Thursday, August 6, 2020

New Jersey: Have You Seen Spotted Lanternflies?

A side-top view of an adult spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)
Image by Walthery - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Usually, I am writing here about things that are endangered or threatened in New Jersey, but thi spost is about a species we would like to see become extinct.

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a planthopper that is indigenous to parts of China, India, Vietnam, and eastern Asia. Although it has two pairs of wings, it jumps more than it flies.

In its native habitat it is kept in check by natural predators or pathogens but it was accidentally introduced and was first recorded in the United States in September 2014. By 2018 it was considered an invasive species in eastern Pennsylvania, southwestern New Jersey, northern Delaware, northern Virginia, and eastern Maryland.

What should you do if you spot one in New Jersey? 

Egg masses

If you see egg masses (pictured above), scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer to kill them.

Watch an instructional video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoFp_MbDiE8

Kill and collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s lab for verification.

Take a picture: With your GPS function turned on your smartphone or a camera with GPS, take a photograph of ANY life stage (including egg masses) and
s
ubmit picture to: SLF-plantindustry@ag.nj.gov

Report a site: If you can’t take a specimen or photograph, call New Jersey Spotted Lanternfly Hotline at 1-833-223- 2840 (BADBUG0) and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.

• Spotted Lanternfly Reporting Guidelines

• Spotted Lanternfly Industry Guidelines

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Make New Jersey and Your Backyard Wildlife Friendly


Northern Gray Treefrog with its excellent camouflage

The CHANJ project (Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey) is designed to help wildlife to find their way through a fragmented world by making New Jersey's landscape friendlier to wildlife movement.

Land animals move throughout the day and year to find resources including food, shelter, and each other for mating.

Fortunately, NJ is also a recognized leader in preserving open spaces for recreation, agriculture, and nature. Nearly one-third of the state’s landmass is now in permanent preservation, thanks to steadfast public support and tremendous capital investments. In fact, NJ boasts a higher percentage of publicly-owned forest land than any other state east of the Mississippi (Widmann 2004). 

===Join us! Try out the interactive CHANJ Mapping to see where you fit into New Jersey's connectivity puzzle, and find guidance on how you can support wildlife habitat connectivity in your backyard, in your town, or beyond. While we're all spending more time at home these days, Chapter 4 (page 9) has some fun resources for making a wilder yard for pollinators, birds and other fellow Earthlings.

CHANJ Mapping Tutorial video  For more information & additional resources,
visit 
Tools of CHANJ.

You can also do your part very locally by making your own property a  Jersey-Friendly Yard which offers a variety of resources to help home and property owners learn about environmentally sound landscaping techniques.

Here are some other backyard suggestions about Environmentally Friendly Landscaping

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Amazing Blue-Blooded Horseshoe Crab


Horseshoe crabs are not crabs, but they will always be called by that name.

Horseshoe crabs predate the dinosaurs having been on Earth an estimated 450 million years. That beats out that T-Rex by about 200 million years. 

One of their unique features is their blue blood. That blood is used by the pharmaceutical industry for testing drugs and so has caused their numbers to deplete.

They live in the ocean year-round and make one famous annual sojourn ashore to lay eggs in sandy, wet beaches. You may know that the Delaware Bay and New Jersey are very well known for this spring ritual which is quite amazing.

They are not crabs or even crustaceans because they lack antennae. On the arthropod family tree, they are classified as chelicerates, a subphylum that also includes arachnids - spiders. 

Although they are popularly called “living fossils,” they have evolved over the almost half a billion years. Fossils show us that they once had limbs that split out into two branches unlike their single one today.

Another misconception is that their spiked tail is used to "sting" prey or people. Not so. It is used as a steering rudder and to help right themselves after getting stuck on its back. Don't pick a live one up by the tail because it can break off and cripple the crab.

They eat aquatic worms, algae, carrion, and lots of clams and mussels. They mash food between the spiky upper regions of their legs before pushing it into the mouth. 

The full moons, new moons, and high tides of May and June are when the Delaware Bay has its Atlantic horseshoe crab spawning. It happens at night when a female comes ashore followed by male(s). Like turtles, she digs a hole and deposits her eggs but then males fertilize them. 

This event coincides with migrating shorebirds who gorge themselves on the nutrient-rich eggs which power birds, such as red knots, on their annual migration between the Arctic and South America. 

The horseshoe crabs lay many, many eggs because so many are consumed by the birds. The estimate is that a female can lay 90,000 eggs per clutch and that probably about a dozen of those will ever make it to adulthood. It's not just birds who are predators. The embryos are also eaten by fish and sea turtles.


