U.S. Firefly Atlas

The Xerces Society, in collaboration with the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and New Mexico BioPark Society, has launched the Firefly Atlas project:

Lucidota atra, black firefly, found on milkweed along my driveway, 2022-07-05

The Firefly Atlas is a collaborative effort to better understand and conserve the diversity of fireflies in North America. Launched in 2022, the project aims to advance our collective understanding of firefly species’ distributions, phenology, and habitat associations, as well as to identify threats to their populations.

Although the Atlas tracks all species described from the US and Canada, we are currently prioritizing efforts for a subset of 13 threatened and data deficient species found in three focal regions of the US: the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Southwest. These priority regions were chosen based upon having a high number of threatened species and/or a high number of data deficient species. – What is the Firefly Atlas?

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City Nature Challenge 2022 – New York City

Botanizing along the Gowanus, May 2021

The annual City Nature Challenge (CNC) is this weekend, from Friday April 29 through Monday May 2. I put together a presentation on Slideshare with a brief overview of New York City’s participation in CNC.

I’m one of the Brooklyn Borough Captains for the NYC Battle of the Boroughs, a friendly inter-borough competition among the boroughs to promote CNC participation across NYC. Following is a list of all the planned events and participating greenspaces in Brooklyn. You can also find this list on the Brooklyn CNC 2022 iNaturalist Project Journal.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Calvert Vaux Park

CNC BioBlitz: Birds, Plants, and Pollinators!
Time: 12pm-2pm
Host: Torrey Botanical Society
Description: Calvert Vaux Park is an under-explored park in Brooklyn with several trails and a waterfront view of the Verrazano Bridge. The event will take place during low tide to take advantage of the exposed shoreline. Participants of all levels are welcome! Local naturalists with expertise in plants, birds, and insects will share their knowledge on the biodiversity of the park and how to make meaningful observations. The bioblitz will be led by Chris Kreussling, Jen Kepler, and other local urban naturalists.
Registration: Eventbrite
Starting Location: [Pollinator Place Garden](https://goo.gl/maps/sZL2cotYE5vJ7cXt9), Calvert Vaux Park, near the pedestrian bridge over Shore Pkwy

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Ridgewood Reservoir (Highland Park)

Birds and Insects Walking Tour
Time: 10a – 12p
Host: NYC H2O
Description: Let’s put Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir on the map! Our first walk will be led by Ken Chaya – a consultant for the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), perhaps best know for mapping the location of all 19,933 trees in Central Park to produce the prolifically illustrated “Central Park Entire” map.
Starting Location:

Plants and Herbals Walking Tour
Time: 12p – 2p
Host: NYC H2O
Description: Let’s put Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir on the map! Our second walk will be led by Jocelyn Perez-Blanco – a local educator, conservationist, and Herbalists Without Borders (HWB) NYC Queens Chapter Coordinator.
Registration: Via Eventbrite
Starting Location:

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Green-Wood Cemetery
City Nature Challenge: Green-Wood BioBlitz
Time: 10am-12noon
Host: Green-Wood Historic Fund
Description: Join Sigrid Jakob and Potter Palmer, the project leads of Green-Wood’s Fungi Phenology Project, and Sara Evans, Green-Wood’s manager of horticulture operations, on a guided bioblitz.
Registration: https://www.green-wood.com/event/city-nature-challenge-green-wood-bioblitz/
Starting Location: inside the Main Entrance at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street

Fort Green Park

City Nature Challenge: Spring Blossoms
Time: 11a-12:30p
Host: Urban Park Rangers
Description: NYC Parks is participating in the City Nature Challenge and is recruiting you to help. Join the Rangers as we walk the park to observe and collect data for the City Nature Challenge, a friendly competition taking place April 29-May 1 between cities around the world to see which is most biodiverse. This program will focus on identifying spring blossoms. Participants are encouraged to download the iNaturalist app to collect data.
Registration: None needed. For more info, visit: https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2022/05/01/city-nature-challenge-spring-blossoms
Starting Location: Fort Green Park Visitor Center

Monday, May 2, 2002

Prospect Park Nothing scheduled, but if you want to meet up for an informal CNC, let me know.

