Guest Blog – About Mosquitoes and Mosquito Control

By Danielle Bodner, Columbia Association

backyard enviMosquitoes are a summer buzzword, and for good reason. They can ruin outdoor time by mercilessly biting people and leaving nasty welts. Having spent a lot of time catching and staring at the tiny annoyances, I tend to look at mosquitoes in a different light.

Only female mosquitoes bite. The females bite to obtain the protein in blood that they need to produce eggs. There are many different species of mosquitoes, and some don’t bite humans. While all mosquitoes spend their first days swimming in water, different species prefer different types of water. From the salt marshes on the Eastern Shore to rock pools, woodland streams and backyard containers filled with rain water, there are many different places that the various mosquitoes breed.

The Asian Tiger mosquito is widespread in Maryland and particularly interesting. She prefers breeding close to homes and will lay eggs in as little as a bottle cap of water. You can distinguish them by the white and black striped legs and the white line down the head/ thorax.

The Asian Tiger bites all day long and does not fly very far from where they emerge. While not the primary Zika virus vector, the Asian Tiger mosquito could potentially spread Zika to humans. The Asian Tiger are more opportunistic than the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that are spreading Zika in Central and South America. This means that while female Ae. aegypti almost exclusively bite humans (requirement for Zika transmission), the female Asian Tiger are biting the first source of blood they find (i.e. dog, cat, bird, rodent, etc.), which will make it much more difficult for local transmission of the virus.

The 16 cases of local transmission of the Zika virus in Miami have been from the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Maryland is the extreme range for Aedes aegypti. Although they are technically here, it is in very low population density.

mosquitos

Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and larvae

Columbia Association conducts active mosquito surveillance in its open space, including identifying any mosquitoes found and encouraging natural mosquito predators, such as birds, fish, frogs, and other insects.  Columbia Association also provides public education through teaching residents about mosquito ecology, breeding sites and how to eliminate mosquitoes from their yards and help prevent diseases carried by mosquitoes.

The most difficult facet of mosquito control is convincing people to find and eliminate standing water in their backyard. You’re probably shaking your head right now, saying, “There isn’t any water in my yard,” but that is exactly the problem. Mosquitoes aren’t shining a light at you and holding signs saying, “Here we are!”

The backyard container breeders, like the Asian Tiger, are sneaky. This is exactly how they’ve managed to invade the eastern United States in such a short time.

Earlier this summer, I washed my car and left the empty wash bucket outside. Out of sight, out of mind; it sat for a week or two. Later when I went to retrieve the bucket, I found less than an inch of water in the bottom and enough larvae/wigglers to ruin a summer barbecue. It just goes to show that even the most diligent backyard mosquito hunter can still have standing water.

Take-a-way:Empty the water from buckets, tarps, planter dishes, birdbaths, bins, and watering cans on a weekly basis. This is the best way to take back your yard and reduce the mosquito population.

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Pokemon GO is brilliant – Whatever it takes to get people outside.

Pokemon GoI love the fact that I am seeing hundreds of people of all ages out on the paths during these hot days of summer. It took me a few minutes to appreciate what they were doing: they are all playing Pokémon GO “which allows you to find and catch more than a hundred virtual species of Pokémon as you explore your surroundings with your IPhone or Android device.”

I am still trying to understand why they are doing it. I did ask this question and received the following comments listed below. I think there is some real potential here for getting more people out of their basements and off of their couches to explore the real world while playing a virtual game. As you can see in some of the comments, these folks are starting to appreciate some of the paths and the special places that our ancestors have saved for us. Maybe a few of them will become stewards as well.

Kathy Smith It’s fun! It gets me outside, it allows me to talk with the people around me, and I’m learning a lot of trivia about the physical spaces around me (almost all of the pokestops where you can get virtual prizes are historical, artistic, or local landmarks). I’m really enjoying it. Yes, it’s a silly game, and yes, I’m a geek – but on the other hand, how many people play solitaire, or minesweeper, or any one of a hundred other games on their phones or tablets? But no one ever says anything about that … mostly because they’re sitting inside, alone. I’m enjoying this game that seems to be bringing people out and bringing people together.I’m highly enthusiastic about this game, Ned. I haven’t walked this much (regularly) since my walking partner up and moved to North Carolina.

Judy O’Keefe Kelsey says it helps learn the metric system and they are using it in PT to encourage kids to move. All good in my book as long as caution is used. I’m wondering if we’ll see this in the winter

Jen Cook I stopped to hunt Pokémon at a spot I’ve driven by all of my life. I’ve never seen egrets there before, just geese and ducks.

Chas Parr The week after it came out I accidentally walked more than six miles to Wilde Lake and back. I think it is a very positive influence despite the naysayers.

Ken Crandell I saw a ton of them roaming around Pismo Beach pier at night, too. Glued to their phone, but outside and walking, with some interaction with other actual real live people. So, it’s an encouraging development.

Sherry S. Wechsler While I am clueless about Pokemon Go, right after it was released my daughter Rebecca posted this: “Ok, I am not usually a big fan of apps and video games but am really a big fan of this new Pokemon Go. In the past few days We have walked over 10 kilometers, hiked Patapsaco Park, discovered a nature trail by our home, and walked our entire neighborhood multiple times. My kids have been outside nonstop and had a blast. We live in a digital world and if this gets people out and moving than I am all for it.” They have continued to explore. Of course, I did find myself in my typical Mom/Grandmother style cautioning her to make sure they all watch where they are walking and stay away from traffic, don’t focus on phone in parking lots, avoid cliffs, edges of swimming pools and watch for bicycles. 😊

Carol Weisman I still don’t understand the appeal of bellbottoms.

Take-a-way: I have been searching for ways to get younger generations outdoors. This game has done just that. It is now up to them to see what happens next.

 

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The Anthropocene merger of ecology, economics, and politics can no longer be ignored.

Anthropocene globeJedediah Purdy’s essay in AEON may be challenging bedtime literature but it’s worth reading, and rereading, if you want a more holistic view of our current planetary predicament.

I find his conclusions to be a theoretical exploration if not a remedy to the daily frustrations that I run into. The whole idea of being able to do nothing about everything does not sit well me. I much prefer the lessons we have learned in the past that we can change behaviors and cultures, but it often takes a lot of effort and it can take decades.

The Transcendental Movement of the early 1900s took decades but eventually changed the American perspective of the human ability to change – to change one’s situation, one’s place in life. It gave us the sense that we can achieve much more than the life we were born into.

The Conservation Movement of the late 1900s taught us that we can and should preserve our natural resources including lumber, land, water, and of course our great national parks. We went from a culture solely focused on exploitation to one that started to balance other qualities of life into the equation.

The woman’s suffrage movement also took decades as did the human rights for people of color and sexual preference.

limits of life on earthThe basic idea and struggle for human rights – such as the right to democratic standing in planetary change – allows us, in fact, impels us to challenge our institutions to create a better and more sustainable world. We need to turn what appears to be an unmanageable situation into a campaign where we can all better focus our energies.

Purdy’s  concept of a “democratic Anthropocene is just a thought for now, but it can also be a tool that activists, thinkers and leaders use to craft challenges and invitations that bring some of us a little closer to a better possible world, or a worse one. The idea that the world people get to inhabit will only be the one they make is, in fact, imperative to the development of a political and institutional program, even if the idea itself does not tell anyone how to do that. There might not be a world to win, or even save, but there is a humanity to be shaped and reshaped, freely and always in partial and provisional ways, that can begin intending the world it shapes.”

Purdy is Professor of Law at Duke University in North Carolina. His forthcoming book is After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.

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Signs of Summer

day lilliesThe fireflies are in full mating season flashing their unique signals trying to attract just the right partner for the evening. My uncle once told me that he courted his wife while trying to figure out the details of these dramatic insects. He later published his findings of some very exotic fireflies from New Guinea. They are a fascinating species that is trying to share this planet with us.  I am glad we stopped wiping out so many insect species by the indiscriminant spraying of pesticides to keep mosquitoes under control. Even with the Zika scare, it seems like most people are not over-reacting and are following the guidelines of the CDC.

Daylilies are in full bloom these days as well. I love seeing them along country roads. The ones I photographed here were grown in a well landscaped garden. They are so large, they must have been fertilized. I wonder how much of the fertilizer fed the flowers and how much of it washed off in a rain.

Judging by the massive amount of submerged aquatic vegetation in the nearby lake, some of the fertilizer must have washed into the lake. This is a summer long problem. We use way too much fertilizer on our lawns and gardens and it ends up causing over-nutrification of our water bodies.

harvesterHere is a photo of how our local HOA (Columbia Association) tries to manage this excess nitrogen – they have fossil fuel driven harvesters and essentially mow the grasses in the lake. This is another sign and sound of summer. Things look better for a while, but as we continue to over-fertilize, the grasses come roaring back. In many cases they grow so long they end up floating on the surface. If we all cut back on fertilizing, and installed rain gardens to slow the flow, this problem would go away.

But in general things look very good this time of year. Enjoy it – get outside and go for a walk. Eat black raspberries along the paths – they are ripe now. Mulberries will be coming soon and then the blackberries. It is a glorious time of the year to forage.

Take-a-way: Let’s learn to work together with nature so we can co-evolve a future that is healthier for us all.