Horseshoe crab blood contains copper which turns bluish-green when it oxidizes. They also have no infection-fighting white blood cells, but have special cells called amebocytes. This is what interested scientists who found that a vaccine or injectable drug is safe if the blue blood doesn't release the gooey amebocytes that means it did not encounter bacteria.

This makes horseshoe crab blood worth about $15,000 per quart. Though the crabs are released after extracting about 30 percent of its blood, about  0–15 percent of captured crabs die somewhere in the process. Harvesting restrictions have been set in places and researchers have been trying to develop synthetic amebocytes.

Admire these amazing creatures. If you see a live crab flipped on its back, listed by the shell and set it back into the water. They won't hurt you at all. And think about them the next time you get a safe vaccine or injection.
 
More at www.nwf.org

Underside of live horseshoe crab

Friday, July 10, 2020

What We Have Learned About the Environment During This Pandemic


I keep reading and hearing news stories of how the environment has improved during the pandemic. It's great to see that the water has cleared and fish have returned to the canals of Venice. But when things return to normal or even a "new normal," it will return to its polluted state and the fish will leave again. Air pollution has been reduced in many parts of the world, but the pollution is much the same in places, like Houston, where fossil fuels power electricity and industry.

I read that greenhouse gases have been reduced about 20%, which sounds great, but that still is not enough to turn the progression of climate change in the other direction. And, of course, once the economy returns to normal, that reduction will be erased more quickly than it appeared.

So what have we learned?

Generally, we have been reminded that the environment can often heal itself if we stop punishing it. But in order to make real change, we would need more than emergency pandemic conditions. 

Staying with air pollution, the pandemic caused some industries to shut down but it was the reduced use of cars, trucks and planes that made a difference. Obviously, that will not - can not - continue. What would need to happen to see improvement long term is a large move to alternative, non-polluting, sources of energy. We have known that for several decades but even a pandemic did not make us move significantly towards that goal.

I fear that the lessons presented have not been learned.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Help Control the Mosquito Population Around Your Home


The pandemic and warming weather makes controlling the mosquito population a topic of more than usual interest in New Jersey. Ignoring the usual Jersey mosquito jokes, such as the mosquito being the state bird, we know that there are the large-scale state, county and local programs for control. But residents can do their part to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. NJ had a very mild winter and anticipated wet weather makes prevention efforts even more critical as mosquito season begins. The American Mosquito Control Association has declared June 21-27 as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week - not a holiday I like to "celebrate", but I will participate.

New Jersey State Mosquito Control Commission“The New Jersey State Mosquito Control Commission oversees several longstanding programs designed to provide state assistance directly to county mosquito-control programs,” Commissioner McCabe said. “This assistance helps counties deliver targeted, science-based and environmentally sound mosquito-control services to the public. But we also need the public’s help and urge people to eliminate from their properties areas of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.”

New Jersey’s mosquito season has started early in recent years and has been exceedingly rainy and hot with warm temperatures extending well into the fall. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, surveillance programs documented above-average mosquito populations and record-setting levels of West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis in mosquitoes.

“Spending time outdoors, whether walking, gardening, or playing with our dogs, while social distancing is a good way to maintain physical and mental health,” said Health Commissioner Judith M. Persichilli. “As we remain vigilant about protecting ourselves and our families from COVID-19, we must also take precautions to prevent and control mosquito-borne diseases.”

New Jersey’s mosquito control agencies use a variety of methods to combat mosquitoes including:
  • public awareness campaigns
  • targeted larval habitat source-reduction programs
  • use of natural predators such as mosquito-eating fish
  • judicious application of EPA- and DEP-approved insecticides by ground and aerial means.

Residents can take these steps to protect themselves and their families:
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents when outdoors and wear protective clothing
  • Empty water from flowerpots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels and cans at least once or twice a week.
  • Clear clogged rain gutters.
  • Check for and remove any containers or trash that may be difficult to see, such as under bushes, homes or around building exteriors.
  • Dispose of unused tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
  • Drill holes in the bottom and elevate recycling containers left outdoors.
  • Repair and clean storm-damaged roof gutters, particularly if leaves from surrounding trees tend to clog drains. Roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
  • Avoid allowing water to stagnate in bird baths
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens become major mosquito producers if they stagnate.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, including those not in use. An untended swimming pool can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitos may develop in the water that collects on pool covers.
  • Stay in air-conditioned places or rooms with window screens that prevent access by mosquitoes.

If a mosquito problem remains after taking the above steps, call your county mosquito control agency and ask for assistance. There are larval habitats that only your local mosquito control program can properly address. To learn more about the New Jersey State Mosquito Control Commission and for links to county mosquito agencies visit www.nj.gov/dep/mosquito

For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites and illness, or to mosquito-proof your home and yard, visit