Parks and other Green Spaces

Other Brooklyn Parks and Green Spaces that are participating without any scheduled events:

Related Content

City Nature Challenge


NYC CNC iNaturalist Projects

City Nature Challenge

NYC CNC iNaturalist Projects- Past Years

Battle of the Boroughs – Past Years

Parks and Green Spaces

Coccinella novemnotata, nine-spotted lady beetle, aka “C9”

New York State Gardeners: You can help re-introduce our state insect! See Links below.

A decade ago, shortly after I launched this blog, I wrote the following:

[Coccinella] novemnotata was once common. How did New York State get to have a once-native-but-no-longer-resident state insect?

Not just common; C. novemnotata, or C9 for short, was once the most common lady beetle in the eastern U.S.
In 1980, when the bill was first introduced to make C9 our state insect, it was still common. It suffered a rapid decline through the 1980s. By the time it was finally designated the state insect in 1989, it hadn’t been seen in the state for 7 years.

In 2006, then-assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun introduced a bill to change the state insect to one which hadn’t been extirpated from the state. In her words, “Why do we want to get something like this wrong?” I wrote:

Instead of introducing a bill to gloss over the extirpation of a species, let’s reintroduce and restore C. novemnotata to New York State. Then our state insect would be a symbol to aspire to, and not simply an “error.”

Well, it may finally be time to do so. In 2001, 29 years after its disappearance from the state, C9 was finally found again, on Long Island. After years of research, Dr. John Losey and his colleagues at Cornell University have successfully reared C9 in captivity. And now, through the Lost Ladybug Project, they are making C9 larvae available to New York state gardeners and others.

Here’s one of them, freshly released in my garden, exploring Heliopsis helianthoides in my front yard.
Release of Coccinella novemnotata, 9-spotted lady beetle, from the Lost Ladybug project, in my garden, June 2016

Gardening for Insects

  • Stop using pesticides in the garden. Not just insecticides, but herbicides, fungicides, etc.
  • Grow more native plants, and more varieties of them. Many insects feed on plants in their larval stages, e.g.: caterpillars, and can’t feed effectively on plants with which they haven’t co-evolved. 
  • A variety of native plant species also provides more flowers to provide nectar and pollen for adult insects. Choose plants that have clusters of small flowers, which will attract a larger diversity of insects than big, blowsy flowers.
  • Leave piles of leaf litter, old logs and branches, standing dead stems of plants. These provide shelter for eggs, pupae, and adults.


1970: Coccinella novemnotata (C9) is the most common lady beetle species in the northeastern U.S.
1980: Nominated as New York state insect.
1980s: Begins rapidly declining. Speculation as to causes includes competition with introduced species, but no definitive answers have yet been found.
1982: Last seen in New York state.
1989: Designated NY State Insect, despite being apparently absent for 7 years.
1992: Last seen in the eastern U.S.
2000: The Lost Ladybug Project initiated as a citizen science project.
2006-06-15: Bill 2005-A06247 passes the NY State Assembly to change the state insect from Coccinella novemnotata, extirpated from NY State, to Coleomegilla maculata.
October 2006: C9 re-discovered in Virginia, first time it’s seen on the East Coast since 1992, 14 years.
2011-07-30: C9 rediscovered on Long Island, first time seen in New York since 1982, 29 years.
2016: Lost Ladybug Project launches program to re-introduce captively bred C9

Related Content

Coleomegilla usurps Coccinella as New York State Insect, 2006-06-23
Flickr photo set: Coccinella novemnotata, nine-spotted lady beetle, aka “C9”

Pollinator Gardens, for Schools and Others, 2015-02-20
FAQ: Where do you get your plants?
The 2014 NYCWW Pollinator Safari of my Gardens
Gardening with the Hymenoptera (and yet not), 2011-07-31
Gardening with the Lepidoptera, 2011-06-11

