27°C (80.6°F) Warm weather has brought back our full complement of bugs, including Minnesota’s unofficial state bird, the mosquito. I’m trying to resist scratching bites on every exposed appendage I have, while fondly remembering the bats of Austin’s Bat Bridge
I once had the good fortune to experience how they cleared the air of mosquitoes almost completely – it was fantastic. I’d like to build a bat house here, though I’m still trying to figure out the right location.
I much prefer bats to mosquito control districts
, which is how Minnesota manages its mosquito “problem.” Their most visible approach involves spraying Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis
) from helicopters. Bti is supposed to be specific to mosquitoes, but as we’ve learned from other strains of Bt (in gypsy moth spraying and Bt corn
[Unfortunately, the original 1999 Cornell University study, Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae
, is only available to Nature
subscribers), it may harm other species without us knowing it.
Simply killing what bothers us can also cause unpredictable side-effects:
The larvae of the mosquito and the gnat are the favorite food of the trout in the wooded regions where those insects abound. Earlier in the year the trout feeds on the larvae of the May fly, which is itself very destructive to the spawn of the salmon, and hence, by a sort of house-that-Jack-built, the destruction of the mosquito, that feeds the trout that preys on the May fly that destroys the eggs that hatch the salmon that pampers the epicure, may occasion a scarcity of this latter fish in waters where he would otherwise be abundant. (from Man and Nature, by George Perkins Marsh)
I don’t know what the Minnesota mosquito’s food web is (I’ve never heard of Minnesota pond salmon
), but I have no doubt that killing mosquitoes here ripples through the food supply in equally unpredictable ways.
I think part(*) of why people dislike mosquitoes so much is that they subvert our cultural notions of superiority – that “higher” animals feed on “lower” animals, and that all animals eventually serve humanity. Nobody likes being somebody else’s food, if they can help it. That and their bites itch like the dickens.
(*) I know, I know: diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis and West Nile fever are the main
reason we dislike mosquitoes. I just wish we could (at least) be more aware of – and publicize – the positive role of mosquitoes in the environment before we decide to kill them.
Before it got too warm, I transplanted some more ferns – we thought they had died in a too-sunny spot, but foot-long roots testify to their powers of survival. They should have a much easier time in their new home under the crabapple trees.
18°C (64.4°F) It promises to be hot and humid today – a liquid sky.