27 May 2009

Bottling Complete

If you've been following our blog, you will know exactly what this post is about just by seeing the photo above.

Tonight, Lindsay and I donned our beer-brewing hats as we performed the last step for our Sticky Wicket Oatmeal Stout and moved one step closer to completing our Pilothouse Pilsner. Three weeks ago, we put our Sticky Wicket Oatmeal Stout in a warm, dark room for carbonation to take place. Today, we put this beer in the refrigerator to bottle condition. It should be ready to drink at any time. Updates soon...

Also three weeks ago, we started making Pilothouse Pilsner. Tonight, it was time to bottle this batch. The first step was to sterilize the bottles...

Then, Lindsay added sugar to the bottles...
... and I filled the bottles.
Finally, we labeled and boxed the bottles.

These bottles will now be placed in a warm, dark room for approximately three weeks, at which time they will be put in the refrigerator for bottle conditioning.

26 May 2009

That's One Big Silk Moth!

While I was in East Lansing, Michigan on Sunday for the annual Michigan Botanical Club Spring Foray, Lindsay was at home adding to our yard list. As she was riding her bike down the driveway, she saw this dead moth.
This is a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia), also known as a Robin Moth. This species is a member of the Giant Silkworm Moth subfamily of the Wild Silk Moth family. Adults of this species typically only live for 2 weeks. One of the largest species of moth in North America, Cecropia Moths can have a wingspan of up to 6 inches. They can be found throughout much of eastern North America, and in scattered locations throughout the western United States as well. These giants are nocturnal and are most often found in or near hardwood forests. Cecropia Moth caterpillars feed most frequently on apple, ash, box elder, cherry, lilac, poplar, sassafras, and willow, but can also be found feeding on birch, elm, larch, and maple.
Unfortunately, Cecropia Moth populations are apparently in decline as a result of introduction of a predatory non-native tachinid fly introduced to control gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar). Like the introduction of the Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) to control crop pests, this is another example of the best of intentions turning into ecological disaster.
As is the case for other members of the Giant Silkworm Moth family, male Cecropia Moths are drawn to females when the females emit pheromones, a period referred to as "calling time." Studies have shown that males can find females that are several miles away as a result of their sensitivity to these pheromones. "Calling time" for Cecropia Moths is from 3:00 AM until sunrise. It is said that males use their enormous, plumose antennae to sense the pheromones given off by females.

Butterflies and Moths of Missouri by J. Richard and Joan E. Heitzman
Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner
Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans

20 May 2009

A Froggy Night

Tuesday night (May 19), Lindsay and I made a second trip to our five Frogwatch USA monitoring sites (an account of our first monitoring visit of 2009 can be found here). If you're in the mood for frog calls, click on the videos below. Then, quiz yourself by scrolling to the bottom to see what frogs/toads were calling in the videos.

Chamberlain Lake

Ewing Wetland

Ready for the answers?

At Chamberlain Lake, there were four species calling - Spring Peeper, Eastern Gray Treefrog, Bullfrog, and Green Frog.

At the Ewing Wetland, we heard three species, but you may only be able to hear two of them in the video. Eastern Gray Treefrogs are calling so loud that they nearly drown out everything else. You can also hear Spring Peepers, and may be able to hear Green Frog.

In addition to these species, we heard American Toads calling at Potato Creek State Park.

For more information on the frog and toad species in this post, click here.

18 May 2009

Blood-sucking Arachnids

Lindsay, Bootypants, and I are keeping count of the number of ticks that we find on ourselves this year. I know... a little disgusting. But I was really curious who contracts more in a season... Bootypants or me. As of this evening, the count is as follows:

Bootypants: 35
(Photo by Mike and Heidi Walczak)

Scott: 28

Lindsay: 6

Most of the ticks that we find are American Dog Ticks, Dermacentor variabilis.
Female American Dog Tick

Male American Dog Tick

While in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, I found a lot of Lone Star Ticks, Amblyomma americanum.
Male Lone Star Tick

Female Lone Star Tick

While in the Indiana Dunes this past weekend, I found a Brown Dog Tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, a tick species that I'd never noticed before.
Female Brown Dog Tick

I've found Deer Ticks, Ixodes scapularis, on Bootypants in the fall in previous years, but we haven't seen any yet this year.
Neither Lindsay nor I have found any engorged ticks on us, but Bootypants has had a few. As the season progresses, I'll provide updates on the tick ticker.

06 May 2009

Mr. Beer Update

As you may recall, three weeks ago, Lindsay and I began making Sticky Wicket Oatmeal Stout. Tonight, it was time to bottle the brew. We started by sterilizing the bottles.
Once the bottles were prepared, we added sugar to carbonate the beer.
Next, the beer is poored from the fermenter into the bottles...
... and the bottles are inverted several times to mix in the sugar.
The final step is to label the bottles!
Now the beer will be stored in a warm, dark room for three weeks. After that, it goes into the refrigerator for conditioning. We should be able to try our first bottle in a month or so!

We also started a batch of Pilothouse Pilsner, a hoppy beer, tonight.
In two or three weeks, we will bottle this batch.
Watch for updates!

03 May 2009

Busy week

My busy season is officially in full-swing. This post is simply intended to be a quick update on what I've been up to lately. I hope to post more about my recent travels in separate posts as I have time.

Last Saturday, I led a hike at Bendix Woods Nature Preserve in St. Joseph County, Indiana for Shirley Heinze Land Trust.

The woods were exploding with color; white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum), dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), and Canada violet (Viola canadensis) cast a white glow across the forest floor.
Splotches of yellow indicated the presence of wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), while prairie trillium (Trillium recurvatum) and blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) dotted the forest floor with reds and blues, respectively.
We encountered a brief thunderstorm while on our walk, but once that passed, we were again able to enjoy the wonderful wildflowers at this old-growth forest. Lindsay even found the rare apetalous form of white trillium. The petal-less flowers are said to be a mutation that occurs periodically in this species.

On Sunday morning, I left home to botanize in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia with Justin Thomas, at an event to be know from this point forward as Trillium Tromp 2009.
As the name suggests, our primary targets were trilliums, but we had a great time enjoying a multitude of other species, including the Federally Endangered green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila). I will certainly post more on this trip at a later date.
Bashful wakerobin (Trillium catesbaei)

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

Furrowed wakerobin (Trillium sulcatum)

Green pitcher plant (Sarracenia oreophila)

Thursday morning, I left our campsite near the Sock Capital of the World (Fort Payne, Alabama, of course) and arrived home around 7:30 PM.

I washed clothes and re-packed for a camping weekend in northwest Ohio. While staying at Maumee Bay State Park, we birded at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh, tallying 105 bird species (including Prairie Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Summer Tanager, Snowy Egrets, Trumpeter Swans, and numerous Bald Eagles), in addition to Northern Leopard Frogs, Painted Turtles, and Blanding's Turtles.
Lindsay and I arrived home tonight in time to mow the lush jungle known as our lawn. Tomorrow, it's back to the real world, as I head back to work.