Pollinator Recovery? A Critical Step When Banning Neonics

Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths and flies, play critical roles in ecosystems and in the production of our food.

If you’ve eaten an apple or worn a comfy cotton t-shirt, you can thank a pollinator for transporting pollen between those plants’ blossoms.

40%
Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction.

Despite the important services they provide, the populations of many wild pollinators are declining, largely due to changes in their habitat, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, invasive species, disease and climate change.

Bumblebee
Bombus tenarius | Photo: Wendy Riley

The good news is that much can be done to bring pollinator numbers back. We can create habitat by planting pollinator-friendly plants along roadsides, in parks and along utility corridors. We can support sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation and retaining hedgerows. We can ban the use of harmful pesticides.

These actions promote “pollinator recovery” and require attention from industry, individuals and governments at all levels.

It is imperative that we invest in initiatives to reverse the effects that pesticides and habitat loss have had on our pollinators. Together, we can do something about it and that is why planting a pollinator pathway across Canada and building a national monitoring program are key initiatives to stem the decline and build the numbers back up.” ~Carolyn Callaghan, CWF Senior Conservation Biologist, Terrestrial Wildlife

 What can the Governments of Canada Do?

Syrphid Fly | Photo: Allan McDonald
Syrphid Fly | Photo: Allan McDonald

Governments urgently need to provide the leadership necessary to recover pollinator numbers and diversity.

Through legislation, policy, strategies and plans, they have the power to enshrine pollinator protection and recovery into our society. Here in Canada, many municipal, regional and provincial governments are taking action.

For example, the cities of Vancouver and Montreal and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have all implemented bans against or reductions in the use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides. The city of Calgary has launched several pollinator-friendly projects, including a bee and butterfly boulevard consisting of wildflowers and a variety of nesting habitats. The city of Toronto released a Pollinator Protection Strategy that, among many initiatives, provides grants to community members to create pollinator habitat. Ontario has a Pollinator Health Action Plan committing the provincial government to monitoring the health of wild and managed bee populations.

Lagging Behind

Monarch Butterfly | Photo: Brenda Doherty, CWF Photo Club
Monarch Butterfly | Photo: Brenda Doherty, CWF Photo Club

While municipal, regional and provincial governments lead the charge in pollinator recovery across the country, is the federal government keeping pace? As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has committed to support the development of national plans and strategies for the conservation of pollinator diversity. The CBD’s draft Pollinator Initiative Plan of Action for 2018 to 2030 encourages governments to consider four objectives when tackling protection and recovery. Canada has taken steps toward some of these objectives, but on others has a long way to go.

You can help, too! Sign the Ban With A Plan petition and tell government that we need a National Pollinator Recovery Action Plan.

Hatching a Turtle Recovery Plan

Turtles are in serious trouble.

All eight species of freshwater turtles in Canada are listed as Species At-Risk. This makes turtles one of the most endangered groups of wildlife in Canada. Turtles face many threats, including:

  • Habitat loss
  • Being hit by cars and trucks on roads
  • High rates of nest predation

In 2018, the Canadian Wildlife Federation began collecting and incubating Snapping Turtle and Blanding’s Turtle eggs in eastern Ontario to help turtle populations. The eggs are carefully collected from wild nests and incubated at CWF headquarters. The hatchlings of each nest are then released at the wetland closest to the nest site.

Last year we collected over 400 eggs. More than 95 per cent of the fertilized eggs hatched out, allowing us to release almost 400 hatchlings. This year, the CWF Turtle Team acquired a second incubator that allowed us to collect and incubate more eggs. After many late nights of hard work, the Turtle Team collected over 500 Snapping Turtle and Blanding’s Turtle eggs.

Why is incubating eggs so beneficial to turtle populations?

