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What Weird Bug Is This?!

June 15, 2012

3 Comments

I heard this muted buzzing sound while at my desk today. I looked over to my window and spotted this bee or beetle or something buzzing around. What the heck is this?!

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Anybody know? It looks like a cross between a bee and a box alder beetle. ?? I’ve never seen anything like it. My son through it was a beetle, but when I flipped the bug upside down, it “played dead,” curled up its body, and ejected a stinger. A yellow bubble of venom oozed out.

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What is this thing? I’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Is it a mutant honeybee?

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Please leave a comment if you know what it is. My curiosity is bursting!

Identification:
Head: Black and shiny. Jaws like an ant.
Thorax: Yellow fuzz, like a honey bee. The underbelly has a thin ring of yellow fuzz, too.
Abdomen: Black and smooth covered by two black wings with red stripes, like a beetle.
Legs: black and smooth. Front legs have feathery ends.

The bug is about 3/4-inch long, 1/8-inch wide. Moved somewhat slow. Could not fly, although wings lifted and buzzed a bit.
Has a stinger from which it ejects venom.

He was somewhat aggressive and distressed. When threatened, did not run away but instead stuck out his stinger.

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Bambi Meets Godzilla

April 21, 2012

3 Comments

Now that’s it’s spring and I’m surveying the massive damage to my vegetation and gardens, it’s time for my annual “I Hate Deer” post! Yay!

To start off this year’s festivities, I present to you a marvelous short film, Bambi Meets Godzilla.

I first saw this video more than 30 years ago! I was flabbergasted to see it on YouTube. We kids were around the television set when this little film came on sometime in the late 70s? I think it was done by a university student, as a school project? Can’t remember. It was on TV one fine Saturday afternoon. My brothers and I and my very little sister were watching it. Oh the sweet, lilting music! The adorable and soft sylvan setting! The innocent little fawn munching on my future hostas forest foliage!

All of sudden, HERE COMES GODZILLA! Impending doom.

The boys and I (quite the tomboy) rolled on the floor, laughing. My young sister, however, was aghast and shouted out in distress. For some reason, we all thought her angst was hilarious, too, and laughed even harder. It was tough being a girl in our family.

I never forgot that video. I even told my kids about it. Imagine my surprise to find it on YouTube!! I gathered them around the computer like a mother hen with her chicks, pressed the “Full Screen” key and turned up the volume. With swelling anticipation, I awaited their hilarious laughter.

The video ended.

Silence.

“Oh Mom’s so sadistic,” a daughter rolled her eyes. The other kids were quiet.

WHAT?!?! I think it’s cool.

Deer eat my gardens, they eat my trees, they poop in my lawn, they wreck all my hard work!!! Cheers to Godzilla. 🙂 Muahahahhaaha.

So who are you rooting for?

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Name That Weed

July 19, 2011

5 Comments

Befuddled by the billions of weeds cluttering your yard or garden beds? Curious about that odd-looking herb or a nasty plant that stubbornly resists your weed-thwarting efforts? Check out the garden.org/weedlibrary National Gardening Association Weed Library for identifying that plant. This is a very valuable resource for me. Not only do I have a lot of plants around the homestead, particularly weeds, but the kids are always doing something or another for their science courses.

I haven’t done ANY gardening (yet) this year. It’s just been too busy. Hopefully, we’ll do some major weed-pulling in a few weeks. This is what lies ahead of us….

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Break Out the Blowtorches, Hogweed is Here

July 11, 2011

3 Comments

Even the name insinuates the most noxious, insidious killer to lately crawl out of Asian cargo ships onto our purple-mountain majesty coasts: The Giant Hogweed!

It’s heeeeere! It’s native to Central Asia and it’s spreading toward the northeast. It’s already established in Michigan and Indiana. New reports are showing the unwelcome visitor arriving in Pennsylvania and New York State.

The Giant Hogweed is an invasive species, a member of the carrot and parsnip family. (I knew there was a good reason why I hate carrots!!). However, this family member grows to be a lot taller than Bugs Bunny’s meal of choice. The hogweed can grow to be 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It produces a disgusting number of seeds, too, to ensure that it ruins as much property as possible. *sigh* The British initially brought the hogweed home from Asia in the 19th century, planting it as an “ornamental” plant in special gardens. But like The Blob, Jurassic Park, and Killer Bees, things *kinda* got out of control and the species escaped captivity. Oopsie.

The hogweed has lace-like flowers very similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. The leaves resemble large, jagged dandelion leaves and the plant would almost be pretty were it not for one small problem: it’s viciously poisonous.

