Good bee news from Amsterdam, but …


This video from England says about itself:

Miner bee. Dasypoda altercator characterised by its hairy yellow legs.

A solitary miner bee digs out its hole with its hairy I think back legs.

On 19 October 2014, Remco Daalder, Amsterdam city ecologist, was awarded the Jan Wolkers Prize. This prize is named after famous Dutch artist and author, including about natural history, Jan Wolkers. The Jan Wolkers Prize is for the best natural history book of the year in the Netherlands. Remco Daalder’s book is about swifts.

The prize was awarded in Naturalis museum in Leiden. Remco Daalder said there that things went well for bees in Amsterdam. ‘A threefold increase since ten years ago’.

A 21 September 2014 report from Amsterdam daily Het Parool says that this year, three bee species have been seen for the first time ever in Amsterdam: Heriades truncorum; Chelostoma rapunculi; and Osmia caerulescens.

Het Parool writes, interviewing Remco Daalder’s colleague, Arie Koster (translated):

My first observation is that things go very well with the wild bees in the city, I’m pretty excited. Bees which were rare fifteen years ago I find in various places now. Dasypoda altercator, Colletes daviesanus and red-footed leaf-cutter bees are now numerous. “According to Koster a field like this twenty years ago was unthinkable.

“Everything was mowed down and city gardens were sprayed with poison. In the eighties, wild bees in the city were dying. Mid-nineties, there was change and many municipalities began with ecological management. Apparently, the past fifteen years also made ​​a big impact. I notice the effect”.

However, meanwhile, in the Dutch countryside still lots of insecticides are used, killing many honeybees.

Madagascar lemurs, new research


This 16 October 2014 German video is about the recent research about white-footed sportive lemurs.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lemurs get messages when they go to the toilet

Public toilets are often a place humans use to communicate thoughts to others, and it is a habit not just restricted to humans, new research has discovered.

Scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) have found that White-footed sportive lemurs in southern Madagascar also use communal toilets as places to air their thoughts, only instead of writing on the walls, they use scent-marks on latrine trees to communicate with each other and warn intruders that that there is a male that will defend his partner.

This is an important method of communicating for them because although White-footed Sportive Lemurs are nocturnal tree-dwellers that live together in families consisting of parents and their offspring, the individuals do not interact much.

But what they have in common are latrines that are located in the core of their territory, which the whole family uses, and so it is a very useful place to leave messages for each other and keep in contact.

“Scent marks transmit a variety of information such as sexual and individual identity and may function to signal an individual’s presence and identity to others,” says Iris Dröscher, from the German Primate Center. “Latrines therefore serve as information exchange centres of individual-specific information.”

Read a field guide to the Ring-tailed lLemurs of Madagascar HERE.

Chimpanzees’ special tools for hunting ants


This video is called Chimpanzees’ sophisticated use of tools – BBC wildlife.

From Wildlife Extra:

Chimpanzees found to have favoured tools for hunting ants

In order to successfully hunt aggressive army ants West African chimpanzees will search far and wide to find the perfect tools.

The Alchornea hirtella plant is what they are looking for as this provides the two tools required for the job; a thicker shoot for ‘digging’ and a more slender tool for ‘dipping’. If Alchornea hirtella is nowhere to be found, chimps will fashion tools from other plants — but seemingly only after an exhaustive search for their preferred tool provider.

Once the chimps have located an army ant colony, they will dig into the nest with the first tool to aggravate the insects. They then dip the second tool into the nest, causing the angry ants to swarm up it. Once the slender shoot is covered in ants, the chimpanzees pull scoop up a substantial handful from the shoot to eat.

A diet of army ants was believed to be a last resort for hungry chimps, only exploited when the animal’s preferred food of fruit couldn’t be found. But the latest study, based on over ten years of data, shows that, in fact, army ants are a staple in the chimpanzee diet — eaten all year round regardless of available sources of fruit.

“Ant dipping is a remarkable feat of problem-solving on the part of chimpanzees,” said lead author Dr Kathelijne Koops from the University of Cambridge.

“If they tried to gather ants from the ground with their hands, they would end up horribly bitten with very little to show for it. But by using a tool set, preying on these social insects may prove as nutritionally lucrative as hunting a small mammal – a solid chunk of protein.

“Scientists have been working on ruling out simple environmental and genetic explanations for group differences in behaviours, such as tool use, and the evidence is pointing strongly towards it being cultural,” said Koops. “They probably learn tool use behaviours from their mother and others in the group when they are young.

“By studying our closest living relatives we gain a window into the evolutionary past which allows us to shed light on the origins of human technology and material culture.”

Texel, bye bye on 10 October!


This is a video about birds on Texel island.

After 9 October, Friday 10 October 2014 was our last day on Texel.

Back on the ferry to Den Helder.

