Journal archives for June 2021

June 01, 2021

June 2021 EcoQuest: The Night Shift

Join the June EcoQuest: The Night Shift
Find and map nocturnal pollinators and the plants they visit.

PLEASE NOTE: You must JOIN this EcoQuest to have your observations counted.
Join the EcoQuest


Honey bees and birds are recognized and appreciated for pollination during the day, but who works the night shift? Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute data and information for nocturnal pollinator relationships and ecosystem services in metro Phoenix.


Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

Many people are familiar with honey bees, birds and other species that are daytime pollinators, but which ones are busy working at night? Nocturnal pollinators are understudied, especially when compared to diurnal ones. These night workers and the plants they pollinate are often coadapted to one another, with unique relationships and features. The plants often have flowers that open at night or in the evening, with strong fragrance and lots of nectar, and are mostly white or light colored. The scent and nectar lure pollinators in and light colors make flowers easier to find in moonlight. Datura (Datura spp.), evening primrose (Oenothera spp.), coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata), saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi), cardón (Pachycereus pringlei), night-blooming cereus (Peniocereus greggii), yuccas (Yucca spp.) and agaves (Agave spp.) are a few examples of plants that you can find nocturnal visitors hanging around.

In addition to being understudied themselves, we don't really know the scale at which these species contribute to pollination as an ecosystem service, for crops or wild plants. A few examples of nocturnal pollinator relationships in the Sonoran Desert include bats (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuen and Choeronycteris mexicana)visiting saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) and agaves (Agave spp.), yucca moths (Prodoxidae Family) visiting yuccas (Yucca spp.), and hawk moths (Sphingidae Family) visiting datura (Datura wrightii) and coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata). Moths and bats often get a bad rap, with moths seen as destroyers of clothing and crops, and bats as scary disease carrying rodents. While bats can carry pathogens that cause disease, the risk of infection from a bat is extremely low, and bats don't go out of their way to attack humans. Even bites from vampire bats (subfamily Desmodontinae) are rare. Bats specifically are responsible for pollinating many of the food crops we eat, including figs, dates, mangoes, peaches and bananas. Some studies have estimated that by eating insects, bats provide a pest control service for US agriculture estimated to be worth over $3.7 billion per year, and possibly as much as $53 billion (USGS). Long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris spp.) also play a major role in tequila production, being primary pollinators of agave (Agave spp.). While some moth larvae do eat clothing, moths actually make a considerable contribution as pollinators, including food crops. Pollination by moths is more common here in the Sonoran Desert, thanks to favorable environmental conditions. A recent study from University College London shows that moths are likely greater contributors to pollination than previously thought and for a greater diversity of plants, including those less visited by bees.

Moths and bats are some of the more well-studied nocturnal pollinators, but many different species are active at night, including beetles and flies. Did you know there are even nocturnal bees? As we learn more about nocturnal pollinators, we're increasingly finding that they play a larger role in pollination services than previously thought. We're more familiar with the decline in daytime pollinators, especially native bees, but what could be happening to nocturnal pollinators we hardly know much about? Over half of bat species are already listed as threatened or endangered, and we're learning that plants lit with artificial light at night have less nighttime visitors. Could we be losing nocturnal pollinators before we even have a chance to understand them? When we think about pollinators, it's important to remember the ones working the night shift are worthy of conservation consideration too.


Photo by Sara Wright.


Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute data and information for nocturnal pollinator relationships and ecosystem services in metro Phoenix. We can learn more about which species are visiting which plants and how they contribute to pollination. Observing nocturnal pollinators at work can also increase appreciation and understanding of them.

Did you know you can post visual or sound recordings as observations?


Bat echolocation recording by @sonoranaturalist.


HOW TO OBSERVE:
Guide to moth lighting.
Check out Echo Meter for recording and identifying bats.
One of the easiest ways to observe at night is to find night blooming plants near you (you can use iNaturalist), get a chair and a light source (like a flashlight or lantern) and sit, watch and observe. You can also make observations around light sources where you live, like porch, patio or street lights.