My blog posts on Butterflies (Lepidoptera), Bees and Wasps (Hymenoptera), PollinatorsHabitat, and Ecology

My Native Plants page
Retail sources for native plants


Lost Ladybug Project

Ninespotted Ladybug Restoration
C. novemnotata in decline

Other Links

NY State Assemble Bill 2005-A06247

BugGuide: Coccinella novemnotata
Discover Life: Coccinella novemnotata Herbst, 1793:269, NINE-SPOTTED LADY BEETLE, Nine-spotted ladybug
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL): Coccinella novemnotata
Xerces Society:

Animal Diversity: Coccinella novemnotata
Cornell University, Insect Conservation: Coccinella novemnotata, Nine Spotted lady Beetle

Bee Watchers Needed in NYC (and a rant)

The Great Pollinator Project, a joint effort of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, is recruiting volunteers for 2009 to record and report observations of native bee species in New York City. They are conducting orientations over the next week from 6-8pm at the following locations:

Brooklyn: Monday, June 8th at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Avenue
Staten Island: Tuesday, June 9th at Greenbelt Nature Center, 700 Rockland Avenue
Bronx: Tuesday, June 9th at Van Cortlandt House Museum, Van Cortlandt Park
Queens: Wednesday, June 10th at Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) 228-06 Northern Blvd.
Manhattan: Tuesday, June 16th at Central Park, North Meadow Recreation Center (Off of 97th St. Transverse Road)

You can RSVP online, by emailing beewatchers@gmail.com, or by calling 718-370-9044.

I’ll take this opportunity to rant a bit. Honeybees, which we manage both for their products – honey and beeswax – and their service as pollinators, are a single, non-native, species of bee. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been widely reported for several years and is well-embedded in the public consciousness. Meanwhile, the circumstances of the thousands of bee species native to North America go unreported.

Much has been made of agriculture’s dependence on honeybees for pollination. Dire outcomes from the loss of honeybees – widespread crop failures, famine, even human extinction – have been proffered. Perhaps these things would come to pass. However, the underlying cause would not be the loss of honeybees but our dependence on them through unsustainable agricultural practices.

Honeybees are livestock. They are animals which we manage for our uses. We provide them with housing, maintenance, even move them from field to field as we let cows into different pastures for grazing.

Native pollinators will do the job, but only if we leave them a place to live. We clear land for orchards and fields, removing the hedgerows and other “messy” places that had been their home. The monocultures of agriculture are magnified in the deserts of diversity they create. Of course we need to ship domesticated pollinators around (burning fossil fuels in the process); we’ve eliminated the native pollinators by destroying their habitats. In the process, we’ve also driven out native predators of plant pests, thereby initating the addictive cycle of pesticides, fertilizers, more and more inputs needed just to tread water on land until our systems collapse around us.

If that should come to pass, just don’t blame the bees.

One-third of our food depends on the services of a pollinator—bee or other insect, bird, or mammal. Bees are the most important pollinators in the Northeastern U.S., and there are more than 200 species of bees that live right here in New York City. We need to protect these local pollinators that help keep our parks and green spaces healthy and beautiful, and our farmers’ markets stocked with fresh produce.

In 2007, the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation and the Greenbelt Native Plant Center began the Great Pollinator Project (GPP) in collaboration with the Great Sunflower Project in San Francisco, CA. The goals of the GPP are:
1) identify which areas of New York City have good pollinator service (as determined by how quickly bees show up to pollinate flowers at various locations throughout the city);
2) increase understanding of bee distribution;
3) raise public awareness of native bees; and
4) improve park management and home gardening practices to benefit native bees.

If you are interested in our local pollinators, we need your help!

– The Great Pollinator Project

There are many ways to be a Bee Watcher:

  • Observe bee visitation at selected plants that will be distributed at our spring orientations. Conduct your observations in your own garden and submit your data online.
  • Become a Mobile Bee Watcher. Conduct your observations on flowers in your neighborhood or at selected bee gardens planted at various locations throughout New York City and submit your data online.