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Bats, Bullfrogs, and Fireflies

bull_frog_face_04_17-67-777694Kathy and I walked a friend home after dinner last night along an unlit path through the woods. The sun had set, the moon was out and we could see numerous stars – it was a spectacular time for a walk. Nighttime walks are another wonderful natural resource we have right in our backyards that very few of us take advantage. After last night’s experience, we are planning to do it much more often.

We walked around Lake Elkhorn in Howard County, MD. Kathy had on a head lamp which was helpful since the stretches in the woods were quite dark and the paths had steep edges. The path that we followed was deserted by humans except for one couple walking arm in arm – but the walk was full of life.

The first surprise was a bat that fluttered right over our heads. Several of them seemed to stay with us for a while, passing back and forth, our headlamp catching them in the light on each pass they took. They were probably harvesting the white moths that were attracted to our light. It was pretty neat to be escorted by bats.

As we approached the open meadows and wetlands at the east end of the lake, we were greeted by hundreds of fireflies doing their mating routines in the tall grasses. The area has been left to grow with many native plants and the fireflies seemed to like the habitat a lot.

We were also treated by a series of bullfrogs calling out to their mates and often jumping into the water as we passed. Their deep calls resonated across the waters and off the tree-lined edges to the lake. We also heard them later as we drifted off to sleep with our windows open. It is a very soothing and primordial sound.

The last thing we saw was the reflection of our headlamp in the eyes of a small mammal. Turning off the light we could see the silhouette of a fawn standing by the water’s edge. We wished we could have spent the entire night out exploring and learning more about the nocturnal habits of our fellow creatures. I am sure that like the daytime, there is so much to see as a wide range of life goes about their activities around this vibrant ecosystem.

Take-a-way: Enjoy paths near your home for nighttime walks. Probably best to go with friends and be careful of your footing.

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Michael Meade Inspires Columbia

Michael MeadeAuthor, storyteller, and philosopher Michael Meade was in town this week and spoke/performed to a packed house at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. It was a challenging and inspiring evening, and at the end he received a standing ovation. We are so fortunate to have locals who help create these events. Thank you Michael Phillips of Four Gates Wellness Center for making this happen!

I particularly liked Michael Meade’s message this time, his third visit to Columbia, that we all have genius within us. This is the subject of his latest book The Genius Myth. He points out that the challenge of course is to find our inner genius and then use it to create a better world. Michael points out that this is our life’s work.

He concluded that once we find and use our own genius, it is then our responsibility, as the elders of our community, to mentor the younger members in their search for their hidden genius. I find mentoring an increasingly important and a very rewarding part of the work that I do. It is challenging work. One never knows what effect we have on others. But listening, asking questions, and giving others space to better understand themselves is priceless.

Michael Meade Genius bookMeade, through the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, runs workshops each year where he works with disenfranchised youth. As I understand from the people that I know who have attended these events, all of the participants come out inspired and many return the next year. I hope that we can find ways to work with our local youth and help them bring their gifts to our community.

There is so much that each of us has to offer and in fact needs to offer to effect change in our society.  We need to find and encourage all members of our community to find their genius and participate in improving our society, one person at a time.This is especially true with regard to the environment and saving the places we love. Each of us will have to use our gifts, our genius, to recognize the impacts of our actions and help lead the change to a more sustainable future.

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Aggressive Bicyclist Backlash

fast bikerThis morning I found myself with a few free moments to spare so I went for a walk to let my morning activities settle into place. The path I chose had recently been widened to accommodate an increasing number of recreational pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists. Everyone had thought it would be safer if the paths were wider. Unfortunately, Continue reading

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Saving the Places we Love – Campaign Update

 

swamp lilliesWe all dream of making the world better.  But what can any one person do that will actually make a difference?

That is the central question that my books (Saving the Places We Love and The Chesapeake Watershed) try to answer.  Through personal stories, humor and an approachable list of Continue reading

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Road Salt as a Water Quality Issue

This summary was written by Mark Southerland for the Howard County Environmental Sustainability Board.

road saltWe are all familiar with the use of road salt to melt ice and snow from paved roadways in the winter. There are a variety of deicer products, but the vast majority of what is used is common table salt—sodium chloride (Na-Cl). Road salt improves tire adherence to the pavement, greatly increasing vehicle safety, but has adverse effects on property and the environment beyond the road surface.

The types and extent of these adverse effects are becoming clearer through recent Continue reading

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The River that Caught Fire, 1969 and Today

Cuyahoga RiverExcerpted  from Saving the Place We Love.

One of the most famous American rivers, from an environmental perspective, is the Cuyahoga, which flows through Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and Continue reading

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