The plant produces a sap that burns human skin. God forbid it should get in the eye, or blindness can occur. According to the University of Illinois Extension:

Characteristics include hollow stems, between two and four inches in diameter, with dark reddish-purple splotches and coarse white hairs. Leaves are compound, lobed, deeply incised and may grow up to five feet in width. Flowers appear from mid-May through July. As with other members of the carrot family, the flower heads are umbrella-shaped, up to 2½-feet in diameter across a flat top with numerous small flowers.

The Giant Hogweed is sometimes mixed up with other members of the parsnip/carrot family. My husband came home wondering if he’d seen a hogweed planted by a mailbox, but the flowers were yellow. I think he probably saw wild parsnip. Other very similar plants are cow parsnip, wild carrot, poison hemlock and angelica.

Giant Hogweed has a thick, tuberous stem with very wide white lace flowers. It exudes a clear, sticky sap that causes photodermatitis. Skin contact followed by exposure to sunlight can cause severe burns and blisters that become purple or black blotches and scar the skin. VERY nasty.

I just don’t know how the Chinese manage, with all these horribly toxic plants and bugs that float around over there. In my opinion, I’d rather manufacture our goods here in the U.S.A. and avoid all the extra baggage in the cargo crates. 😐

Anyway, the Giant Hogweed is a “federal noxious weed” and therefore it is illegal to propagate, sell, or transport the plant. Do not pull, mow, or chop down the weed with a weed whacker. Doing so will release the sap. And, since the plant is a perennial weed (which means it will grow again even after the entire planet has been decimated by nuclear war), the Giant Hogweed will just keep coming back for more. Think of this plant as Bishop Weed from hell.

If you see the Giant Hogweed, alert the authorities. Who ya gonna call? The GIANT HOGWEED HOTLINE! I’m putting this number in my speed dial, people: 845-256-3111. If you see hogweed, call them. A hazmat team will arrive via black helicopters and blow the smithereens out of the noxious weed. YEAH, BABY.

OK, I jest. A hazmat team is *probably* not required. Nor are the black helicopters, but hey– black helicopters have descended upon DVD pirates in the local ‘hood, so ya never know….. this is a “federal noxious weed,” after all….

Some photos and information courtesy of hyg.ipm.illinois.edu/article.php?id=80

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Rose Vinegar for Soothing Sunburns?

June 23, 2011

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I’m not going to wait until somebody gets sunburn to try this out, so I’m mentioning it here now in case any of you have heard of such a thing: rose vinegar for sunburns. Some gals in the natural herbal section of the blogosphere are praising it’s benefits. I am definitely going to try it. I’m curious like that.

Here’s how you make rose vinegar:

  • Fill a glass jar with fresh rose petals and leaves.
  • Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar.
  • Cap the jar with a PLASTIC lid! Vinegar will eat through a metal one and discolor your vinegar solution.
  • Allow the glass jar to sit for 3 to 6 weeks.

To treat a sunburn, pour 1/4 of a cup of rose vinegar into a bowl. Mix in a few cups of fresh, cool water. Dip a clean, cotton cloth into the rose vinegar and wring lightly. Dab the sunburned skin with the rose vinegar. Apply as needed. Rose vinegar also helps cool insect bites and stings and heat rash.

I am definitely going to make it! I’ll have my scientific results for you in a few weeks. 🙂

LivvyDarling1

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Emerald Ash Borer: One Little Bug, So Much Damage

June 2, 2011

5 Comments

There’s a new bug in town. And yep — you guessed it — it’s a native of Asia. With all the bugs and diseases that comes from Asia, it’s any wonder that there are even ANY trees there. Yikes.

The latest news of doom to come from the cooperative extension is the emerald ash borer, a tiny, iridescent green beetle that kills ash trees. I love ash trees. They were a hearty replacement for the gigantic elm trees that one graced Main Street America. They died off by a beetle, too, in the 1950s and 60s. So now you know where the name “Elm Street” comes from and why there are no elms. The ash trees also grow to be giants. When we moved here, there was an enormous ash tree in the front yard. It must have been 40 feet tall. Unfortunately, it had been planted smack dab on the property line, and the neighbor took it down. 🙁 So he could put in an asphalt parking lot. 🙁

Photo from Wikipedia

Anyway, between chainsaw-crazy, asphalt-loving neighbors and the emerald ash borer, the ash tree looks like it’s in trouble. Really, there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do. It’s a BUG. We all know how pervasive bugs are– there’s no stopping them when they smell fresh meat.

The emerald ash borer is native to Russia, China, and Korea. It was first detected in North America in 2002, lurking in shipping containers brought to Canton, Michigan. The bugs (in containers) spread to Maryland and Virginia, and it really hasn’t taken long for the bug to reach the surrounding states and up into Canada. Now, it’s here in New York State. There are 7 billion ash trees at risk by this dumb little bug. The emerald ash borer has already chewed through millions of trees in the Midwest.