Bee Watchers

Related Content

Bees, a Mockingbird, and Marriage Equality, 2009-05-22
Cellophane Bees Return, 2009-05-09
Colletes thoracicus (Colletidae), Cellophane Bees, 2008-05-26


Great Pollinator Project
Greenbelt Native Plant Center
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation

Magicicada Brood II emerges

I was excited to hear that periodical cicadas are emerging on Staten Island. Knowing my interest in such things, Blog Widow alerted me that he had just read about it on one of his favorite blogs, Joe My God, reporting on an article in the Staten Island Advance:

Batches of cicadas, those giant, singing insects that emerge in a massive swarm every 17 years, have begun to poke their heads out of the earth … Similar early risers have been detected all along the Eastern Seaboard … Some of the obnoxiously loud insects have been seen, and heard, in Wolfe’s Pond Park in Huguenot and in Great Kills backyards in recent weeks.
Cicadas are out, loud and early, Phil Helsel, Staten Island Advance, 2009-06-04

I wrote last year about Magicicada, the genus of periodical cicadas, last year, in anticipation of the emergence of Brood XIV in Brooklyn. Alas, they never showed up; they seem to have been extirpated in Brooklyn, historically part of their range.

In any given area, adult periodical cicadas emerge only once every 13 or 17 years, they are consistent in their life cycles, and populations (or “broods”) in different regions are not synchronized. Currently there are 7 recognized species, 12 distinct 17-year broods, and 3 distinct 13-year broods, along with 2 known extinct broods, found east of the Great Plains and south of the Great Lakes, to the Florida Panhandle.
Magicicada Mapping Project

The next brood in the NYC area was Brood II, a 17-year brood, expected in 2013. But it has emerged four years early, in 2009.

Some periodical cicadas belonging to Brood II are emerging in several states along the east coast. … The extent of this year’s acceleration is not known, but could occur anywhere in the Brood II distribution …
Cicadas, College of Mount St. Joseph

Off-year emergence, whether it precedes or follows the expected year, is called “straggling”:

The exact causes, or even the prevalence, of straggling is not well understood. Straggler records have long confounded attempts to make accurate maps of Magicicada broods, which is one of the reasons the Magicicada mapping project exists. Among 17-year cicadas, straggling seems particularly common 1 or 4 years before or after an expected emergence (e.g., cicadas emerging in 13, 16, 18, and 21 years), although stragglers with other life cycle lengths have also been found. Straggling has been detected in all seven Magicicada species.
Stragglers, Magicicada Mapping Project

The historical range of Brood II does not, unfortunately, include Brooklyn.

Similar early risers have been detected all along the Eastern Seaboard, and an Ohio researcher who has studied the bugs for 35 years is sure warmer winters are to blame.

“This is the fifth brood where part of it is coming out early,” said Gene Kritsky, an entomologist and professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. “When you have a phenomenon that is that widespread, the most likely candidate is some kind of climate-driven response.” …

Parts of broods coming out four years too early is a phenomenon first documented in 1969 in Chicago, but prior documents suggest it may have occurred earlier. The last time Brood II came out in full force was in 1996, and most of that brood still will burrow out of their underground homes on time in 2013.

Kritsky, who has studied cicadas for 35 years and expects his most recent findings to be published this month in Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science, said the fluid disruption caused by warm winters affects cicadas only during their first five years of life, and it always results in emerging four years too early.
Cicadas are out, loud and early


Related Content

(Magi)Cicada Watch, 2008-05-21


Cicadas are out, loud and early, Phil Helsel, Staten Island Advance, 2009-06-04
Cicadas Appear Four Years Early, Joe MY God, 2009-06-04

Brood II, Magicicada Mapping Project

Brood XIV, Massachusetts Cicadas

Cicada Central, University of Connecticut
Cicada Web Site, College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, OH
Chicago Cicadas
Magicicada, Wikipedia
Mathematicians explore cicada’s mysterious link with primes, Michael Stroh, Baltimore Sun, May 10, 2004