WHAT TO OBSERVE:

If you catch a pollinator in action, be sure to upload an observation for the pollinator AND the plant. You can use the same image, but make two observations.
Butterfly and Moth Guide
Bat Guide

Plants (Kingdom Plantae)
Bats (Order Chiroptera)
Butterflies and Moths (Order Lepidoptera)
Beetles (Order Coleoptera)
Flies (Order Diptera)
Thrips (Order Thysanoptera)
Ants, Bees, Wasps, and Sawflies (Order Hymenoptera)


Sources and more information:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Callum J. Macgregor and Alison S. Scott-Brown: Nocturnal pollination: an overlooked ecosystem service vulnerable to environmental change.
Xerces Society
US Department of Agriculture
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Kim Pegram, Program Director of Pollinator Conservation and Research at Desert Botanical Garden
Natalie Melkonoff, Plant and Insect Ecology Program Coordinator at Desert Botanical Garden





EcoQuests are month-long challenges that are part of the larger Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project.
You can learn more and join the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora here:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/metro-phoenix-ecoflora

Sign up for the newsletter at ecofloraphx@dbg.org.
Let's be social @ ecofloraphx

PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ
https://tourism.az.gov/responsible-recreation-across-arizona

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Posted on June 01, 2021 18:48 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 03, 2021

June Events

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,
We hope the Wildfire Awareness Month campaign last month with CAZCA has you feeling more informed about and prepared for wildfire. In case you missed it, check out the wildfire awareness blog. For June, in coordination with National Pollinator Month and Pollinator Week (June 21-27), we're taking a look at nocturnal pollinators here in the Sonoran Desert. In addition to this month's EcoQuest, we encourage you to join the Pollinator Week BioBlitz. Pollinator Week is an annual event celebrated internationally in support of pollinator health. This citizen science project is hosted by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign's (NAPPC) Urban Pollinator Taskforce.


JUNE EVENTS

ECOQUESTIONS with JESS WHITE
Monday, June 14 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, we hear from Jess White. Jess is a wildlife biologist working on military lands to protect the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn. While she doesn't currently get to work with them for her job, she is deeply passionate about bats! She has experience in mist-netting with AZ Game and Fish and one of her greatest excitements is the day when in-person events resume and she can talk about them with anyone that has ears, including the bats themselves.
Register Here

VISIT THE PHOENIX BAT CAVE
Wednesday, June 16 | 7:15 p.m. MST
Did you know there's a bat cave right in metro Phoenix? Okay, it's more of a tunnel, but there are bats! Join your fellow Neighborhood Naturalists for a fun evening of bat viewing.
Register Here

ECOQUESTIONS with DR. KATY PRUDIC
Wednesday, June 23 | 6-7 p.m. MST
Dr. Kathleen ‘Katy’ Prudic, Assistant Professor of Citizen and Data Science at the University of Arizona, is an entomologist interested in discovering how ecological and evolutionary interactions promote biodiversity and how they can inform conservation decision making. Dr. Prudic will discuss the wonderful world of nocturnal pollinators and her upcoming project focused on moths.
Register Here

MOTH LIGHTING
Tuesday, June 29 | 8-9 p.m. MST
Moth lighting is a way to attract moths with a light source so we can observe and study them. Join fellow Neighborhood Naturalists for an evening of getting up close and personal with nocturnal pollinators!
Register Here

Posted on June 03, 2021 18:32 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 04, 2021

June EcoQuest Update

Hello Neighborhood Naturalists,

It's been brought to our attention that the June EcoQuest is counting ALL observations, not just those made at night. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way for us to only allow only observations made at night through iNaturalist. A traditional project would be a good option, but would make it more difficult to add observations for those who don't know how, and each observation would have to be added instead of being counted automatically. We decided to keep this one open as a collection project and sort through the observations at the end of the month.

