Olivia Wagner

What’s Happening in Nature – May

1. Turtle Crossings

My favorite time of year, when each trip down a back road has the possibility for an encounter with a wild turtle! Sorry in advance to anyone driving behind me. Please take special precautions on the road this time of year. Many species of turtles will be crossing roads to build nests and lay eggs. If it is safe to do so, you may want to consider helping these slow-moving reptiles get across the road. Always remember to move them to the side of the road they are heading, even if that’s away from the water. Many aquatic turtles lay their eggs on land in a specific nesting location, so leave the navigation to them.

2. Plant your gardens

The beginning of May or, if you live in Kentucky, after Derby is when you can start to put plants in the ground. This is when we assume all fear of frost is gone, but keep checking the weather just to be sure nighttime temperatures do not fall too low. Get your hands dirty and grow some vegetables!

3. Bee Activity

You may have noticed that the bees have finally woken up, embracing the warmth. One of the most exciting things that can happen this time of year is a honeybee swarm. Swarming is a natural process where a large group of honeybees break away from the colony to create a new one. This is in response to overcrowding within the colony. They usually contain several hundreds to thousands of worker bees, a few drones, and a queen. They will gather on a tree limb, or other object, and stay there while the scout bees find a suitable home to form a new colony. A bee swarm is usually safe. If we keep our distance, bees are not likely to sting. If the colony is in an unfavorable location, you can call a local beekeeper who will safely relocate the bees. Once the scout bees find a suitable habitat, the swarm disperses and flies to their new home; this could take a few hours or even a few days.

4. Arial Actions 

Have you ever noticed a big bird like a hawk, or a crow being chased by a couple of smaller birds in the sky? It happens a lot this time of year when birds are defending their nests at all costs. A battle that can be seen in our park is between red-winged blackbirds and crows or hawks. Crows need a lot of protein to feed their young this time of year and prey on nests of larger songbirds, like the red-winged blackbird. Red-wings nest in large colonies in marshes, and each male has a small territory within this colony. They act as the neighborhood watch—perched on top of cattails—and when they see a crow flying overhead, they attack it before the crow can get a good look at where the nests are. Other male red-wings in the area can join in on the chase until the danger is cleared. To get a good look at these shows, walk through wetland areas on the Black Willow Trail where red-winged blackbirds nest in the cattails.

5. Mushroom Season

Spring showers not only bring may flowers, but a great show of fungus as well! Mushrooms require moisture to grow their fruiting body, which is why you will see the most mushrooms after a big storm or in the morning with the dew. What is even more interesting is that scientists have recently found that mushroom spores may actually act as “seeds” for water droplets to form onto to produce rain. Which would mean that mushrooms help make more rain that helps make more mushrooms. Mind. Blown.

Caution: You may also be aware that we are in Morel season. Morels are a type of edible mushroom that are fun to hunt because they are rare. However, you should never ingest any mushrooms unless you are a trained professional. Many mushrooms are highly toxic and can be lethal to humans even in small doses. What’s more, is that mushrooms are hard to tell apart, and some can look very similar to edible ones, like the false morel and the true morel shown below. So please be safe when exploring the world of mushrooms. Tag along with a pro if you can!