What’s Up?

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In many parts of the world, it’s springtime. There’s new life in the air! All over God’s green earth plants are popping up, animals are waking up, and bugs are showing up. If you live anywhere north of the equator, some of this is happening right outside your door.

What’s up near you? Go outside and see for yourself. But first check out these pages for some hints on what to look for.

Fireflies

Adult fireflies may be up and about in your area, especially if you live east of the Rocky Mountains.

Did you know that fireflies “talk” to each other with light signals? Every kind of firefly has its own special signal. One signal may be a “short-short-long” blink. Another may be a “long-long-short-long” or a long spiral rising light . . . and on and on and on.

Different firefly species also have slightly different colored lights. Some are amber, others greenish, and still others yellow. Just think: With approximately 2,000 species of fireflies worldwide, there must be at least 2,000 different firefly signals!

Any flashes you see in the air come from male fireflies looking for mates. Flashes from the ground are females answering the “call.” Females recognize only the signal of their own species. Other firefly signals are like a foreign language to them.

If you are in a firefly area, go outside at dusk. Sit quietly in a dark area of the yard and watch for flashes. Is there more than one signal? More than one color?

Aren’t fireflies amazing?

Spring Peepers

Have you heard any spring peepers yet?

Spring peepers are tiny frogs—all exactly the same species. They don’t have to separate into different groups with different mating calls the way fireflies do. They can call for mates as part of a big group, all using the same call.

So that’s what they do. Hundreds of them group together and call each other. Each tiny frog has a trilling, bell-like call. A bunch of peepers all calling together can be very loud. But if you’re more than a mile (about two kilometers) away, it sounds kind of like jingling sleigh bells. Enjoy them from a distance!

Future Queens

This is the time of year bumblebees and paper wasps set up housekeeping. Right now they’re probably buzzing around hunting for a good spot. They’re easy to find and fun to watch—from a safe distance!

Watch for bumblebees flying close to the ground. They cruise slowly above the grass and stop occasionally to investigate the dirt. Bumblebees nest in the ground. The “cruiser” you see flying around is a queen looking for a good place to set up a colony.

You may see a paper wasp or two investigating the eaves or windowsills of your house. She’s also a queen looking for a place to set up a colony. Sometimes you can find the beginnings of a colony that looks like a tiny piece of grey paper on a stalk. If you look inside carefully, you may see one or two eggs.

Earthworms

The earthworms that live in your yard have “slept” below the freezing line all winter. Some of them curled together to form sleepy, slimy “worm balls.” Now that the temperature of the dirt has reached 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) they’re awake and tunneling through the dirt. All that tunneling loosens the soil and mixes it up. As they tunnel, the worms are eating old things that died last fall, turning it into smaller bits that add nutrition to the soil.

Earthworms are God’s little gardeners—they’re great for your garden or lawn.

Monarch Butterflies

Last fall, the monarch butterflies migrated south. Now that it’s spring, they’re coming back north. Some of those very same butterflies that flew all those miles “hibernated” for months and are coming back now. You may have seen some of them if you live in Mexico or anyplace south of Texas. They’re called the “pioneer generation.”

The “children” of those original butterflies continue the journey north. They’re the monarchs that spread across the southern states in April. By the end of the month they’ll mate, lay eggs, and die.

Further north, in May, you’ll see the third generation—the “grandchildren” of the original hibernators. The ones that show up in June, further north yet, are the “great-grandchildren” of the pioneers.

Somehow all the generations of these colorful butterflies know which direction to fly and when to go there. When will you see these winged wonders in your part of the world?

Fun Facts

  • Lots of insects, tiny frogs, and other little creatures automatically produce “antifreeze” in their bodies before freezing weather comes.
  • “Popcorn” showers are common during springtime. They happen when warm and colder air currents meet in the atmosphere. They seem to pop up out of nowhere.
  • Slime from earthworms’ bodies adds nitrogen to garden soil. That’s good, because plants need nitrogen to grow well. Nitrogen doesn’t occur naturally in soil.
  • Robins arrive about the time soil temperatures reach 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2degrees Celsius). That’s the same soil temperature that gets earthworms moving again.
  • Firefly larvae feast on snails and slugs. They find their prey by following the slime trail.
  • Want to see exactly where and when monarch butterflies were spotted last year? Go to learner.org/jnorth/maps/monarch_spring2012.html

 

Download PDF of kids pages.

About the Author

Joanne De Jonge is a freelance writer and a former U.S. National Park Ranger. She attends West Valley Christian Fellowship in Phoenix, Ariz.
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