Today's lessons: Let's learn about hornets, composting, butterflies and owls
It is just a tad humerous about the various tidbits of information I receive, or that I come across, or that I read about in various news sources that quickly pile up. This column is just one example of those tidbits that, by themselves, do not rate a full column but are still worthy when combined with other tidbits.
But you be the judge.
“Is the Asian giant hornet dangerous to humans?” Well, yes it is, and no, it isn’t. Anytime you combine “giant” with “hornet,” you should expect that there is an element of danger associated with it. This over-sized critter is no exception.
After all, this insect is over two inches long, and it is a real killer when it encounters a honey bee’s hive. When one or two of these nasty killers encounter a small honeybee hive they won’t generally leave it until it is wiped out.
They are enormously fond of honeybees and honey, and they are impervious to the honey bee’s stinger.
And, their stinger is something to behold but also to be avoided at all cost. You see, it is a quarter of an inch long, and barbed along its length to keep it inserted while the highly toxic poison is “administered.” One sting might not kill an adult, healthy human, but avoiding it altogether is a smart thing to do.
But not to worry too much. Only two have managed to somehow make the crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Japan and other Asian locations to North America. One was found in Canada, the other in the Seattle area.
Well, on to another subject. I vote for the governor of Vermont to be one of the dumbest people on this planet. Why? What brought that about?
Well, it seems that he signed a bill requiring everyone in the state who cooks meals to compost any and all leftover garbage.
Composting food scraps? It may sound like a good idea, and under more normal conditions it would be. But these are not normal conditions, mainly due to a surplus of black bears and other noxious critters. Most Vermonters will dump their food scraps within a hundred feet or so of their back door. That is just a minor detour for any hungry bear.
And lets not forget the skunks. Or the raccoons. And the other vermin and domestic animals that will quickly make nearby food sources part of their nightly rounds.
But it is black bears that concerns me the most. An unsuspecting person (man, woman or child) takes the family garbage out, confronts a bear at 10 feet or so, the house is a hundred feet or so away, and the person has nowhere to find another suitable shelter. That is a recipe for real disaster, so shame on the governor for his declaration on food scraps.
On a much happier note, I received a question from a reader. How many butterflies are there in the world and in this country?
Actually this question is very difficult to answer, and no one (of the so-called experts) can give an exact answer.
According to the Smithsonian Institution in Wash. D.C., there are around 17,500 different species. Of those, approximately 750 species call the U.S. and Canada home. But according to other “reliable” sources there are approximately 18,500 species world-wide, and 700 of them can be found in North America.
As a side note, several experts agree that there are approximately 2,000 species of butterflies living in Mexico. And yes, Monarch butterflies are being “tagged” in both the U.S. and Canada.
Some inventor somewhere is making tiny plastic tags with all sorts of information on them. They are placed under the left wings of these critters.
Great horned owls are one of my favorite birds. They are completely independent almost from the time they leave the nest. The eggs hatch during the end part of the winter, and it is not unusual for them to spend the first few days, or a week or more warmly nestled under their parent’s feathers. At the same time the parent birds are often covered with snow.
But the chicks do not spend too much time relying on mom and dad. Once they have “fledged” and left their nest, they might spend as much as 10 days before they take off on their own.
From then on, it is game on for their survival. And most do survive.
Anything from small dogs and large house cats to the smallest meadow voles becomes fair game for their almost limitless hunger pangs. They do not slow down their hunting until well into late spring or early summer. But they still seem to be opportunist at that point in their lives, catching and killing animals when they really are not hungry.
And they absolutely love to catch and kill skunks. It must be somewhat of a delicacy to them because those animals seem to be “targeted” wherever they are found. But not to worry about the odor. You see, they have virtually no sense of smell. Besides, they just love to eat skunks.
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com