CWF Freshwater Turtle Specialist Dave Seburn shows us the turtle eggs in the incubator.
CWF Freshwater Turtle Specialist Dave Seburn shows us the turtle eggs in the incubator
  • In many areas, nest predators such as raccoons are very abundant. Raccoons have adapted to human ways and increased their populations. It is common for raccoons to destroy more than half of turtle nests – in some areas, they may take 80 per cent or more of nests. That is a lot of lost reproduction.
  • If it is a cool and wet summer, there may not be enough time for the eggs to hatch before fall arrives. In central and eastern Ontario, turtle eggs may only hatch in years when temperatures are average or above average.
  • Some nests along roadsides will be missed by predators, but these nests still face other risks. Regular maintenance along roadsides can include grading the road shoulder, which can accidentally dig up nests. And in some areas, roadsides are sprayed with herbicides to control unwanted plants, which can also affect nests.
  • The eggs that do hatch are still not necessarily safe. Hatchlings often emerge from the nest in late summer or early fall. If the nest is on the roadside, hatchlings may disperse onto the road, only to be run over during their first day out of the nest.
  • Hatchlings that avoid being run over must still find their way to water. Some roadside nests are only a few metres from water, making the trek fairly easy for the hatchlings. Other roadside nests we’ve found have been more than 100 metres from water. This is a huge distance for toonie-sized hatchlings to travel – assuming they go in the right direction!

Collecting and incubating the eggs avoids these and other threats. The eggs are protected from nest predators such as raccoons. The temperature and humidity are controlled so the eggs hatch out on time. The hatchlings can avoid being run over by cars and making the lengthy trek to water.

snapping baby turtle

The vast majority of turtle eggs never result in hatchlings entering the wetland. By incubating the eggs and releasing the hatchlings at the nearest wetland to the nest, we are giving turtle reproduction a huge boost. The hatchlings still face many threats after being released, but they will have overcome some of the biggest hurdles in a turtle’s life.

Learn more about how you can HelpTheTurtles.ca

Recipe for a Native Meadow

The meadows and prairies in southern Canada are blooming!

At the Canadian Wildlife Federation we’ve been busy experimenting by creating native meadows for pollinators at three sites in eastern Ontario.

All our sites are on roadsides or right-of-ways. These locations offer ideal low-growing places to provide additional habitat for pollinators. Together with our partners  HydroOne, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission  we wanted to share with you the following recipe for a native meadow:

Step #1: Select a site

Native meadows thrive in full sun. Sites can be anywhere from dry to moist, but thanks to all the rain this year, we’ve discovered that it’s easiest to work with sites that are at least dry by late spring! Sites with very few invasive plants (e.g., Wild Parsnip and Reed Canary Grass) are also easier to prepare for seeding.

Step #2: Prepare the site

Warning: This can be very time-consuming! To give native plants the best chance of survival, we needed well-prepared seed beds that were as weed-free as possible.

Alexis Latemouille preparing a pilot project site near Green’s Creek, Ottawa, managed by the National Capital Commission.
Alexis Latemouille preparing a pilot project site near Green’s Creek, Ottawa, managed by the National Capital Commission.

As part of our project, we’ve experimented with a number of methods for removing the competition:

  • Tilling
  • Planting oats to shade out the weeds
  • Spraying herbicides

We are also planning to prepare some sites over several seasons. By later this year, we hope to report which method was most successful at reducing weed competition and allowing the native species to thrive. We’ll continue to monitor this over the long term.

Step #3: Order native seed

Wet vs. Dry Ingredients

The “ingredients” for a meadow differ depending on each site. At our moister sites, we included the seeds of pollinator plants that like “wet feet,” such as Joe-Pye Weed and Boneset. For drier sites, the mix included plants like Pearly Everlasting and Woodland Sunflower.

Common Ingredient

We included Common Milkweed seeds at every site because this species can grow in a wide range of areas and is the host plant for Monarch Butterflies. It’s also an excellent nectar source for many insects.

Grasses to Wildflowers Ratio

Carolyn Callaghan collecting Common Milkweed seeds.
Carolyn Callaghan collecting Common Milkweed seeds.

All our mixes include around 40 per cent native grasses (which add nest sites for pollinators) and 60 per cent wildflowers (for a range of nectar and pollen). To find a seed supplier, consult CWF’s online database of native plant suppliers. We also collected several species locally last fall. This is a really fun activity and brought our mix for each site up to around 50 species. For more information, the Xerces Society has an excellent free download on collecting native seed.

Step #4: Weigh and mix

Weighing coarse native seeds, including native grasses and milkweed seeds.
Weighing coarse native seeds, including native grasses and milkweed seeds.

This part really is a lot like baking. Because native seed is expensive, we wanted to use exactly the right amount for each site and no more. The correct amount of seed was weighed according to the area of each site.

Mixing native seed with millet, a cover crop.
Mixing native seed with millet, a cover crop. | Mélange de semences indigènes et de millet, une culture de protection.