Viburnum Leaf Beetle reaches New York City

Viburnum Leaf Beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni, has been confirmed in New York City this Spring:

John Jordan, Natural Resources Supervisor at Prospect Park Alliance has found evidence of the beetle there, and says that there was a confirmed report on North Brother Island (between Manhattan and Queens) last year. VLBs are suspected to be in some of the larger parks in the Bronx, northern Manhattan and northern Queens.
Viburnum leaf beetle invading NYC?, Cornell Horticulture Blog, 2009-05-22

Damage caused by feeding larvae. Photo: Paul Weston, Cornell

Unfortunately, my recently transplanted Viburnum dentatum is one of the highly susceptible species. When I left yesterday morning to attend Chicago Spring Fling, it was still in spectacular bloom, covered with white flowers. I would hate to lose it; it’s the largest plant I have, except for the cherry tree. I haven’t noticed any feeding damage, but I will examine it closely when I return, now that I know what to look for.

Damage caused by feeding adults. Photo: Paul Weston, Cornell

The viburnum leaf beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni (Paykull), is an invasive, non-native beetle that first appeared in New York along Lake Ontario in 1996, and has steadily spread. It is a voracious eater that can defoliate viburnum shrubs entirely. Plants may die after two or three years of heavy infestation.

Hat tip to @AboutInsects


Related Content

Viburnum dentatum, Arrowwood, 2009-04-20


Cornell VLB Home Page
Viburnum leaf beetle invading NYC?, Cornell Horticulture Blog, 2009-05-22

(Magi)Cicada Watch

Note: I’ll continue to update this as I learn more.

Photo of Brood XIV Magicicada septendecim taken May 18, 2008 in West Virginia by Jason Scott Means
Photo of 2008 Brood XIV Megacicada from West Viriginia by Jason Means

I just learned (from News12 Brooklyn) that the 17-year cicadas are about to return to Brooklyn. There have already been sightings on Long Island, in Otsego Park in Deer Park. There have also been sightings to the north of the city, along the Hudson Valley.

Magicicada is the genus of the 13- and 17- year periodical cicadas of eastern North America. These insects display a unique combination of long life cycles, periodicity, and mass emergences. They are sometimes called “seventeen-year locust”s, but they are not locusts.
Magicicada, Wikipedia

13 and 17 are prime numbers. Evolution “discovered” prime numbers.

Periodical Cicadas appear earlier in the year than our regular, annual “dog-day” Cicadas, which don’t show up until later in the summer. If they are still here, we should begin to see signs of them now, certainly by the end of May. They can be readily distinguished by their red eyes (dog-day Cicadas have black or dark brown eyes), darker bodies, and smaller size. For comparison, here’s a photograph I took of a dog-day cicada, Tibicen canicularis, in my backyard last October.

Dog-day cicada – Tibicen canicularis, Flatbush, Brooklyn, October 2007
Dog-day cicada - Tibicen canicularis

17 years ago, in 1991, I still lived in the East Village in Manhattan. We didn’t have them there. I didn’t move to Brooklyn until the next year, 1992, so I just missed the last cycle. They won’t be here again until 2025. I’m hoping – yes, hoping – that I’ll be in the thick of things here: detached houses, lots of open ground, and just a half-mile or so from Prospect Park.

