February: Week 3


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The most common lichens at CWES are shield lichens. They make flat circles on tree trunks and are a pale blue-green color.

An Algae Took a "Lichen" to a Fungi

Lichens are found on rocks and trees and often look like peeling paint. When you touch one it often feels dry and flakey. Lichens are an amazing symbiotic (good for both parties) relationship between a fungus and an alga. Fungi include mushrooms, molds, mildews, and rusts. Algae are the tiny, aquatic plants that we see in Minister Lake and can be single or multi-cellular. An alga intertwined with a fungus creates a lichen. The fungus makes up about 60% of the lichen and gives structure and protection to the alga. In turn, the alga photosynthesizes and gives food to the fungus. Lichens grow when they are moist and soak up early morning dew.

How does new lichen form?

There are several ways that a new lichen can be created. If a piece of lichen breaks off and lands in a moist spot, it can begin to grow. Lichens can also send out small packages of algae cells and fungi threads, which can grow into new lichens. The last way is for the fungal part of a lichen to send out tiny spores, which can create a new lichen if they land on an alga.

Did you know? Lichens are very important in creating new habitats, because they can slowly break rock into soil. Lichens are also good for padding bird nests and as food for squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. Lichens are sensitive to air quality and very few can survive in cities.

Learn more: http://ocid.nacse.org/lichenland/html/meeting.html

engraver beetle

adult engraver beetle

engraver beetle larvae

Watch for Signs of the Engraver Beetle

Right now, hidden beneath layers of bark, are the larvae of an extraordinary bunch of beetles. These minute insects are called engraver beetles, and you've probably seen their work on dead and dying trees at CWES. They carve complex patterns beneath bark as they eat and breed. Most of these wood-consuming beetles are quite small at about 1/8 of an inch long.

In spring, the hidden larvae will pupate, become adults, eat their way out of the bark, and then fly to a new tree. There, either the male or female (depending upon the species of beetle) will carve out a tiny chamber beneath the bark and mate with another beetle. Then, the female beetle will carve out tiny channels around the chamber to lay each of her eggs in. When the larvae emerge from their eggs, they feed on wood and widen their tunnels. They then pupate, became adults, and start the whole cycle over again. Several generations of engraver beetles can be produced over the course of one summer. The next time you see a dead tree or a fallen log, take a closer look and try to spot the trails of these unique creatures.

male pileated woodpecker

Male (left) and female (right) pileated woodpeckers. Photo (C) Laura Erickson. Below are holes that a pileated has drilled.

woodpecker holes

The Pileated Woodpecker

Have you ever seen a rectangular hole drilled deep into a tree? If so, you may have witnessed the handiwork of the pileated woodpecker. At 16-19 inches long, this impressive bird is the largest woodpecker in Wisconsin. You can tell males and females apart by the color of their "mustache." The male has a red “mustache” at the corners of its beak while the female has a black one. Males also have more red on their foreheads. These birds don't migrate, and a pair will stay together in their territory year-round.

After they’ve hammered a hole, pileated woodpeckers will use their long tongues (full of sticky saliva and a barbed tip) to catch carpenter ants and wood-boring beetle larvae. They will also munch on nuts and berries.

Did you know? These large birds are an important species because they create cavities in trees that may be used as homes for many other birds and mammals.

Hear this bird's "kuk kuk kuk" call

Hear it drumming

Learn more: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 Thanks to Tony Phillips from the SUNY Stony Brook Math Dept for use of the bird calls on this page. ​