In the field, we mixed the native seed with a cover crop (either oats or millet). The cover crop has two functions. First, it thins out the native seeds and helps to spread them more evenly. Second, the crop will come up and help shade the young native plants for the first year, before being killed by frost. By next spring, the native seedlings will be ready to survive on their own.

CWF and Hydro staff survey the pollinator project.

Step #5: Add a crew with enthusiasm

CWF staff and volunteers (Samantha Reynolds, Emily Armstrong, Paul Wityk, Carolyn Callaghan, Kira Balson) seeding a HydroOne pilot project site in Ottawa.
CWF staff and volunteers (Samantha Reynolds, Emily Armstrong, Paul Wityk, Carolyn Callaghan, Kira Balson) seeding a HydroOne pilot project site in Ottawa.

This is the fun part. Order some sunshine and gather a crew. While it can feel somewhat daunting to arrive at a large site, we were surprised by how quickly we finished seeding. With eight keen staff and volunteers, we seeded a 1.5 hectare (three acre) site in just a couple of hours. We walked grid lines in both directions, flinging our mix widely.

Our goal was not to coat our sites in seed, but to “seed the seeders” – that is, give enough space to each plant to flower and fill the meadow over the next few years. We seeded in late spring, but fall can also be a great time to plant native meadows.

Step #6: Add patience in large quantities, and stand back

Just as with baking, waiting for results might be the hardest part. In this case, we have to wait months and maybe even a few years to see some species. For the time being, our work is done.

The rest is up to nature.

monarch restoration sign

We are proud to announce that over the past month, CWF and partners have followed this recipe and planted acres of roadside and utility corridor native pollinator habitat at different sites in eastern Ontario. A huge thanks to staff at HydroOne, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission who have worked so hard to make this pilot project possible, and to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for providing funding.

Watch for updates as the season unfolds!

Learn more about the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s work in Agriculture & Habitat.

Would You Ever Live With Bats?

Have you been hearing squeaks? Seeing bats flying around your roof?

You may have bats in your home. This news might freak out a lot of people, but don’t put your house up for sale just yet. It’s easier to cohabit with bats than you’d think.

Why Are They Even There in the First Place?

In a word, roosting. Female bats scout out spots to roost and raise their young way back in the spring. Those babies are usually born between June and August. So if you’ve got bats in your attic at this time of year, there’s a very good chance that there will be babies too. Bats seem to return time and time again to the same maternity roost each year.

I Want Them Gone!

So what happens if you evict bats during the summer? You’re not going to like the answer. When you evict female bats during the summer, you may very well be leaving helpless pups behind to die. If you absolutely must evict bats from your home, the best time to do this is September and October. Whatever you do, don’t send them packing between May and August or over winter.

Is There Another Way?

Yes. Live with them. And here’s why it’s so important that you take a step back and really think about it. So many of Canada’s bats are at-risk. The Tricoloured, Northern Long-eared and Little Brown Bat are all listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as Endangered.  The Pallid and Eastern Red Bat are listed as Threatened. While the Fringed, Spotted, Townsends Big-eared, Western Small-footed, Yuma Myotis, and Free-tailed Bat are considered species of Special Concern.

They are at-risk for many reasons, but a big one is habitat loss. They simply don’t have enough places to call home. And considering that their survival relies less on high birth rates and more on high survival rate and they only have one or two pups a year, it’s critical to their survival that they find shelter so that those pups can survive.

How in the World Would I Ever Live With a Bat or … Eeeeep…Bats?

Living with a bat doesn’t mean you have to share a bathroom with it. In fact, you really shouldn’t notice that you’re living with a bat at all. Bats can be relegated to the attic (that’s likely where they’ve been hanging their hat anyway!). By retrofitting your household, you’ll be providing bats with a safe roosting spot. Blockages, partitions, and specific entry/exit points are a few simple retrofits that encourage bats to hang out in a specific area of the attic.

That said, you’ll want to take some precautions to make sure you do this safely. Usually the biggest concern is bat guano. Place a drop sheet down in your attic to capture the guano and clean the sheets one or twice a year to make sure their poop doesn’t affect your health.

Learn more about how you can HelpTheBats.ca

8 Cool Facts About Wasps That’ll Make You Love Them!

Wasps don’t have the best reputation.

