Thursday, January 27, 2005

This n' That

Once again I have been off the internet for four days while my computer has been to the hospital. I now have the appropriate connection to network the lap top!

I had a good day off on Monday of this week. A friend of mine retired as postmaster of the little town of Clifton Kansas. Clifton, population 561, is located about 40 miles north of I 70 in east central Kansas. Small towns have a lot of pride, and Clifton is among them. They have a very nice web site. Things I learned are:

Main street is the county line so the south side is in Clay county and the north in Washington.

The city was once served by three railroads.

Kisby’s convenience store has pictures from Clifton’s past and finally,

They have a bluegrass music festival.

A fact that was not mentioned on the web page is that Clifton has a “suburb” across the tracks named Vining. There is a story there, but I can’t remember enough to write about it. Sometime I will ask my friend Judy to fill me in on how there came to be two towns so close.

Clifton is located in the Republican River valley. The Republican River continues south and east across Kansas until becomes Milford Lake. It leaves the lake and joins with the Smoky Hill River near Junction City (hence the name) to make the Kansas River. The Kansas River (locally known as the Kaw) then continues eastward toward Kansas City and the Missouri River.

The reason all this river trivia is important is that Dan and I grew up in that small area of farm land between the two rivers as they approach Junction City with Dan living closer to the Smoky and I the Republican. Milford Lake lies within a mile of my home place. It did not start filling until we were in our early 20s so we remember the valley before the lake was built well. It is late so I will write more about the “land down under” tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

RE: parasitoids

On Saturday I posted a picture of the seemingly beautiful cecropia parasitoid and I wanted to touch back on this subject before the busy week started.

I asked the question: who IS this guy? As I understand, a homeless female parasite latches on a caterpillar and then her babies are reared in the cocoon this caterpillar makes that will eventually turn into the silkmoth hence, cecropia (silkmoth) parasitoid. This sounds bad, and it is for the hapless silkmoth who is providing free room and board not to mention its life. However, it may not be, at least not always.

As it turns out, this is a very interesting subject. In an article by Dr. George Jeff Boettner, Entomology Dept., UMASS-Amherst entitled "When Biodiversity meets Biocontrol:The Thin Green Line Between Insect Conservation and Insect Control," Dr. Boettner

addresses insect conservation vs. insect control and the role that parasitoids or “hyper parasitoids” (just because you are a parasitoid, doesn’t mean there isn’t some hyper guy out for you) and chemical control can sometimes play in the balance.

An amazing fact is the mortality rate in the insect world. How many of 500 eggs that will eventually become Monarch butterflies need to survive to maintain the species? On the other hand, when female gypsy moths lay 500 eggs in their lifetime, how many must be eliminated to prevent major damage?

In the butterfly 500 egg example, if the Monarch butterfly maintains a 99.2% survival rate, that butterfly would double every year (providing the right male & females live) and we would all have ample opportunity to see these lovely creatures.

On the other hand, to quote Dr. Boettner:

In the second conservation example involving pest control, we need to maintain mortality between 99.7% (starting to decline) and 100% (local extinction) or we will soon be fired or replaced. With species such as the
gypsy moth which can outbreak at millions of caterpillars per hectare, it might look and feel as if we are killing a lot of caterpillars by averaging 90% mortality; however, if the population has a 50/50 sex ratio, it is increasing 25 fold per year. In other words, if we maintain 90% mortality …, in five summers the population could be nearing 10 million critters! The “big difference” between insect conservation and insect control … is a mere fraction --1/2 of one percent -- of total mortality. Both insect conservationists and insect pest control workers are walking a very thin, green line around population stability.

My guess is that my brother and nephew who farm as well as my son-in-law who sells farm chemicals would view this article differently than biologists such as Drs. Jeff and Chip—or maybe not.

Sunday morning brunch with Bluebird & Finch Posted by Hello

Junco is unwelcome Posted by Hello