of these fish, and human-run hatcheries are all that maintains the species.

North Park Phacelia (Phacelia formosula), Federally Endangered

The North Park Phacelia only exists in one place in the entire world: the North Park area in Jackson County. It likes to grow on bare slopes and eroding rocks in ravines in the North Park area, where few other plants are able to survive. This phacelia was listed as federally endangered in 1982. It is threatened by livestock, off-road vehicles, commercial and residential development, and petroleum exploration. It also suffers from the loss of pollinating insects in the area, which it depends on to reproduce.

You may be wondering what you can do to be a better neighbor to these species, and the other species in our beautiful state that are threatened or endangered. Here are some steps that you can try:

Educate yourself. Learn about the different kinds of wildlife that live in Colorado with us, and what kinds of things we humans are doing that are putting them at risk.

Take action. Think about how much water you use, or whether the plants in your yard are native or invasive. Consider how much energy you use leaving on lights in an empty room, or streaming your favorite songs rather than downloading them. Look at how much gas your vehicle uses, or how many plastics or other petroleum products you use on a daily basis. Even a small change you can make in your own behavior can be a help to our endangered neighbors.

Talk to your friends and family about why this wildlife is in danger, and why it’s important to you. Your friends and family care about your thoughts and opinions. Help them to understand how important it is to help all.

Contact your representatives in government. These threatened and endangered species do not have a voice in our government, but you do. If you are old enough, vote for candidates that pay attention to wildlife. But at any age, you can make your voice heard! Make sure that your representatives know how important it is that we are good neighbors to all the wildlife in Colorado, in the country, and in the world.

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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It’s National Pollinator Week! ?

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

?It’s National Pollinator Week!

June 22-28, 2020, is the 13th annual National Pollinator Week!

What Are Pollinators?

Pollinators are animals that move pollen from one flower to another flower of the same species in the first step toward the plant reproducing. While pollinators are primarily insects (bees, beetles, flies, moths, butterflies), there are also some birds and small mammals that pollinate plants too.

More than 70% — and possibly as much as 90%! — of flowering plants are dependent on pollination for creating seeds and fruit. It is estimated that one out of every three bites of food you eat was made possible by animal pollinators!

Many of the animals that pollinate are in decline. Pollinator habitats are shrinking or getting destroyed so they have no space to live or feed. In addition, overuse of pesticides, environmental pollution, and climate change are all adding risks to these animals.

Pollinators in Colorado

In Colorado, we have a wide range of habitats and extreme changes in altitude – different bees will thrive in each area. Because of that variety of habitat, Colorado is home to more than 900 species of bees! There are more than 200 bees in Larimer County alone. The smallest bee in Colorado is the Miner Bee (Perdita salacis) at 3.5mm/0.1in; the largest is the Nevada Bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis) at 26.5mm/1in. Colorado bees are colorful, too! Different species may be the usual yellow and black, or range to red, orange, green, blue, or brown.

Most bees in Colorado (and the rest of the world too) are solitary bees that don’t live in a colony like the familiar honeybee. Most of these solitary bees are ground nesters, digging burrows in the soil or using abandoned rodent burrows. Some of the bees here are cavity nesters, finding holes or cavities in twigs or logs.

In Colorado, bees are responsible for pollinating 80% of the crops in our state.

In addition to bees, other pollinators in Colorado include approximately 250 species of butterfly and more than 1,000 species of moth. There are also 11 species of hummingbird that migrate through the state from April through September.

How can you help pollinators?

Learn more about the pollinators in the space where you live. Spend some time outside and observe the animals that are visiting your garden. What kinds of animals do you see? What colors are they? How do they behave as they visit flowers?

Create good habitats for pollinators around your home. Whether you have acres of land or just a window box, you can help pollinators by offering them food and shelter. Plant a variety of flowering plants (preferably native – CSU has a great example list of native plants for pollinators) that offer food and nesting space. Provide several different kinds of blooming plants near each other, and use plants that have different bloom times, so that flowers are available to pollinators from early spring through late fall. Plant in sunny locations that are protected from the wind.