Periodical cicadas are identified by broods categorizing the species, cycle, and years and range of a particular emergence:

In any given area, adult periodical cicadas emerge only once every 13 or 17 years, they are consistent in their life cycles, and populations (or “broods”) in different regions are not synchronized. Currently there are 7 recognized species, 12 distinct 17-year broods, and 3 distinct 13-year broods, along with 2 known extinct broods, found east of the Great Plains and south of the Great Lakes, to the Florida Panhandle.
Magicicada Mapping Project

Brooklyn is part of Brood XIV (Brood 14), one of the 17-year broods. We can expect to see (and hear) any or all of the three 17-year species in Brood XIV:

Three 17-year cicada species exist, each with distinctive morphology (shape and color), behavior, and calling signals:

Magicicada species, Magicicada Mapping Project

All three species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as low risk, but near threatened, ie: close to being “promoted” to vulnerable species. Because they spend most of their lives underground, periodical cicadas are at risk from development which covers their routes to emergence at the surface. When they emerge, without sufficient woody plants – trees and shrubs – upon which to feed and lay their eggs, that generation will be irreversibly reduced for at least another 17 (or 13) years. Some broods are already extinct. Consider, for example, this observation from an unidentified entomologist:

Have you an ideal of the absolute in hopelessness? Well, let it be said that the house in which you live is comparatively new – built within 17 years. The ground on which ti stands was originally woodland. In the Summer of 1902 all the tree thereabouts were full of seventeen-year locusts. Eggs were deposited in the branches, the larvae came out, dropped lightly to the ground, and dug in. The long period of subterranean existence is almost ended. In the summer of this year the insects will start toward the light and air – and will come in contact with the concrete floor of your cellar! There may be another situation as hopeless, but certainly none more so.
New York Times, June 23, 1919

You can help

If you see or hear periodical cicadas, you can report your observations online. The reporting page has photos so you know what to look for. Adult periodical cicadas are easily distinguished from our annual, “dog-day” cicadas by their red eyes, as shown in the lead photo above. The species pages, listed above, also have audio recordings so you know what to listen for.



Brood XIV, Massachusetts Cicadas

Cicada Central, University of Connecticut
Cicada Web Site, College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, OH
Chicago Cicadas
Magicicada, Wikipedia
Mathematicians explore cicada’s mysterious link with primes, Michael Stroh, Baltimore Sun, May 10, 2004


Hear that cicada chorus, taste that cicada crunch, Cape Cod Times, June 11, 2008
Cape is again abuzz, Boston Globe, June 10, 2008
New brood on its way to the top, Jennifer Smith, Newsday, June 8, 2008
Dogs rejoice, people duck: Cicadas are back, Columbus Dispatch, Ohio, June 7, 2008
City’s Giant Insect orgy, NY Post, June 5, 2008
After 17 years, cicadas ready to rumpus, Cape Cod Times, Massachusetts, May 31, 2008
It’s the year of the cicada, South Coast Today, Massachusetts, May 24, 2008
Noisy return of cicadas expected after 17 years, Jennifer Smith, Newsday, Long Island, May 22, 2008
Amorous singing cicadas grate on nerves, News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, May 20, 2008
Cicadas looking for love, Centre Daily Times, State College, Pennsylvania, May 19, 2008
Singing cicadas emerge in 13 states, USA Today, May 18, 2008
The cicadas are coming! The cicadas are coming … again!, Wilimington News Journal, Ohio, May 14, 2008
Cicadas coming to Clermont County, Community Press & Recorder, Kentucky, May 14, 2008
Coming Soon: The song of the cicada, New Albany Tribune, Indiana, May 10, 2008
The Kentucky Derby: Beware the Year of the Cicada, Minyanville, New York, May 2, 2008
Scientist awaits cicadas’ noisy return, UPI, April 25, 2008

BudBurst 2008

This year, Project BudBurst kicks off on February 15:

Project BudBurst will officially get underway for the 2008 campaign on February 15, 2008. Due to the overwhelming interest in last year’s pilot project, we are very confident that the 2008 campaign will be a success and that the observations reported on the Project BudBurst Web site will be useful to phenologists and climate scientists.
– via BudBurst mailing list

Last year there were reports from participants in 26 states. Ohio and Illinois had the highest rate of participation followed by Utah, Colorado, and Michigan.

