Connect with Nature Through Fun, Learning, Outdoors, and Wellness
This summer, CNC is grateful to be able to offer our 127 acres as space where you can go with the F.L.O.W. – Fun, Learning, Outdoors, and Wellness – and connect with nature. Through fun festivals, robust programs, exciting exhibits, and beautiful trails and gardens, you will find there is so much to do and explore at CNC this season! Extended hours are back this summer! Opening at 9AM Monday to Saturday. More time to get your nature on.
CNC Naturalist Larry Stevens has created memories and sparked a love for nature with those lucky explorers that have experienced Pee Wee Naturalists.
A parent shared recently: “[My child] enjoyed today’s class so much! This afternoon he pretended that he was “Mr. Larry” and taught his big brother all he had learned about snakes. So sweet!” Our next Pee Wee Naturalist series begins the first week of June and registration is currently open. Spaces are limited and a great way for you and your budding naturalist to connect with nature.
Get your foot tapping with amazing music, amazing views, and time to relax. Sunset Sips and Sundays on the River are both a great way to experience CNC after hours.
The River Boardwalk Trail is open and ready for you to explore! The Chattahoochee River and wetlands provide a place to learn, relax, stroll, and connect with nature. We look forward to seeing you this summer to go with the F.L.O.W.
A message from the Monarchs Across Georgia Committee of the Environmental Education Alliance
Last winter, volunteers from across the Southeast and Gulf states provided more than 5,800 observations of monarch butterflies. This winter, the partnership of universities, agencies and other organizations called Monarchs Overwintering in the Southeastern States is requesting the public’s continued involvement in reporting sightings.
The public is encouraged to report monarch sightings from Dec. 1-March 1 in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Observations are entered in Journey North’s online data portal, where they are transformed into real-time mapping visualizations of monarch migration and breeding. Journey North is an organization designed to engage people across North America in tracking wildlife migration and seasonal change.
With the return of longer hours of sunlight and warmer weather, you are probably seeing many critters flying and buzzing around – some of which you may have not seen before. Each spring, thousands of birds and insects migrate north to reach their summer breeding and feeding grounds and then return south again in the fall.
For hundreds of years, the seasonal migration of birds was largely a mystery. Did you know that the Ancient Greeks believed that birds hibernated underground? This is how they explained their disappearance in the winter, and return again in the spring.
While we have learned a lot about birds and their migration since the Ancient Greeks, much of it still seems mysterious.
Around 4,000 species of birds are migrants. Even birds that don’t fly, like emus and penguins, still migrate by foot or swim.
The arctic tern has the longest migration of any bird, traveling around 49,700 miles each year almost equal to traveling around the Earth twice!
Many birds migrate at night to avoid predators and reduce the risk of overheating.
Bar-headed geese migrate at the highest altitudes reaching heights of around 23,000 feet when flying over the Himalayas in India.
There are several species of insects that also migrate up to thousands of miles each year. The most well-known insect migrant is the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies are one of only a few butterfly species known to make a two-way migration like birds. While the monarch might be the most famous of migrating butterflies, the painted lady, question mark, and common buckeye also make a two-way migration. These butterflies all play an important role during their migration in pollinating crops and wildflowers.
Butterflies are not the only insects that migrate. Moths, dragonflies, beetles, grasshoppers, milkweed bugs, and some species of flies also undergo long journeys in search of food and warmer weather. Besides carrying pollen, because insects themselves are food for birds and other animals, their annual migrations are very important for ecosystems.
Milkweed bugs, just like monarch butterflies, are colored orange and black to warn off predators and migrate following the emergence of milkweed plants in the spring and summer.
The wandering glider, a species of dragonfly, undertakes the longest migration traveling more than 4,350 miles one way. In the Eastern Hemisphere, they are known to migrate from India to Africa by crossing the Indian Ocean and are the only known insect to make a transoceanic crossing.
The hummingbird hawk-moth resembles a hummingbird as it flies between plants and hovers over flowers. Like, butterflies, hawk-moths also migrate, but they generally migrate at night, as opposed to butterflies which migrate during the day.
Hoverflies mimic stinging insects like wasps with stripes and bright colors and migrate over multiple generations. As they do so, their larvae eat trillions of aphids, and the adults visit billions of flowers carrying pollen as they go, making them the ultimate gardener’s friend!
The annual migrations can be really exciting to watch, they are also a very dangerous time for birds and insects. Some dangers may come from predators, but a lot can be caused by humans.
Each year, millions of birds die from building collisions, and pesticides can cause the deaths of billions of beneficial insects.
Join bird and insect conservation groups and citizen science projects. The more we learn and know about the world around us, the more we will care. The more we care, the harder we will strive to protect. Check out the Urban Kings Project and Atlanta Firefly Project for citizen science projects in the metro Atlanta area.
