SCORES & OUTDOORS: Proliferation of stink bugs

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

They seem to have invaded our environment and taken up permanent residence in the state of Maine. We are seeing more and more of them in and around our homes. More so this time of year when the critters are attempting to come indoors where its warm. They are commonly known as stink bugs.

The brown marmorated stink bugs are an invasive species and are considered a serious crop pest. They are notorious at attacking especially corn and potatoes. They were accidentally introduced in the United States from Asia. It is believed to have hitched a ride as a stow-away in packing crates or on various types of machinery. The first documented specimen was collected in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1996. It is now found in the eastern half of the U.S. as well as California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Since arriving from Asia, the stink bug spread quickly from state to state, and is now listed as a top invasive species of interest by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2013. They spread quickly due to their ability to lay more than 100 eggs each spring and summer. The USDA now reports the stink bug can be found in 44 states.

marmorated stink bug

It is easily identifiable by its brown color, six legs, shield-like pattern on its shell, white segments on its antennas and the cilantro-like smell it emits when scared or crushed.

The stink bug gets its name because it releases an odor when disturbed or when crushed. They will emit a foul-smelling chemical when they are injured, startled or attacked.

Generally, adult stink bugs feed on fruits, while nymphs will dine on leaves, stems and fruit. Stink bugs eat peaches, apples, peppers, soybeans, tomatoes, grapes and others. According to USDA records, the stink bug caused farmers to lose $31 million in 2010, which is the most up-to-date figures available. Their ability to possibly spread throughout the country has the agricultural community nervous.

In the fall, they search for sites to avoid the winter weather. They re-emerge in early spring and become active. During the warmer summer months, they can be found congregating en masse on the sides of buildings. Stink bugs have a life expectancy of nine to 10 months.

They enter homes through windows, cracked foundations, dryer vents and door jambs. Once inside, they seek refuge in warm places, like insulated walls. It is not uncommon to find thousands of them inside a house.

Stink bugs are not poisonous to humans and do not normally bite. Although native stink bug species exist in the U.S., none have caused damage to crops and invaded homes in numbers like the brown marmorated stink bug. However, some people are allergic to the marmorated stink bug, with reactions that include eye watering, congestion and coughing.

Stink bugs present no known danger of damaging the home, however, large amounts of dead stink bugs in the walls of the home can attract carpet beetles, which eat wool. That may explain why, all of a sudden, some of your clothes hanging in closets have developed holes.

To prevent stink bugs from entering homes and buildings, seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys and underneath the wood fascia and other openings. Use a good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk. If you need to remove stink bugs already established in the home, a vacuum cleaner can aid in the removal. However, make sure to empty the vacuum cleaner outdoors after using to avoid the odor that will probably permeate throughout the house from disturbing the bugs.

Although studies are being conducted on how to handle the growing problem, farmers don’t currently have too many options. Pesticides that are used for other bugs can work, however, unless the pesticide hits the bug directly, it won’t make much of a difference in the stink bug population.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry asks anyone who finds a stink bug to take a picture and fill out an online survey. That could be a cumbersome project.

I have not seen any marmorated stink bugs in my home, but I have seen many around homes of family and friends, especially those residing in rural areas. Most merely dismiss it as nothing more than a nuisance and simply deal with them one at a time, as they appear.

What else can you do?

Update on birds

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

As an update to my column of two weeks ago about the disappearance of birds from our backyard feeders, I have done some more research, and received some feedback from readers.

Through the dog days of August, it is not unusual to see and hear fewer birds. The nesting season has ended. So, young birds and their parents have dispersed and left their nesting territories (your yard). If natural food is plentiful, they are less likely to supplement their diet with your feeders. Migration has also started. Backyard birds with long migration routes will start leaving early in more northern areas of the country as insect populations start to fall off. Midday heat will make birds more inactive. Summer temperatures will often cause birds to be less active during the middle of the day. So, it’s possible that the warm fall we are experiencing has something to do with it. So, they won’t come to feeders as much.

“Things are going wrong with our environment,” writes John Terborgh, a James B. Duke Profesor of Environmental Science at Duke University. “Even the parts of it that are nominally protected. If we wait until all the answers are in, we may find ourselves in a much worse predicament than if we had taken notice of the problem earlier. By waiting, one risks being too late; on the other hand, there can be no such thing as being too early.”

For some interesting insight, read Terborgh’s book, Where Have All the Birds Gone?: Essays on the Biology and Conservation of Birds that Migrate to the American Tropics.

