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Category — General Zoo

Spring Bees

Male Carpenter Bee image by Matt Ward

Male Carpenter Bee image by Matt Ward

Spring has sprung and before long the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will be inundated with school groups and Carpenter Bees. And while your first instinct will be to avoid them I promise you, the school children are not to be feared. Neither are the Carpenter Bees (Xylacopa viginica), the large, yellow and black flying insect frequently encountered on zoo grounds during spring. Though they are often mistaken for Bumblebees they can be most easily differentiated from them by their black, hairless abdomens; Bumblebees have fuzzy abdomens. Carpenter Bees were so named because the females excavate their nest tunnels in wood. But the bees only nest in the wood, they do not feed on it; Carpenter Bees feed on nectar and pollen. And while Carpenter Bees can sometimes damage wooden structures the damage is occasionally caused by woodpeckers working to excavate the bees themselves for food.

Carpenter bees overwinter as adults and are among the first insects observed in spring. Each male stakes out a territory in the vicinity of a nesting female awaiting the opportunity to breed. Any other males entering the territory will be chased away and just about anything else entering the territory will be investigated. Females will reuse old tunnels or excavate new ones. Within each tunnel is a series of small chambers. A single egg is left in each chamber along with a small amount of nectar and pollen to nourish the larvae. Young Carpenter Bees will emerge from their chambers in late summer to feed on nectar in preparation for a long winter’s hibernation. The following spring they’ll emerge and begin the cycle all over again.

The Carpenter Bees encountered on zoo grounds are generally males, who’ll investigate anything that comes into their territory. Males can be easily differentiated from females by the gold or white marking between their eyes. Carpenter Bees are large and fast flying so it’s easy to see why people mistake their curiosity for aggression. But there’s really nothing to fear; male Carpenter Bees, like all male bees, wasps or hornets cannot sting. The stinger is a modified ovipositor (egg laying organ) which males don’t have. Female Carpenter Bees are capable of stinging but rarely do unless harassed.

Carpenter Bees are probably the most common bees in greater Cincinnati. The Carpenter Bees you’ll encounter at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are going about their lives the way their species has for countless millennia. They just happen to be doing it at a zoo instead of in a deciduous forest.

Winton Ray
Curator of Invertebrates & Aquatic Animals
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

March 30, 2016   2 Comments

Not Just for Kids: Eight Benefits of Visiting the Zoo as a Grown-Up

Guest blogger: Education Intern, Kristina Meek

What’s your first memory of visiting a zoo? It’s likely you were on a school field trip or a family outing. If you have kids at home, you’ve probably taken them to a zoo. If you don’t have kids of your own or yours are grown up, don’t let that keep you from an amazing experience! As an adult, you can still experience the wonder and fun that you remember as a kid at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Here are eight benefits you can reap from a grown-up “field trip.”

1. Stress relief

Research shows that contact with nature lowers stress, but you probably know that intuitively. Just step outside, take a deep breath and spend five minutes watching a bird or butterfly and you’ll feel yourself relax. Now think what good a few hours, or a whole day, walking among hundreds of species of plants and animals can do for you. Make the rounds and take it all in, or just find a bench and chill. Your brain, heart, and nervous system will thank you.

Watching butterflies can relieve stress! (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Watching butterflies can relieve stress! (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

2. Make a difference in the world.

Ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Want to feel like your actions have power? Zoos today are increasingly focused on conservation and green living. Just by buying a ticket for admission, you’ve already supported their cause! Throughout the Zoo, you’ll find ideas for how you can make small changes in your life, whether it’s considering the source of materials for your upcoming home remodel or simply recycling your old cell phone.

3. Fun facts for parties (or in case you’re ever on Jeopardy!)

You won’t remember everything you read on a sign or observation you make on your trip. (What’s the name of that one bird with that thing on its head?) But you’ll probably head out with a few fun facts you can spring on your dinner guests. (Did you know an elephant can “hear” through its feet?) If you’re really serious and enjoy trivia games, or aspire to appear on Jeopardy! one day, file away those nuggets of knowledge. They might come in handy.

4. Trick yourself into exercising.

Most of us struggle to fit enough exercise into our busy schedules. As you walk around the Zoo, you’ll probably be so absorbed in the sights that you won’t even think about how many steps you’re taking. Vary your pace or choose the route that feels right for you for a personalized workout. Walking up the hill from Manatee Springs to Wings of the World is a good workout, for example. You can even try something a bit more athletic by swinging like a gibbon and balancing like a lemur in Jungle Trails.

Balance like a lemur in Jungle Trails (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Balance like a lemur in Jungle Trails (Photo: Shasta Bray)

5. Impress your date.

Anyone can suggest dinner and a movie. Show your creativity and adventurous nature by making a Zoo date. You won’t lack for things to talk about, and you’ll get to know each other in a casual atmosphere. We guarantee the object of your affection won’t forget it.

