Friday, September 18, 2009

Healthy Habitat Grant, Spittlebugs, and Armadillos

This week, I went with a group of teens and adults from our local homeschool enrichment school. This past summer, these teens wrote a grant proposal to create a healthy habitat on the 5 acres where our school sits. Last week, I decided to join in their efforts.

So, one day this week we took a trip to a nature preserve to learn from a master naturalist about how to create a natural habitat. We encountered some wonderful wildlife while walking around for several hours exploring this nature preserve.

A bunch of bees have unfortunately decided to take up residence in this bird house.

I recognized this as the "spit" of a spittlebug and asked the naturalist about it. He told us the spittlebug is actually what got him insterested in becoming a biologist! His grandpa used to tell him this was "snake spit" and he wanted to discover the truth. He found out about the spittle bug. The spittle bug nymph attaches itself to a host with its mouth. It then sucks in the nutrients it needs and bubbles come out of the other end. He uses his hind legs to cover himself and this "spit" keeps him from being spotted by predators and from drying out.

The naturalist uncovered one of the nymphs for us...
he was almost a full grown spittlebug
...and here is a two-lined spittlebug Alex & I saw at our house once. (Read more about spittlebugs here.)
TThere were also lots of mushrooms. A recent post I read at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers explained that some mushrooms go through several stages... from convex (like this one)... to the plane stage (no photo) depressed, like this one! I would like to watch a mushroom and take a series of photos some time. (These photos are actually different mushrooms.)

A mud dauber.

Paper wasps... I love how you can see inside the cells! I think I see eggs and possibly immature wasps!

And, one of the teens asked about this hole. The guide told us it was probably an armadillos den. Armadillos actually keep several dens. Leaves fall into the holes and insects bury themselves under the leaves. The armadillo then eats the insects when he visits this den before falling to sleep. That's one of the reasons they keep several homes! He also told us that a type of armadillo always has 4 identical babies... so they are either all females or all males! This makes them valuable to researchers. They are also one of very few animals that contract leprosy, so they are useful for studying that disease. Isn't it neat how God made creatures so amazing and helpful to us!!! (Armadillo Online! has TONS of info about these fascinating animals.)


Rhonda said...

Your photos are always so much fun to look at. That Spittlebug info was the greatest. Thanks so much for sharing

Robin said...

Well, you just keep teaching me new stuff! I can't wait to pull out my new knowledge on spittlebugs! Everyone will be quite impressed with me and I'll owe it all to you!

haha! Love your new blog! And I can't wait to see what else you have to teach us. ;-D

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