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Wildlife Wednesday: The Beetles Return

Wildlife Wednesday:  The Beetles Return

Another group of animals that return in the warmer weather of Springtime is the beetles. Now there are a ridiculous number of beetle species around the Houston area, but I wanted to focus on some of the more noticeable species that we’ve seen around the park this week during our classes and nature hikes.

Ladybugs are all over the park right now, but we’ve seen mostly Asian Many-spotted Ladybird Beetles in our wildflower gardens and Pocket Prairie. This week, we finally spotted some of our native Convergent Ladybird Beetles (Hippodamia convergens) skulking around various plants, preying on aphids. They are best known for converging in large numbers on logs, rocks, and even the sides of homes in autumn and through the winter.

photograph by Drobibcorvette | Wikimedia

The Texas Eyed-Click Beetle (Alaus lusciosus) grows to about 2 inches long. They’re known for the loud clicks they make when they pop their bodies and jump suddenly. They’re quite noticeable, because of their size and the prominent false-eye spots on the pronotum, the exoskelatal shield covering the thorax. The large plump larvae feed on other insect larvae, and the adults feed mainly on nectar and other plant juices.

The Hardwood Stump Borer (Mallodon dasytomus) grows to about 2 1/2 inches long, and can deliver a painful bite with their large sharp mandibles (though this is not an aggressive species, and only bites when grabbed). They live in and around dead rotten stumps and logs, where they prey on a variety of other insects, especially ants and their larvae. the wood boring larvae (grubs)  may take 3-4 years to mature into adults!

Well thanks for joining us again this week for Wildlife Wednesday. If you found these beetles interesting, please come out to the park, and see if you can find some out along the trails!

 

See you soon,

Eric Duran
Staff Naturalist

Top photo of Convergent Ladybird Beetle by TJ Gehling | Flickr

 

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Help Wanted: City Nature Challenge Pits Houston Against Austin & Dallas

Join nature lovers across the city of Houston as they compete with residents of Austin and Dallas to document as many species as possible during a fun City Nature Challenge!

Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Audubon Society, Texas Master Naturalists and lots of volunteer citizen scientists like yourself will compete in this fun challenge to see which city can document a grater diversity of species. No prior experience necessary!

Challenge organizers say “It is easy to participate by joining an event, or making observations on your own using the iNaturalist app. With the iNaturalist app, you just take a picture of a plant or animal, and the community will help identify which species it is.”

Any observation in the greater Houston Area will count during the five day challenge. You can participate by exploring the life in your backyard, or anywhere you visit outside in Houston between April 14 – 18. But we’d love for you to make observations right here in our nature park and record them with iNaturalist.  So come out, enjoy our new park improvements, and record the plants and animals you find!

Let’s show Austin and Dallas what we’ve got here in Houston, and show our fellow Houstonians just how wildlife rich Russ Pitman Park is!

For more information about how to get involved visit:

Houston Challenge Page: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/city-nature-challenge-2017-houston

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/257551441366716/

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Job Opening: Weekend Naturalist

Join our Team!

The Nature Discover Center is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic individual who has a passion for science, nature, and children to join our education team. This part time position will manage weekend operations of the Center and focus on visitor and educational experiences. This individual will be a crucial member of the team in adding to the overall Nature Discovery Center experience.  Working hours will be 20-25 hours per week, Friday – Sunday. Read the full job description and application instructions here.

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Park Transformation: Gateway Project Complete, More Park Improvements Announced

The Nature Discovery Center is pleased to announce that the final phase of our major capital renovation, the Gateway Project, is complete. The Gateway Project represents a $1.26 million capital initiative to improve the historic Henshaw House (Phase One) and Russ Pitman Park (Phase Two), both of which are managed by the Center.

The public/private capital funding included a $500,000 City of Bellaire bond referendum as well as $760,000 from foundations and private citizens.  The Nature Discovery Center is a hub for community gatherings and nature education. And, it now boasts new features such as an outdoor restroom, a revamped pavilion area, pathway lighting, and an outdoor restroom.

But we’re not done! Additional improvements to Russ Pitman Park are under way. As part of the park’s master plan, additional work is planned to enhance the park’s usability for both everyday visitors and school groups. This work is made possible through a key partnership with Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) — the largest habitat restoration company in the country. RES is donating services to enhance the 4 habitat zones in the park through pond restoration, nonnative plant removal, and native plantings throughout the park. “The RES team is delighted to contribute to enhancements at the nature park.  We have already witnessed the transformative effects of the Gateway Project renovations. Such initiatives will help to accommodate the growing crowds at the nature park and assure that this greenspace is preserved for generations to come,” said Elliott Bouillion, RES president and CEO.

The park’s current center path is flood prone and will be replaced with a Porous Pave nature trail made from recycled rubber, saving 750 tires from the landfill. The new center trail will be porous, allowing water to flow through and allowing visitors to enjoy the park after a rain. The new path will feature a gentle curve through the middle of the park, creating a more natural experience and highlighting our mature pecan trees, Pocket Prairie, and other native plants.

A raised wooden boardwalk with a bench will be built through the Prairie Wetland. This boardwalk will complete our ADA accessible trail loop and provide a dry seating area for birdwatchers and photographers. A new teaching deck will be installed at Cypress Pond, allowing our staff naturalists to teach hands-on classes focused on pond life. Finally, professionally designed, custom interpretive signage will be installed throughout the nature park to ensure all Russ Pitman Park visitors have an opportunity to learn about its unique habitats.

On Saturday May 6, 2017 the Nature Discovery Center will reveal our completed renovations at the free event, Gateway to Nature: Experience our Park Transformation. We will have a short ceremony at 10:00 am to thank donors and contributors. Afterwards, our education team will lead a series of family-centered activities throughout the renovated nature park, highlighting the various improvements.

For more information about the Nature Discovery Center and its ongoing programs for children and families, and for Gateway Project updates, visit www.naturediscoverycenter.org.

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