Don’t “clean up” your yard in the fall. Leave all the dormant or dead plants alone rather than trimming them back for the winter season — cavity nesting bees and other pollinating insects will use them as a safe home during the cold weather. Leave some leaf litter around for butterflies and moths to use as insulation over the winter, rather than raking it all up and dumping it in the landfill. If you can include materials in your yard such as logs or wood nesting blocks, you provide space for species that nest in wood to survive the snow. Leave some of the ground uncovered (i.e. don’t put mulch everywhere) for the native bees that nest in the bare dirt for the winter.

Reduce use of chemicals for controlling weeds and pests, as these can hurt or kill beneficial pollinators as well.

Protect natural habitat.

 Share what you know. Talk to your friends and family about what you have learned about pollinators and how and why you are helping them. Talk to your local and state government about how important it is to protect pollinators.

 

 

 

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The Pollinator You Know: The Honeybee!

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

The Pollinator You Know: The Honeybee!

When most people hear about pollination, the first thing they think of is the honeybee.

The oldest bee that scientists have found so far was in Myanmar, encased in amber and dated at 100 million years old! Bees that old were hunters, eating other insects. At some point they started visiting flowers for nectar and pollen, changing into the honeybees that we know and love.

Honeybee colonies have been kept in man-made hives since Ancient Egypt and have been important throughout human history. In addition to being delicious as a sweetener in food, honey can be used to make mead (an alcoholic drink), which works as an antiseptic. It has even been used to embalm mummies! Beeswax can be used in making many products, such as candles, soap, cosmetics, and waterproofing. Honey and bees are so important that people have named their children after bees. Deborah and Melissa both mean “bee” in different languages; Pamela derives from a word for “honey”.

When Europeans colonized the Americas in the 17th century, there were no native honeybees. Native Americans tribes at the time kept and traded other kinds of bees. European settlers brought the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) along with their familiar crop plants when they moved to the Americas. As we have expanded across the planet, humans have deliberately expanded the range of the Western Honey Bee, and it is now found on every continent in the world except Antarctica.

Healthy Honeybee Colonies

In a healthy honeybee colony, you can see thousands of individual bees. Most of what you see are the worker bees, which are females that cannot lay eggs. There are usually 10,000-50,000 workers per colony. The workers care for the queen and young, defend the hive with their stingers, build comb for the young honeybees and the honey, and collect food. There are also drones, which are the male honeybees. There are about 1,000 drones in a given colony. Drones have no sting, do not forage for food, and cannot defend the hive. Their only purpose is to mate with the queen. There is only one queen bee in the colony. She is larger than all the other bees, and usually has a circle of worker bees around her (her “court”) that take care of her, bringing her food and cleaning her. The queen is the only individual who can lay eggs, and can lay as many as 2,000 eggs per day!

The worker bees leave the hive and may fly up to two miles away from their home to find food. They seek out flowers and collect nectar, which is a sugary solution that flowers produce in order to attract pollinators. The worker bee then returns to the hive and performs a dance to indicate to her fellow workers where she found food. The collected nectar is transformed into honey and may be consumed by any of the adult bees or fed to the young who cannot yet fly to find their own food. The honey can also be harvested by humans.

Honeybee colonies normally survive for several years, going dormant in the winter cold and then becoming active in the warmer months. During favorable conditions (an abundance of food), the hive will create “daughter queens,” and the old queen and much of her colony will relocate to make room for the new queens.

What is happening with the FCMoD colony?

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has had a bee colony in the Animal Encounters exhibit for our visitors to watch and enjoy since the exhibit opened. However, our colony has collapsed several times since then. Each time we have obtained a new colony from our professional beekeeper.

There are a lot of environmental factors that can negatively affect a honeybee colony, and a lot of colonies around the world are struggling and collapsing right now. There are some pesticides that are worse for bees, especially the class of pesticide called neonicotinoids. There are diseases and parasites that can affect a colony. Climate change may also be playing a factor with bee colonies dying.

What our beekeeper thinks may be happening to the honeybee colony here at FCMoD is that the bees may have found a flower source in the area that has been sprayed with a certain kind of pesticide. They collect the nectar and pesticide, then carry it back to the colony and tell their sisters where to find more. The bees eat the poisoned nectar and honey, and die.

How can we stop honeybee colony collapse?