One way to make this easier for us is to add the word "night" in the notes section of your observations for the June EcoQuest. This will help us sort through the observations and quickly find the ones made of nocturnal pollinators and the plants they visit.

Thank you!

Posted on June 04, 2021 21:03 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 30, 2021

July 2021 EcoQuest: Oleander Occurence

Join the July EcoQuest: Oleander Occurrence
Find and map as many oleander (Nerium oleander) plants as possible.

Join the EcoQuest
See oleander on SEINet
See oleander on iNaturalist

Oleander can be seen all over the Valley and is sold at almost every nursery and garden center. Often seen as a hardy ornamental for our area, there’s more to know about this popular plant. Observations from this EcoQuest can help us see how many oleanders are growing in metro Phoenix.



(Photo by Ed Flores)

This month’s EcoQuest is in collaboration with Strategic Habitat Enhancements (SHE).
Strategic Habitat Enhancements empowers the community to reconnect with nature through resilient desert gardening, creating an urban network of wildlife and pollinator habitat. Founder Carianne Campbell has worked as an environmental consultant across the southwest, learning more and more with every new project, and unraveling the secrets of the native plants that make this region so unique. Two years ago, she decided to build a business that creates accessible and educational options for home owners, and this is how SHE came to be.
Learn more about SHE
Be sure to follow SHE on social @ strategic_habitats
Join us for EcoQuestions with Carianne on July 20th at 3 p.m. Link to Register


Introduced to the Americas and believed to have their origin in the Mediterranean region, oleanders are a familiar sight to many residents in the United States. The International Oleander Society claims the plants first arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1841. It is said that a sailing merchant brought them from Jamaica as a gift to his wife and sister-in-law. Easy to cultivate and fast-growing, the plants were passed to neighbors and friends and can now be found growing across the entirety of the warmer southern United States.

Metro Phoenix is also no stranger to oleanders. Many websites, organizations, nurseries and even government agencies have long recommended oleanders for planting. They are fast growing, sun loving, drought, poor soil and salt tolerant; and can create dense privacy screens. They bloom profusely with brightly colored and aromatic flowers. Oleanders are well-suited for our desert environment and have even become naturalized in some areas, but there’s more to know about these hardy shrubs.

When it comes to pollinators, oleanders have a trick up their sleeve. The flowers of this plant are specifically adapted with a tactic known as deceit pollination. Most plants “reward” pollinators with nectar for visiting and pollinating flowers. The pollinator gets energy from the nectar while the plant receives the benefit of being pollinated. Oleanders, however, lure pollinators in with a sweet smell and showy flowers, but there is no nectar to be found. Pollinators burn precious energy while pollinating oleanders, with no reward for their work.

In addition, oleander seeds are dispersed by wind, making it easier for the plants to spread into new areas. The Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service include this plant on the Arizona Priority Noxious and Invasive Plant List for their 2021 Annual Maintenance Plan. This plan is in coordination with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) to manage invasive plants along roadways that can affect nearby public lands. The Tonto National Forest acknowledges oleander’s invasive potential, with naturalized populations being found in Telegraph Canyon and Camp Creek. Saguaro National Park has also found populations within the park boundary.

Oleanders are also considered toxic, with every part of the plant containing 10 different cardiac glycosides, which can induce cardiac arrhythmia and eventually death. It is also toxic to livestock and grazing animals, so live plants, cuttings or pruned parts should never be dumped anywhere where those animals might be able to access them. Inhaling smoke from oleanders can also cause poisoning. In addition, we have seen a threat emerge for oleanders. These plants are susceptible to oleander leaf scorch, which has no cure and is spreading in Arizona. This is caused by sap-feeding insects spreading the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria. Water and nutrient uptake are disrupted, and the plants eventually lose all of their leaves and can no longer survive.