The pollinators you love – and a few you might be surprised to meet
April 19, 2021
By Emma Schell, Scheduling Coordinator
Spring has sprung, and while that means warmer weather and blooming flowers, it also means the arrival of something many people dread: pollen.
While it may be a nuisance to our noses, pollen is an essential part of plant reproduction. In order for many plants to make seeds and fruit, pollen must travel between flowers. While wind and water can do some of this work, an estimated 70-87% of flowering plants rely on animals for help.
We call these animal helpers pollinators.
Perhaps the most widely recognized pollinator, butterflies help pollinate in a rather accidental way.
Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid found in flowers, and it is the primary food source for most butterflies. They use their long, straw-like mouth parts, called a proboscis, to reach down into the flowers and drink the nectar.
Butterflies do not intentionally collect pollen, but when one stops to drink nectar, small amounts of pollen stick to its body. As the butterfly continues its search for food, it carries this pollen to new flowers – helping to pollinate plants as it goes.
Georgia is home to over 500 species of bees, and although they might be a little less colorful than butterflies, they are the real MVPs of the pollinator world.
Both pollen and nectar are essential parts of a bee’s diet – nectar provides energy in the form of carbohydrates while pollen provides proteins and other nutrients. Because of this, bees actively collect both nectar and pollen for themselves and their larvae.
Bees possess special structures on their bodies that allow them to store and carry pollen. These adaptations allow bees to transport large amounts of pollen, sometimes 30% of their body weight, back to their nests. Along the way, they distribute this pollen to the plants they visit.
Like bees, wasps have very high energy needs. While most wasps are carnivorous, they cannot survive on meat alone. They supplement their diet with a variety of sugar-rich foods such as fruits and, of course, nectar from flowers. As they pass between flowers, they transfer pollen along the way.
Though they may not be as widely impactful as a bee, wasps are important specialist pollinators. Specialist pollinators are very picky in their choice of plants that they visit. They choose to visit the flowers of only one small group of plants, and often, the plants that they do visit are entirely dependent on these wasps for reproduction.
Though flies are often overlooked in discussions of pollination, this ancient group of insects was likely one of the first to pollinate early flowering plants.
Less fuzzy than most bees, they may not be the most efficient pollinators, but in some environments, flies carry the majority of the burden. Especially in cooler climates, where bee activity is reduced, flies are often the primary pollinator group.
Just like with wasps, some plants have evolved specifically to be pollinated by flies. They may emit foul odors or even resemble rotting meat in appearance. They do all of this to attract flies to their flowers.
One of these plants is the cocoa tree. The cocoa tree has small, downturned flowers that grow on its lowest branches and trunk. These flowers smell similar to some mushrooms, and they attract tiny flies that normally feed on fungi. Without these flies, the cocoa tree cannot bear fruit. Without this fruit, we humans would not have chocolate.
These nighttime flyers may go unnoticed much of the time, but make no mistake, they are vital to plants all over the world. Over 530 plant species rely on bats to assist with pollination – some of these plants include agave, bananas, and balsa trees.
There are two parts to any successful butterfly garden: nectar sources and host plants. Nectar is an important source of food for many pollinators, and luckily there are many different types of annuals and perennials that provide this resource.
To attract native pollinators to your garden, we recommend planting native annuals and perennials that would typically be found in your area naturally. Butterflies see in ultraviolet light, so bright colored flowers with a lighter center can act as a target to help attract pollinators. Butterflies also prefer a space to land while feeding on the nectar, so native species with larger petals or petals that form in clumps will also help attract butterflies to your garden.
The second item necessary for a successful butterfly garden are host plants. Host plants are required for a butterfly’s reproductive cycle.
When a caterpillar hatches from its egg, it must eat from a specific plant to survive. If an egg is laid on a plant that is not the correct host plant, the caterpillar will hatch, try to eat whatever plant they are on, and then die. Therefore, if you would like to attract a wide variety of native butterflies to your garden, be sure to plant a wide variety of native host plants!
Below, you can find the list of host plants to some of the native butterflies of Georgia.
Butterfly: Papilio troilus, Spicebush Swallowtail Host Plant: Plants belonging to Lauraceae family
Butterfly: Papilio glaucus, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Host Plant: Common host plants in Magnoliaceae and Rosaceae families including: Tulip Tree, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Wild Black Cherry
Butterfly: Siproetastelenes, Malachite Host Plants: Ruellia coccinea and other plants in the Acanthaceae family
Butterfly: Heliconius charithonia, Zebra Longwing Host Plant: Several passion flower vine species (Passiflora sp.) including: Purple Passionflower, Corkystem Passionflower, Yellow Passionflower and more
Butterfly: Vanessa cardui, Painted Lady Host Plants: More than 100 species of plants have been recorded as a host plant for the Painted Lady including: Compositae family, Boraginaceae family, Malvaceae family
Butterfly: Agraulis vanillae, Gulf Fritillary Host Plant: Many species in the Passiflora family including: Purple Passionflower and Corkystem Passionflower
Along with nectar and host plants there are also a few other things to consider when planning your butterfly garden. They are not plant related, but just as important for attracting butterflies.
Create a spot for butterflies to rest. Butterflies need sun and warmth to dry their wings and be ready for flight. Flat stones in your garden are a great place for them to warm up and get ready for the day.
Bring together nectar sources and host plants in your garden, along with a few other features, and you will be on your way to attracting butterflies and other pollinators throughout spring, summer, and fall!
The “Butterfly Encounter” held by the nature center is this summer’s exhibit and will run through Aug. 2. Landscaped by nectar and foliage-type plants, at any given time there are hundreds of butterflies fluttering around, feeding on nectar or resting inside. Read on to discover more details.
The Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in Roswell is an outdoor nature oasis. We recently went to the CNC and explored the 127-acres of woods, wetlands and river habitat. We packed a picnic, water, sunscreen and bug spray and experienced the serenity of nature.
ROSWELL, Ga. – Reservations are required and masks are abundant, but aside from the obvious changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, staffers at the Chattahoochee Nature Center say their popular Butterfly Encounter will provide the same magical experience for visitors this year.
This year’s Butterfly Encounter opened last month will will continue daily through August 2nd, welcoming visitors into a butterfly-filled tent and allowing them to see the delicate winged creatures closer than ever before.
Edited by Henning von Schmeling, Senior Director of Operations June 12, 2020
We have all heard the stories of bees and other insectsdying out in large numbers. It’s a mysterious phenomenon, however our buzzing friends are not the only ones facing difficulties in populations.
Pollinators of all kinds – including bees and butterflies – are relied upon heavily in the plant world to, well, pollinate. The relationship between pollinators and flowers is one that most people understand. Butterflies rely on nectar, the sweet liquid found hidden within flowers. As a butterfly lands and sips nectar it unintentionally picks up pollen. By doing that it does the flower a favor by moving its pollen around the garden and ensuring another generation of blooms. While a butterfly may visit a variety of flowers for nourishment, they look for specific plants – called “host plants” – on which to lay eggs. A caterpillar is choosy; it will not munch the leaves of just any plant.
One famous example is the milkweed species of plant. Monarch Butterflies, those bright orange and black butterflies, will only lay their eggs on milkweed, making it essential to their survival. However, if the milkweed is not present when the Monarchs make their annual migration to Mexico, they cannot breed. Likewise, the Tiger Swallowtail, Georgia’s state butterfly, looks for tulip poplar trees, on which to lay their eggs.
Henning von Schmeling, with the Chattahoochee Nature Center, said planning is needed to invite pollinators into a garden.
“Everybody always says that you have to plant flowers since adult butterflies eat nectar, but you won’t raise butterflies unless you have the specific host plants that each species of adult butterfly needs to lay their eggs on,” said von Schmeling.
Even if you live in a subdivision where there are covenants with strict landscaping guidelines, von Schmeling suggests locating a section in the back for a natural garden. Butterflies are repelled, and often endangered, by herbicides and pesticides. They prefer overgrown areas, especially with native plants and flowers of the host and nectar plants they prefer and where they can lay their eggs where the caterpillars will thrive.
By Liz Platner, Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator Originally Posted on March 23, 2018 Updated on June 12, 2020
You may think that roses are red and violets are blue, but that’s because your eyes are human eyes. If you were a pollinator, you would see there’s a secret message in the colors of flowers. To understand why flowers contain secret messages, we need to understand pollination.
Flowers have male parts called stamens, which are the long thin filaments topped with the anther that produces pollen. In order to create seeds, the pollen must be transferred to the sticky stigma which is at the top of the female pistil. Once the pollen grains are on the stigma, pollen tubes can grow down into the ovule and a seed is created. These seeds can grow into new plants, or, in some cases, the ovule develops into fruit and we get to eat it. This explains why flowers are critical to the survival of many plant species.
Wind and insects, especially bees, flies and beetles, are the primary pollinators and there a few other kinds of animals as well. Pollination can occur by water, but it is very rare. Since it’s so important to plant survival, some flowers have embedded color patterns to help pollinators find their nectar more easily. As the pollinators feed on nectar, they get pollen grains stuck on them, which they then transfer to the next flower. These color patterns are called nectar guides, and they benefit the plant by facilitating cross-pollination.
Some of these nectar guides are made of colors in the ultraviolet range, not visible to the human eye but obvious to insects. Our eyes can see colors from red to violet wavelengths of light. Insects such as bees can’t see as many colors, but they can see orange through violet, plus ultraviolet wavelengths of light.
So next time you look at a sunflower or a pansy, know that there are hidden messages for pollinators right in front of your eyes.