There are a lot of different pesticides that people use to control weeds and to get rid of bugs they don’t like. But since we do like the honeybees and the honey they make, we need to make sure that we use pesticides that won’t hurt the bees. Pesticide application can be done at night when bees are not foraging. Additionally, making sure not to apply pesticides to blooming plants will help prevent bee deaths.

Like all animals, bees need good quality and abundant food. We can plant native flowers at our homes so honeybees and all the native Colorado bees have healthy and nutritious food sources.

We should also look for ways to reduce our impact on the environment around us, improving the lives of all animals that we share our environment with. Find reusable products instead of single use items you throw away. Turn off the lights in empty rooms. Compost. Take shorter showers. Each of us can have a huge positive impact on the wild animals that live around us.

Learn more about how pesticides can affect bees and other wildlife:

EPA Tips for Reducing Pesticide Impacts on Wildlife

National Pesticide Information Center: Protecting Wildlife from Pesticides

Learn about native plants you can use in your garden:

Colorado Native Plant Society plant lists

Find out how to reduce your impact on the environment:

World Wildlife Fund’s Tips for Reducing Your Environmental Impact

Can you spot the queen bee in this picture? She is larger and a slightly different color.

The FCMoD honeybee colony, in Spring of 2018.

Photos courtesy of Alexa Leinaweaver

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Daily Discovery: “If You Love Honey” Bee Headband Craft

Post written by Lea Mikkelsen, Early Childhood Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Storytime in the Home – If You Love Honey  Bee Headband Craft

Follow along with FCMoD’s live stream Storytime in the Home: If You Love Honey: Nature’s Connections. Then gather all your supplies to create this adorable honeybee headband. Buzz Buzz!

Supplies:

  • Yellow and Black craft paper
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Hole punch

Instructions:

  1. Place all your supplies on a clear surface with plenty of room to create.
  2. Cut a long strip of yellow craft paper.
  3. Cut a second strip of black craft paper and cut that into small bee stripes.
  4. Glue the black bee stripes to the yellow strip of craft paper leaving some yellow bits in between.
  5. Punch a hole in the ends of the strip and thread the yarn through to use as a tie.
  6. Curl one end of each pipe cleaner to make a small ball.
  7. Tape the pipe cleaners to the inside of the headband where you want each antenna to go.
  8. Tie your headband on and do a honeybee dance! BUZZZZZzzzz!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

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Daily Discovery: Meet the Amphibians! / Descubrimiento en casa: Conoce al animal – ¡los anfibios!

Post written by Hannah Curtis, Education Assistant.

Daily Discovery: Meet the Amphibians!

Metamorphic, ectothermic, and ecological indicators! What kind of animal has these terms in common? That’s right, amphibians: toads, frogs, salamanders, and newts! Meet FCMoD’s amphibians, and become a herpetologist in your own backyard!

What are Amphibians?

Amphibians are characterized as ectothermic (cold-blooded) vertebrates. They require water or moist environments to survive and for laying eggs. The skin on amphibians is very thin and permeable, so liquids and gases are absorbed through their skin, allowing them to breath underwater! Some small frogs and salamanders don’t even have lungs and rely only on this adaptation to breathe through their skin!

Almost all amphibians go through the process of metamorphosis. Adult females lay their eggs and once the larvae hatch, they have gills and resemble fish. Through metamorphosis they grow four legs and air breathing lungs!

At FCMoD we care for a variety of amphibians. Check out a few of their individual life histories!

Threats from Water Pollution

Amphibians play an important role in their wild ecosystems, but they – and their water-based habitats – become threatened due to water toxicity and pollution. Because frogs, toads and salamanders spend most of their time in or around water environments, they will come into contact with any toxic chemicals in the water or abnormal rising temperatures.

Amphibians are like sponges! They absorb and breathe in whatever is in the water. Due to their easy susceptibility to unhealthy water conditions, they are a great indicator species for an ecosystem; they can be used to infer conditions in a particular habitat. If there is clean, fresh water, frogs and toads are going to be healthy. If there is trash, chemical waste like pesticides or oil spillage, or food processing waste in the water, the animals breathe in these bad, unhealthy things and are at high risk of dying.