The ash tree is a commercially important tree to us. It’s a very versatile and dense hardwood. We use ash tree wood to make guitars, baseball bats, furniture joinery, flooring, milled products, tool handles, and millions of other materials where strong but flexible wood is needed. The sugary sap from ash was even once used by the ancient Norse in making their “Mead of Inspiration.” The ash tree is also an important shade tree since it grows so tall so quickly. The Northeastern White Ash can tower to heights of 100 feet.

The emerald ash borer kills ash trees by strangulation (called “girdling”). The bug lays its eggs beneath the surface of the bark, where the larvae tunnels around the sensitive phloem and cambium layers of the tree. The tree, unable to transport nutrients from its roots to upper trunk and branches, dies within 2 to 4 years from infestation. Good Lord. Since 2002, the bug has killed 50 million trees in North America.

The only thing we can do to stave off the pandemic is to be VERY careful about firewood we carry to camp sites and report the beetle should we discover it in our area. The Department of Environmental Conservation is taking this threat very seriously and has quarantined several counties in New York State (see maps below). See their page dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html for more information.

Image courtesy of DEC

Image courtesy of DEC

As far as we know, there is no natural predator to the emerald ash borer in North America. I read a story that a certain type of wasp was discovered on ash trees in China, so that may offer some help. I wish there was some kind of easy solution. Who knows what problems imported wasps will bring….

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Evil Deer, the Continuing Saga

April 27, 2011

2 Comments

My arborvitae are dead, me thinks. The deer had them for dinner over the winter, all 8 of them. $200 down the drain. 🙁

Speaking of deer, they are absolutely fearless. I saw them out in my backyard, munching grass. I was a little fearful that they’d devour my new little willow tree back there, so I went to see if they’d done any damage.

SOMEBODY in the area has been feeding them, domesticating them. Because as I drew nearer and nearer, they were not afraid. At one point, they started to bolt, but when I talked soothingly, they were willing to come right up to me. Oh, great.

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I live in a town, on a busy street. Deer are a growing problem, not only to us gardeners and the pets (deer spread Lyme disease through the scads of deer ticks they drop in our lawns), but cars hit them when the deer jump out into the roads. These deer were so docile that I could tell they were being domesticated, somehow. Not good. They should be driven out into their natural habitat, the forests in the back.

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BYOS: Buy Your Own Sofas

April 4, 2011

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Thinking about it makes me very queasy, but the topic must be covered. Bedbugs. *gag* *wretch* And I thought fleas were bad.

Bedbugs are making a comeback, especially in New York. Bedbugs were practically wiped out from the industrialized nations thanks to DDT. But DDT is now banned, and critters like malaria-bearing mosquitoes and bedbugs are coming back. The nasty disgusting creatures are spreading like wildfire in schools, hotels, even lawyer’s offices. YUK!!!!

I am a bit of a bug-o-phobe. I hate bugs, HATE the disgusting, dirty little creatures. The family is on quarantine— that is, no more thrift store clothing, and no more curbside or hand-me-down furniture. Not unless it’s fumigated!

We have some very nice furniture, some are pretty hand-me-downs from family members. But the sofas are much too large for my living room (which is crammed with desks and office equipment). We are thinking about downgrading to a smaller living room set. And to be honest, I’m very hesitant to take another hand-me-down, just because of bedbugs. Oh it would be horrible to have them, horrible! So no more second-hand anything. I’m going to have to be a very savvy shopper and get my discounts from the retail or online stores and etc. I’m not taking any chances.

How about you? Has news about bedbugs changed the way you do things? I am not 100% sure that bedbugs have been discovered in my county, but I don’t live dangerously. I’m allergic to fleas and God forbid a nasty bedbug touches my skin! From now on it’s BYOS– Buy Your Own Sofa!

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The Chimney and the Barn Owl…

January 31, 2011

9 Comments

…not a very good combination. 🙁

Do you hear that tinkling sound, the sounds of shards of glass falling to the cold, concrete floor? That’s my heart, busted into little bitty pieces. 🙁 A beautiful barn owl died in my chimney’s water tank duct last week.

It started late in the evening. I was upstairs, and the kids were eating dinner downstairs. Suddenly, a huge crash was heard in the first floor, or in the basement. The kids called me down to investigate.

We figured the sound was coming from the basement. This has been ONE heck of a winter, I tell ya. Deer eating everything, possums and raccoons are squirrels nesting in the house walls, the basement… ice dams the size of Goliath dripping down into the garage and inside the walls… *sigh* It’s not a happy year for home ownership.

So I expected the intruder to be a squirrel. We have a lot of squirrels, and they all seem determined to make my life as miserable as possible. They nest in the walls, loudly scratching and squeaking all night…

I had no idea if this squirrel was rabid. I was a little afraid of the what-ever-it-is in the ducting.

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I took a stick and banged on the duct. The thing squirmed and scratched. We wondered if it was a bird or a squirrel. It scratched like a squirrel, but it wasn’t as rough. Those of you lucky folks who have had squirrels nesting in the walls, you know what I mean when I say “sounds like a squirrel.” They have this unmistakable (read: ANNOYING) sound. But if it was a bird, why didn’t it fly back up through the chimney?And it was 10pm, what bird in its right mind would be flapping around the roof this late??

OK, I admit, NO, we DON’T have a chimney cap. Oh I know we should. The previous owners did us the honor of fixing the chimney (complete with lightning rod, the old pastor who lived her was deathly afraid if lightning), but never installed a cap, and never lined the chimney. So it’s a wide-open gaping hole for nasty squirrels and their riffraff.We haven’t had any problems with the chimney (that I know of) until now.

Anyway, the thing wouldn’t come out. I rapped on the duct a few times, but couldn’t drive the critter out. I tried to lift the ducting just a little, and when I did, I felt something furry at the end. EEK!!! I was now too terrified of lifting the ducting and having a live squirrel jumping out at me. I did what any respectable wife would do in such a circumstance: I’d wait for the husband to get home.

By the time he got home from work, it was very late and he was exhausted. I supposed the critter would have to wait until morning. Hopefully, he’d come out by then. The critter. Oh, and the husband, yeah.

Well, we went down next day, and I rapped on the pipe, hoping the scratching would cease. No scratching! The critter must have escaped! But the pipe made a dull *thud*. Oh no. It’s probably dead. Ugh. The Hubs geared up in his special superduperheavtyduty latex gloves (squirrels have sharp teeth, you know), and he lifted the ducting.

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I thought it was a squirrel.

He pulled it out and we both stared for a minute. I didn’t see the little squirrely ears. What happened to its head?!??!!?

Then it hit me. It’s a bird. Oh, Lord. I thought maybe it was an osprey, as we have some around here. The Hubs exclaimed, “It’s an owl!”

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I almost cried. That poor, poor owl. A squirrel would have deserved such a fate, but an owl?! Owls are good, gentle creatures. They don’t bare their sharp little teeth and maniacally chatter at me from the trees. Owls don’t steal the bird seed that I leave for the cardinals. That poor, poor owl! I was crushed. I regretted rapping on the duct. Maybe I killed him!! But then, maybe the fumes from the hot water tank overcame him.Wah!!!

So, a poor owl is dead. Wah. And we have to cap our chimney, pronto.

It will be a busy spring for me. The ice dams in the house are causing terrible leaks. We may need to repair the roof and do some interior repair work. What a winter. I can’t wait til it’s over!

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The Evil Deer

January 22, 2011

16 Comments

I hate deer. Yep. If you saw Bambi in the theatre as a child, and were shocked to hear someone cheering on the hunter, that was probably me. Me, or some other Upstate New Yorker. Because most Upstaters- no matter their political or religious differences– all seem to be in perfect harmony with our hatred for deer.

Oh SURE, deer are cute, especially the young ones. But heck, even baby alligators are cute. I don’t see any alligator-huggers out there.

Deer eat everything I plant in my yard. EVERYTHING. They have an entire forest up the hill and in the back from which to graze, yet they find my apple trees and red oak and my arbor vitae much more appealing. Look at the damage to my arbor vitae. 🙁 I could cry.

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They basically denuded the shrubs of their leaves. 🙁 🙁 Those things cost $25 each, and I planted a row of them as a privacy shield from the busy parking lot next door, where they have lots of social gatherings and trucks pulling in and out. Well, so much for the privacy fence. 🙁 To give you an idea of the extent of the damage, this is what the shrubs looked like last year before the eating machines with springs got to them:

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Yeah, we get floods here, too. The water drainage is poor (clay soil), the water table is high, and we’ve had our basement washed out a couple of times for us! We had to do it ourselves).

So I’m a little discouraged sometimes about the yard and gardens. It has been 13 years of hard, hard labor to try to make this small parcel of weedy, overgrown land into something cultivated and livable. But it’s been a vicious upward battle, believe me. Between neighbor kids chopping down my trees, the deer, the flooding, the pest invasions, the other neighbors diverting their runoff into my yard…. it’s been a battle JUST to have a couple of small gardens and trees. I have probably planted about 2 dozen trees on this property, only to have FIVE survive.

The deer have also been eating my new grape vine by the vegetable garden.

Yes, we have tried repellent. I have tried tin pie pans, soap, garlic/egg spray, dried blood, human hair, running outside and screaming at the top of my lungs… I’m seriously considering a 10-foot wooden fence. But then, they just might chew through it, and that’ll be another couple thousand $$ down the hole.

Wah.

Oh well, spring is coming. I’ll be able to see the full extent of the damage and work on it then. Know of any good commercial deer repellents?

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