Is this talk about national bird declines just hot air? No. As well as all these apparent disappearances of birds, there has been a serious, countrywide, decline in the numbers of many birds, including many well known and loved species. This decline has been slow and gradual, rather than sudden. Extensive research has shown that these declines are caused primarily by changes in agriculture.

According to ArkWildlife, a respected online trading bird food and wildlife habitats company, and 24 years of history with a passion for garden wildlife, “don’t panic, nothing’s gone wrong. The birds are simply following the natural seasons, food availability and their natural behaviour. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, birds can suffer real food shortages during the summer months at a time most vital to them – the breeding season. Wet weather or a late spring can all mean a lack of insects to forage for when the trees and hedgerows have long since been stripped of berries and seeds. So birds turn to our gardens in huge numbers to supplement their diet and even bring fledglings directly from the nest to the feeder.”

Although we don’t see it very often, there is a year-round cycle within the bird world. As we transition into fall, birds go into different feeding patterns.

Don’t worry, according to many bird research sources, they will come back. So don’t take down those feeders yet. Keep them filled, the birds will love you for it.

Here are a few responses we received on our website:

Janie says: It appears the loss of birds is quite widespread…not just in Maine. I live in upstate New York… Catskill Mountains region; and we haven’t had any birds, at all, for over a month. We went for about a 45 minute drive to admire the autumn foliage, and we did not see even one bird spotted flying during the drive… and we were specifically watching to see if another area had birds. My relatives and I feed them year round… and usually have to refill the feeders on a daily basis. There have always been lots of birds year round… this has not happened before in over the 25 years I have lived here. On a positive note, we noticed this weekend a few birds have started to return from wherever they had gone! It is so nice to hear and see them again!

JHM says: I have had a feeder in Waterville, Maine, for many years. The first few days in September the hummingbird sat at the nectar feeder almost all day and evidently left that night on his southern journey. Until about that date my seed feeder had many daily bird visits from tufted titmice, several male and female cardinals, many chickadees, gold finches and house finches, and others. But right about that time in early to mid-September I realized my feeder was staying full and there were no birds, only an occasional squirrel. I cleaned the feeder and bought new seeds, but still no luck. I kept a look out for predators and did see a cat several times. But, that is not unusual. I have seen an occasional titmouse and cardinal but that is it. I have seen some birds in the trees, but not as many as I have seen in the past. I hope they will come back as the birds are a bright spot by my kitchen window during the long winter.

Caroline says: I was just googling “where are the birds” and this article was high in the search. I live in Southport, North Carolina. Usually my feeders are covered with many types of birds, especially House finches. But for the last month or two, I have a couple of chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches. This area is rich in bird life, especially water birds (egrets, herons, etc) and those birds seem to be about the same. But I am very shocked at the decrease in feeder birds. We have a lot of insects here. I have noticed no decrease in them. I am very concerned to find an article from Maine that describes a similar situation.

Where have all the birds gone?

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

Where have all the birds gone? That is a question that has been asked of me many times over the last several weeks. My wife first brought it to my attention when we first moved back to town from camp in early October. So, like a good husband, I ignored it. I said that I had seen birds at the feeders. Then, someone called a couple of weeks ago, and asked the same question. Many friends have also brought the situation to my attention.

So, thinking back, I realized the birds I had seen at home did not amount to the same number that have frequented our feeders in the past. Namely, one nuthatch, one chickadee and one house finch. The feeders are usually covered with gold finches, woodpeckers along with many other species. So, where did they go?

Even at camp, we noticed a shortage of birds this season. We did not see any grosbeaks, orioles or cardinals. And the hummingbirds left two weeks earlier than usual. So, where did the bird go?

Research showed me there is no definite answer. One of the reasons could be the loss of insects. Birds are highly dependent on them. When was the last time you had to clean your windshield of insects in the summer as we once did? Even at camp this summer, we noticed a shortage of insects. I haven’t seen a June bug in two years. There were hardly any hickory tussock caterpillars this fall, and definitely a decline in the number of harvestman spiders.

The loss of bird populations in the Western Mountains of Maine includes three major causes. First, there has been a coincidental drop in insect life. No one completely understands how or why this has happened. Another reason is loss of habitat.

Has anyone seen a wooly bear caterpillar this fall? They usually begin to appear in mid-September. I have seen zero, nil, zilch this fall.

