KIDS: Alien Invaders in Connecticut

{Spotlight Page Header} In the Spotlight
 
 
 
 

No, not the scary kind from outer space you watch in movies but one you may have already seen or heard about.
 
{Cartoon Drawing of a Scary Space Alien}
Not this Kind of Alien!

When people go on vacation they visit a town or a place and enjoy playing there for awhile and then after a week or two they go back home. There are some animals that came or were brought to Connecticut and decided to live here. Can you imagine if everyone that ever visited Disney World decided to stay and live there? What a crowd that would be! There may not be enough houses for them, or enough food, it might get so crowded that the people who were living there may have to move.

There are four Aliens I'd like you to learn about.
 
Zebra Mussels
 
{Picture of a Zebra Mussel}

No, not a zebra doing weight lifting, but a kind of shelled creature that lives in the water. There are so many in some of the lakes in Connecticut that scientists and biologists are getting a bit worried. They are eating up all the food the other plants and animals need.

It looks like the mussels were stowaways on a ship from Europe. They were discovered n 1988 in the Illinois River. That is pretty far away from our state so you are probably wondering, "How did they get to Connecticut?"

Well, it's really pretty simple. They attach to the bottoms of boats and can live out of water for a few days. When a boat gets taken out of the water and put on a trailer and is towed to another state and gets put in the water there, the mussels fall off and start vacationing in their new lake playground. Little by little they traveled to Connecticut! Now people are trying to figure out how to make them leave.
 
Southern Flying Squirrels
 
{Picture of a Flying Squirrel on a Bird House}

Again, the name of this little critter makes it sound like something out of a comic book. Maybe you've never heard of a squirrel that can fly? Actually the squirrel can't fly but it does glide. And it has made its home here now and the smaller Northern Flying Squirrel that used to be here in bigger numbers has not been seen as often.
Southern flying squirrels are gray with some darker colors and a creamy color on their bellies. They have large dark eyes because they are nocturnal. They have a flat tail and a piece of skin that goes between their front and back legs.
 
These squirrels feed on the fruit and nuts from trees. They especially like oak, hickory and beech and Connecticut has a lot of those. They gather acorns and hide them to eat during the winter. If they run out of acorns they can eat insects, flowers and many other things.
 
White Cabbage Butterfly
 
{Copyrighted Picture of a White Cabbage Butterfly}
Used by permission of Bonnie Rannald

A butterfly that is an alien? Yes. The White Cabbage Butterfly was accidentally brought to Quebec, Canada in 1860. Now that was a long, long time ago and they are now very common on our continent. These butterflies lay a lot of eggs and can do that five or six times a year which is why there are so many of them. Their caterpillars are pests in the garden. They love to eat the leaves on plants that farmers are trying to grow to feed us! Vegetables like cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

This is usually the first butterfly you will see in the spring. Look for it this year.

 
European Starling
 
{Picture of a European Starling}

Sometimes a person has a good idea that goes bad and this is the case with the bird called the Starling. A man named Shakespeare who you may have heard about was a writer. He named a lot of birds in his writing. A fan of his wanted to bring to the United States all the birds Shakespeare wrote about and he did in 1890. The Starling was that bird.

The Starling liked the United States so much his family now lives all over our continent and in great, great numbers. You probably know people who like to live where it is warm and others who don't. Well, the Starling, it will live anywhere, the country, the city, in the forest or near a pond and it eats a lot. They are very aggressive and will take over nests used by birds that were here first like the Eastern Bluebird. You see many more starlings than bluebirds.
 
Other Alien Species in Connecticut
 
For a list of other invasive species in Connecticut, please vist the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's website at http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2702&q=323494&depNav_GID=1641
 
 
Nocturnal - This describes animals that are quiet or sleep during the day but are very busy and hunt for food at night.
Aggressive - In an animal this would mean they were strong, competitive or pushy.
Stowaways - Someone or something that hides on a ship or train to get somewhere so they don't have to pay for the ticket.
 
 
 
{Picture of Ranger Kirsten}
 
You may ask Ranger Kirsten a nature question through her email rangerkirsten@kmw.com
 
 
 
Images and descriptions on this page may be used freely by students and teachers for educational purposes except where noted. All other uses are prohibited under United States Copyright Laws without the written permission of the author. For information contact rangerkirsten@kmw.com
 
Please submit comments on this page or suggestions to connectkids@ct.gov
 
 
 
 




Content Last Modified on 1/31/2012 8:33:23 AM