The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub,

Canada thistle. Japanese Beetles. European Starlings. Eurasian Collared Doves. Queen Anne’s Lace. The list goes on, and the latest import, probably traveling aboard lumber on ships, is the Asian Giant Hornet….this according to the “New York Times” and other current publications. The creature is almost two inches long, color similar to that of a tiger, with a stinger that zaps one with an incredibly painful sting! The good news is that currently they are contained to British Columbia and a small part of Washington State. May they stay there, and be eliminated.

The subject comes up as a result of the number of local negative reports regarding the bald-faced or white-faced hornets harassing humans, hummingbirds and orioles at grape and sugar-water feeders. They emerged around 1 August, and as more worker hornets have appeared, they are a real nuisance and more. One may let nature take its course, or take down the sweet feeding stations. The hornets will be around until frost, continuing to build football shaped nests, multiplying workers. The workers will die over winter, leaving the impregnated queens in wood piles, to begin the process again another spring and summer. The good news, they are pollinators.

Our beloved chimney swifts have been coming to roosts since 1 August, dropping into large chimneys in Henderson and LeSueur after sundown. Whereas we once had seven chimneys to check on the roosting birds, we now have just ONE. Numbers have wavered, but as autumn arrives, our hope is that numbers will increase. Chimneys of the past fourteen years where we’ve observed have either been capped or destroyed. As we count every evening, the greatest numbers of birds finding rest for the day’s adventures in the skies have been between 500 and 600. How they all fit into the old brick aperture on their trip to Chile, Peru and Brazil, we’ll probably never know. Should you come across a ‘swift’ roost, we’d be pleased to know, contact 665.2658.

Personnel from Monarch Joint Venture, a group dedicated to building restoring and enhancing monarch habitat, spent a morning on our property assessing milkweed growth. One of their tools is a DRONE. In early August, a specialist skilled in the use of a low-flying drone, checked private properties for numbers of milkweeds which had sprung up from seeds self-generated in 2022. This saved much human time and energy on a beastly hot day, to locate milkweed pods for September harvest. The pods of the plant and their contents, have many uses including distributing seeds to people to plant for 2024’s milkweed crop, thus attempting to preserve the monarch butterfly from extinction. “Planting milkweed is a great way to help other pollinators, providing valuable nectar resources to a diverse suite of bees and a great way to help other pollinators, providing valuable nectar resources to a diverse suite of bees and butterflies.” (Monarch Joint Venture.”)

White snakeroot, a wildflower which grows in shady forest edges, is having a great summer in spite of heat and drought. This is the plant which killed many a settler in the 1800s, in fact, Abe Lincoln’s mother was one of the victims. Farmer’s cattle ingested the white-flowered plant in August, the milk from the cows was thus tainted, people drank the milk not knowing of the danger, and misery and death often followed. You won’t find the plant in roadside ditches or fields, accessible to cattle, as most of our milk comes from sanitary dairies. So, kids, drink your milk, eat ice-cream without fear. Lots of other things to be concerned about.