They’re not exactly a welcome sight at BBQs or outdoor picnics, are they?  Studies show that, as you might suspect, wasps are more disliked than their fuzzy bee relatives. Unfortunately, the negative feelings toward wasps are very likely due to the fact that there is significant lack of knowledge and education regarding the substantial benefits wasps bring to the planet’s function, health, and sustainability.

However, these hard working critters are actually one of humanity’s most economically and ecologically essential organisms.  Wasps play a role in pollinating crops and flowers. They are also incredibly proficient at managing pest populations.

Wask on flower @ Martin Tampier | CWF Photo Club
Wasp on flower @ Martin Tampier | CWF Photo Club

The next time you cringe at the sight of a wasp zipping past you at a pool party, instead of getting out the fly swatter, try thinking about these very cool wasp facts instead:

  1. Wasps can be found everywhere except for Antarctica.
  2. Wasps can recognize another wasp by identifying the individual from their unique facial patterns.
  3. There are 30,000 identified species of wasps.
  4. Wasps can create their own paper to build their nests with by chewing and spitting out pieces of bark.
  5. Social wasps use their stingers as a defence, whereas solitary wasps use their stingers and venom for hunting.
  6. Only female wasps have stingers, and the stingers are actually a modified egg-laying organ.
  7. Wasps come in any colour imaginable including red, orange, green, blue, and, of course, yellow and black.
  8. Wasps have proven to be capable of using logic. They can use two separate pieces of information to draw a conclusion. This is believed to be the first suggestion that invertebrates are able to use logical deduction.

Learn more about how the Canadian Wildlife Federation is helping our pollinators at BanWithAPlan.org

American Eel By-catch: Critical Information for Anglers

As temperatures warm outdoors, many anglers are restocking their tackle kits and preparing their rods and reels for another season of fishing.

More than three million people go fishing in Canada each year. For many of those people, fishing is about more than bringing home a fresh and nutritious supper. Fishing is a way to relax, spend time with friends and family, and reconnect with nature.

But responsible fishing also means being prepared to safely handle any fish that bites the hook  even if it isn’t what you were targeting.

A closeup of an American Eel © Sarah Gough
A closeup of an American Eel © Sarah Gough

The American Eel is an example of a fish that you might accidentally capture when you head out fishing in Central and Eastern Canada. In Ontario, the eel population has declined by more than 99 per cent since the 1980s. As an Endangered species in Ontario, American Eels cannot be intentionally targeted by anglers. But these rare fish still surprise unsuspecting anglers at the end of the line sometimes. If caught, American Eels must be released immediately!

What Do You Do?

Would you know what to do if you incidentally captured an American Eel? If not, the Canadian Wildlife Federation can help!

american eel on fishing line
Removing the hook from an American Eel @ Aline Litt

In 2018, CWF conducted an experiment to find out how to best release incidentally captured eels. We’re happy to report that all American Eels survived the catch-and-release experiment, whether they were released by cutting the line or hook removal.

Even better, after a seven-day monitoring period, 87 per cent of American Eels exhibited little or no sign of hooking injury. Also, a large proportion of the line-cut eels had shed their hooks, with shallower hooks being shed more easily. This suggests that eels are not highly vulnerable to incidental capture by anglers.

Bottom Line

In conclusion? If you catch an American Eel, don’t be intimidated  all you need to do is release it!

 It’s up to you whether you choose to cut the line or remove the hook. Line cutting may be the easiest and quickest option because these slippery fish are extremely challenging to handle!

Learn more about the American Eel and other related projects.

A Passion for Canadian Bees

Bees are among the most familiar of insects, in part due to the familiar furry and robust bumble bees that are often featured in children’s stories, as characters in television programs and commercials, and used almost ubiquitously to represent all bees to the public. However, bumble bees make up less than 5% of the native bee species in Canada so there is a lot of bee diversity both in terms of the number of species and life history strategies that are not represented by these caricatures. With almost 900 bee species occurring coast to coast to coast in Canada, there is still much to learn, and much to save!

In addition to doing research on bees, I also provide information and support for the assessment of arthropod species at risk in Canada. I work as a taxonomist, identifying bee species found in Canada, finding and documenting new species found in Canada (Figure 1 and 2), and on rarer occasions, describing species that are new to science. I will always consider myself a student of bees as it seems that one can learn something new almost every day. I love exploring the world of insects (Figure 3), in particular native bees, though surprisingly I came to work on these important pollinators by a rather indirect route as my first love was botany. In fact, I still am very interested in plants, especially their reproductive biology (Figure 4).

