Spotted Lanternfly: "See It. Squish It. Report It."

Posted on September 22, 2023

Ahhhh, fall! Hayrides, comfy sweaters, bonfires, pumpkin spice…we could go on and on. However, with great coziness comes great responsibility. Late summer to early fall is not only totally dreamy... it's the prime time to be on the lookout for the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect that has been found in 14 states, including Michigan.

What’s the big deal?
Spotted lanternflies feed on 70 species of trees (especially tree of heaven), vines, shrubs, and hardwoods. They can have negative impacts on specialty crops and cause disturbances in outdoor areas. These pests suck the sap out of plants and secrete a sticky substance called “honeydew,” which causes mold to form. The resulting sooty mold can kill plants and also attracts yellow jackets, ants, and flies. In some cases, swarms of spotted lanternflies have become nuisances just because of their vast quantity.

How do they spread?
While they can’t fly long distances, spotted lanternflies are known to be hitchhikers—they can lay eggs nearly anywhere, including on cars, trailers, firewood, outdoor equipment, etc. Because they’re invasive, spotted lanternflies don’t have any natural predators. So, once they are introduced to a new area, they’re likely to stick around.

What can you do?
The Michigan Invasive Species Program recently launched a campaign to help prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly—"See it. Squish it. Report it."

This simple list of steps reminds Michigan residents and visitors to stay aware of the concern and help prevent new introductions of these harmful insects. Before you can pitch in to prevent the spread of these invasive pests, you’ll first have to learn what to look for and how to report them. Visit this page to learn how to identify spotted lanternflies in their various life stages and familiarize yourself with common "look-alike" species so you don't squish one of the good guys. Finally, bookmark this reporting form so it's easily accessible if you do happen to find yourself face-to-face with a spotted lanternfly.

Thank you so much for doing your part. Hopefully the changing leaves and fall flowers are the only eye-catching colors you spot this season!

September Update on AEP New Buffalo-Bridgman Transmission Line Rebuild Project

Posted on September 8, 2023

As a follow-up to the open house held in June, AEP recently sent a letter to landowners along the transmission line route, including COL (and posted an update to their project website). The update states that AEP project team members are evaluating feedback and will be researching issues and concerns to identify potential solutions. The letter indicated they would be sharing further information in late September.

 At this point though, few questions have been answered and many concerns remain, particularly with communications between AEP and our community. To this end, a citizens group is coalescing to be a voice for landowners directly impacted and the community as a whole. “Protect Our Townships Alliance" is a citizen advocacy group dedicated to ensuring our community is enhanced, and not diminished, in the interest of infrastructure advancement. An overall goal will be to improve communications between AEP and the community and to strive to create a partnership with AEP to evaluate the project plans, address community questions and concerns, and develop solutions in a comprehensive and inclusive manner.

The Alliance has a petition to AEP available on its website for community members to let their voices be heard. We encourage you to visit or email for more information, to sign up for future updates from the Alliance, and to learn how you can help or be involved in the effort.

Milkweed—It's Not Just for Monarchs!

Posted on September 1, 2023

Who’s that cutie? The fuzzy, tiger-striped caterpillar pictured here will grow up to be a milkweed tussock moth…if you let it eat your milkweed, that is. Often mistaken for a pest, these caterpillars are actually native, and they don’t cause any substantial harm to the milkweed plants they feed on. In addition to being mistaken as a nuisance, this species is typically overshadowed by the most famous milkweed consumer- the monarch caterpillar. Some monarch lovers express concern that milkweed tussock moths might eat up all the milkweed, leaving monarchs without a food source. While milkweed tussock moth larvae consume leaves more quickly than monarch larvae, they are not considered a threat to the monarch population.

Milkweed tussock moths are most striking as mature larvae (when they are caterpillars like the one pictured). The bright, contrasting colors are a signal to predators that their bodies contain toxic cardiac glycosides, which they get from eating the milkweed plant. They retain this toxin into adulthood, but they don’t keep the striking coloration. After overwintering in brown, hairy cocoons, they emerge in spring as understated, mostly brownish-gray moths with yellow-orange abdomens. Instead of warding off their enemies with a coat of colorful armor, the adult moths deter bats—their #1 predator—by emitting an ultrasonic signal. This signal alerts the bats that the moths are poisonous and undesirable.

So, next time you notice that someone has been munching on your milkweed, look for these cutie pies. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’ll let them feast on your plants, but remember, they’re just doing what they’ve evolved to do AND species diversity is necessary for ecosystem health! Even if you’re not attracting your target species to your pollinator garden, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the species you are attracting doesn’t also belong there.

So, what do you do if you’re worried these guys aren't leaving enough food for the monarchs? Plant more milkweed, of course!

Walking in a Webby Wonderland

Posted on August 18, 2023

Picture this- you’re waltzing through the woods, enjoying the late summer foliage and warm weather, when SMACK! You find yourself face-first in a sticky spiderweb, and you’re 99.9% sure the spider that used to be in that web is now in your hair.

This time of year, that web might belong to the spider depicted on this page: the spined micrathena (Micrathena gracilis), or the spiny orb-weaver. These spiders are most active towards the end of summer through early fall and are very common in wooded areas. They're notorious for spinning their circular webs at about eye level, directly in the middle of a trail. Sorry, hikers...we've all gotta eat!

The spikes are thought to deter predators from eating these spiders (seems legit...they definitely deter us). While their appearance may be unsettling, you don’t need to run screaming in the other direction, vowing to never hike again. Despite their unique shape, these spiders are harmless to humans. They typically choose to flee rather than fight, and even if they do bite—they aren't venomous. They might, however, make some noise. Spined micrathena are able to emit a low-pitched buzz (called stridulating) when they feel threatened. And no, we won't be testing that out.

These spiders are common from the Northern and Eastern US all the way down to Costa Rica. Females (like the spider pictured) have five pairs of those trademark spikes and are typically black with white markings, but their coloring varies. Some are almost entirely white with orange or brown spots. Males look completely different; they're brown and white and have an elongated, flattened abdomen ending in a blunt edge.

Though not rare, many people have never seen one of these odd-looking arachnids because they're quite small. Females range from 0.25 - 0.5 inches in total body length, and males are about half that size. The name "micrathena" is a combination of the word "micro" (meaning extremely small) and "Athena", the Greek goddess of war. It's often overlooked that Athena is also associated with crafts, especially spinning and weaving, which is how this orb-weaver came to share her name.

So, next time you unexpectedly take a spiderweb to the face, take a quick peek at any remaining web on either side of the trail to see if you can spot this cool-looking creature! And no squashing!

Coming Soon to a Sky Near You

Posted on August 4, 2023

When you wish upon a falling space rock…

Okay, fine, the song just doesn’t have the same ring to it when you put it like that. Romanticism exists for a reason! Fairytales aside, meteor showers are pretty magical occurrences all on their own. Read below to learn more about the upcoming Perseid meteor shower: the celestial show coming to a sky near you.

First, what exactly causes a meteor shower?
According to our friends over at NASA (land protection…space…it’s all connected), meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits of broken asteroids. Comets leave a dusty debris trail behind them when they get close to the sun. Earth passes through these trails each year, which allows the bits of debris to collide with our atmosphere. When they do, they disintegrate, creating the colorful and fiery “falling stars” we humans love to witness.
When is the best time to view this meteor shower?
The Perseid meteor shower is actually visible from mid-July through late August, but the best time to view it is during the peak, when Earth is passing through the most dense area of debris in the tail of the Swift-Tuttle. This year, the shower is expected to peak overnight from Saturday, August 12 – Sunday, August 13. The pre-dawn hours are generally considered the most reliable viewing time (around 4 am on Sunday), but fear not—if you sway more night owl than early bird, meteors can be visible as early as 10 pm Saturday.
What makes this year so special?
With a little luck, this is expected to be the best show in years due to the moon being in one of the most desirable phases for stargazing. The moon will be ending its crescent phase just as the meteor shower reaches its peak, with only 10% illumination. The darker skies will make the meteors far more visible than in recent years when the moon was bright.
Is there a certain spot I should be looking?
Yes, you should look at the “radiant”, or the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to come. In this case, they appear to come from the constellation Perseus, which is how this meteor shower got its name. Don’t know where in space that is? Watch this! It’s important to note that the Perseids do not actually come from the constellation Perseus, even though that would make for an epic campfire tale.

Can you really catch a falling star and put it in your pocket?

You can try… this Nevada professor thinks he has it down to a science.

Enjoy your night under the stars!