This year’s earlier start date is one of several enhancements over last year’s pilot program:

  • Expanded time, starting February 15th and continuing until the fall.
  • A myBudBurst member registration space to save your observation sites and plants online as you monitor phenological changes throughout the year and for future years.
  • Expanded targeted species list, including 19 calibration species from the National Phenology Network.
  • Monthly photos of the latest plants blooming.
  • Online geolocator to obtain latitude and longitude coordinates for observation sites

Project BudBurst is a national field campaign for citizen scientists designed to engage the public in the collection of important climate change data based on the timing of leafing and flowering of trees and flowers. Last year’s inaugural event drew thousands of people of all ages taking careful observations of the /phenological/ events such as the first bud burst, first leafing, first flower, and seed or fruit dispersal of a diversity of tree and flower species, including weeds and ornamentals. Your help in making observations and sharing information about Project BudBurst will help us in making this year even more successful.

Related Posts

Project BudBurst


Project BudBurst
U.S. National Phenology network

Canaries in the Coal Mine: Honeybees and Climate Change

NASA scientist Wayne Esaias believes that a beehive’s seasonal cycle of weight gain and loss is a sensitive indicator of the impact of climate change on flowering plants. A hobbyist beekeeper, he has found signals of climate change in his records of the weight of his beehives, and wants to enlist other beekeepers to contribute their observations as well:

The 25-year NASA veteran has made a career studying patterns of plant growth in the world’s oceans and how they relate to climate and ecosystem change, first from ships, then from aircraft, and finally from satellites. But for the past year, he’s been preoccupied with his bee hives, which started as a family project around 1990 when his son was in the Boy Scouts. According to his honeybees, big changes are underway in Maryland forests. The most important event in the life of flowering plants and their pollinators—flowering itself—is happening much earlier in the year than it used to. – Buzzing About Climate Change

[The] 1-to-5-kilometer-radius area in which a hive’s worker bees forage is the same spatial scale that many ecological and climate models use to predict ecosystems’ responses to climate change. It also matches the spatial scale of satellite images of vegetation collected by NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. This similarity of scale means that all these ways of studying ecosystems could be integrated into a more sophisticated picture of how plant and animal communities will respond to climate change than any one method alone could provide. Esaias is particularly interested in comparing the hive data to satellite-based maps of vegetation “greenness,” a scale that remote-sensing scientists commonly use to map the health and density of Earth’s vegetation. Scientists have been making these types of maps for decades, and they have used them to document how warming temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are causing vegetation to green up earlier in the spring than it did in the 1980s. Such maps are an excellent general indicator of seasonal changes in vegetation, says Esaias, but by themselves, they won’t tell you something as tangible as when plants are flowering. – Will Plants and Pollinators Get Out of Sync?

About half of the approximately 6 million honeybee colonies in the United States are kept by individual or family-scale beekeepers. Esaias’ vision is to develop a how-to guide, an automatic data recorder, and the computer and networking resources at Goddard Space Flight Center that would be needed to collect and preserve the data. Ideally, a hive data recorder would be hooked up to the Internet so that volunteers’ hive weights could appear on a Website hosted at Goddard. His goal is to get the cost per kit below $200 and then to get NASA funding to outfit a network of volunteers — HoneybeeNet — and analyze their data. “Ultimately, what we’d like to have is thousands of these across the country. Even if we can get the cost down to $200 a piece, that is still a lot of money to ask for until you have a test data set that proves it is valuable,” admits Esaias. He’s been working with local bee clubs in Maryland, rounding up some 20 volunteers who already have or are willing to purchase their own scales. He hopes that the data collected during the 2007 spring-summer season will be a prototype that will convince NASA to fund a pilot project.

Links: HoneybeeNetColony Collapse Disorder (CCD)Heat Island Effect

Project FeederWatch

Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada have opened registration for the 2007-2008 season of Project FeederWatch.

Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each species they see at their feeders from November through early April. FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.
What is Project FeederWatch

Next year’s seasons begins November 10. They begin shipping kits in September. There’s a $15 registration fee.


Project FeederWatch, Bird Studies Canada
Project FeederWatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology