Thursday, September 15, 2016

Saving the Terrapin

     Saving the Terrapin 

by Wynne Crombie 
        The five-year-olds proudly wore t-shirts that read, “SLOW…Turtle Crossing” across the front.  The kindergarten class from the Avalon/Stone Harbor kindergarten near Stone Harbor, New Jersey had made and sold turtle-shaped cookies at their school to help save the terrapins, small turtles, of the near-by salt marshes.  Their job? Help save rescued eggs.
Area schoolchildren have become involved in a hands-on, “Save the Terrapin” program, at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. As part of the school program, the children learn that many of the terrapin’s eggs are in danger after mother terrapins are killed on the highway while travelling to their nesting sites.  The mother terrapin likes to build her nests on sand dunes above the high tide line. The male stays behind in the safety of the marshes. 
Every day a patrol car from the Wetlands Institute searches the highway for turtles that have been harmed.  As many as 500 to 600 terrapins are killed during  the May-June nesting season. The eggs rescued by the Wetlands Patrol car, are taken back to the Institute where they are incubated. Incubation involves creating a warm situation that copies the mother’s warmth. 
   In addition to raising money, the school children participate in taking the hatchling turtles back into their natural wetlands habitat. Many grow attached to the turtles and even give them names. 
After hatching, the young turtles don’t eat for several weeks due to the built-in food supply from the mother. Then, they are deliberately kept from hibernation. This makes them hungry and speeds up the growing process. Their diet is made up of chopped up minnows, mealworms and Purina trout chow.”
  The hatchlings stay at the Institute for nearly a year, in a process called headstartingThe terrapins grow until their shell lengths reach 2 to 3 inches. This way, when they are released, they are more able to deal with enemies than if they were released as soon as they hatched. Every year approximately 250 headstarters are taken back to the wetlands.
When the terrapins are ready, the kindergarteners march to the dock.  Adults show them how to carefully release the turtles.  There are many "oohs" and "aahs" as the little turtles disappeared into the wetlands. There, amidst cheers, the children release the headstarters.
The children are warned to watch out for those jaws as the baby terrapins squirm in their hands. The head and hind webbed feet make constant thumping motions.       
Terrapins are found in temperate and subtropical areas such as the eastern and gulf coasts of the United States.  They do not naturally occur in fresh water. This is one of the reasons they do not make good pets.
While most people like turtles, the terrapin has been having trouble with humans. A hundred years ago, humans ate terrapins as a delicacy, or a special food.  Now, children of Stone Harbor are proud of the work they do in helping the terrapins to live.  As each summer season approaches, the rescue cycle begins again.

BONUS ACTIVITY: Color your terrapin! Just click on the picture, and print. Want to share how you did? Grab a parent, take a picture, and send it to 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bee a Good Steward

Written by Debbie Cochran
Photos by Judith Lesnaw

© 2013 Judith Lesnaw

The spring blooms spill over the sidewalk in colorful confusion as I work in the garden.  Early morning sunlight shines through the tangle of rose bushes.  A plump pair of robins play tug-o'-war with an earthworm frantically burrowing into the soft earth.

Honey bees hang in the air, visiting individual flowers.  I sit back on my heels and wait patiently for one of my visitors to finish her work in the daffodil I’m tending.  I watch her land on the delicate petals, her fuzzy body blending into the yellow blossom.

The bee turns and twists, rubbing her feet back and forth, back and forth.  Stomp, stomp, stomp, rub, rub, rub.  She pauses for a moment and I can see the tiny hairs all over her body covered in yellow pollen.  I smile as she continues her antics, reminding me of a small child playing gleefully in a backyard sandbox.  I know she’s not playing, this visitor of mine.  She is, in fact, working very hard.  True to her reputation, she is “busy as a bee,” collecting pollen to take back to her hive.

In general, honey bees are peaceful creatures, busy doing what God created them to do.  They don’t sting unless threatened, and I’m willing to share my flowers with them.  If a honey bee does sting, it dies.  So they usually save stinging for the important things in life: protecting their queen and their hive. 

© 2013 Judith Lesnaw

The honey bee sticks out her long tube of a tongue and drinks the sweet nectar from the fluted cup of the daffodil.  She isn’t just enjoying a sweet summer snack.  The nectar will be welcomed back home.  Her fellow workers will use it to make honey, which is fed to the larvae (baby bees) and used as food for the hive in the winter. 

Finally, her work complete, the honey bee tiptoes to the top of the daffodil, then flies over the garden wall.  She has gone back to spread the good news.  She’ll do a waggle dance to share her find with the other bees.  The intricate dance will tell the location of the flowers to her fellow workers, so they can go find the flowers, too.  I expect more visitors soon. 

I turn over the dark dirt in my garden and breathe in the green smells of growing things.  Lacking the high energy of the average worker bee, I take my time with my task.

As I watch the bees go about their daily business, I continue with mine.  A few honey bees browse the apple tree, traveling from blossom to blossom.  As they dip into each flower, their fuzzy bodies dusted with pollen, I am thankful they are so industrious in helping my garden grow.

Without honey bees, many fruit crops are unable to reproduce.  Farmers often keep bees near their orchards and crops to encourage this process.  While the honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their own needs, they are also tending to the plants’ needs.  Honey bees are indeed good stewards. 

© 2013 Judith Lesnaw

  • Honey bees live in colonies containing 10,000-60,000 bees.  About 100-200 of these are male drones.
  • The queen bee lays as many as 1,500 eggs in a week when the conditions are right.
  • The thousands of other bees are all female worker bees.  These bees have an average lifespan of 21 days.  During that time, they feed the larvae, clean the hive, make honey, and build wax comb.  They are the only bees to visit flowers.
  • Honey bees have ultraviolet vision, enabling them to see which flowers are full of nectar.
  • Honey bees pollinate more crops than any other insect.  Without honey bees, farmers would produce 1/3 less fruit and vegetables.