Bats

Link to Bracken Bat Cave
BATS

What do you call a little bat? A battle.

What do you call a bat in a belfry? A dingbat.

Why did the bat use mouthwash? Because he had bat breath!

Which bat knows the ABC’s? The alpha bat!

“Catch a bat in your hat and good luck will follow!” In Chinese art 5 bats represent the blessings of Health, long life, prosperity, love of virtue, and peaceful death. How we think about animals depends on our cultural biases.

Blind as a bat!

Wise as an Owl!

Smart as a fox!

Hungry as a bear!

Busy as a bee!

Bats are mammals and make up the order Chiroptera. There is evidence bats have existed for 50 million years or longer. They are warm blooded, nocturnal, nurse their babies with milk, and have fur. There are over 900 species of bats, but only 3 are vampires located in Central and South America. They suck blood from the wounds of birds and mammals. A lot of bats, including the flying fox, eat fruit. Other bats eat insects, frogs, fish, and other small animals. Because they are active at night their life seems mysterious.

Bats are the only mammals that can fly with “hand wings”. Their finger bones are elongated and connected with membranes. If we had fingers like a bat they would be longer than our legs! A few tropical bats have a wingspan of 6 feet, but most bats are small (1/10th of a pound in the U.S.). They have enlarged ears, bizarre noses, and the habit of hanging upside down. Their leaf- noses and large ears are involved in echolocation.

Bats produce a high- pitched burst of sound and then their brain analyses the echo for finding their way and finding their prey. Bats’ brains process the auditory information within those echoes as visual maps. All bats can see and all bats are sensitive to changing light levels because this is the main cue that they use to sense when it is nighttime and time to become active. To track down prey, avoid predators and find their way home in the dark, most bats depend on echolocation. They broadcast high-pitched sonar signals and listen for the echoes of sound waves bouncing off objects they’re looking for or obstacles in their path. Biologists listen to bat sounds with bat detectors that translate the ultrasonic signal into a range that we can hear. Bats increase the number of calls before they attack prey in order to pinpoint their meal. Many insects can hear echolocation and hide.

You may see bats at night around lights trying to catch insects. In the southwest, the long-nosed bats seek fruit nectar of the saguaro cactus and agave. The organ pipe cactus has flowers that open at night and is dependent on bats for pollination. Bats eat the fruits and disperse the seeds in their guano

Bats carry their babies for 4 months and have 1 single “pup” each year. The red bat has multiple births. Baby bats are born big like a 120 lb. woman having a 40 lb. baby. There are large maternity crèches but some species roost alone. Mother bats feed babies milk and babies make a distinct sound that the mother recognizes. Babies grow quickly and in 3 moths the little brown bat is ready to fly. The big brown bat is ready in 1 month. Fifty percent of babies die the first winter.

Bats are present throughout most of the world and perform vital ecological roles such as pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats to distribute their seeds. The greatest numbers of bats are in the tropics. Bats are absent from the poles and the very dry desert. Forty species live in the United States. Hawaii has 1 bat species. CA. has 25 bat species.

About seventy percent of bats are insectivores. Most of the rest are frugivores, or fruit eaters. A few species such as the Fish-eating bat feed from animals other than insects, with the vampire bats being the only mammalian parasite species. Bats play an important role in controlling pests (the mosquito.) They need to eat 30-50% of their body weight nightly. A single bat can eat enough mosquitoes in a single evening to save several people the agony of these insects that bite and cause great itching bumps protecting us from malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. Bat droppings are good fertilizer

Bats are disappearing due to the destruction of habitats, pesticides, and roosting sites being disturbed. Bats are very sensitive and susceptible to pesticides. The gray bat is endangered in the U.S., and so are the Hawaiian hoary bat, Indiana bat, Mexican long nosed, and big-eared bat.

Bats live 10 – 30 years and often migrate with the seasons to more sheltered sites. They may migrate 300 miles in all directions of their summer home. The free tailed bats may migrate 1000 miles to Brazil or Mexico. When bats hibernate, their body temperature drops to save energy and their heartbeat slows to 10 beats/minute. Their heart beats 13,000 times a minute in flight. Flight has enabled bats to become one of the most widely distributed groups of mammals. Apart from the Arctic, the Antarctic and a few isolated oceanic islands, bats exist all over the world. Bats are found in almost every habitat available on Earth. Different species select different habitats during different seasons — ranging from seacoast to mountains and even deserts — bat habitats have two basic requirements: roosts, where they spend the day or hibernate, and places for foraging. Bat roosts can be found in hollows, crevices, foliage, and even human-made structures; and include “tents” that bats construct by biting leaves.

