Journal archives for April 2023

April 01, 2023

April Announcements

Happy April Everyone! Spring is well on it's way and I am excited for the warm weather in our future. This summer I will be hosting monthly pollinator walks. Please join us if you are interested! Each month we will meet at a different park and spend about an hour walking through the park taking photos of all the insects we can find.

The April pollinator walk will be held on Sunday April 30th from 1:00-2:00pm at Nose Hill Park. *weather dependent

This months walk will be held during the City Nature Challenge that runs from April 28th to May 1st. In addition to the early-season pollinators we find, as we walk though the park we can also take pictures of animals, plants, birds, fungi, mosses, etc., to participate in the City Nature Challenge. More information about the 2023 City Nature Challenge can be found on the Calgary City Nature Challenge 2023 page

All existing observations and all the data collected this year from April 1, 2023 - October 31, 2023, will be included in my research. Please try your best to link your pollinator observations to a plant observation so the iNaturalist community can help identify the plant as well. Instructions on how to create an associated observation can be found here How to Use the "Associated Observations" Field

Posted on April 01, 2023 02:57 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2023

Plant of the month: Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

I'd like to introduce a new journal post segment: Plant of the Month!

Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall, that is native to North America and found throughout Canada and the United States. The genus name, Salix, comes from the Latin word for willow and the species name, discolor, refers to the plant's leaves having a different colour on the upper and lower surface. Willows are an important source of food and shelter for various insects, birds, and mammals. It serves as an early source of nectar and pollen for pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, as it blooms in early spring before many other plants. It grows in wetlands, swamps, and along streams and rivers, as well as in upland areas. They are easily identifiable by their distinctive fuzzy catkins, which are soft and furry to the touch. Willows are dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. The male catkins are long and slender, while the female catkins are shorter and rounder. They have long, lance-shaped, narrow, toothed leaves that are two-toned, with a dark green upper surface and a grayish-green underside.

Willow trees have multiple uses in Indigenous cultures. The branches are easy to bend and are used for making lodges, baskets, nets, fishing traps, hunting tools, and art. Willow is also used for drying meat and creating dream catchers. The bark and roots have medicinal properties and can be used to make tea that reduces muscle pain and headaches, and inflammation. The bark contains a compound called salicin which is similar to the active ingredient in modern aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid.

There are approximately 30 native species of Salix in Alberta, with the Pussy Willow being one of the most common and widespread. Helpful things to look at when identifying willows are the size or the tree/shrub, the leaf shape and presence or absence of hair on the leaves, the time of flowering compared to the time of leaf emergence, the presence or absence of stipules, the colour and morphology of bracts, and the presence or absence of a powdery coating/appearance of the leaves and/or branches. Photos of the leaves, catkins, and plant as a whole are helpful for identifying Willows, although differentiating between species can be difficult and can sometimes involve using a microscope.

If you have additional knowledge/information about willows and how to identify them, or good resources on willows, please feel free to share!
A Guide to the Identification of Salix in Alberta

Posted on April 16, 2023 11:29 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 24, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Mining Bees (Andrena)

Another new journal post segement: Pollinator of the Month!

Mining bees, also known as Andrena, are a group of solitary bees found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. They are commonly found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, meadows, and gardens. Andrena bees are one of the earliest spring pollinators to emerge, though some subgenera of Andrena emerge later in the summer when their preferred host plants are blooming, typically in the family Asteraceae.

Mining bees are solitary bees, meaning they do not live in large colonies like honeybees. Each female mining bee digs her own nest in the ground. The nest consists of a vertical tunnel with branching side tunnels where the female lays her eggs and provisions them with pollen and nectar for the larvae to eat.

Many insects, including bees, typically overwinter as larvae, and spend some of the new growing season finishing development before emerging. Because many Andrena are early spring bees, they overwinter as adults, and are ready to begin visiting flowers as soon as they receive the necessary phenological signals, likely warming soil (Danforth et al. 2019). Because of their early emergence, mining bees are important pollinators for a variety of early season plants, including early flowering wildflowers (typically those that are perennial or bulb/tuber forming), and flowering shrubs and deciduous trees. Mining bees tend to be picky about the pollen they collect, with some only visiting Salix, while others only visit plants in the Rosaceae family (i.e. Prunus & Rosa). There are some generalists which likely provide important pollination services to a broad range of plants.

There are approximately 61 species of mining bees found in Alberta. Mining bees are small to medium sized bees that vary in colour and hair patterns, but females tend to have distinctive facial foveae, which are often visible in photos as patches of hairs running vertically along the inner margins of the eyes. Females also have pollen collecting hairs on their rear legs, though this is not a unique characteristic. In general, Andrena are more slender than most other early season bees like bumblebees and mason bees. They are usually non-metallic, and sometimes have hair bands on the abdominal segments. Pictures of the face, abdomen and wing venation are all helpful for identification to genus, though species are very difficult to identify, even under a microscope.

If you have additional knowledge/information about mining bees, how to identify them, or good resources about the Andrena genus, please feel free to share!

Did anyone do anything exciting to celebrate Earth Day yesterday?

Calgary Pollinators April Community Pollinator Walk
Sunday April 30th at 1:00pm at Nose Hill Park
Register for the walk HERE

Posted on April 24, 2023 12:20 AM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment