Give Us Your Best Shot! Week of August 16, 2018

To submit a photo for The Town Line’s “Give Us Your Best Shot!” section, please visit our contact page or email us at townline@fairpoint.net!

SALUTE THE ADMIRAL: Jacob Brown, 12 years old, snapped this White Admiral butterfly resting on a leaf.

LOON FAMILY: Karen Spehler submitted this photo of a family of loons enjoying a swim together on July 29.

REFRESHING: Lindsey Varney caught her dog, Toro, enjoying a swim in China Lake at sunset.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Struggling With Addiction? Tips On Finding Quality Treatment

(NAPSI)—It can be overwhelming and confusing to know where to start if you need to find treatment for an alcohol or drug addiction. Addiction touches nearly everyone in some way, yet there is no one-size-fits all approach to effective treatment. With many addiction treatment options, finding a program that will provide the quality care you or your loved one needs to address their specific addiction issues can be challenging. These steps will help you know what to look for to find a treatment program that is high quality and tailored to your needs.

How Do You Find A Treatment Provider?

If you have insurance, a good first step is to contact your insurer. Ask about your coverage and whether they have a network of preferred providers. If you don’t have insurance, you still have access to quality care. Each state has funding to provide treatment for people without insurance coverage. Find out where to call for information about payment for services at: https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/ssa-directory.pdf.

What Should You Look For In A Program Or Provider?

Quality treatment programs offer a full range of services accepted as effective in treatment and recovery from addiction. Keep these points in mind when weighing your options.

  1. Accreditation: Make sure the treatment program is licensed or certified by the state. This ensures the provider meets basic quality and safety requirements. You should also check that the program is accredited, which means it meets standards of care set by a national, compliance organization. Be sure to ask the program to show you how people using their services have rated them.
  2. Evidence-Based Treatment: Check to determine if the program offers effective and proven substance use disorder treatments, such as medication management, cognitive behavioral therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, education about the risks of drug and alcohol use, and peer support. Quality treatment providers or programs offer more than one form of effective treatment. Effective programs will also be mindful of or address mental health and physical disorders that will affect substance use treatment.
  3. Medication: Confirm whether the program offers FDA approved medication for recovery from alcohol and opioid use disorders. However, keep in mind that currently, there are no FDA approved medications to help prevent relapse from other problem substances.
  4. Families: Family members have an important role in understanding the impact of addiction on families and providing support. Make sure the treatment program includes family members in the treatment process.
  5. Continuing Care: For many people addiction requires ongoing medication and supports. Quality programs provide treatment for the long term, which may include ongoing counseling or recovery coaching and support, and helps in meeting other basic needs like sober housing, employment supports, and continued family involvement.

Once you’ve identified a treatment program that meets the criteria above, call for an appointment. Many programs provide walk-in services. If they can’t see you or a family member within 48 hours, find another provider. (It is important that the provider or program connect you to care quickly).

You can find more information about finding addiction treatment by visiting: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or calling the National Helpline at (800) 662-HELP (4357).

SCORES & OUTDOORS: The poor, misunderstood, unappreciated brown bat

 

brown bat

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

While sitting around a campfire with family last weekend, the conversation, for some insane reason, resorted to bats, and the many myths and misbeliefs attached to them.

Bats have long been maligned by humans, a taboo, a creature to be shunned. These little furry animals that fly seemed to be half bird, half mammal, and looked ugly – which they are.

But today, they are being given their proper recognition as valuable to mankind in the ecological system. Many plants, such as bananas, are dependent on bats for pollination because they bloom at night. Bats are responsible for 95 percent of the reforestation of the tropical rain forest through their dispersal of seeds.

Their immediate appeal to most people is their enormous capacity for consuming insects. A nocturnal animal, bats eat when the insects are out, as opposed to birds, which eat during the day. Some bat species consume half their weight in a night – as many as 600 or more gnat-sized insects an hour.

A single little brown bat, Myotis lucifugas or a big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, some of the most abundant and widespread bats in North America, can eat 3,000 to 7,000 mosquitoes each night, and a bat can live to be 20 years old. That’s a pretty effective insecticide, especially when you consider that it doesn’t poison other creatures or make holes in the ozone layer.

Bats are also misunderstood creatures that are generally quite harmless to people. They do not become entangled in your hair, nor do they attack humans. Contrary to misconceptions, disease transmission from bats to people is easily avoided. Never handle bats, and the odds of being harmed will be extremely remote.

Over the last 40 years, public health records show that only 16 people in the United States and Canada have died of bat-borne diseases. That means the odds of anyone dying from a bat bite are pretty slim.

In the Orient these gentle animals are symbols of good luck, long life and happiness. They are meticulous in their grooming, spending a fair part of the day and night combing and grooming their fur.

When bats fly, they navigate by means of a sophisticated echo location system. The bats send out signals of sound energy, which are reflected back, giving it the location of an object as well as its texture and other characteristics. They can avoid a single human hair with extreme accuracy, even in total darkness, contrary to the myth that bats are blind.

Macrobats like the large fruit bats love to eat ripe fruits. As the seeds pass through them, they spread them all over the forest. A fruit bat can disperse thousands of seeds to help replant the forests they live in. Unfortunately, with the loss of rain forests, these bats are endangered because of loss of habitat.

Bats also help farmers. Microbats eat mosquitoes, moths, locust and grasshoppers. Such bugs can destroy crops and spread disease. The American farmer’s biggest pest is the corn earworm moth. One bat can eat 20 female moths a night, reducing the number of crop eating caterpillars.

And, forget everything you’ve ever heard about vampire bats. Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, in their vampire movies, did a lot to give the bats a bad reputation.

There are lots of stories about vampire bats that drink blood. Vampire bats do exist, but are three species out of about 1,000 from the bat family. They mostly live in South America – not Transylvania – and feed on the blood of farm animals. A vampire bat does not suck blood. They usually walk up to the animal while they are asleep, and use their sharp teeth to puncture the skin and lick the blood. Their saliva has a blood thinning chemical that scientists are studying.

So, you see, all the bad rap is unfair. The bat is actually a friend, not a foe.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

Mookie Betts recently hit for the cycle in a game; Brock Holt did it in 2015. Who was the last Red Sox player to do it before?

Answer can be found here.

SOLON & BEYOND: Rogers-Safford families renew tradition of reunions

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
grams29@tds.net
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry, be happy!

On August 4 one of those special family reunions was held at the home of Arthur Rogers, in Solon. When I went down to see him yesterday to find out more information, he said that his daughter, Shawna Albert, did most of the planning and getting in touch with family members, etc..

It was a Rogers-Safford reunion and it had been several years since one had been held. But as Arthur said, “It was a good turnout.”

If you remember, the Sunday it was held was one of those really rainy days we’ve had lately. Arthur had arranged several tarps over a large area on his lawn and everyone was having lots of fun visiting with each other. As Arthur said, “Rain didn’t dampen their spirits,” and that was so true! A potluck luncheon was being enjoyed by all and the children were having lots of fun, outside the protection of the tarps, running in the rain. Arthur said there hadn’t been any complaints about the awful weather.

Everyone was having such a wonderful time, including me, it was great to see all these people that I hadn’t seen in years. Some of them I didn’t even recognize and had to ask. It is very special to get together for a family reunion, thanks for having that one Arthur.

The Solon Pine Tree 4-H Club took part in the 4-H Day parade at the Skowhegan State Fair this week. Leader, Eleanor Pooler took 84 exhibits done by the members of this club to be exhibited at the fair. The next meeting will be on August 20.

Received an e-mail about upcoming events at the Embden Community Center: On August 18, Steve and the Good Old Boys band will be there from 7 – 11 p.m., and on August 26, Country Sunday/Open Mic from 1 – 4p.m./second and fourth Sunday.

That is all the real news I could gather this week. It has been one of those busy weeks when everything happens at once….and as always, I welcome any news you might want to share.

I came across this little bit of what I consider good advice in this troubled world, entitled: “Treat others with kindness”. Unexpected but sinple acts of kindness surprise and uplift us. We’re stuck in traffic, sure that we’ll never make that left turn, when suddenly a stranger waves us on and lets us go ahead of him. Little gestures like these can make our day.

Practicing kindness means taking one extra second (really) to think about what we’re doing. Instead of ridiculing a friend, we can hold our tongues and avoid unnecessary embarrassment and hurt. Rather than repeating a rumor about a colleague, we can give praise instead.

It is important to treat ourselves kindly also. We do so by not criticizing or demeaning ourselves, in word or deed, and by refusing to accept abuse from others. Preventing hurt feelings and bruised egos (including our own) is what kindness is all about. Simply put, kindness improves the quality of all our lives.

Now for Percy’s memoir: “One kind word can warm three winter months.” (Japanese proverb.)

Now we are off to the fair!!!

Hope to have more news for you next week.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Grieving

by Debbie Walker

I remember thinking when we got out of school in June: “Wow, I’ll have more time for my projects!” I had been collecting the necessary items to be able to complete those projects. Well, that creates a mess of sorts because the house is not huge. So I also figured I would be making the house look less cluttered, too. I wasn’t expecting:

Mom just up and died! I think the train came along and said, “All aboard!” and Mom always has enjoyed a train ride, so off she went. She had just gotten her new driver’s license two weeks earlier. That’s how we know she didn’t know about the train ride coming so soon. If she had known she wouldn’t have bothered with taking that driver’s test for just two weeks of driving!

I am hoping you all have an effective way of dealing with grief and I know some folks rely on time lessening their pain. Grieve as you need to, acknowledge and accept the feelings you have a right to have and don’t beat yourself up if someone foolishly tells you, “It’s been long enough.” But please do try to fit in some of those special memories that are yours and make you smile. I suppose the time thing is part of ours, too. But in the meantime:

When Uncle Allen died in a white water canoeing accident the adult nephews who had been with him put things in his coffin they felt he needed to have: Twinkies and a can of Coke like they had shared that day. They all emptied their pockets of change and put that in because, “Unc didn’t go anywhere without money.” They also included a mini motorcycle (he was an avid rider).

When Grammie Bailey died my cousin Dennis and I got Gram’s last pack of Winstons [cigarettes] and put them in with her as she once requested. She told us she wouldn’t need a lighter! My Mom put in a crochet hook and a little yarn, she was a little shy about doing this (the process was new to her) until she stood by the casket and saw the big skein of red yarn and knitting needles, Mom let out a chuckle. My cousin Christy went up and told Mom that Grammie had promised her a pair of red mittens that winter and Christy was holding her to it!

We’re not really being disrespectful of the person who passed or anyone’s personal beliefs. Fortunately, some parts of this process are a bit less solemn with Celebration of Life gatherings. We had a DJ at Mom’s. It was our DJ’s way of expressing his love for Mom.

I pretty much lost the whole month of July and the first half of August has been given to a close friend’s wedding. Life does go on.

I am NOT just curious about what is next! Thank you for reading. Contact me at dwdaffy@yahoo.com with questions or comments.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Book: The Fifties by David Halberstam

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

David Halberstam

The Fifties
Villard Press, 1993, 733 pages

A maxim that underscored journalist David Halberstam’s work ethic was that being a professional meant doing the work one loved on the days one didn’t feel like doing it; this combination of passion and painstaking self-discipline resulted in roughly 22 books and countless articles.

David Halberstam

Born on April 10, 1934, in New York City and raised in Connecticut, he was a classmate of consumer advocate Ralph Nader. In 1955, he graduated from Harvard in the bottom third of his class and was hired as a reporter by newspapers in Mississippi and Tennessee, being the only one to cover the Nashville sit-ins. On a lighter note, I remember reading his liner notes for an LP of country pianist Floyd Cramer.

Beginning in the early ‘60s, Halberstam’s books on Vietnam, the media, big business and sports occupied him for over four decades. His gifts for story telling characterized the 1979 The Powers That Be, a riveting study of Time magazine’s Henry Luce, CBS’s William Paley and the Washington Post’s Phil Graham. The Post chapters contained one very good account of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s news investigation leading to the Watergate trial.

The Fifties is a massive-sized narrative panorama of a continually fascinating decade. Halberstam’s mastery of the character sketch shines in his portraits of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower; Red-baiting Wisconsin Democratic Senator Joseph McCarthy,”shrewd, insecure and defensive,” as tellingly and understatedly described by the author; mystery writer Mickey Spillane, creator of the vigilante lone detective Mike Hammer who went after Communists instead of gangsters and the politicians; the McDonald brothers, whose hamburger stand was transformed by Ray Kroc into a multi-billion dollar empire; Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Milton Berle, and Sid Caesar, who brought low-brow slapstick comedy to the mass television audiences, who clamored for more; nuclear scientist Edward Teller and his hydrogen bomb; Elvis Presley; sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and publisher Hugh Hefner, with their launching of the insidious sexual revolution; and a huge range of other personalities in as many spheres of influence who contributed so much to the decade’s perpetual interest. For me, the quiet seamstress Rosa Parks is arguably the central figure of monumental interest – her refusal to move to the back of the bus was a significant contribution to spurring the long-needed and awaited Civil Rights movement.

David Halberstam was killed in an automobile crash near San Francisco en route to interview football legend Y.A. Tittle for one of two books he had in preparation. He was 73 years old.

ERIC’S TECH TALK: Russia hacked the 2016 election. This is how they did it.

NOTE: Aside from the anecdote about the typo in the IT staffer’s email, and the final quote from DNI Dan Coats, everything in this article comes straight from the FBI indictments linked at the bottom of this page.
by Eric W. Austin

The FBI has released two criminal indictments describing the Russian hacking and influence operations during the 2016 election. The picture they paint is incredibly detailed and deeply disturbing.

In this article, I’ll describe exactly what the FBI discovered and explain why we still have reason to worry. Quotations are taken directly from the criminal indictments released by the FBI Special Counsel’s office.

The story begins in 2013, when a new initiative, the Internet Research Agency, rose out of Russian military intelligence, aimed at changing US public policy by influencing American elections. According to the indictments, this agency employed hundreds of people, working both day and night shifts, ranging from “creators of fictitious personas to the technical and administrative support.” Its budget totaled “millions of US dollars” a year.

In 2014, the Internet Research Agency began studying American social media trends, particularly “groups on US social media sites dedicated to US politics and social issues.” They examined things like “the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with the content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post.” Their goal was to understand the mechanics of social media success in order to make their future influence operations in the United States more effective.

Using what they learned, they “created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious US personas into ‘leader[s] of public opinion’ in the United States.”

Sometime in 2015, the Russians began buying ads on social media to enhance their online profiles and to reach a wider audience. Soon they were “spending thousands of US dollars every month” on ads.

By the 2016 election season, Russian-controlled social media groups had “grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.” These groups addressed a wide range of issues in the United States, including: immigration; social issues like Black Lives Matter; religion, particularly relating to Muslim Americans; and certain geographic regions, with groups like “South United” and “Heart of Texas.”

They often impersonated real Americans or American organizations, such as the Russian-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP, which claimed in its profile to represent the Tennessee Republican Party. By November 2016, this Twitter account had attracted over 100,000 followers.

From the very beginning, Russian strategy was to pass themselves off as American, and they went to great lengths to accomplish this. They bought the personal information and credit card numbers of real Americans from identity thieves on the dark web, and used those credentials to create fake social media profiles and open bank accounts to pay for their online activities.

With this network of social media accounts, they staged rallies and protests in New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and especially, Florida. These rallies were organized online, but the Russians often engaged real Americans to promote and participate in them. For example, in Florida, they “used false US personas to communicate with Trump Campaign staff involved in local community outreach.” At some rallies, they asked a “US person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another US person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform.”

Staging rallies and spreading disinformation via social media was not all they were up to though. At the same time, they were trying to break into the email accounts of Clinton Campaign staffers, and to hack the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Starting in March 2016, according to the indictments, the Russians began sending “spearphishing” emails to employees at the DCCC, DNC, and the Clinton Campaign. These were emails mocked-up to look like security notices from the recipient’s email provider, containing a link to a webpage that resembled an official password-change form. The page was actually controlled by Russian military intelligence, waiting to snatch the victim’s password as soon as they entered it.

One of their first targets was Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta. He received an email, apparently from Google, asking him to click a link and change his password. Suspicious, he forwarded the email to the campaign’s IT staff, and unfortunately received the reply: “This is a legitimate email. John needs to change his password immediately.” Dutifully, Podesta clicked the link and changed his password. The Russians were waiting. They promptly broke into his account and stole 50,000 emails. The IT staffer later claimed he had made a typo and instead meant to write, “This is not a legitimate email.” Never has a typo been more consequential.

In another case detailed in the indictments, the Russians created an email address nearly identical to a well-known Clinton campaign staffer. The address of this account deviated from the staffer’s real email address by only a single letter. Then, posing as that staffer, they sent spearphishing emails to more than 30 Clinton Campaign employees.

The Russians also used this technique to hack into the computer network of the DCCC. After gaining entry, they “installed and managed different types of malware to explore the DCCC network and steal data.” Once the malware had been installed, the Russians were able to take screenshots and capture every keystroke on the infected machines.

One of those hacked computers was used by a DCCC employee who also had access to the DNC computer network. When that user logged into the DNC network, the Russians stole their username and password and proceeded to invade the DNC network as well, installing Russian-developed malware on more than thirty DNC computers.

And the Russians stole more than emails. They took “gigabytes of data from DNC computers,” including opposition research, analytic data used for campaign strategy, and personal information on Democratic donors, among other things.

Then in June 2016, the hackers “constructed the online persona DCLeaks to release and publicize stolen election-related documents.” This persona included the website DCLeaks.com, along with a companion Twitter account and a Facebook page, where they claimed to be a group of “American hacktivists.”

However, a month earlier, the DNC and DCCC had finally become aware of the intrusions into their networks and hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate and prevent additional attacks. Shortly after the launch of the DCLeaks website, this firm finished its investigation and published its findings, identifying Russia as the source of the attacks.

In response to this allegation, and to further sow disinformation about the attacks, the Russians created a new online persona, Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a “lone Romanian hacker” and solely responsible for the cyber-attacks.

Under the guise of Guccifer 2.0, the Russians gave media interviews, provided a US Congressional candidate with “stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent,” transferred “gigabytes of data stolen from the DCCC to a then-registered state lobbyist and online source of political news,” and coordinated with the website WikiLeaks.org in order to time the release of stolen documents to coincide with critical points in the 2016 election.

For example, shortly after the emergence of the Guccifer 2.0 persona, WikiLeaks, a website responsible for previous disclosures of government data like the secret NSA surveillance files of 2013, contacted Guccifer 2.0 by email, saying, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” Guccifer 2.0 replied, “ok … i see.” Then WikiLeaks explained further, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

On July 22, three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released “20,000 emails and other documents stolen from the DNC network.” In the months following, they would release thousands more. Each of these timed releases was supported and promoted by the Russians’ extensive social media network.

The Russians didn’t only target the Clinton Campaign and Democratic committees. They also tried to “hack into protected computers of persons and entities charged with the administration of the 2016 US elections in order to access those computers and steal voter data and other information.”

In some cases, they succeeded. In July 2016, they hacked the website of a state board of elections and “stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.” Then in August, the Russian hackers broke into the computers of “a US vendor that supplied software used to verify voter registration information for the 2016 US elections.”

During our 2016 election, Russian military intelligence launched an extensive and multi-pronged influence campaign on the American people. It was an operation three years in the making, and its purpose was “to sow discord in the US political system.” By any measure, it was a great success.

In closing, I’ll leave you with the words of Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, from a speech at the Hudson Institute only a few weeks ago: “In the months prior to September 2001 … the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”

Let’s not ignore those blinking red lights a second time. Our democracy depends on our diligence.

Eric W. Austin writes about technology and community issues. He can be reached by email at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

NOTE: Aside from the anecdote about the typo in the IT staffer’s email, and the final quote from DNI Dan Coats, everything in this article comes straight from the FBI indictments linked below.

To read the FBI indictments referenced in this article, click the links below to download them:

Indictment against Russian nationals for hacking of DNC & DCCC – July 2018

Indictment against the Internet Research Agency – February 2018

U.S. Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections – February 2017

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Ending the Tragedy of ‘Family Fire’

(NAPSI) — On the battlefield, one of the greatest tragedies is “friendly fire,” and the military does everything in its power to avoid these incidents through rigorous training, constant communication, and a deadly serious focus on the safe use of weapons. All Americans would be wise to look to our military professionals as an example of how to solve the tragedy of “family fire” in this country.

Nearly 3,000 kids are shot every year by guns that come from within our homes. While these tragedies are hard to think about, there is much we can do to keep our families safe.

“As a Marine Corps combat veteran and lifelong gun owner, I enjoy firearms and marksmanship,” says Joe Plenzler, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Guns are a big part of military culture. Many of my civilian friends also enjoy shooting, and all of us are alarmed by the number of gun deaths each year in America. What is especially hard for me to understand are the preventable deaths caused by negligent gun owners who improperly store their firearms. Family fire rips apart families and shatters whole communities, and so much more can be done to stop it.”

Plenzler goes on to say we shouldn’t need legislation to know what’s sensible to keep our families and loved ones safe. Responsible gun owners realize that proper storage of weapons saves lives and it’s our duty to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. Can we agree it’s our job to do everything we can to keep kids safe?

Ending “Family Fire”

Eight kids are unintentionally shot by a gun every day. Since September 11, 2001, nearly 57,000 kids have been killed or injured by firearms. This is almost the same number as service members who have been killed and wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 17 years of war.

Gun owners who don’t properly secure their weapons cause those incidents. As someone who has undergone extensive weapons and safety training while in the military, I’m shocked and appalled that today there are 1.7 million American homes with kids living with unsecured, loaded guns. Each of these families is living a hair’s breadth away from tragedy.

What Every Gun Owner Can Do

Fortunately, unintentional shootings in the home are largely preventable through safe gun storage. Parents, veterans and all gun owners can do our part to keep families and communities safe. Here are some proven ways we can save lives:

  1. Just as in the military, our guns should be unloaded when not in use and locked up in a safe, gun vault or storage case that’s inaccessible to kids.
  2. Store ammunition in a secure location away from your firearms.
  3. Ensure you also secure the combination or keys to your safe(s), vault(s) or case(s).
  4. Teach kids firearm responsibility and safety. Guns are not toys. They are deadly weapons designed to stop beating hearts. If your kids see a gun lying around, teach them not to touch it and to tell an adult.
  5. Kids should never use a gun without adult supervision. (If your child has friends visiting, it’s always best to get their parents’ permission first.)
  6. If your child is visiting a friend’s home, ask the parent(s) if they have guns in the home and how they are stored.
  7. Never assume kids don’t know where guns are stored in the home. They always do.

In the Marine Corps, we had a saying that every time we lost a Marine to a preventable incident, we did the enemies’ job for them. Remember, there are no “accidents” with firearms—there is only negligence. Keep your families safe by keeping your guns secure.

Learn More

You can learn more about preventing gun accidents from the experts at www.EndFamilyFire.org.

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Wasps have a bad reputation: this one, though, is the gardener’s friend

Internet photo of a Great Golden Digger Wasp.

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

A friend of mine was asked by an acquaintance if she recognized a certain bug she found hanging around the garden, and boring holes in the yard. My friend suggested the person send the photo to me for identification. With the help of my insider at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Phillip deMaynadier, Ph.D., a wildlife biologist, with the wildlife research assesment section, it was identified

Photo taken by Sharon Carter of a Great Golden Digger Wasp.

The insect (see photo), is a Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus. Despite its vivid, alarming coloration, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is not an aggressive species of the wasp.

The Great Golden Digger Wasp appears every June, and remains for the next couple of months, going through a methodical routine.

Unfortunately, social wasps like the yellow jackets and hornets give all wasps a bad name. Solitary wasps like the Great Golden Digger Wasp are virtually harmless. They do not guard their nests and are not aggressive towards humans. Females are equipped with stingers but use them only on their prey, although a rare sting to a human may occur if the wasp is grabbed or stepped on. Male wasps may act aggressively, but they have no stingers and can do no harm.

Unlike the social wasps, which live commune-style with a queen and non-reproducing minions that handle the hard labor, digger wasps are solitary creatures.

The Great Golden Digger Wasp measures more than an inch in length. They have a black head, orange and black body, orange legs, and iridescent amber wings. Short, golden hairs cover its head and thorax.

The first reaction of a gardener who confronts a large, intimidating-looking Great Golden Digger Wasp may be to grab a can of bug spray. Don’t do it! Not only are these bugs harmless to humans, they provide many benefits to the garden.

Adult wasps, both male and female, pollinate plants by feeding on flower nectar. Female wasps prey on grasshoppers and similar pests that otherwise cause a lot of damage to vegetable and ornamental plants in the garden. And by digging holes in the ground, the wasps help to aerate the soil and improve drainage.

The female wasp will spend her short life engaged in the methodical building and stocking of a half dozen or so nests.

When the wasp hunts, she stings her prey and releases paralyzing venom. She transports the paralyzed insect back to her nest by air – if it is light enough to fly with – or by dragging it across the ground by its antennas. On the way, she may have to fend off robins, sparrows, and other birds intent on stealing the insect from her. They only hunt members of the grasshopper family. They are great pollinators and should be welcome in your garden.

