Wild Wisdom

When you see honeybees in a patch of flowers, you might think each found her way there on her own, following the blooms’ scent. But actually worker bees (which are all female) learn about such sites from other bees and fly straight there from their hives, which could be as far as 6 miles away….

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Wildflowers are not only beautiful; they also tell us a lot about where they—and we—live. “If you’re walking through the woods and you see a pretty dramatic change in the plant community,” says AMC staff ecologist Doug Weihrauch, “take a look around and try to figure out why.” Changes in the wildflowers will often reflect…

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If you’re hiking in late March or early April and you hear an odd quacking in the woods, like a group of hiccupping ducks, you’re probably close to a vernal pool. The sound is the courtship call of male wood frogs, which gather to reproduce in this ephemeral but vital habitat each spring. Vernal pools…

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In winter, we often notice the signs of animals that are active on the snow’s surface, such as tracks left behind by a deer or fox. But another set of animals is active right beneath the snow, in the pockets of air between the snowpack and the ground. Small rodents like mice, moles, voles, and…

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Prions are intrepid, infectious proteins that are cockroach-like in their ability to survive. They’ve outlasted scientists’ attempts to destroy them using various means, including boiling water, autoclaves (high-pressure, high-temp sterilizing devices), and freezers. They’ve also made headlines because they are the cause of mad-cow disease and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, along with other fatal neurodegenerative diseases and…

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My sister-in-law used to talk a lot about coydogs. She didn’t want to let the cats outside in Vermont because she saw signs of coydogs everywhere. I kind of dismissed it (sorry, Jeanne), having heard somewhere that coyotes and dogs did not breed with each other. I assumed that what we heard howling at night…

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Since the beginning of time, snakes have gotten bad press. In fact, according to self-described “Snake Man” Rick Roth, “There’s no animal about which there’s more misinformation.” Thankfully, there are people like Roth, who is devoted to the reptile. The director of the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team and a carpenter by day, Roth frequently…

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It’s spring and a young male bumblebee’s fancy turns to, well, not much, actually. Because he doesn’t exist yet. Males don’t come along until later in the year. If you do happen to see a bumblebee zooming around this month (you’ll know it by the black and yellow “fur”), it’s most likely a queen. Fresh…

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Like mute swans and purple loosestrife before it, Oriental bittersweet reminds us to be content with what we’ve got. Unfortunately, as compelling as such beautiful strangers can be, they often end up wreaking havoc on our lives. The name “bittersweet” gives a pretty good indication of what life with this plant is like. In the…

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When citizens of the newly established United States were getting down to business in their unfamiliar surroundings, they had a long to-do list. One of those tasks was figuring out what all the species around them were. So, in the late 1700s, a group of Boston physicians and other educated men created a society dedicated…

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