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Time to get the traps out!

As usual, I found the first yellowjacket queen of the season inside my house (see "Queen Watch" in the list of this blog's March posts), and was alerted to its presence by my cat Cosette, who is fascinated by bugs.

I highlighted the speck to the left which is the yellowjacket...


Going in for a closer look...


That's a yellowjacket, all right!


Time to get the yellowjacket traps out and catch the queens!

April 26, 2005 in Yellowjackets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Slightly batty

Working for a pest control company for the past 9+ years, I have learned to avoid getting freaked out by most insects. I have come to appreciate that some bugs serve a beneficial purpose and should be welcomed to my home and garden, not squashed underfoot. I look at some of the insects collected by scientists in our R&D lab and say, "Cool."

Like many, I occasionally get some unwanted critters in my house. I give myself kudos because, thanks to my training at work, I can now calmly, rationally deal with the yellowjackets, beetles, box-elder bugs, moths and spiders that show up now and again. (Don't laugh -- I know these are really no big deal to most, but for me, taking care of such a problem myself means I'm learning and growing!)

But last night, my house was invaded by a visitor for which I was entirely unprepared. Actually, "visitor" seems too trivial a word for this gruesome intruder which produced sheer terror in my heart.

Arriving home near 10 p.m., I went in the kitchen to snack on some cereal straight out of the box. After crunching on sufficient handfuls of corn flakes, I opened the upper cabinet to put the box back. Something drew my weary eyes up to the moulding above the cabinet. It was then that I saw it.

Centerbats9_1 It was a bat.

Black, furry, and about four inches long, it hung silently, motionlessly from the moulding.

I wish I could say I kept a calm, level head about the situation. I wish I could say I didn't scream repeatedly and run out of the house frantically to bang on my neighbor's front door. I wish I could say that I pulled my work gloves on, carefully collected the bat and set it free outside so it could live to control the mosquitoes and other night-flying problem insects this summer.

I can't.

Many thanks to my level-headed next door neighbor Dale, who simply said "Cool" in response to my frenzied plea for help, and "Yup, that's a bat all right" when I took him into the kitchen to point out the offending creature. While I calmed down with a glass of Arbor Crest 2000 Dionysus and talked to his wife Rhonda in their living room, Dale took care of the bat and thoroughly checked each corner of the house.

"Took care of" is used euphemistically here. Yes, he killed it.

The bat's demise (and the wine) helped me sleep better. But today I'm experiencing a twinge of guilt. This is mainly because my mother, whom I called this morning to get sympathy for my ordeal, had a reaction I didn't expect: "You didn't have it killed, did you?"

On top of that, I was surprised to find a number of bat conservation organizations in my brief bat research for this blog entry.

Also adding to my remorse was this quote from the "bat" page of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered Species web site:

"Bats may be the most misunderstood animals in the United States, although as consumers of enormous numbers of insects, they rank among the most beneficial."

I know better now. I misunderstood the bat as it hung there above where I keep my food. The next time I see a bat, I will remember what good they do for humans. But I can't promise that I'll do things any differently if another one flies into my house. I have Dale, Rhonda and their wine collection right next door.

April 22, 2005 in Pest horror stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scientists discover 6-foot bug

6foot_bug_1 A few weeks ago, under our list of kids' questions about bugs, a second-grader wondered: "How big can bugs get?"

This story out of Albuquerque, New Mexico may answer that question. Thankfully, the critter is extinct.

April 20, 2005 in Bugs in the news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Rescuing" the Centennial Trail

Milemarker_1 As part of our service to the community, our company has adopted a mile of the Centennial Trail, a paved walking/biking/jogging path following the Spokane River from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to Spokane, Washington.

Groupatmilemarker_1 For those who have adopted a mile, this past Saturday was spring cleaning day at the trail. Our contingent of 13 included Sterling's President Rod Schneidmiller along with staff in the Research & Development, Marketing, Accounting, Customer Service and Shipping areas (and some family members!). Armed with shovels, brooms and garbage bags, we cleared the trail and surrounding areas of debris and enjoyed some great fellowship in the process.