The female digs a chambered tunnel in open ground, and proceeds to stock it with food for her young to eat. She searches for insects, which usually includes crickets, katydids and grasshoppers. Then she goes through a ritual that is unique among insects. The prey is placed at the opening of the tunnel while she crawls inside to inspect it. Then, she comes back out and grabs the unlucky insect by the antennae and pulls it inside head-first. She has been genetically patterned to perform these motions, and if anything changes, she cannot complete this task.

If the prey insect is moved a few inches from where she left it, she will quickly locate it and pull it to the entrance. Once again she will go inside to inspect the burrow. This scene can be repeated time and time again, and she will perform the same acts. What looks like a thoughtful precaution, is simply genetically programmed into the species.

Should one of the antennae break off, she will usually leave her catch and go find another insect. She is not able to figure out that by grabbing it by a leg, she can accomplish the same thing. It’s either by the antennae or its move on to another prey.

Upon returning to the nest, the wasp drops her prey outside the entrance while she reopens and inspects the tunnel. She then drags her still-paralyzed victim to a nesting chamber, and lays one egg on top of it.

When she leaves the nest, she closes up the nesting chamber behind her. She will not return. Over the fall and winter, the wasp larva will undergo a complete metamorphosis. It will emerge in June as an adult and begin the process all over again. When the adult emerges from the underground nest where it hatched the previous summer, it has but one job to do: to reproduce.

Great Golden Digger Wasps can be found in North America, Mexico, Central and South America, and even the Caribbean.

So, if you’re lucky enough to encounter a Great Golden Digger Wasp in your garden, leave her alone. She’s working hard. Just step back and observe one of the most unique inhabitants in the garden.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

In 1992, what Red Sox pitcher’s no-hitter against the Indians was rescinded by MLB because he only pitched eight innings as the losing pitcher on the road team?

Answer can be found here.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Book report

by Debbie Walker

As you may be aware, children in Maine are soon heading back into classrooms across the state, and so am I. After the kid’s book I just read I believe I am possibly looking forward to the first days more than our children. This is my book report:

The book I read is The Exceptionally Extraordinary Ordinary First Day of School by Albert Lorenz. The book has a story and it has “Facts.” I must admit that some “facts” in this book had me going over a few memories of my own. I remember seeing the big yellow bus coming down the road and my earlier excitement turned to FEAR! Guess what! According to this book the “fact” about the bus is: “School Bus – A terror filled nightmare on wheels. Where you sit depends on who you are. Life only gets worse from here on out.” (Well, isn’t that a lovely thought.) (All authored in fun, just saying!)

More Facts: “A Backpack – A place to store squished bananas, sandwich crusts and broken pencils.” (This reminds me of what we called a book bag and a lunch box and we actually carried a book or two.)

The book went on to some more “facts” as follows: Lips – the things on your face that you use to kiss your dog. Nose – The body part that yearns to have your finger in it. Tongue – the licking muscle. Facial Hair – what boys aspire to and girls dread. Teeth – Brush these twice a day or you will wind up like George Washington. He started losing teeth in his 20s and had dentures made from gold, ivory, lead, and animal teeth. (Not wood). Children – small but extremely intelligent humans. Delicious, too. Passing on – A nice way to say “pushing up daisies “or “kicked the bucket” or “eaten!”

I have to interrupt all these interesting facts from this book to direct this one to anyone who uses “hair gel” – Check out the ingredients on your bottle. Noble women in medieval England used bird droppings and lizard fat. On purpose!

Can’t you just imagine what a lovely book this is?! I can hear the kids now with all their comments “Oh, gross!, or oh, nasty!” all the while pushing for more “facts.”

Some of their critter definitions are:

Frogs – jumping amphibians that eat flies. And that have legs you can eat. Parrots – tropical birds that can learn to talk and are a pirate’s best friend. Flies – there are more than 300,000 kinds. Female houseflies lay 500 to 600 eggs in their lifetime of 30 days. Fish – the only pet your parents might let you have. They don’t bark, yowl or spit up hair balls. Cat – a furry creature that poops in a box.

Okay, so let’s not kill the messenger. I just thought I would pass on thoughts as were noticed by the author Albert Lorenz as he researched his book. Not to worry, as a college instructor told me: Childhood phases don’t usually last long; she just couldn’t promise the next one would be any better!

As usual, I am just curious what education this school year will bring (my education!). Find me at dwdaffy@yahoo.com for questions and comments. Thank you for taking the time to read!