As an undergraduate student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, I was interested in doing an undergraduate research project in botany – plants are very wonderful organisms! Unfortunately, the botany professors at that time were on sabbatical so there were no opportunities for me in their labs at the time. However, the entomologist at Acadia had a project on lowbush blueberry, particularly its pollination and pollinators, and this changed my life. I was hooked, and these topics have been what my career has been focused on ever since.

One of the things I soon realized is that there were few entomologists in Canada that were studying the taxonomy of Canadian bees; thus I faced a bit of an uphill battle to study pollinator diversity at first, but then realized I loved doing taxonomic work on bees. Between then and now I had excellent opportunities to work with and learn from great entomologist in Nova Scotia, and later during my doctorate degree at the University of Guelph and post doctorate research at York University, both in Ontario. These last two opportunities allowed me to work directly with world-renowned pollination and bee biologists.

Now I find myself at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum where I have worked as Curator of Invertebrate Zoology since 2012, and my love of bees continues to grow. As an adjunct professor at the University of Regina, I also get to work with undergraduate and graduate students – their enthusiasm continues to make my work in Saskatchewan very rewarding. The prairies are a great place to study bees, and the museum is an excellent place to do so!

How to Avoid Turtles on the Road

What did the turtle say when she crossed the road? SLOW DOWWWN!

There’s nothing worse than driving and seeing a beautiful turtle lying dead on the side of the road. It’s sad for so many reasons. Did you know that the majority of Canada’s turtle populations occur in southern Ontario? Over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s wetlands are gone. The remaining wetlands are often fragmented by roads. All eight freshwater turtle species are at risk. So it’s particularly terrible when they are killed on roads.

Why do turtles cross the road in the first place? Turtles usually stay in water but during nesting season, female turtles need to lay their eggs on dry land. In some cases the gravel and dry soil right beside the road is sometimes the optimal condition for their eggs. Turtles also move between wetlands and often this means they must cross a road.

Watch out for turtles on the road

blanding turtles in handsThe biggest help we can give to our turtles is to make sure we slow down and avoid them. Turtles move slowly and can look a bit shiny from a distance. It’s not hard to avoid them if you are driving at a reasonable speed with plenty of distance between the vehicle in front of you and if you’re looking far enough ahead.

If there is a known road that is a popular crossing destination, contact your local conservation authority and municipality to see if there is anything they can do for turtle crossings.

How to help a turtle cross the road

helping blanding turtle cross the streetStep 1: Safety!
First of all, make sure it is safe to help the turtle. Look both ways before heading out onto the road. If there are cars coming, don’t risk your life. Also, to familiarize yourself with how to handle a turtle, watch this video: https://youtu.be/h5ESRtJUVqU

Step 2: Get a Good Handle on the Situation (and the turtle!)
It is fairly easy to pick up a turtle – unless you’re dealing with a Snapping Turtle (more on that later). Use both hands and grab the turtle on both sides of the shell. The turtle may not appreciate or understand that they are being rescued from the road. It may scratch or pee on you, so be prepared for this. If you have a firm grip on the turtle with two hands you are less likely to drop it if it does scratch you.

Step 3: Make Sure to Move in the Right (or Left) Direction
Always move the turtle in the direction that it is going. It knows where it wants to go. Release the turtle on the gravel shoulder of the road and it will likely quickly shuffle away from you and the road.

Step 4: Report your sighting
If you’re located in the Simcoe/Muskoka Region in Ontario, call the S.T.A.R.T. Hotline at 705-955-4284. Do you live elsewhere in Canada? Report turtle activity on iNaturalist.ca in the “Help The Turtles” project. Your sightings (especially near highways) will help us determine active freshwater turtle areas, critical to the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s ongoing conservation efforts.

How to help Snapping Turtles on the road:

Moving a Snapping Turtle across the road is a bit more challenging — especially if it’s a large one. Snapping Turtles can be fast and they can bite. They can also spin around quickly or even lunge. Do not grab the sides of the shell of a Snapping Turtle as the head may whip around and bite you.