Here's Rod and his son Steven starting to fill their bag...


And here's the great view of the Spokane River from our mile...


April 18, 2005 in Life at Sterling | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Immortalized in nature...

Former First Lady Barbara Bush has a rose named for her. Her son? A slime-mold beetle.

Slimemold_beetle72 Two entomologists recently had the job of naming 65 new species of slime-mold beetles. They chose to name three of them after President George W. Bush (beetle name: Agathidium bushi), Vice President Dick Cheney (Agathidium cheneyi), and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Agathidium rumsfeldi).

It wasn't intended as insult. The two former Cornell University professors wanted to pay homage to the U.S. leaders. Says Quentin Wheeler, one of the entomologists:

"We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or unpopular."

The A. bushi beetle is found in southern Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, while the A. cheneyi and A. rumsfeldi beetles are found in Mexico.

April 15, 2005 in Bugs in the news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Remote-controlled flies

Fly_1 The poet and humorist Ogden Nash once wrote:

"The Lord in His wisdom made the fly, and then forgot to tell us why."

But maybe there's a use for them after all. To understand how the brain controls behavior, scientists at Yale University School of Medicine have developed a way to manipulate fruit flies by remote control.

"Like a hypnotist who gets a man to act like a chicken when he hears a code word, scientists have genetically modified fruit flies to jump or beat their wings when flashed with lasers."

Scientists say the study could ultimately help identify the cells associated with psychiatric disorders, overeating and aggressiveness.

April 11, 2005 in Bugs in the news | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kids' questions about bugs, pt. 2

Here are some more fun questions from kids about bugs -- this time from fifth graders:

  • Do ants work all day?
  • What is the fastest bug?
  • What is the most powerful bug?
  • What is the smallest bug?
  • What insects are good pets?
  • How do ants climb up walls?
  • How do you get bees to come to a box beehive?
  • What is the purpose of ladybugs, worms, Goliath beetles?
  • Are there man-eating bugs?

Again, stay tuned for the answers to all these and more.

Got a question, kids? Ask it here!

April 7, 2005 in Kid stuff | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Gardening with kids

Gardeningwithkidscover Here's a helpful, free report about encouraging kids to get involved in gardening, courtesy of Doug Green at Simple Gifts Farm.

Lots of other resources on this topic are available on the web, but I was just made aware of this one through my connection with the Garden Writers Association.

Getting kids involved in gardening offers a whole host of benefits, fun and teaching opportunities.

Says Don Shor of Redwood Barn Nursery:

"Kids and gardening are a natural combination. There's dirt, it's messy, the textures are interesting; you can grow food; there are bright colors, interesting smells, even some water play. Kids like to garden until it becomes a chore, or has too many rules."

Sounds like fun to me.

April 1, 2005 in Kid stuff | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kids' questions about bugs, pt. 1

We are compiling kids' questions about bugs for a new project. These questions are from second graders at Valley Christian School in Spokane Valley, Washington. Once we got them talking, there was no shortage of curiosity from these kids. Here's a sampling:

  • How do bugs talk to each other?
  • How do they climb upside down and hang on?
  • How do they fly? How do their wings open?
  • Do they have tongues? Noses? Senses?
  • Why do lady bugs have spots?
  • How big can bugs get?
  • How do they make nests? Cocoons?
  • How long can they survive without food?
  • How do spiders walk on webs? How do they make webs?

Good questions... I'm just glad I don't have to answer them all! When our project concludes, all these and more questions will be answered, and we'll let you know where to go for our bug expert's responses.

Got any more bug-related questions from kids ages 7-13? Feel free to post them here. We may use them for our project.

April 1, 2005 in Kid stuff | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fly swatter game

Fly2_1 Here's some Friday fun: The fly swatter game. Score points by swatting flies. Let them buzz around a while before swatting and see how big they get. The larger the fly, the larger the splat.

Thanks to Oana for reminding me of this long-forgotten link.

April 1, 2005 in Amusement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack