Spring is finally starting to peak through the snow cover and ice in the Sax-Zim Bog! Recently, a spurt of warm weather has woken up some critters, while others are dutifully tending nests and young. Owl surveys are nearing their end for the spring season, winter finches are making their way back north, and water is starting to thaw unlocking the wonderful damp, pine-laden, and earth scent of a bog. I took advantage of some sun and ventured up to the Bog with hopes of finding a few species that may also be taking advantage of the weather!
I was hoping to catch the first few Wood Frogs who have made their way back to the pond behind the Welcome Center. However, my visits on April 2 and 4 to the Welcome Center must have been just a few days too early. Wood Frogs are usually the first amphibian to become active as Spring starts in the northwoods. Last year, April 16 saw egg masses already laid by these early amphibians, with eggs hatching just 2 weeks later!
On my recent visits I noted a few odd things, especially to those who may not associate early April with snow on the ground and… spiders! Perhaps the most surprising species to be noted during my visits was the presence and diversity of spiders! Hundreds of individuals were observed near the Welcome Center, along the Welcome Center Trails, and along Gray Jay Way. Of
those individuals, I would estimate that 75% were juvenile spiders, with the remainder adults. Insects and arachnids have similar strategies to survive northern winters. Some will over winter as adults, some will overwinter in an immature stage (pupae or late instar), and still more will overwinter as eggs. This explains very well, what was seen during my visits: Adults who had overwintered were just waking back up and those young either had just hatched or were getting ready to molt to their near adult stages.
The spiders that were seen covered five genuses (Tetragnatha, Xysticus, Pardosa, Dolomedes, and Schizocosa) and represented six species! The highest diversity was found in the wolf spiders (Pardosa and Schizocosa). Wolf spiders are a neat group of spiders, which often are very large (for our northern spiders) and are very active, making them quite easy to see. They are active hunters, with two especially large pairs of eyes forward on their faces. These large eyes help see prey items, which are chased down and quickly envenomed.
Spiders were not the only surprise “bug” to be found! Nearly as numerous as spiders, were
leafhoppers! Leafhoppers are a diverse and colorful group of seldom seen insects. They are fast and bright and a real treat to those who are keen enough to observe them. Most of the leafhoppers observed on these early outings were the large Striped Leafhopper and rather small and bright Helochara commuis.
The diversity in the Bog continues to delight and surprise me, all the while, the Bog Species List continues to grow! With the addition of a few interesting fungi (Turkeytail, Rosy Polypore, Orange Jelly, and Red Tree Brain), beautiful Red Velvet Mites (Trombidiidae), and tiny Green Springtails the diverse the list now stands at 1014!
If you are wishing to experience this diversity first hand, there are a multitude of options over the summer to see the diversity firsthand and learn a little more about some of the species in the Sax-Zim Bog! The new program listing will be up and posted within the week! If you have further questions about the programs or the species found in the Sax-Zim Bog, feel free to email me! Until
then, I will see you out in the Bog!
-Clinton Nienhaus, Head Naturalist