Date night at the Festival of Lights

Date night at the Festival of Lights

6. You love animals.

There’s a reason the internet is swimming in animal photos. You might not go around proclaiming it like you did when you were a kid, but the affinity you felt back then still lives in you. Tap into it! Whether bugs or birds, primates or pachyderms, find out which animal makes you say, “Aww…”

What's cuter than a couple of cheetah cubs? (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

What’s cuter than a couple of cheetah cubs? (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

7. Party like an animal.

Our Zoo offers unique adults-only events. Socialize, try a new wine or beer, and surround yourself with plants and animals. We guarantee you’ll be talking about it the next day. Click here for information on Wild About Wine, coming up in summer 2016 and sponsored by Q102; and keep your eyes peeled for Zootini in July and Zoo Brew in October!

8. Support a great Cincinnati resource.

Did you know that Cincinnati has the second oldest zoo in the country (and second by only a matter of months, at that)? It’s considered one of the best zoos in the nation and is involved in several significant international conservation efforts. It’s also rich in history; the Zoo itself was declared a National Landmark! It boasts two historic buildings (the Elephant and Reptile Houses) and was home to Martha the passenger pigeon, the last of her now extinct species. When you visit or become a member, you support a non-profit organization playing a major role in the character of our city.

No kids? No problem! The Zoo is for grown-ups, too! We’ll see you soon at the Zoo!

March 29, 2016   No Comments

Exploring a World of Learning at the Zoo Academy

Guest Blogger: Zoo Academy Junior, Kadriesha Glover

Hi, my name is Kadriesha Glover! I’m a junior at The Zoo Academy and I’m so happy that I get the opportunity to be here and learn and work with so many amazing people in this friendly, peaceful environment. Last year I went to a non-Cincinnati public school that I had planned on graduating from, but it closed. That summer, my dad decided to sign me up for Hughes High School where I was placed in the Zoo Academy program. I’m so happy that I was put in the Zoo Academy program because, so far, it has been the best experience! At the Zoo Academy I get to explore a world of learning that’s different and exciting and actually makes me want to get out of bed for school.

I know you’re probably wondering if students at the Zoo Academy have “normal” classes too. Yes, we do. We have “A” day and “B” day classes. This means, in the morning on an “A” day, we have a zoo and aquarium class, reading, and a plant and horticulture class. On the morning of a “B” day, we have College and Career, history and math. In the afternoons on both “A” and “B” days, we have lunch and then go out into our labs (I think this is the best part of the day!). In our labs, we get to choose a department in the Zoo to help out. It’s like a class that is more hands-on and also like a work experience. I’ve gotten to work with the Horticulture, Children’s Zoo, and Commissary departments and now I get to work with the Education Department (where I get to learn new things like how to write a blog post and create activities for children who come to Zoo classes). The staff members will give us evaluations at the end of our lab to say how well we did in that lab and then we get graded for the work we do.

My favorite part of the Zoo Academy labs is that I get the opportunity to not just look at the animals and the plant life here at the Zoo but to learn things about them as well as help care for them. I used to be scared of most animals, but participation in labs means meeting and holding some animals that I never thought that I would touch or even want to be near! To have a school that helps me overcome these fears is amazing.
Kadriesha turtle pic

Another reason that I love being at the Zoo Academy is the Zoo’s botanical garden. I love flowers and plants. Before I even came to the Zoo for the Zoo Academy, I always admired their tulips in the spring. They were so beautiful and I always wondered how the Zoo planted so many and why they grow only in the spring. Then, my first lab was with Horticulture and I got to plant those same tulips. I can’t wait until they blossom in the spring! In the horticulture classes I have on “A” days, I get to learn about all of these great plants, how they make their own food, how they survive during harsh times, how long they live, and answers to other questions like that. Not only do I get the answers to those questions in class, but I get to also work hands-on with the plants and see and those processes first hand. All of this information amazes me and makes me want to learn more and more.
zooblooms_header

Although when I graduate I plan on going to college to major in interior design, the Zoo Academy still teaches me the 21 century skills that I need such as time management, people skills, etc. These are very helpful no matter what job your planning on going into. The Zoo Academy isn’t just one of those schools that only focus on one thing. These labs help us explore the various careers that are out in the world. Every department has a different role that they play in making sure that the Zoo is put together, the animals are taking care of, the public is educated and people are having fun when they come.

I think that no matter who you are or what you want to become when you graduate high school the Zoo Academy can give you the skills you need to do the job of your choosing. What I’ll take from the Zoo Academy when I graduate is not just knowledge of all animals and all plants, but also the knowledge I need to be successful in life. So if you’re looking for a school that gives you knowledge AND experience, then the Zoo Academy is a great place to come.

March 24, 2016   1 Comment