Journal archives for June 2012

June 01, 2012

St. John's Wort

Back to Pepperwood yesterday to resume the invasive plant clearing; only with a special focus on SJW.

As noted in my last post, the idea is to encourage the spread of these monomaniacally wort-eating beetles in the preserve. So far, a few patches of Wort are looking pressured by a vigorous infestation of these almost ladybug sized irridescent creatures; in other areas few or none are seen. Accordingly, we 'harvested' some from highly populated patches, and hand transferred the bugs to fresh pastures...

We realized we were conducting an unstructured experiment. One might argue that the beetles themselves would be best at this without our dubious help. as it was, there's no way to entirely strip a plant of it's tormentors. Most drop to the ground at the slightest touch; so we couldn't get more than a third of them with the greatest care.

I've wondered a bit about their love for this toxic plant. There are indeed neurochemicals--perhaps with mood-elevating virtues--in these plants. I read briefly that the insects have special adaptation to tolerate them safely. Thus, their love of Wort seems likely to be one of those things like monarch/milkweed or longwing/passionflower where a species specializes completely because of a king-hell predator deterrent. Likely all this is known and carefully elucidated by entomologists.

Meanwhile,the march of the beetles, assisted or not, appears inexorable through the fields of Wort. We shall see.

Posted on June 01, 2012 18:44 by icosahedron icosahedron | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 28, 2012

Our Urban Raccoons

We've lived 30 years at this downtown Santa Rosa address, but until this year had never seen or heard of raccoons hereabouts. Of course, we are only a mile from forested hillsides that are more-or-less contiguous with the broad swath of Douglas Fir/Oak surrounding our little city; so it shouldn't be a shock. Deer and Turkey infest the region, and cougar and bodcat, coyote and fox are regularly seen quite closeby. But in general, those prefer to stay in the woods. Until now, the largest issue was with opossum in the 'hood.
Those are annoying enough, but easily deflected. When we moved in, there was a family in our attic; luxuriously snuggled in the heaps of blown-in abestos insulation. These needed eviction before we had that stuff removed; all it took was to cut a branch from an old cedar brushing our eaves. The 'coons will be more difficult.
I've seen these creatures be almost comically bold--like strolling into a trailcamp and snatching your sandwich--but ours are very tactful. The first sign was the rapid disappearance of dogfood from a 10 gallon galvanized can set temporarily in our breezeway while our mudroom was painted. I was puzzled to see the level of kibble sink day by day; not a particle was spilled so I first doubted it was going.... With the job done, our new neighbors started coming in the catdoor to the usual stash place; and were only revealed by the footprints I posted this spring. There's a ton of stuff in there, including bags of cat and dogfood, and never did we see the least sign of disturbance. Neither have our dog and two cats been disturbed at any point, seeming truly oblivious to this invasion of their turf.
First actual sighting came when my partner tried to fasten the catdoor closed. She didn't fully grasp the mechanism; which will adjust only to full open, to block entrance or to block egress. Setting it to block exit only, she thus trapped one mature and two juvenile beasts in the mudporch; and was wakened by their restlessness in captivity.
Subsequently, we tried setting the door to block entrance. Alas, the raccoons discovered in 2 days that you could lightly tap the 'closed' portal and induce it to swing out an inch or so. We thus provided an few more pounds of chow; only being clear about it because of footprints.
This morning at dawn I got my first look at an appealing bandit face coming in an upstairs window. When our eyes met, it silently withdrew.

My naturalist friend inform me that you can't really do anything except board up your house. It's OK to trap them, but not to relocate or harm them. This hardly seems fair. Take it easy? Day by day, I think more often of coonskin caps, or better a timely revival of the raccoon coat. Moreover, I understand the old Joy of Cooking had a tasty recipe that could come in handy... And I'm never again harboring censorious thoughts about those good rural citizens grinning 'round a tree while their leaping hounds bayed at the poor dear creatures clinging frantically to refuge just inches away from their slavering jaws. What a great idea.

Posted on June 28, 2012 14:59 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment