Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pulling the Cover Boards

This week I am collecting the herp cover boards we set out over a month ago. We have completed our sand skink assessment and it is now time to remove the boards. Unlike when I was checking them, now I am not raking the soil underneath. Nevertheless, I am seeing far more critters now than when doing the actual survey, and I think it is due to mainly to the weather.

It has become much wetter now that summer afternoon thunderstorms are everyday, several-times-a-day events. This has created conditions under the boards moister than during the spring survey, which in turn has apparently selected for mesic ground dwellers based on my observations.

I also suspect that the longer the cover boards stay out, the more herps they attract. First, the herps have to find the boards, and secondly the boards have to settle in and volatilize off some of their glue chemicals.

Another factor seems to be that particle boards absorb more rain water than plywood, swelling up and remaining cooler. Herps, therefore, do not need to burrow down to escape the summer heat, so they stay on top of the sand where I can easily see them. Therefore, even though I do not like particle board, that's what I am taking back to plant all over the woods of a friend.

Numbers of anole lizards (Anolis carolinensis and sagrei), scrub lizards (Sceloporus woodi) and roaches (3 species) are down, so I suspect the moister conditions select against them. On the other hand, since numbers of snakes are up, perhaps they are just getting eaten?

Yesterday I caught a juvenile coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) and a milk snake (Lampropelits triangulum). I thought that was a pretty good day but then today I caught another three juvenile coachwhips and four milk snakes! When was the last time you caught four milk snakes in a day? Perhaps this is a common occurrence in the herpetological world?

Ordinarily I would not catch the snakes, but today I was afraid they would be snagged by a hawk if I left them out in the open, so I grabbed each of them and tossed them into cover where hawks could not easily see them. I am also seeing daily maybe three dozen southern toads (Bufo terrestris), a few narrowmouth toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis), and plenty of six-lined racerunners (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus). Saw a skink today that was probably a five-lined skink (Eumeces inexpectatus).

Spiders have increased hugely in number under the boards. They are underneath nearly every board. There is a woolly black web spinner that I think is a scrub specialized species, which I want to look up but not tonight. The second commonest spider is the black widow (Lactrodesmus sp.). I have undoubtedly seen more black widows yesterday or (not and) today than I have seen over the rest of my life! And they all ran away from me, thanky.

In case you are wondering, I checked appx 400 boards daily during the spring and am removing appx 500 boards daily now. If you cipher out the math it might seem that the rate of observations is low. Remember, however, that the habitat has a carrying capacity, and therefore it is possible that a greater density of boards would produce few or no more herps.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Honeybee crisis? Hardly!!!

An article by Green Daily (http://tinyurl.com/pcy98d) has prompted me to write this post.

Plants have been pollinated by wind, water, insects, bats and other vectors for hundreds of millions of years, long before the european honeybee evolved or was dispersed world-wide by beekeepers. None of the honeybee hoopla propounded by agricultural interests acknowledges this important point.

Grains like wheat and rice are pollinated by wind, not eurobees. Any suggestion that a loss of eurobees will have a significant impact on grain production would be a damn lie.

Similarly, in my own garden are numerous species of pollinators busily working the flowers. In fact, rather few of humanity's crops were pollinated by the eurobee until relatively recently. Not surprisingly, those plants continue being pollinated by insects other than the eurobee. Our crops will not be lost despite what we are being spoon-fed by concerned but ignorant ag interests.

Conversely, I suspect that a severe decimation of the world eurobee population could result in an increase of other pollinators that could quite easily make up the difference. Think about it: Ecological science teaches us that a finite resource will support more individuals of multiple species than of a single species. Thus, if the world's eurobee population is decimated, it is far more likely that native pollinators will take up the slack than it is that ag production will fall off. Indeed, it is even possible that there will be MORE pollinators if the eurobee is decimated!

Another factor to consider is that a huge amount of our "produce" is actually feedstock for the meat-raising industry. Perhaps when we eat less meat we will see a decrease in ag acreage, a decrease in pesticide usage with a concomitant increase in natural pollinators and fewer human cancers, a lower eurobee density which could reduce the number and severity of eurobee disease irruptions, and a rise in the diversity and richness of natural insect pollinators, among many other benefits.

I am an ecologist that cares far more for species diversity than for tunnel-visioned parochial concerns over a single kind of bug. I am gratified to know that my vegetable and herb garden is pollinated by miner bees that nest in the sandy clay bank outside my back door, by dung beetles that assist in decomposing raccoon feces under the cabbage palm fruiting inflorescences outside my front door, and by the crab spiders sitting on flowers a-waitin' hapless eurobees to step into their parlors. And, none of the latter species sting me, either, LOL.

The on-going population deflation of the eurobee is yet another example of humans overpopulating earth with monocultures to such an extent that disease vectors evolve quickly into new strains of pests. Ecologically, the irruptions of eurobee diseases are inevitable, after all, this is what happens eventually to so many if not all of our agricultural and horticultural species. Eventually, this could happen to us, too, as we continue to believe that we all have the “right” to have as many children as we want.

Only those who are ignorant of entomology, ecology and history could think that the loss of a single species of pollinator would result in staggering losses to the ag sector. No, it is a 100 percent certainty that we will find ways around our dependence on the eurobee. Any suggestion to the contrary should demand long term empirical evidence before being given any credence.

Let's stop bee-ting around the bush and acknowledge that our ag problems are the consequences of human overpopulation.