Many black-headed gulls, some herring gulls and a few lesser black-backed gulls flying along with the ship.

Then, jackdaws. Not seabirds. A sign we are close to landing on the continent.

Avoiding poisonous mushrooms in North America


This video is called 10 Poisonous Mushrooms.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

There’s A Fungus Among Us— Here’s How To Avoid Poisonous Mushrooms

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by eNature

With fall’s arrival, mushrooms have been popping up all over. And as you might expect, there’s been a sharp increase in reports of people poisoned by eating wild mushrooms.

When we recently tweeted the blog entry below about dealing with poisonous mushrooms, it ended up being one of our most popular tweets ever.

Mushrooms are among the most mysterious of life forms. Some kinds are edible—and delicious. Others cause hallucinations and other psychological and perceptual effects, and have been used in spiritual rituals. Many species are unstudied, their ingestibility unknown. And a number of species contain dangerous toxins, many of which are not yet fully understood.

Every year poison centers and emergency rooms treat people who have been poisoned or made ill by mushrooms. These range from people taking “magic mushrooms” for their hallucinogenic effects to gourmands who have tragically misidentified a species to toddlers who have swallowed mushrooms growing in the backyard.

Unfortunately, no simple test can determine whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous. The only way to be certain is to positively identify the species you have found. Only experience can teach you to recognize characteristics that differentiate edible species from poisonous ones, and with some species you cannot be too careful. Some mushroom hunters will even examine a mushroom’s spores microscopically to be sure their identification is correct.

In short, before you eat any wild mushroom, check every possible feature and clue, consult field guides or scientific literature, and be 100 percent sure of proper identification (consulting experts if necessary). Only those who truly know what they’re doing should even consider eating wild mushrooms. If any doubt remains about the edibility of a species, do not eat it.

Many mushrooms cause mild to severe poisoning, and only a few cause life-threatening illness. Some mushroom toxins affect the central nervous system, others the peripheral nervous system, and most cause mild to severe gastrointestinal upset. Some people react adversely to species that are harmless to most or to species that they have eaten before without ill effects.

Below is a list of mushroom toxins, some of the species that contain them, and a description of the symptoms known to occur. (This is not a comprehensive list of all poisonous mushrooms.) If you suspect you have mushroom poisoning, contact a poison control center (call 1-800-222-1222 or visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers website) and seek medical attention immediately. Bring along samples, preferably uncooked, of the mushrooms you have eaten.

Toxin: Amanitin

Mushrooms: Amanita species including A. phalloides (Death Cap), A. virosa complex (Destroying Angel), A. verna, A. bisporigera, A. ocreata; Galerina species, including G. marginata, G. autumnalis, G. venenata; Lepiota species, including L. josserandii, L. helveola, L. castanea; and Conocybe filaris.

Symptoms of this very dangerous toxin occur 6 to 24 hours (rarely 48 hours) after ingestion, typically in 10 to 14 hours. They include severe abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, lasting for one or more days. A short remission takes place, and the victim may believe he or she has recovered. By the third or fourth day, however, pain recurs, along with liver dysfunction, jaundice, renal failure, convulsions, coma, and without adequate treatment, death within five to ten days. With sustained medical assistance, recovery can take place in one to two weeks. Toxic amanitas have caused about 90 percent of all fatal mushroom poisonings, and 50 percent of those who ingest amanitin die. As a rule of thumb, do not eat any Amanita species, and be especially careful in identifying Amanita look-alikes or any other white mushrooms.

Toxin: Monomethylhydrazine (MMH)

Mushrooms: Gyromitra species, including G. esculenta and G. brunnea; and related Helvella, Verpa, and Cudonia species.

Symptoms occur 6 to 12 hours (rarely 2 hours) after ingestion. They include a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting, watery or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pains, muscle cramps, faintness, loss of coordination, and in severe cases convulsions, coma, and death. With medical attention, recovery can occur within hours. The toxin, also known as gyromitrin, develops a compound similar to one used in the manufacture of rocket fuel. It is advisable to avoid ingesting any false morels.

Toxin: Orellanin

Mushrooms: Cortinarius species, including C. gentilis and others.

Symptoms occur 3 to 14 days (rarely to 21 days) after ingestion, and ultimately result in acute or chronic renal failure, which can result in death. A kidney transplant is sometimes required, and recovery can take as long as six months. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, thirst, frequent urination, and the sensation of being cold, accompanied by shivering. The seriousness of orellanin poisoning makes it advisable to avoid eating any “little brown mushrooms,” or LBM’s, that resemble Cortinarius species.

Toxin: Muscarine

Mushrooms: Clitocybe species, including C. dealbata and C. dilatata; most Inocybe species; some Boletus species.

Symptoms occur within a half hour and include profuse perspiration, salivation, tears, blurred vision, tunnel vision, abdominal cramps, watery diarrhea, constriction of the pupils, a fall in blood pressure, and slowing of the pulse. Although symptoms usually subside in 6 to 24 hours, severe cases may require hospitalization, and death has been reported in people with preexisting illness.

Toxins: Ibotenic Acid and Muscimol

Mushrooms: Amanita species, including A. muscaria, A. frostiana, A. pantherina.

Symptoms occur 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. They include dizziness, lack of coordination, delusions, staggering, delirium, raving, profuse sweating, muscular cramps and spasms, hyperactivity, and deep sleep. Recovery usually takes place within 4 to 24 hours; some cases require hospitalization. Other Amanita species are implicated in most fatal mushroom poisonings, and it is wise to avoid this genus altogether. Be sure to positively identify any look-alike species before eating them.

Toxin: Coprine

Mushrooms: Coprinus atramentarius, Clitocybe clavipes.

Symptoms are precipitated by the ingestion of alcohol, as a substance in the mushroom inactivates an enzyme that detoxifies alcohol in the system. This effect can occur as long as five days after eating the mushrooms. Symptoms, usually occurring about 30 minutes after the alcohol is taken, include flushing of the face and neck, distension of neck veins, swelling and tingling of hands, a metallic taste in the mouth, palpitations, and a drop in blood pressure. Nausea, vomiting, and sweating may then occur. Recovery is spontaneous and usually occurs within 2 to 4 hours.

Toxins: Psilocybin and Psilocin

Mushrooms: Psilocybe species, including P. baeocystis, P. caerulipes, P. coprophila, P. cubensis, P. cyanescens, P. pelliculosa, P. semilanceata, P. stuntzii; Conocybe smithii; Gymnopilus spectabilis; Panaeolus cyanescens, P. subbalteatus.

These are the toxins that give hallucinogenic mushrooms their effects. The reactions that result from ingesting these mushrooms vary considerably; none should be eaten casually. Symptoms occur within 30 to 60 minutes, rarely as long as 3 hours later. They include mood shifts, which can range from pleasant to apprehensive. Symptoms may often include unmotivated laughter, hilarity, compulsive movements, muscular weakness, drowsiness, visions, then sleep. Recovery usually takes place within six hours. The victim should be assured that the symptoms will pass.

Miscellaneous Toxins

Mushroom: Paxillus involutus

Symptoms occur one to three hours or more after ingestion. They result from a gradually acquired sensitivity to the species, and include destruction of red blood cells, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiovascular irregularity, and possibly kidney failure. They usually disappear in two to four days, but can last much longer in severe cases and may require hospitalization.

Mushroom: Amanita smithiana

Symptoms occur 4 to 11 hours after ingestion, and include abdominal pain and diarrhea, followed by kidney or liver failure. These poisonings are not well studied. They resemble orellanin poisonings, but the onset of symptoms is much quicker.

Gastrointestinal Toxins

A large number of mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms occur 30 minutes to 3 hours after ingestion. They include mild to serious and severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Recovery can take several hours or days, depending on the species, the amount eaten, and the health of the victim. Hospitalization is sometimes required.

Some edible mushrooms are also known to cause occasional adverse reactions, even in people who have eaten them before without any side effects. Symptoms occur within 2 hours. They include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Recovery usually takes place within a few hours.

So to sum it up— stay clear of wild mushrooms unless you’ve got expert advice and guidance. The stakes are too high to gamble with your health!

We’ve noticed lots of strange mushrooms recently here in the mid-Atlantic. And have had to keep the dogs from eating them…

Are they showing up in your neck of the woods?

North American Mycological Association website: here.

Shark feeding frenzy in North Carolina


This video says about itself:

Rare Shark Feeding Frenzy in North Carolina

On Thursday, October 9 [2014] at around noon, while at a retreat at Cape Lookout National Seashore off the coast of North Carolina, the leaders of One Harbor Church witnessed a shark feeding frenzy. The men were out fishing for the evening’s dinner when they stumbled across more than 100 sharks attacking a school of bluefish. As seagulls and pelicans joined in on the meal, the men began to cast into the surf, catching fish without the use of bait. For more than five minutes, the sharks were observed swimming in and out of the surf, some of which became beached in the fury.

eNature Blog in the USA writes about this:

Amazing Video Shows Shark Feeding Frenzy In The Surf Off North Carolina Beach

Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by eNature

Several species of shark, including the popular blacktip that frequents the coastal waters of Virginia and the Carolinas during the summer, can be clearly seen literally on the beach in a feeding frenzy video posted to YouTube last week.

The video, posted by user Brian Recker, shows sharks feasting on a school of smaller fish, most likely bluefish, in shallow water at North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore.