You can help amphibians in the wild by remembering a few things:

  1. If you see a frog or toad, try not to touch it without gloves or clean hands (no hand sanitizer), as you could expose them to germs and chemicals.
  2. Always remember to dispose of your trash properly; if you see trash in a natural area or in a body of water, set an example for others in your community by cleaning it up!
  3. Buy and eat organic food. This reduces the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides that can leak into water sources, and don’t use pesticides on your own yard or garden.
  4. If you have a pet amphibian, protect them from noise and disturbance from other pets in your house.
  5. Share with others about what you learned about amphibians, and all the ways we can protect them!
  6. Remember that if you take care of the earth, the earth will take care of you and all the wildlife too!

Observations in the Backyard!

Whether it is in your backyard, neighborhood or at a Natural Area, animals can be observed just about anywhere! Herpetologists are scientists who study amphibians, as well as reptiles. They study and observe these animals in the wild to learn about their behaviors and identify their role within the ecosystem. Be a backyard herpetologist and observe animals similar to the museum’s amphibians and record what you discover!

Supplies:

  • Writing utensil
  • Paper
  • Computer and internet access (optional)

Instructions:

  1. If you created an observational journal, write down your animal observations in the “explore your world” section. If not, create your own observational chart, using the provided guiding questions.
  2. Head out to your backyard or take a walk to a natural area with a water source to explore amphibians and their habitats.
  3. Check out FrogWatch USA to learn about the frogs and toads native to Colorado and listen to their unique croaks and calls!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

 

Traducido por Károl de Rueda y Laura Vilaret-Tuma.

Descubrimiento en casa: Conoce al animal – ¡los anfibios!

Son metamórficos, ectotérmicos e indicadores ecológicos. ¿Cuáles animales comparten estas características? ¡Los anfibios por supuesto! Estos incluyen sapos, ranas, salamandras y tritones. Conoce a los anfibios del Museo del Descubrimiento de Fort Collins (FCMoD) y ¡sé un herpetólogo en tu propio patio!

¿Qué son los anfibios?

Los anfibios son ectotérmicos y vertebrados. Esto significa que tienen sangre fría y una columna vertebral. Por resultado, necesitan vivir en el agua o en un ambiente húmedo para poder poner sus huevos y para sobrevivir. La piel de un anfibio es muy fina y permeable, por lo tanto, los líquidos y gases de su ambiente se absorben fácilmente a través de su piel. Esta peculiaridad les permite ¡respirar bajo el agua! La adaptación de “respirar” por medio de su piel ha logrado una evolución en algunas ranas y salamandras a tal grado, que algunas de ellas ¡no tienen pulmones!

Casi todos los anfibios experimentan el proceso de metamorfosis. Las hembras adultas ponen sus huevos en el agua y, cuando las larvas o los renacuajos salen del cascarón, estos nacen con branquias y parecen peces. Pero con el tiempo, y a través de la metamorfosis, ¡les nacen cuatro patas y dos pulmones que les ayudarán a respirar aire fresco!

En el museo, cuidamos a una variedad de anfibios.

La contaminación del agua y sus daños

Los anfibios poseen un rol importante en el ecosistema, pero ellos, al igual que sus ambientes acuáticos, son amenazados por la contaminación y la toxicidad del agua. Debido a que las ranas, salamandras, y los sapos pasan la mayor parte de su tiempo dentro o cerca de ambientes acuáticos, absorben los contaminantes en el agua o sufren con sus temperaturas anormalmente altas.

Los anfibios ¡son como esponjas! Absorben y respiran químicos presentes en el agua. Su susceptibilidad a condiciones insalubres sirve para ser una especie indicadora para el ecosistema. Los científicos usan esta clase de animales para determinar la condición de un hábitat particular. En agua fresca y limpia, las ranas o sapos vivirán sanos. Si hay basura, residuos químicos como pesticidas, derrame de petróleo, o desechos de residuos de alimentos, los animales respirarán estos contaminantes y estarán en alto riesgo de morir.

