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Minnesota Biological Survey: News from the Field

Check out more of what's new in MBS on the homepage and on this page of previous features!

Karin Jokela

Karin Jokela,
Entomologist

Renville County

Coral hairstreaks (Satyrium titus) and carpenter bees (Ceratina sp.) visited butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

This nighthawk nestling (Chordeiles minor) waited on a rock outcropping while its mother tried to distract me nearby.

butterflies
nightwawk chick

click on images to enlarge

June 23, 2015: "I spent the day visiting natural areas in Renville County as part of the Minnesota Biological Survey's Wild Bee Surveys. The most interesting site of the day was Morton Outcrops SNA, a relatively small bedrock knob located along the Minnesota River that hosts a vast diversity of forbs and insects. Some of the most popular flowers for pollinators that day included butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), meadowsweet (Spirea alba), and my favorite: brittle prickly pear (Opuntia fragilis). After collecting several different bees from this stunning and seemingly exotic cactus flower, I decided to video the foraging behavior of a common sweat bee: Agapostemon virescens.

On this visit, it appears that the bee was diving deep into the flower to reach its nectar. Despite her brief efforts to clean the pollen grains from her face, many grains still clung to her fuzzy body, and she likely transported some of them to another prickly pear flower.

If the pollen grains (male gametes) landed on the flower stigma (female reproductive structure), then fertilization probably occurred. And that is the win-win story of pollination: the bee gathered nourishing nectar, and the cactus was cross-fertilized!

Sweatbee in Opuntia flower. This slideshow requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Agapostemon virescens on brittle prickly pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis).

Other fun encounters during my visit included hairstreak butterflies, a deer fawn, and a nighthawk nestling."

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).


Adam Maleski

Adam Maleski,
Zoologist

Laurentian Mixed Forest Province

Northern long-eared bat on poplar

Northern long-eared bat

northern long eared bat
northern long eared bat

click on images to enlarge

Late June, 2015: "The MBS Bat Crew watched the sunrise every morning. Not because we had been waking up early like the MBS Bird Survey folks, but because we still hadn't gone to bed from the previous day. We were stationed at Norris Camp (Red Lake WMA) netting bats to deploy transmitters onto female Northern Long-eared bats (NLEB). These small transmitters allow us to "see" a day in the life of a bat. The main objective was to identify roost trees that the NLEB females are using to have their pups.

The first night of trapping was very successful and we attached transmitters onto two female NLEBs. After a few sleepless hours of rest (mainly due to my wondering where they had gone), it was time to track them down. We found them in a mature trembling aspen/white spruce stand roughly three-quarters of a mile away. Both bats stayed in that stand, but it was interesting to see how the two bats interacted. Some nights they would roost together and other nights they would roost apart. With the help of Wildlife staff from Red Lake WMA and Baudette Area Office, emergence counts were conducted after sunset to observe how many bats came out of the roosts. The third female NLEB fitted with a transmitter stayed pretty close to where we caught her except that she made us go through a very thick alder swamp to reach her roost. After 7 days, signals from her transmitter stopped and she was never heard from again.

The fourth NLEB female moved roughly a mile away from where we had caught her. She shifted around a lot from tree to tree at first, but then settled down. She was my favorite bat because every time I tracked her it was an easy walk to her roost, but when others tracked her they had to cross a waist-deep creek and maneuver other obstacles. She also didn't like being disturbed and on two occasions flew out of her day roost when I approached (photos show the bat next to where she emerged from a crack in an aspen and a close-up showing the transmitter with its long antenna that is about to fall off!).

 

The transmitters lasted only 7-12 days, which didn't give us much time to document NLEB roosting sites. But we did identify 18 roosts that were used by these NLEB females; most were in aspen, but white spruce, jack pine and tamarack were also used. NLEB-tracking is over for the season, but plans are already underway for next year's effort. "


Crystal Boyd

Crystal Boyd,
Entomologist

Roseau County

Boat launch on the Roseau River.

Tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus sp.) often live in shallow ponds, but I found these specimens at a shallow boat launch on the Roseau River.

June 17-18. Roseau County. "I was searching for native bees at Roseau River WMA when I noticed dark, oval blobs scanning the concrete pad at the boat launch. I thought they were tadpoles-until a closer look revealed something much rarer!

These were tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus sp.), or aquatic invertebrates that look like small horseshoe crabs. The specimens are county records for Roseau County and possibly the first specimens reported in Minnesota since 1972! I'm working with Dr. Christopher Rogers from the Kansas Biological Survey to identify the species."

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

boat ramp tadpole shrimp click on images to enlarge

Boat launch on the Roseau River.

Tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus sp.) often live in shallow ponds, but I found these specimens at a shallow boat launch on the Roseau River.

A species of tadpole shrimp. This slideshow requires the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

 


Courtney Kerns

Courtney Kerns,
Plant Ecologist/
Botanist

Borderlakes
dung moss
tiger beetle

click on image to enlarge

Late June, 2015: "The northeast corner of Koochiching County outside Voyageurs National Park is not well-known to many people. Similar to the park but in contrast to the rest of the county, this westernmost extension of the Border Lakes ecological subsection is interspersed with many areas of exposed bedrock. I spent the week of June 22nd here and found two interesting species. The first photo is of black-fruited stink moss, Tetraplodon mnioides. Prior to its rediscovery in Koochiching County last year, its presence in Minnesota was documented by only one specimen from 1891, on or near the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. The species grows almost exclusively on carnivore dung- in this case, wolf droppings. I also encountered and photographed the Laurentian tiger beetle (Cicindela denikei) in two locations. This strikingly iridescent, predatory beetle is listed as a species of special concern in Minnesota, and is only known to inhabit sandy and rocky areas of northeastern Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba. They're very active on warm days, continually skittering here and there looking for prey. Tiger beetles are often wary and hard to approach closely, so I was lucky to find this relatively cooperative individual!"


Black-fruited stink moss (Tetraplodon mnioides), on wolf droppings atop a bedrock exposure. One can barely see an undigested bone fragment on the left, to the left of the curled leaf.

A Laurentian tiger beetle (Cicindela denikei) "stilting". Stilting is a thermoregulatory behavior to help keep the beetle from overheating on warm days, by moving the body away from the hot surface.

Andy Kranz

Andy Kranz,
Botanist

Lac Qui Parle WMA
prairie plants
sandy slopes
creek
penstemon
netting bees

click on images to enlarge

June 2015. "The Minnesota Biological Survey has undertaken a new project to survey native bees in prairie-grassland habitats. Earlier this month, we visited an exceptional dry prairie remnant within Lac Qui Parle Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in the Upper Minnesota River Valley. The vegetation here grows thinly on sandy slopes. Above these slopes the remnant gives way to level ground where the introduction of cool-season grasses has greatly diminished the former plant diversity. Below, riparian vegetation borders a small stream.

Our purpose here was to brush up on specimen collection techniques. Each of us practiced netting a bee and transferring it to a vial before releasing it. Our project includes the study of plants as well as bees, and we each prepared a plant specimen for the plant press. Since this visit we have been using these techniques to document new county records of wild bee and plant species.

The first thing that stands out botanically in the prairie is the profusion of white and large-flowered beardtongues in bloom (Penstemon albidus and P. grandiflorus). Massive queen bumblebees are equally obvious, and we spotted a few of the season's first worker bees as well (Bombus griseocollis).

The grasses at Lac Qui Parle WMA are diverse, with abundant side oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and porcupine grass (Hesperostipa comata), as well as junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), hairy grama (Bouteloua hirsuta) and plains oval sedge (Carex brevior).

Forbs at this site include northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), Lambert's locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii), sage wormwood (Artemisia frigida), field sagewort (Artemisia campestris ssp. caudata), bracted spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata), green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), narrow-leaved puccoon (Lithospermum incisum), and a variety of goldenrod species (Solidago spp.). We could have spent more time studying a variety of diminutive plants that are easy to overlook, such as rough false pennyroyal (Hedeoma hispida)."

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Andy Kranz and Karin Jokela study prairie flora at Lac Qui Parle WMA.

Within this dry prairie, habitats range from extremely dry sand blowouts to moderately dry, gentler, stabilized slopes. The sandy soil provides good nesting habitat for native bees.

 

The dry prairie abruptly gives way to riparian vegetation as the slopes approach the water table.

The reproductive parts inside flowers of large-flowered beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus), are conveniently positioned so that a bumble bee will pollinate it while foraging for nectar.

Netting is one method of capturing a bee. Ashley Fulton catches a specimen that will be housed at the University of Minnesota Insect Collection.


Derek Anderson

Derek Anderson,
Plant Ecologist/
Botanist

Olmsted county
prairie plants

click on image to enlarge

On May 12 DNR staff and volunteers surveyed Oronoco Prairie Scientific & Natural Area for prairie moonwort (Botrychium campestre). More than 25 plants were documented while surveying this site.

Prairie moonwort (Botrychium campestre)

 

 

 

 

News from the Field 2014