Last February you might have seen news stories about an impending insect apocalypse.
“Huge global extinction risk.” “Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature.” “Insects are dying off at a scary rate.” And those were just the headlines on online articles from New Scientist, The Guardian, and Fortune.
Body-surfing monster waves in Australia; snowboarding down rooftops in Alaska on improvised boards; tobogganing into deliberate pileups at the bottom of steep hills — the range of unsupervised play that youngsters can get into is jaw-dropping. That’s not to mention the dangerous romping and horseplay, as well as rude games like spit-soccer in the pool. Honestly, they are such animals.
Biologists have long pondered why so many animal species evolved to play, occasionally at their peril. And to some extent, they are still wondering. Juvenile play in primates such as humans and apes is well-documented, and other mammals such as dogs and cats clearly play as well, but it turns out a surprising array of animals engage in frivolous games. » Continue Reading.
As a kid I was enthralled by TV nonfiction shows. Nova and Frontline had great stuff, but my favorites were Christmas documentaries like Frosty the Snowman. Over the years I’ve been disappointed that no further work seems to have been done on the many questions left hanging by the original researchers.
Take the whole glowing-nose thing. First documented back in 1939 by Robert L. May in his book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the story surrounding the phenomenon is well-known. Since no one has come up with a scientific explanation, I have decided to tackle the issue. Bioluminescence is a natural process wherein fungi, microbes, insects or marine animals emit light as a result of chemical reactions which they control, and there are a number of ways a reindeer may have naturally developed a lighted nose. » Continue Reading.
Being an arborist, I’m of course very mindful of complexion. Things like bruises and blemishes catch my eye, in addition to scabs, cuts, and even those out-of-place whiskers that appear out of nowhere. It sounds like a description of my aging skin, but I’m talking about blotches, warts and cuts that accumulate on tree leaves over the summer.
I suppose if we had to stand outside day and night all season, our skin would develop issues too. Those who work or play much outdoors need to be concerned about skin spots that suddenly show up. With tree leaves, that’s not the case – even the ugliest “skin” condition is generally no cause for concern. » Continue Reading.
A while back I had a few hives of honey bees parked at a beef farm down the road, tucked up against a stone wall just outside a pasture. One day the owner called to say that my bees had invaded a building in a barn complex and were laying eggs in manure puddles.
I went down to check it out, and the building did have a lot of buzzing insects butting their heads against the windows. I looked closer. They looked like honey bees, but… not quite. And there were weird larvae wriggling in water seeping from manure. » Continue Reading.
April showers bring May flowers, the calls of spring peeper frogs, and of course, backhoes. Yes, it’s construction season, which for arborists and trees is also root-damage season.
As far as trees are concerned, root injury is the source of all evil. Well, most of it, anyway; chainsaws and forest fires aren’t so kind to trees, either. But regardless of the worrisome signs a tree may develop, whether early fall leaf color, tip dieback, slow growth, or even some diseases and insect infestations, the problem is below ground in the majority of cases. » Continue Reading.
There are times when fish appear telepathic. Consider the uncanny way a school of bait fish moves as one to avoid a predator, or the way goldfish in their lighted bowl turn towards the glass when someone walks into a dark room.
Researchers often describe this ability as “touch-from-a-distance.” But fishy sixth sense is closer to hearing than touch. It’s what allows salmon to deftly ply the currents and eddies as they make their spawning runs upstream. They listen to the flow. » Continue Reading.
Halloween is ripe for haunting, ghosts and ghouls. My son is weighing his options between being a zombie groom or part of a ghostly orchestra for his art club’s Haunted High School in Saranac Lake this Friday. He knows that I am not the person to ask whether a fake severed arm looks real or if he should go with a gaping head wound.
I am not the family thrill seeker when it comes Halloween. If I were to look at bones I’d rather it be part of Mark Lawler’s program “Bones I Have Known” at Newcomb’s Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC). An instructor in anthropology, geology and environmental science, Lawler is leading an interactive program on Oct 25 from 1-2 pm to show how bones, scat and tracks of animals can be used for identification as well as to demonstrate survival. » Continue Reading.
Who’s in charge, my daughter wanted to know? She’d been given a tee-shirt that proclaims “Girls Rule The World.” Now she wanted to know: do they? Listen to my answer in this week’s edition of All Things Natural with Ed Kanze.
The podcast is produced by Mountain Lake PBS’s Josh Clement. Listen to past episodes by visiting Mountain Lake PBS’s Borderless North webpage at mountainlake.org/bn.
With this winter shaping up to be a cold one, spring may still seem far away. But with time and a little patience, we will soon start to notice the lilac leaves bursting from buds, the return of brightly colored warblers, and the ringing chorus of spring peepers in the evening. Any time you detect events unfolding in the natural world, you are making phenological observations.
Phenology refers to the study of the timing of biological activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these changes in the life cycles of plants and animals coincide with the seasons. Besides day length, factors that influence the timing of biological events include temperature, precipitation, snowpack formation and melting, and wind. » Continue Reading.
Worms, WORMS, WORMS! Sad but true—those lowly, wriggling saints of the natural world, hailed as creators and saviors of the soil since the days of Charles Darwin, are now known to represent an Evil Empire.
Well, maybe not evil. But it turns out that most North American earthworms were introduced from other continents, and the new arrivals, while doing some good in gardens, actually disrupt the ecology of forests, diminish the rich fabric of life in the soil, and even contribute to global warming. » Continue Reading.
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