Inside a cavern in Mexico there are 20 million bats hanging by their toes. It is the largest concentration of warm-blooded animals in the world! At dusk they all fly out to feed. Because they are active at night their life seems mysterious.

The scientists who discovered Onychonycteris finneyi, the oldest known bat fossil concluded that the prehistoric species could fly but that the sonar sense didn’t evolve until later. When scientists examined O. finneyi, as part of the study, their results suggested that the ancient species may have shared that same echo locating bone structure. Though echolocation is a relatively primitive trait, existing since at least 50 million years ago, researchers are still discovering new complexities about the sonar system.

Most bats do have bad eyesight, but they are definitely not blind. What they see can sometimes interfere with what they hear. We know that visual information can override echolocation information even when the echolocation information contradicts the visual information. A captive bat in a darkened room might fly into a window since it sees light coming through pane as an escape route, although echolocation sonar tells it there’s an obstacle in the way. In laboratory tests, bats have been shown to be able to distinguish shapes and colors. This is not unlike dolphins that use echolocation to hunt, especially in the murky depths. Their eyes, while small and sometimes poorly developed, are also completely functional, not to mention the fact that they have excellent hearing and sense of smell. Perhaps the saying should be changed to “Keen as a Bat”?

The smallest bat is the bumblebee bat (with a wingspan of 6 inches=15 cm. It is arguably the smallest extant species of mammal, with the Etruscan shrew being the other contender. The largest species of bat is the Giant Golden-crowned Flying-fox, which is 336–343 mm (13.23–13.50 in) long, has a wingspan of 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) and weighs approximately 1.1–1.2 kg (2–3 lb).

 

Two traditionally recognized suborders of bats are:

  1. Megachiroptera (megabats)
  2. Microchiroptera (microbats/echolocating bats)

Not all megabats are larger than microbats. The major distinctions between the two suborders are: Microbats use echolocation: megabats do not with the exception of Rousettus and relatives. Microbats lack the claw at the second toe of the forelimb.

The ears of microbats do not close to form a ring: the edges are separated from each other at the base of the ear. Microbats lack under fur: they are either naked or have guard hairs.

The Legend of the Christmas Spider

THE LEGEND OF THE CHRISTMAS SPIDER
A folk legend from Germany and the Ukraine

Once upon a time long ago, a mother was busily cleaning the house getting ready for Christmas. Not a speck of dust was left. Even the spiders were banished from their cozy corners in the ceiling and finally fled to the attic.
T’was Christmas Eve at last! The tree was all decorated for the children to see it. The poor spiders were frantic because they could not see the tree or be present for the celebration.
The oldest and wisest spider suggested that they could peep through the crack in the door. Silently they crept out of the attic, down the stairs, and across the floor to wait at the threshold. Suddenly the door opened a wee bit and quickly the spiders scurried into the room. They wanted to see the tree closely, since their eyes were not accustomed to the brightness of the room. They crept all over the tree, up and down, over every branch and twig and saw every pretty thing. At last they satisfied themselves completely of the Christmas tree beauty.
But Alas!! Everywhere they went they had left their webs and when the little Christ child came to bless the house he was dismayed. He loved the little spiders, for they were God’s creatures too, but he knew the mother, who had trimmed the tree for the little children, wouldn’t feel the same, so He touched the webs and they all turned to shimmering silver and gold! Ever since that time, we have hung tinsel on Christmas trees, and according to the legend, it has been a custom to include a spider among the decorations on the tree.

Worms

Examine worms with children. Worms are important to compost soil.

Worms have 5 hearts, a brain with two tiny lobes and a long spinal chord. It is divided into segments, has no bones but moves using muscles and very tiny hairs that are on each segment. They breath through their skin and it needs to stay moist for them stay alive. A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.

Though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour). If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.

Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms. The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.

Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants.

Worms are cold-blooded animals and have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm and where it is cut. It may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right.

Baby worms are not born. They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice. Worms are hermaphrodites. Each worm has both male and female organs.

Worm Bucket

The Mantid

This is a mantid. Recently I captured a mantid in my garden and put it in the terrarium in the classroom for the children to watch. You must feed them bugs and they are voracious eaters. We caught some grasshoppers today and the mantis loves ants. We put a sponge soaked in water in the tank or you may give it a spray of water on the glass. I will return home to my garden soon.