Tú puedes ayudar a los anfibios en la naturaleza simplemente recordando algunas cosas:

  1.  Si ves alguna rana o un sapo, trata de no tocarlos con manos sucias o sin guantes. No uses desinfectante de manos, porque este puede exponerlos a gérmenes o químicos.
  2. Recuerda eliminar tu basura apropiadamente. Si ves basura en un área natural o en un cuerpo de agua, recógela y ¡sé un ejemplo para otros en tu comunidad!
  3. Trata de no usar pesticidas e insecticidas en tu jardín debido a que estos químicos pueden filtrarse en cuerpos de agua y dañar a los anfibios. Otra manera de ayudar es consumiendo comida orgánica.
  4. Si tienes una mascota anfibia, protégela de los ruidos o molestias de otras mascotas en tu casa.
  5. Comparte con los demás lo que has aprendido sobre los anfibios, incluyendo las maneras en las que los podemos proteger.
  6. Recuerda que si cuidamos a nuestro planeta, ¡el planeta nos cuidará a nosotros y a toda la vida salvaje!

Observaciones a tu alrededor

Los animales se pueden observar en un patio, en los jardines, en un área natural o en cualquier sitio. Los herpetólogos son científicos que estudian anfibios y reptiles, observándolos en su medio ambiente para aprender sobre sus comportamientos e identificarsu rol en el ecosistema. ¡Tú también puedes ser herpetólogo! Observa animales similares a los anfibios del museo ¡y documenta lo que descubres!

Artículos necesarios:

  • Algo para escribir (lápiz, pluma o marcador)
  • Papel y/o cuaderno
  • Computadora y acceso al Internet (opcional)

Instrucciones:

  1. Crea una tabla de observaciones usando la guía de preguntas que puedes encontrar más abajo. Anótalas en un cuaderno, un diario o en hojas de papel.
  2. Da un paseo con tu familia por los alrededores donde haya algún cuerpo de agua (lago, río, etc.) y busca algunos anfibios. Observa sus comportamientos y medio ambiente. Si quieres aprender más sobre las ranas y sapos nativos de Colorado, haz clic en este enlace: FrogWatch USA ¡Ahí también puedes escuchar los sonidos que hacen

¿Te gustaría descargar esta actividad? Haz clic aquí para obtener un archivo PDF.

Para encontrar actividades, ideas y mucho más descubrimiento en casa, ¡síguenos!

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Daily Discovery: Storytime in the Home – The Prairie That Nature Built Black-Footed Ferret Puppet

Post written by Lea Mikkelsen, Early Childhood Coordinator.

Daily Discovery: Storytime in the Home – The Prairie That Nature Built Black-Footed Ferret Puppet

Follow along with FCMoD’s live stream Storytime in the Home: The Prairie That Nature Built. Then work together with an adult to make this Black-Footed Ferret puppet! Black-Footed Ferrets (BFFs) are an endangered species and an important part of the prairie ecosystem. You can learn more about them here!

Supplies:

  • A popsicle stick
  • Black or green beads
  • Glue
  • Craft paper (White, Black, Pink, Green)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

Instructions:

  1. Place all your supplies on a clear surface with plenty of room to create.
  2. Ask an adult to help you find some pictures of BFFs on the internet for inspiration!
  3. Use a pencil to draw the shape of your BFFs head and ears on the white paper then cut it out. (This one is about 2 ½ inches from ear to ear and 1 ¾ inches from top of ears to chin.)
  4. Cut out a mask (an upside down U shape) and a nose (a rounded triangle shape with the point down) from the black paper and glue them down.
  5. Use the pink paper to cut out ears (half circles) and a small pointy mouth (a very small flat triangle) and glue them down.
  6. Use black or green beads for eyes. A BFF’s eyes appear green at nighttime.
  7. Glue your BFF to the popsicle stick.
  8. Cut out a round burrow for your BFF to live in! Make a small slit in the burrow to let your puppet pop in and out. Decorate your burrow with grass or other prairie features. Have fun!

BONUS: Here are some activities from Dawn Publishing that relate to The Prairie that Nature Built. Here is a coloring page! Build your own bird feeder!

Want to download these directions? Click here for a handy PDF!

Follow along with our Daily Discovery! Click here for all activities that you can do at home.

Educational opportunities like this are supported in part by Buell Foundation. Their support helps make access to early childhood education at FCMoD possible for everyone in our community.

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