When thinking about urban ecosystems, it’s important to consider which plants we choose to plant and where. Oleanders are widely planted in metro Phoenix. How much habitat are these plants potentially occupying and could other plants that are better suited and more beneficial for pollinators be planted instead?


Observations from this EcoQuest can contribute population and occurrence data for oleander (Nerium oleander) in metro Phoenix. We can learn more about how this plant may be occupying valuable habitat area that could otherwise be used to better benefit pollinators, ecosystems and people.

WHAT TO OBSERVE:

Common Name: Oleander, Nerium, rose laurel
Scientific Name: Nerium oleander
Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)
Origin: Mediterranean Region

Form & Character: Oleander is a versatile evergreen shrub, stiff low, rounded and mounding to strongly upright and open, often imposing.
Leaves: Simple, opposite or whorled in 3 4, elliptical, smooth margin, 10 in. long, 1 in. wide.
Flowers: Varied, white, pink, purple, showy, clusters at the end of branches, April September.

See it on SEINet
See it on iNaturalist



Sources and more information:
Virtual Library of Phoenix Landscape Plants by Dr. Chris A. Martin, Arizona State University
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
Gardenista
San Francisco Gate
BLM Annual Maintenance Plan 2021
USFS Annual Maintenance Plan 2021
Arizona Department of Water Resources
Tonto National Forest







EcoQuests are month-long challenges that are part of the larger Metro Phoenix EcoFlora project.
You can learn more and join the Metro Phoenix EcoFlora here:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/metro-phoenix-ecoflora

Sign up for the newsletter at ecofloraphx@dbg.org.
Let's be social @ ecofloraphx

PLEASE observe COVID-19 guidelines/recommendations.
This a great opportunity to get outdoors close to home as we all navigate the complications of COVID-19. However, it is imperative that you follow the guidelines/recommendations of your local governments and institutions (wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash your hands). Do what’s best for you and your community.

Arizona Office of Tourism: Responsible Recreation in AZ
https://tourism.az.gov/responsible-recreation-across-arizona

Please do not observe indoor houseplants or pets.
For your own safety and the protection of plants and wildlife, do not trespass when making observations. Please follow all posted rules and guidelines in parks/preserves and do not enter private property.
Do not remove or move natural materials (plants, animals, rocks).
Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or disturb animals and keep a safe distance).

Posted on June 30, 2021 18:44 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 14, 2021

Events This Week

Don't forget! These events are happening this week!

ECOQUESTIONS with JESS WHITE
Monday, June 14 | 3-4 p.m. MST
In this EcoQuestions session, we hear from Jess White. Jess is a wildlife biologist working on military lands to protect the endangered Sonoran Pronghorn. While she doesn't currently get to work with them for her job, she is deeply passionate about bats! She has experience in mist-netting with AZ Game and Fish and one of her greatest excitements is the day when in-person events resume and she can talk about them with anyone that has ears, including the bats themselves.
Register Here

VISIT THE PHOENIX BAT CAVE
Wednesday, June 16 | 7:15 p.m. MST
Did you know there's a bat cave right in metro Phoenix? Okay, it's more of a tunnel, but there are bats! Join your fellow Neighborhood Naturalists for a fun evening of bat viewing.
Register Here

Posted on June 14, 2021 17:24 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 21, 2021

It's Pollinator Week!

Let's celebrate pollinator week! International Pollinator Week is an annual event celebrated internationally in support of pollinator health. This citizen science project is hosted annually by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign's (NAPPC) Urban Pollinator Taskforce. In addition to this month's EcoQuest, we encourage you to join the Pollinator Week BioBlitz this week and make observations of any and all pollinators that you can find.

Project member @thegardenhound created this great guide for low desert butterflies and moths.
Check it out!

The Pollinator Partnership and collaborators have also created a helpful guide for identifying common bee species. See it here.

Posted on June 21, 2021 20:08 by jenydavis jenydavis | 0 comments | Leave a comment