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Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 11: Another one for the Record Books!

Off of the heels of a great decade long celebration of the biodiversity of the greater Sax-Zim Bog, the 11th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz had some big shoes to fill! No two bioblitzes are the same, whether that is due to the number of attendees, weather during the day, or field trips offered. As the title notes, this year’s blitz had a number of unexpected results!

The 11th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz was held Saturday, July 8th, 2023. As with previous years, we offered two field trips before the majority of field trips were sent off to explore. These trips, Moths and Nighttime Creatures and Birds, were well attended and were a great introduction to the biodiversity of the region. Attendees were able to choose from a total of 10 field trips, including a Family Friendly Field Trip, led by FOSZB Board Chair Lori Williams! Species reports were also given by two other sets of observers, one group even reported a bird report from canoe! All of these reports helped add to the day’s tally. Weather was incredibly pleasant during the BioBlitz, with clear skies, temperatures hovering around 70 degrees F, and little wind. We set a record for number of attendees to a bioblitz at 91 folks and had a record number of iNaturalist contributions and we tied the high count for contributors to the event’s project !

Black Swallowtail caterpillars are always a stunner, as this field trip participant is experiencing.

So how did we do? A total of 724 species were documented, including 77 new species, dominated by moths, fungi, and galls! This tally is our third highest total ever for a BioBlitz and just one species off of Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 9’s 725 species, and a shade off of the pace from the record 730 species documented during Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 8! If you want to read more about these record years check out here and here. Included in the tally above were more than a few exciting species worth noting!

As stated above, the bulk of new species came from three main species groups: Moths, Fungi, and Galls, Burls, Rusts, and Non-metazoan Plant Diseases. In the case of each of these groups, there are still (even with the documentation of over 3300 species in the Sax-Zim Bog!) undocumented species that are easy to come by, if you look in the right places.

The fuzzy, gooey stuff around this firefly is actually a Cordyceps fungus that has destroyed this beetle!

For example, the Galls, Burls, Rusts, and Non-metazoan Plant Diseases field trip focused on tree species and habitats that had not been investigated previously. While conifer species and the more widespread deciduous tree species have been looked at/in/on for galls etc, more uncommon species like Basswood, Bur Oak, and American Elm had not been investigated. Each of these tree species harbors distinct mites, fungi, or wasps that utilize these tree species and no others. Oaks are especially diverse, with dozens or hundreds of species using the leaves, acorns, branches, or other parasitic species as their hosts. In the Sax-Zim Bog Basswood, Bur Oak, and American Elm are very hard to come by, but the group was able to survey a good number of these trees to much success, adding 18 new species to the species list.

Fungal diversity in the Sax-Zim Bog is quite high, boasting a list of over 150 species coming into the BioBlitz. The diversity of fungi is often dependent on the quality of the substrates they grow on, whether that means specific tree species (dead or alive!), the soil substrates and disturbance level, or even the amount of rainfall in a season. We are lucky to have such knowledge fungi-fanatics in Northern Minnesota to help us understand the fungal community in the Sax-Zim Bog! This year 19 species of fungi were added to the species list, which was almost 50% of the diversity found during the Fungi Field Trip!

Dead Man’s Fingers is a cool group of fungi that often look like their namesake, reaching up out of the ground.

The greatest number of new species documented during the 11th Annual Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz came from moths! A total of 36 new species of moth were added to the species list during the mothing efforts prior to and during this year’s bioblitz. However, things did not start out with such success! Shortly after setting up the mothing sheets and light traps, a deluge of rain was dropped on attendees! Thankfully, this rain was short lived and had little effect on attracting moths. A record total of 202 species of moth were documented during the bioblitz this year, including a number of exciting finds!

Head Naturalist Clinton (left) looking at the moth specimens collected from a specialized light trip from the Welcome Center Bog placed and collected by Kyle Johnson (center).

One of the species documented, Carsia sororiata, was actually documented during Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 6 at Blue Dasher Bog, but it’s identity remained a mystery until last winter! The populations of this bog specialist species within the Sax-Zim Bog represent the 2nd southernmost records of this species in North America! The two most exciting moth finds during the field trip could like warrant their own post. The first species, Awame Borer, is a critically endangered species first documented last fall by Kyle Johnson (Butterfly Field Trip leader and Moth Field Trip co-leader) from Toivola Swamp. Kyle’s group was able to find larvae of this species boring into Buckbean, which is this species host. The second species of note was Polia propodea, a moth without a common name, and a species that has it’s furthest south population here in the Sax-Zim Bog thanks to the documentation of this species during this year’s bioblitz!! And if you have read this far… why not a bonus exciting find? One of the target species for Kyle, who is a professional lepidopterist with a particular interest in peatland species, was found during our efforts at the sheets! We documented a peatland specialist moth in the genus Diarsia, which is currently undescribed and new to science! If you are keeping track, this is one of a very small handful of undescribed species found during the Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitzes!  