While it’s not uncommon on East Coast beaches to find schools of small fish in the surf when they are chased up on the beach by predators, most observers encounter bluefish chasing smaller fish such as herring or mullet. It IS uncommon to see bluefish as the prey being chased—and sharks so exposed on the beach.

Here is another video on this.

Tarantulas, mating season and Halloween


This video says about itself:

31 October 2013

The world’s largest spider, the Goliath tarantula is also a venomous killer that liquefies its prey. Gustavo Hormiga, a biology professor at George Washington University, explains the arachnid’s ferocious hunting strategy—and why there’s no need to fear it unless you’re the size of a mouse.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Tarantulas Are Out At Halloween, But They’re Not Trick or Treating!

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014 by eNature

Tarantulas are a group of often hairy and very large arachnids belonging to the Theraphosidae family of spiders, of which approximately 900 species have been found on 6 continents.

Halloween is almost here and lots of folks are thinking about spiders such as tarantulas—as well as bats, ghouls and other scary creatures.

But it turns out that tarantulas have a lot more on their mind this month than trick or treating.

It’s mating time for tarantulas.

And the story behind tarantula breeding season is a tale of long journeys, deadly peril, violence and love. It’s an epic worthy of Homer.

Mating Season Is Here

Fall is the time of year when male tarantulas, having finally reached adulthood, come out of the burrows in which they have lived for the first 5 to 12 years of their lives.

Their mission? To seek out females and mate with them. A host of perils awaits the newly emerged male in the outside world, not the least of which is the female herself.

The Women Are In Charge

Female tarantulas are doing what they usually do on warm evenings: sitting in their burrows near the surface, waiting to feel the vibrations of passersby. If the vibrations feel as if they might come from a small animal such as a cricket or another spider, she will rush out, grab the unsuspecting prey item and sink her fangs into it.

Clearly, approaching a female’s burrow is not a task for the faint at heart!

As a male tarantula approaches the burrow of a female, he first tastes the silk that lies around the entrance. If he detects a mature female in residence, he responds by drumming on the surface with his legs and his pedipalps (the leg-like first set of appendages, which are very long on tarantulas). The reason for this drumming is to let the female know that he is interested in mating—and would rather not be mistaken for a meal by the larger and always hungry female.

When and if a female emerges, he continues to drum as he approaches her. If she’s receptive, she will raise up the front end of her body and allow him to grab her fangs with the hook-like projections on his forelegs. He then transfers his sperm to her with his pedipalps.

That was the easy part—the difficult task still lies ahead: he must release her fangs, disengage himself, and make a hasty retreat before she can overpower him and eat him. Even if he successfully escapes from his big date, the male tarantula is still not long for this world. Adult males (mated or not) usually die before winter arrives.

It’s Not Easy Being A Male Tarantula

As if being eaten by your mate isn’t enough to worry about, the male tarantula must also be on the alert for predators like owls, skunks, and foxes.

If he detects the approach of a hungry hunter, his most effective defense is to quickly use his hind legs to kick some of the hairs off of his abdomen. The hairs dislodge easily and are light enough to float into contact with the nose and eyes of the approaching predator. On contact the hairs produce a burning sensation.

This line of defense works well against mammals and birds, but there is another tarantula hunter out there that is an even greater threat, and it is considerably smaller than the spider: it is a wasp called the Tarantula Hawk.

A Wasp That Loves The Taste Of Fresh Tarantula

Tarantula Hawks are among the largest wasps in the world; one North American species exceeds two inches in length. They are handsome insects with metallic blue bodies and orange wings, sometimes seen sipping nectar at flowers (particularly milkweeds) in the early evening hours. Female Tarantula Hawks patrol low over open country, searching for wandering male tarantulas or for the burrows of females.

When the wasp finds a tarantula, she lands and approaches the spider directly. The spider assumes a defensive posture, raising the front legs and baring the lethal-looking fangs. Unfortunately for the spider, this posture also exposes its underside to the agile wasp, which quickly darts under the spider and stings it in a soft spot where the legs join the body.

The sting of the Tarantula Hawk contains a peculiar potion; it paralyzes the spider almost instantly, but does not kill it. The “sleeping” spider is then dragged to a burrow, pulled underground, and buried with a single wasp egg attached to the outside of the body. When the egg hatches, the maggot-like wasp larva has a huge fresh meal waiting for it. The spider is still alive, its tissues undecayed and ready for the wasp larva to devour. The voracious larva will even eat the muscles and other “nonessential” tissue before consuming the still-functioning organs.

So if you are out for a walk or a drive on an early autumn evening and you happen to see a giant hairy spider making his way over the ground, don’t react with fear.

Just wish him the best of luck. With all the perils ahead of him, he’s going to need it!

Ever encounter a tarantula in the wild? Or anywhere else?

We always enjoy hearing your stories!