Two or more of these insects are called mantids. They are close relatives of cockroaches and stick insects. An adult mantis can get 13 cm long – about 12 inches. They have a head shaped like a triangle and a long “neck”, the thorax. They are the only insect that can turn its head 180 degrees from side to side without moving the body. The forelegs have sharp spines on them for catching prey and they always bite the neck first. Mantids keeps the forelegs folded and held together as if praying.

Mantids are usuall green or brown and easily camouflaged on leaves and stems. One kind of mantis is pink. They have wings but are very poor at flying and walking.They like to sit and wait for their prey.When prey comes close, they are very fast with their forelegs to catch it. The reflex of their forelegs is so fast it is difficult for our eyes to see them grab a meal. Mantids are voracious eaters and are carnivores only eat animals such as bees, beetles, moths, butterflies, aphids, crickets, flies, and other insects. They are cannabalistic and will eat other mantids or their mate. The female is famous for biting the head off of the male after mating. Large adult mantids may even eat small birds, frogs or lizards. They are solitaary hunters with biting and chewing mouth parts.

Mantids molt or shed their exoskeleton to grow larger. They have 2 large sensitive compound eyes that can tell if something moves 60 feet away.with 3 simple eyes between them. The mother mantid lays several hundred eggs in an egg case made from a frothy secretion that hardens to protect the eggs. The egg case can withstand severe winter weather and hatches after about 8 weeks of warm weather. A mantis may lay several egg cases usually attached to twigs, leaves, or fences.. The egg case will hatch the following spring and about 200 tiny nymphs that look very much like adults will crawl from betwween tiny flaps in the egg case and hang from silken threads to dry out. The egg case does not change appearance in any way.

Mantids are harmless to humans and they can become tame enough to eat insects from your fingers. The praying mantis is considered diurnal meaning they are most active in the day time, but sometimes you can see them flying around at night. Their average life span is 1 year.

THE ORCHID MANTIS!

FLOWER MANTIS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireflies

Fireflies are omnivores, about 1 inch in size and live about 2 months. They are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most are winged, which distinguishes them from glowworms of the same family. There are about 2,000 firefly species that live in a variety of warm environments, as well as temperate regions. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around damp areas that retain moisture.

People don’t know how the insects produce their glow. They have dedicated light organs located under their abdomens. Fireflies take in oxygen and combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Fireflies flash in patterns unique to each species. They are optical signals that help fireflies. Firefly light may also serve as a defense mechanism that flashes a clear warning of the insect’s unappetizing taste. The fact that even larvae are luminescent lends support to this theory.

Females deposit eggs in the ground, where larvae develop to adulthood. Underground larvae feed on worms and slugs by injecting them with a numbing fluid. Adults eschew such prey and typically feed on nectar or pollen, though some adults do not eat at all. Fireflies tend to be brown, soft bodied, often with the elytra more leathery than in other beetles. Some females are similar in appearance to males. Larviform females are found in many other firefly species. Females can often be distinguished from the larvae only by their compound eyes.

The most commonly known fireflies are nocturnal. There are numerous species that are diurnal, are mostly non-luminescent. A few days after mating, a female lays fertilized eggs on or just below the surface of the ground. Eggs hatch 3-4 weeks later and the larvae feed until the end of summer. Larvae are commonly called glowworms, not to be confused with the distinct beetle family Phengodidae or fly genus Arachnocampa. Lampyrid larvae have simple eyes. The term glowworm is also used for both adults and larvae of species such as Lampyris noctiluca, the common European glowworm, in which only the non-flying adult females glow brightly and the flying males glow only weakly and intermittently.

Fireflies overwinter during the larval stage, some species for several years. Some do this by burrowing underground or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring, eat for several weeks, pupate for 1 to 2.5 weeks, and emerge as adults. The larvae of most species are specialized predators and feed on other larvae, terrestrial snails, and slugs. Some are so specialized that they have grooved mandibles which deliver digestive fluids directly to their prey. Adult diet varies. Some are predatory, while others feed on plant pollen or nectar. Most fireflies are distasteful and sometimes poisonous to vertebrate predators due in part to a group of steroid pyrones (LGBs)

Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly’s lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP (adenosene triphosphate), and oxygen to produce light. Genes coding for these substances have been inserted into many different organisms (see Luciferase – Applications). Luciferase is used in forensics, and the enzyme has medical uses. All fireflies glow as larvae. Bioluminescence serves a different function in lampyrid larvae than it does in adults. It appears to be a warning signal to predators, since many firefly larvae contain chemicals that are distasteful or toxic. It is thought that light in adults beetles was originally used for similar warning purposes, but evolved for use in mate selection. Now fireflies are a classic example of an organism that uses bioluminescence for sexual selection. They have evolved a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships. From steady glows, flashing, as well as the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems.

