To paraphrase Marvin the Martian, a cartoon character whose attempts to conquer Earth were always foiled by Bugs Bunny, “Zap first and ask questions later.” The little alien with the big Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator ray-gun was so jumpy that he zapped anything that moved. In the end, though, he never hit anything which could remotely be considered a threat. [Read more…] about Kill Your Bug Zapper And Do The World A Favor
The term psithurism (sith-er-ism) doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s not meant to. The word, from the Greek psithuros (whispering), indicates the melody that rolls off pine needles in a gentle wind. It also means the sound of “proper” leaves shaking in the treetops.
Obviously, we need another word, because these two things – whispering pines and rustling leaves – may both soothe us, but they sound quite different. [Read more…] about The Wind in The Trees, or Learning to Speak Pine
To a highly mobile species like humans, the fact that other animals relocate their families – or entire populations – isn’t a big surprise. We know historical migrations have been the norm, though the fossil record shows that generally these changes happened at a snail’s pace.
The “Great American Interchange” in which northern animals spread southward and South American critters expanded north during the Pliocene Epoch, took a million years. Give or take a few, I assume. [Read more…] about Northern Tree Migrations: Nature on the Move
As someone whose job it is to help preserve trees, I find it ironic that in nearly every case I am saving them from us.
We injure their root systems, whack them with mowers and weed-eaters, plant them too deeply, and do many other things which jeopardize their health.
It would be terrifying if they could fight back in the manner of Tolkein’s magical Fangorn Forest. For one thing, tree work would be a lot more dangerous than it already is. [Read more…] about Protecting Your Trees
On the whole, Europeans did alright naming New World plants and animals. In example, they called a large brown bat species the big brown bat – kudos for accuracy. A few labels missed the target, like the sunflower relative dubbed Jerusalem artichoke, even though it’s unrelated to either. Some names are partly right: the tufted titmouse has a tuft, but it’s a songbird, not a mouse. [Read more…] about Great Blue Herons: A Primer
Our eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), monumental in a number of important ways, is now imperiled throughout much of its range south of the border. Unfortunately, we can expect that to become the case in Canada in the near future. [Read more…] about White Pines at Risk
I imagine there was a lot more hand-wringing prior to the Covid-19 lockdown in Switzerland as compared to other countries, because since 2008 it has been a federal crime there to isolate social animals. Makes you wonder if Swiss authorities have brought charges against themselves yet, or whether they’re waiting until after the crisis lets up. [Read more…] about Social Isolation: Live Long and Prosper Together
One of the perks of having trees nearby is that social-distancing rules don’t apply – you can hug as many as you like without risk of contracting Covid-19. Another benefit, of course, is shade.
When the heat’s on and you need to lie low for a while, it’s great if some of your friends are shady characters. Especially if they’re tall, mature types with solid builds. Yeah, trees are cool. [Read more…] about Shady Business: Trees and Drought
You’ve probably seen these little fourteen-legged chimeras at some point, though you may not have paid them any mind since you were a kid.
Part shrimp, part kangaroo, and part armadillo, the ubiquitous pill bug (Armadillidium vulgare) is a harmless, if sometimes annoying, critter which scuttles about at night feeding on dead vegetation.
Also known as potato bugs or roly-polys, these are the guys that pull themselves into a tight little ball for protection when disturbed. [Read more…] about Pill Bugs: A Primer
I’ve been wary of lawns since about 1970 when I saw a public-service TV ad which featured a leafy green bundle dropping into an eerily vacant playground. A baritone, God-like voice issued a dire warning, something like: “Grass. We think it’s bad for kids. Stay away from it.”
My five-year-old mind rejected Mom’s account that some grass was bad but ours was OK, because she wouldn’t give any details about the bad stuff. It was a few days before I ventured onto the lawn again. [Read more…] about Keeping the Grass High