A view at the moth sheet during the Moths and Nighttime Creatures Field Trip (above center) and the rare, bog specialist Polia propodea (above right).

Rounding out the excitement of the day was the finding of a breeding colony of Marsh Wrens on Murphy Lake (very uncommon in northern Minnesota and fairly rare in the Sax-Zim Bog) by Craig Simon and Bird Field Trip Leader Greg Cleary via canoe, new populations of Bog Copper (Toivola Swamp and Welcome Center Bog) and a newly documented location for Dion Skipper (Toivola Swamp) by the Butterfly Field Trip, really excellent fish diversity (16 species!) thanks to the MPCA crew and Murphy Steininger, the 2nd Bog record of Arrowhead Spiketail caught by Jeff Fisher and Mike Moen leading the Dragonfly and Damselfly field trip, and a smattering of new beetles, craneflies, just to name a few!

Butterfly field trip folks out in Toivola Swamp!

A huge thank you goes out to our field trip leaders who continue to amaze attendees and bog regulars alike with their knowledge and finds! Thank you to Mike Moen, Ariel Bonkoski, Sam Guida, Kyle Johnson, Murphy Steininger and crew, Kristina Dexter-Nienhaus, Sparky Stensaas, Greg Cleary, and Lori Williams for leading field trips!! Without these folks, this event would not be nearly as successful as it was this year. And thank you to everyone who attended this encouraging its continued growth!

FOSZB Board Treasurer Dave with a Canada Tiger Swallowtail resting on his hand during the bioblitz compilation.

For a full species list from each field trip, check out the notes below! We look forward to sharing more of the biodiversity in the Sax-Zim Bog with you at Sax-Zim Bog BioBlitz 12 next year!

— Head Naturalist Clinton

Field Trip Results

Total Species: 724

Total New Species: 77

Moths and Nighttime Critters: 202 species of moth (34 new species), 17 other species including Carrion Beetle mites and a new species of cranefly

This Morning Glory Prominent was one of the 202 species of moth documented during this bioblitz!

Birds: 79 species, including 4 species of wren, 12 species of warbler, and two Great Gray Owls seen outside of the bird field trip

Aquatic Biodiversity: 16 species of fish including Trout-Perch and Burbot, as well as at least 12 different aquatic invertebrate genera and two species of dragonfly not seen during the dragonfly and damselfly field trip

Fungi: 37 species documented, with 19 of those being new to the species list! Dead Man’s Fingers was certainly a highlight, as well as Rosy Conk Polypore and Golden Chanterelle

One of the last mushrooms found during the BioBlitz, this Lactarius thyinos!

Spiders: 19 species documented, with four unknown species collected for further analysis. In addition Brown Wasp Mantid Fly and a chunky Black Swallowtail caterpillar were documented by the group led by FOSZB Executive Director Sparky!

A beautiful spider in the genus Coras! Two of these spiders were found during the BioBlitz and were new to our species list.

Dragonflies and Damselflies: 13 species documented on the field trip, with major highlights being Arrowhead Spiketail (2nd Bog Record) and Calico Pennant (very scattered records in the Bog).

Galls, Burls, and more: 65 species documented, with 18 of those species being new to the species list. Highlights are many, with an exciting new parasitic fungus documented parasitizing a Firefly!

Those little bumps on this Basswood leaf are all galls caused by mites that use Basswood leaves.

Butterflies: 26 species documented, including two new populations of Bog Copper, a new location for Dion Skipper and a good showing of roadside species using Spreading Dogbane and Common Milkweed.

Plants and Shrubs: 175 species documented, with explorations done in a few new locations near the Welcome Center along Owl Avenue and beyond. Purple-fringed Orchid was a nice highlight, as well as 13 species of sedge and a new location for Flat-leaved Bladderwort!

Purple-fringed Orchid is a nice species and the last plant added to our day list.

Family Friendly Field Trip: 12 species, all of which were not seen by other groups, including one exciting species of bee in the genus Macropis (this genus provisions its larvae with the oils from native Loosestrife species in the genus Lysmachia).

Misc Observations: 43 other species including six mammals (Star-nosed Mole and Franklin’s Ground Squirrel being exciting finds), six species of reptile and amphibian, and five species of ladybug (Cream-spotted Ladybug being new for the species list) round out a few of the highlights.

Leafhoppers are so diverse and Candy-striped Leafhoppers are particularly nice to see!