Saturday, June 22, 2013

Featured Plant Species: Giant Hogweed

 Giant Hogweed flowers display the typical umbel pattern of plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae)

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is often in the news these days. This introduced and invasive species has been found in BC in the southwest corner of the province, where the very tall plants are easily spotted along roadsides and in old pastures and fields.  Plants range in height from 1.5 m to an impressive 5 m.  Because this species is phototoxic, and can cause serious burns and painful blisters, it is targeted by invasive species councils and municipalities in BC for eradication. The related, but much smaller and native, cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) may also be photo toxic (Ganders. pers. com. 2011). It is very similar in appearance and the two species can overlap in height.

If you find giant hogweed, we recommend that you do not handle the plant. Take protective measures to remove it--cover up and wear gloves and be careful not to come into contact with the stems, flowers or leaves. 

Find out which other plant species in BC are invasive or problem species. Visit the E-Flora BC Invasive, Problem and Noxious species list.

To view the atlas pages for other members of the carrot family of plants on E-Flora BC, type 'Apiaceae' in the Quick Search box on the home page.

New E-Fauna Species Account: the Spotted Owl in British Columbia

 Juvenile Spotted Owls in the Fraser Valley. Photo by Shawn Hilton

Wildlife researchers continue to gather data on the endangered Spotted Owl in BC and researcher Shawn Hilton has provided some up-to-date insights on this red-listed species for the E-Fauna BC atlas page.  A few highlights from his species account include up-to-date population estimates and information on prey species:
  •  "From 1992 to 2002 there was a decline of up to 67% in the BC Spotted Owl population (Chutter et al. 2004). There are estimated to be fewer than 25 Spotted Owls left in BC".  
  • In the Squamish and Chilliwack Forest Districts of BC, the Northern Flying Squirrel comprises 43% of Spotted Owl prey, but the owl also preys on Bushy-tailed Woodrats and Deer Mice
Read Shawn's full species account for the Spotted Owl here.
Visit the Spotted Owl photo gallery.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A New Species for BC: Citizen Science at Work!

 Bunops serricaudata, photo by Ian Gardiner

Recent collections by Ian Gardiner in eastern BC have added a new species for the province. The water flea Bunops serricaudata (Daday, 1888) was collected by Ian on June 10, 2013, in Jaffray, BC, in marginal vegetation in a slough.  Ian's photograph, above, shows all of the characters of this species, and the identification has been verified by crustacean specialist Gordon Green, a research associate with the Royal BC Museum. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bird Species Account Now Available: Arctic Loon

Thanks to Rick Toochin and Louis Havilland, a detailed species account for the Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica) is now available on E-Fauna BC. Visit the E-Fauna atlas page to read the account or view the full article with photos in our Notes and Articles section.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bumble Bees and Bumble Tales

The Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens). 

Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) are a faunal group that we have focused on in E-Fauna BC. We have added Bumble Bee atlas pages for our 32 species, and are now working on adding photos to illustrate them (18 covered so far, more to go). This work on Bumble Bees has inspired some of us to pay more attention to them--they are an easy group to watch and photograph. For example, in taking photos of Bumble Bees for E-Fauna BC, citizen scientists have managed to photograph and document the presence of the Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) in BC.   Photos records also document the increasing occurrence of the Yellow-faced Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) in BC.  This species was first reported in BC by Buckell in 1951 from the Thompson-Okanagan, but it has recently spread and is now found throughout the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.  One citizen scientist, Iris Bitterlich, contributes Bumble Bee photos to E-Fauna and has recently made some interesting observations on Bumble Bee behaviour.   Read more below:

"I was walking by a cherry laural this morning and noticed a large number of bumble bees buzzing around it. At first I thought there might be a nest in the laurel hedge, but when I looked closer I saw that the bees were going to the undersides of the leaves. When I looked still closer I saw that there were 4 to 6 nectaries on the underside of each new, green leaf. The bees were going to these to have a little sip. I still have to research this, but my working theory is that the plant may actually provide the nectar for ants, with the idea that the ants protect the plant from herbivores such as caterpillars. The bees might just be stealling from the ants!   I was able to find a 6 second video of the behavior on the internet at: taken in England. It shows a queen Bombus having a sip."


"I was cleaning out the nest from a chickadee nest box recently [in our garden], when out tumbled a very unhappy Bombus mixtus  (Tri-coloured Bumble Bee) queen who buzzed around angrily. I felt badly for her, but just remounted the box. The chickadees started building a nest, but guess what? Back came the queen, and the chickadees reluctantly relinquished it to her, after that they spent many hours listening outside the entrance. So now we have a resident colony making males and Queens (but unfortunately no photos). Next year I plan to get a bumble bee nest box with live stream camera from The chickadees also ended up happy when I put up a nest box for them, in which they immediately took up residence, though they occasionally still have a listen at the bee nest. That's my little wildlife adventure for this spring!"

 Nectaring Bumble Bee, photo by Iris Bitterlich

The bird houses in Iris's garden: the one on the left is the chickadee box and the one on the right is the Bumble Bee box with the Bombus mixtus nest.  Photo by Iris Bitterlich
The Tricoloured Bumble Bee (Bombus mixtus) nesting in a bird house.

View our E-Fauna BC photo gallery for Bumble Bees here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

New Bird Checklist Now Available: The Rare Birds of Vancouver Island

The bird checklists on E-Fauna BC are being updated for 2013, and these now include the newly compiled Rare Birds of Vancouver Island by Rick Toochin, Paul Levesque and Jamie Fenneman.  Visit our checklists page to browse through the checklists.

More bird articles by Rick Toochin coming soon....