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Find Lost Ladybugs at Wachusett Meadow

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

 

A three-banded ladybug (Coccinela trifasciata) collected at Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo credit: Ellen Harasimowicz

Scientists at The Lost Ladybug Project are searching for a rare ladybug species. This Friday, at Look for Lost Ladybugs, sponsored by Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, you can help find them.

In the last twenty years, several native ladybug species have become extremely rare. Meanwhile, ladybugs from other places have increased in numbers and range. Now, ladybug species are simply being found in new places. The goal of The Lost Ladybug Project is to find out where the rare ladybugs have gone, in an effort to try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare. 17,540 ladybugs have been counted through the project as of July 24, 2012.

The event will begin with a brief introduction to the program. Afterwards, the group will learn about ladybug biology so they can identify species at Wachusett Meadow. Instructor, naturalist and author http://www.loreeburns.com" target="_blank">Loree Burns will lead a short hike  to Second Pasture, a milkweed meadow, where she will show the group how to search for ladybugs. At the end of the search, the group will bring their collected ladybugs back to the program. Then, they will identify the ladybugs and take photographs to send to the project.

“By looking for rare ladybugs in Massachusetts, you have a better idea of exactly which types of ladybugs are most common at Wachusett Meadow and that work hadn't been done yet,” Burns said.

Burns runs the event once a month during the summer with her 10-year-old daughter. This season marks their third summer collecting ladybug data at Wachusett Meadow. Scientists started the program to look for three rare species and all three have been found. Even though none on these three rare species have been found in Massachusetts, there is always a possibility so Burns and her daughter continue to encourage people to search.

When Burns wrote her book on citizen science, Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, she profiled four projects and The Lost Ladybug Project was one of the four.

“This project really attracted the attention of my daughter,” Burns said. “Neither of us knew about the ladybug lifecycle so it was interesting to us. We didn't know that there were so many species in Massachusetts. The more we learn, the more interested we have become in finding new species in Wachusett Meadow and in our own yard.”

In their own yard, Burns and her daughter found a twice-stabbed ladybug, which is a black ladybug with two red spots, one on each of its wing cases. “It was thrilling for us,” Burns said. “It is a fairly common ladybug but it was new for us and a little unexpected.”

“Even people who don't come to the event, can participate in the project by going on the project website,” Burns said. “It is an easy project for kids and families to participate in and you can really do it in any green space that may have ladybugs. It is a really simple engaging activity to do outside.”

The event on July 27 runs from 10am-12pm, and is suitable for children of all ages. Sneakers are recommended for the short hike as is clothing that covers your skin, since it is tick season.  Bring a digital camera if you have one. Advance registration is required. Register online or call 978-464-2712. For more information, email [email protected].

 

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