Have you ever wondered what microbes might be growing in your showerhead? If so, you will be interested in the Showerhead Microbiome Project. If you sign up, the members of the project will send you a short interview and a kit to take samples. You will need to send those back to the lab for analysis. They warn it may take some time for the kit to arrive and also for it to be analyzed.
Members of the lab are also interested in the microbes in sourdough cultures. They are looking for people to send in active cultures and also for people to use cultures to bake bread. People without sourdough starter or with no cooking experience are still encouraged to participate. See the website for detail.
We would love to hear from you if you participate. Let us know what happens.
Ever see fireflies light up a summer night? It can be an amazing sight.
What are fireflies?
Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles. Many of the adults and some of the larvae are able to produce light via a chemical process.
Not all fireflies light up. The ones that fly during the day and don’t flash at night are sometimes called “dark fireflies.” Without the ability to flash, dark fireflies attract each other via chemicals called pheromones.
Adult firefly beetles often can be found resting on plants during the day.
To learn more about the science of fireflies check out this video from ScienceFriday which explains more about why and how fireflies light up (Note: It does talk about fireflies mating and a predator, so check for suitability before showing to children.)
While much of North America has had cold and snow, here it was warm enough that some local bumble bees were collecting pollen and nectar from desert mallow flowers. Unfortunately the bees were landing and leaving so fast that I wasn’t able to get a photograph, so this one from the East Coast will have to do.
What can you do while it is too cold to do much insect watching? It is a perfect time to pull out the field guides and learn more about a group that is interesting to you.
Bumble Bee Identification
Take for example the bumble bees. They are important pollinators and easy to spot because of their large size.
If you are interested in learning more about the different types of bumble bees in your area, the USDA Forest Service and The Pollinator Partnership recently have created two identification guides for bumble bees: Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States by Sheila Colla, Leif Richardson and Paul Williams and Bumble Bees of the Western United States by Jonathan Koch, James Strange and Paul Williams
The two guides can be downloaded as free .pdfs at The Xerces Society (scroll to bottom of page).
This group is looking for individuals interested in taking photographs of their local bumble bees and uploading the photographs to the Bumble Bee Watch website. Once you have uploaded your photos, experts will verify the identity the bumble bees for you. The website also has tips for what you can do to help conserve bumble bees, like grow a pollinator garden.