Bugs may mean a nice start to the warm-weather season.
The spring season is unfolding as it should, with gradual temperature increases and fewer of those extreme hot and cold flashes that crop growers and wildlife watchers experienced during the unfolding of the 2012 spring season.
Given the nice growing conditions, with that nasty touch of frost and near-frost last week, everything, including fruit, vine, bush, veggies (above and below-ground), and grasses are off to a substantial start.
But calendar watchers note that the last peak year for cicada hoards was 1996, which means that this is the 17th year in their cycle. Bloggers and Facebook folk delight in seeing these monster flies fly through and leave their mats of body casings at the end of their mating cycle sometime late this coming summer.
Growers of everything from field crops to small outdoor flower gardens have concerns about cicada damage to plant, bush and tree leaves. Cicadas suck up watery sap from leaves, which does not affect trees and shrubs as much as smaller (flower and veggie) growth.
One USDA source suggests netting draped over susceptible crops with the first sightings or nearby reports of cicada movement. Another expert suggests holding off on planting new tree stock until the fall season this year.
All this news came the day after we planted new and replaced dead stock of trees, bushes and vines out back. Surviving fruit trees and vine crops have shown exceptional buds and new-fruit starts this season; this mature stock saw a 90 percent loss in fruit crops during last spring’s yo-yo heat-and-frost cycles. Nice as it sounds as a suggestion, netting on 60-some trees and 20-some grape vines would be a costly and daunting task, plus winds here would have that netting on the ground more than on leafy branches.
At this point, cicadas have emerged as far north as Connecticut and have been a menace in many parts of Virginia. Western New York observers have yet to see these creatures, but that could change as area fields and forests warm to temperatures comparable with mid-south states. In some areas of Virginia, entomologists (bug studiers) found as many as 350 cicada in a nest hole in an area of one square meter, about the size of a picnic table top.
On the plus side, a LiveScience report cited cicadas as a nourishing food source. Cicada chefs have put together recipes for everything from dumplings to cicada banana bread. University of Maryland food experts known as “cicadamaniacs” refer to them as “the shrimp of the land” and have put together an on-line cookbook worth check out for content.
Meanwhile, each year new or new-sounding products come on the market to help pet owners with tick infestation.
Seen more frequently in wild game animals, deer and other field creatures often bring them into areas where dogs, cats and other domesticated beasts suffer tick attacks.
“We see them more in animals that are afield in Pennsylvania and valleys along the Lake Erie corridor,” said Dr. Louis Budik, a veterinarian at Transit Valley Animal Hospital in Clarence. Budik noted his practice does not see as much tick infestation as areas south of Buffalo along creek beds such as Eighteen Mile Creek and Cattaraugus Creek.
Mike Martinez of Lakeview writes, “I have had three instances of tick contact in areas where in all my years of trail stomping I had never seen one.” Martinez noted one site as the fishing access site at the mouth of Eighteen Mile Creek.
An informative source for tick information, and a prediction for an exceptional tick population in 2013, can be found at: veterinarypracticenews.com, scroll to tick-populations-to-explode.
They call them “skeeters”, but they come in all kinds of mini sizes and maxi bites. Mosquitoes buzz, but black flies, no-see-ems and deer flies just dive for open areas of human skin and dig in.
Many a popular product gets marketed this time of year across the U.S. and Canada, and several have worked effectively for area outdoors folk who get out locally. This time of year the outdoors sell circuit is abuzz with everything from aloe-based spray, cream and goo to organic- and chemical-type bug repellents.
Deep-south folk have a special need for bug deflection, but far-north forays during the warm-weather season can bring out biters that match if not exceed a swamp romp.
Curiously, on one of our trips to the Jekyll Island area of Georgia years ago we came upon non-chemical repellent called Swamp Buddy Bug Chaser that beat off bugs in that area during day and night outings.
Its lemon-peppermint odor has worked well on trips to northern Ontario and Quebec, eastern Newfoundland and as far south as the Cape Town area of South Africa.
This company has never sent us samples; we buy bottles on line and share them with buddies being bitten just about everywhere bugs start swarming. Check out its content and applications at swampbuddy.net.