One option to move a Snapping Turtle is the car mat drag. Place a car mat behind the turtle, grab the back of the shell near the back legs and drag the turtle onto the mat. Do not drag the turtle by its tail as this can injure the turtle. Once the turtle is on the mat, drag the mat off the road, keeping one hand on the back of the turtle.

snapping turtle in algonquin park
© Richard McKenzie

Another technique for moving a Snapping Turtle is the shovel lift. If you have a shovel in the car, approach the turtle from behind and slide the shovel under it. Then lift and move the Snapping Turtle off the road. Don’t lift the shovel too far above the road as the turtle may try to move and fall off the shovel.

Again, always move the turtle in the direction that it is going. It knows where it wants to go. Release the turtle on the gravel shoulder of the road and it will likely quickly shuffle away from you and the road.

How to help and handle an injured turtle

small blanding turtle
Contact your nearest wildlife rehab centre ASAP.  If you’re located in the Muskoka/Lake Simcoe Region in Ontario, call the S.T.A.R.T. Hotline at 705-955-4284.

Note the location (road, major intersections, and mileage) where the turtle was found to ensure it can be released according to provincial regulations.

Once you’ve been given the okay to bring the turtle in, you’ll want to carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated plastic container with a secure lid. Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. When handling snapping turtles keep a safe distance from their head as they will snap at you if they feel threatened. You may want to use a shovel or board to lift the turtle.

If you have to keep a turtle overnight before you bring it to a rehab facility, place it in a well-ventilated container with no water and in a cool, dark place, away from pets. Never attempt to treat a sick or injured wild animal yourself. Always contact your nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitation centre.

Dos and don’ts of helping an injured turtle:

snapping baby turtle
Don’t transport turtle(s) in water.
Do wash your hands after handling the animal!
Don’t offer the turtle anything to eat or drink.

Learn more about how you can help at HelptheTurtles.ca.

Ladies, the Heat is On!

Animals That Go Through Menopause

You’ve got the air-conditioning cranked. You’ve invested in a white noise machine to help you get a little sleep. And your patience is wearing thin in a whole new way these days. There’s nothing fun about going through menopause, but ladies, did you know we’re not the only ones in the animal kingdom that suffer through it?

To be frank, we’re an oddity. Most animals keep on popping out babies until they reach old age. However, many toothed whales work a lot more like humans do where they reproduce for a number of years and then, when those years come to an end, they’ll keep right on trucking.

Let’s take a look at some animals in the wild that go through menopause:

1. Short-finned Pilot Whales

Pilot whale mom and calf | Photo @ Clair EversThese whales can live up to 60 years. That is, if they’re female. Males usually die around the age of 45. Female Short-finned Pilot Whales reach sexual maturity when they turn about 10 years old. Once they reach that age they’ll begin to have their calves every five to eight years until they reach menopause.

2. Belugas

Beluga pod | Photo: Shafik Diwan, CWF Photo Club

Belugas are long-lived creatures. They can live up to 75 years in the wild. That’s a lot of birthday candles to blow out! Females reach sexual maturity between eight and 14 years of age. Once they do, they will go on to have calves (one at a time) about every three years, until they reach menopause.

3. Narwhals

Narwhals

Female Narwhals reach sexual maturity between eight and 12 years of age. After which, they’ll have one calf at a time. They usually give birth to a new calf every three years, although it may even be longer. Eventually, their reproductive years end and they move into menopause, living up to 50 years (although most live less than 30 years).

4. Killer Whales

killer whales | Photo: Kari Watkins, CWF Photo Club

Killer Whales don’t live quite as long as these other whale species. Males will live on average 30 years, while females can expect to live until about 50 years of age. These social marine mammals don’t give birth to their first calf until they are about 15 years old. Once their reproductive years are through, they will take care of their young’s calves. Talk about a tight knit family!

What’s the Point?

So what’s the point of going through menopause and living on into our golden years? To be honest, it’s a bit of a mystery. Some researchers argue that we can thank the grandmother hypothesis. This idea suggests that older females will opt to support their grandbabies instead of going on to bear more of their own children or young.

While this idea works for social creatures like the Killer Whale, not all whale species are as social. And also…wouldn’t species like elephants evolve to have menopause? They’re awfully social and take care of their grandchildren and yet there are no signs that they go through menopause.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer as to why menopause exists in animals yet. What do you think?

Top 10 Species Finds on iNaturalist.ca

iNaturalist.ca has reached 1 million!

iNaturalist Canada (also known as iNaturalist.ca) has hit a major milestone – more than 1 million verifiable observations in Canada. These confirmed sightings span from Canada’s East Coast to the western edges of British Columbia, and from Southern Saskatchewan all the way up to the most northern reaches of the country.

This proves that Canadians are interacting with nature using their smartphone or digital cameras to document and geo-locate wildlife in our vast country.

Canadians are also reporting some really cool discoveries.

Not only does this help provide valuable information for conservation, there are some interesting tidbits in there for all of us. Also, with iNaturalist’s auto ID feature you can hold a field identification tool in the palm of your hand.

To celebrate, let’s take a look at 10 fascinating species reported on iNaturalist Canada:

1. New Species to Canada!

Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones
Paintedhand mudbug | Photo: colindjones

The Paintedhand Mudbug. This is actually a species of crayfish, not a bug at all. Thanks to some hard work by Colin Jones from the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre the first ever occurrence of this species was recorded in Canada using iNaturalist.ca.

2. Carnivorous Plants

Purple Pitcher Plant and the Great Sundew. These carnivorous plants are not species from an exotic corner of the world. In fact they are entirely native to Canada and you can find one or both of these in every province and territory. Don’t be alarmed, they only feed on small insects!

3. The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch | Photo james_cwf
Monarch | Photo james_cwf

The Monarch Butterfly is the most reported species at risk on iNaturalist.ca with more than 4,400 observations! Only the Mallard, Canada Goose and Grey Squirrel were reported more times than this at-risk butterfly.

4. The Spiny Softshell Turtle

Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker
Spiny Softshell Turtle | Photo Samuel Brinker

This freshwater turtle is also probably one of Canada’s most unique. Found in only a handful of places in the country, its shell is flexible and leathery, as its name suggests, as opposed to the typical hard shell of most turtles.

5. The Fjaeldmark Dwarf Weaver

This arachnid is the most northern record of all the observations in the global iNaturalist system! It was recorded on a tiny island off the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – that’s over 2,100 kilometres north of Iqaluit!

6. Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman
Giant Hogweed | Photo cchapman

Possibly the tallest herbaceous (non-woody) plant to be found in Canada, the Giant Hogweed grows up to 5.5 metres (that’s 18 feet)! But it’s not from Canada, thus an invasive species. It is also highly poisonous. Getting the sap on your skin can cause burns, kind of like poison ivy but much worse.

7. The Wood Duck

Wood Duck | Photo jaliya
Wood Duck | Photo jaliya

This dabbler is one of the most colourful birds we have in Canada. It can be found in every province, as well as in Nunavut.

8. The Cougar

Cougar | Photo by kokanee
Cougar | Photo by kokanee

Also known as the North American Mountain Lion, this feline is one of the more elusive animals in Canada and getting a photo at a safe distance can be tricky! A trail camera managed to snap a unique close-up of this feline.

9. The Magnificent Bryozoan

Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde
Bryozoan | Photo alisonforde

This is not algae. A colony of organisms — called zoids — forms a solid mass called a bryozoan. This one was found during the 2017 Stanley Park Bioblitz (as part BioBlitz Canada 150) and made headlines as “The Blob of Lost Lagoon.” There are only 34 of these recorded in iNaturalist.ca.

10. Ochre Sea Star

Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote
Ochre Sea Star | Photo imcote

This heap of sea stars was recorded on the ocean floor off the western coast of Vancouver Island. iNaturalist.ca can be used anywhere — even under water!

Think of it as social media meets conservation science.

iNaturalist.ca is a place where users can upload sightings of what they’ve seen in nature. The community can then comment on the find and help with identifying the species. This adds to the growing database throughout the country to provide a clearer picture of Canada’s biodiversity. The information can then be used for conservation purposes, such as keeping track of endangered species.

Once you have the free app and an account, snap a photo of what you see in nature and upload. The built-in auto ID can recognize most species. The app works entirely offline, but you’ll need a data plan or wifi to upload any observations you’ve logged in the app. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can upload straight to iNaturalist.ca on your desktop computer (the image recognition works there too).

iNaturalist Canada is a member of the iNaturalist Network, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society, which means that this information feeds into an initiative to track biodiversity worldwide.

What do you think is the most interesting observation on iNaturalist Canada? Head to iNaturalist.ca to check out what people are recording and then paste a link to the observation’s url in the comment section below!