Some species, especially lightning bugs of the genera Photinus, Photuris and Pyractomena, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. Females of the Photinus genus generally do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species. Firefly larva Tropical fireflies, particularly in Southeast Asia, routinely synchronize their flashes among large groups, an example of biological synchronicity. In some fields, this phenomenon is explained as phase synchronization and spontaneous order. At night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles (most notably found near Kuala Selangor), fireflies (“kelip-kelip” in the Malay language or Bahasa Malaysia) synchronize their light emissions precisely. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurs annually near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the first weeks of June. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to this phenomenon.

Female Photuris fireflies are known for mimicking the mating flashes of other “lightning bugs” for the sole purpose of predation. Target males are attracted to what appears to be a suitable mate, and are then eaten. For this reason the Photuris species are sometimes referred to as “femme fatale fireflies.” Many fireflies do not produce light. Usually these species are diurnal, or day-flying, such as those in the genus Ellychnia. A few diurnal fireflies that primarily inhabit shadowy places, such as beneath tall plants or trees, are luminescent. One such genus is Lucidota. These fireflies use pheromones to signal Males coming from downwind arrived at females first, male arrival was correlated with downwind direction, this is most likely into which the pheromone plume is dispersed. It mates. This is supported by the fact that some basal groups do not show bioluminescence, and rather use chemical signaling. Looking at pheromones in Phosphaenus Hemipterus, P. Hemipterus has photic organs, yet is a diurnal firefly and displays large antenna and small eyes. These traits strongly suggest that pheromones are used for sexual selection, while photic organs are used for warning signals. It was also found that males were able to find females without the use of visuals, the sides of the petri dishes were covered with black tape. This, along with the facts that females don’t light up at night and males are diurnal, points to the conclusion that sexual communication in P. Hemipterus is entirely based on pheromones.

 

Glow worm cave in New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bugs, Bites, and Bee Stings

Bed Bug Bites

Bug Bites and Bee Stings: Raise your hand if you have ever seen an insect? Let children talk and say what they have seen. Introduce insects using models and posters. Insects have 6 legs and an exoskeleton (shell on the outside). Raise your hand if you have ever been bitten or stung by an insect? Let them talk about things that stung or bit them. Spiders, ticks, fleas, mites and lice belong to a group of animals called arachnids and they have 8 legs.

Discuss insects & arachnids that bite or sting (ex. bee, hornet, wasp, bumble bee, ant (fire ant & red velvet ant) flea, bed bug, chigger, louse, tick, and gnat. Discuss how some bites make you itch and some animals can carry diseases. Ticks bite you, suck your blood, and are most frequent in May and June. Female mosquitoes suck your blood to lay eggs in water. Bed bugs bite and suck blood and make you itch. Baby chiggers make you itch. They digest your skin with their saliva, lap it up, and fall off in 3 days.

Bees nest in old trees or hives, collect nectar and pollen, sting and leave the stinger and poison sac that pumps poison into you until you remove it. Make sure you remove the stinger and sac. Wasps’ are reddish brown, sting and nests under porches and buildings. Hornets are black and white, sting and make football nests in trees. Fire ants make tall hill that may go 15 feet deep. They bite you and it blisters and can be serious if you are allergic. Yellow Jackets are yellow with black stripes, sting, and live underground or in stumps. Spiders such as the black widow and brown recluse (violin spider) hide in dark places and can bite you if disturbed and make you very sick. Many spiders and scorpions like woodpiles for homes.

Remedy for bites & stings: Put ice on it or a mixture of baking soda and water. Witch hazel helps to eliminate itching. If you were going for a walk in the woods, how would you dress? Always wear shoes and socks, long pants, long sleeve shirt, cap or scarf, insect repellent with less than 10% deet, no bright colors or perfume, cover food, take water and don’t drink soda from an open can. Yellow jackets like them! Don’t swat at them or run around because that makes them angry. Move quickly and quietly away.

MATERIALS: Models of the animals: ticks, mosquito, ants, brown recluse spider, black widow, honeybee, posters of insects and arachnids, samples of larva, cocoons, nests etc.

Bug Jokes List

ACTIVITIES: Let children examine models of insects and spiders, their metamorphosis, and the posters of insects and arachnids. Children sing and act out “This is a Song about Sammy” using insects such as bee, grasshopper, butterfly, and ant. Share bug Jokes. Let children watch power point program on insects and spiders showing examples of them and what the bites look like.