Lepidoptera – Arctiidae – Pyrrharctia isabella caterpillar (woolly bear caterpillar)

Birds are the warning lights that tell us our natural systems are stressed out. Seen as indicator species for the health of America’s natural landscape, they are declining in numbers at an alarming rate.

I think it was in July when we first noticed there weren’t as many birds around as usual. We kept the feeders filled, but the time lapse between fill-ups was getting longer.

Was the summer too cold for baby birds to survive? Also, organized spraying campaigns can kill birds as well as the massive caterpillar population. Or, did the birds just go somewhere else. I guess we shouldn’t take it personally because birds do move from place to place in search of food. Birds migrate, so did they leave to head south a little earlier than normal. Did the violent hurricane activity this year have an affect on the bird migration? Did the storms mess up the birds’ timing and navigation? I guess the questions are endless on the possibilities.

The best reason I was able to find was from the Audubon Society, along with other bird information sources, insisting that nothing is wrong. That because of the warmer than usual fall weather and the unusually abundant sources of natural food, the birds are still finding plenty to eat in the wild. Also, another explanation was that bird populations naturally fluctuate from year to year and that a feeder that is really “busy” one year may have fewer birds the next.

It is apparently a universal question in our area right now, and one that seems to have fewer answers.

Read the follow-up, Update on Birds

Gathering winter’s fare

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

During one of the final weekends of camp, my wife and I, one day, were sitting on the deck, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and watched nature as we made our plans for closing up camp for the summer. It was a warm, sunny day with a slight breeze coming out of the northwest. During that time I was able to watch this one particular chipmunk, which I would have to describe as resilient and determined.

Right in front of our storage sheds, he had dug one of his many entry holes. As we later went about our business of closing things up, the chipmunk’s hole kept getting filled in. Over the next few days, we would wake up in the morning and the hole had been re-opened.

On the fourth day I noticed his hole had not been re-opened from the day before.

Suddenly, out of the brush he came, and right there in front of us, began to dig as if we were not there. I know he knew we were there, but I couldn’t figure out whether he wanted to show us that we were not going to discourage him, or maybe he was just being plain defiant.

They are cute little buggers and very industrious. We watch them at our camp all the time, and they become braver as the summer turns to fall.

The common name of the chipmunk comes from the native Ottawan word jidmoonh, meaning “red squirrel.” The earliest form of “chipmunk” appeared in the Oxford Dictionary of 1842, although it appears in several books from the 1820s. They are also referred to as striped squirrels, chippers, munks and timber tigers.

They are omnivorous, primarily feeding on nuts and other fruits, buds, grass, shoots and many other forms of plant matter, as well as fungi, insects and other arthropods, small frogs, worms and bird eggs. Oh, and did I mention bird seed.

They forage basically on the ground but will climb trees for hazelnuts and acorns. They begin to stockpile food in early fall. They stash their food in their burrows and remain underground until spring, unlike some other species which make multiple small caches of food, such as the gray squirrel.

As small as they are, they fulfill several important functions in forest ecosystems. Their activities harvesting and hoarding tree seeds play a crucial role in seedling establishment. They consume many different kinds of fungi, including those involved with trees, and are an important vehicle in the dispersal of the spores of truffles which have co-evolved with these and other mammals, and thus lost the ability to disperse their spores through the air.

The eastern chipmunk hibernates during the winter.

Chipmunks also play an important role as prey for various predatory mammals and birds, but are also opportunistic predators themselves, particularly in regards to bird eggs and nestlings.

Chipmunks, on average, live about three years, but have been known to live up to nine years in captivity. In captivity, they sleep an average of 15 hours a day. It is thought that mammals which can sleep in hiding, such as rodents and bats, tend to sleep longer than those that must remain on alert.

Well, when we left our little friend on Sunday afternoon, his hole was open and he was seen scurrying around in the leaves, gathering the acorns that were falling from the trees …as if we weren’t even there.

It takes many generations of Monarchs to complete migration

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

A little while ago, while watching the National Geographic’s channel on television, I saw an episode of a series called Great Migrations, and became very interested in the Monarch butterflies, who are among the most intriguing of the migrating species.

The monarch, Danaus plexippus, is probably the best known of all North American butterflies. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 3-1/2 – 4 inches.

It takes four generations of Monarch butterflies to complete southern and northern migrations.

The monarch is most famous for its southward migration and northward return in summer in the Americas which spans the lifetime of three to four generations of the butterfly.

The upper side of the wings is tawny-orange, the veins and margins are black, and in the margins are two series of small white spots. The fore wings also have a few orange spots near the tip. The underside is similar but the tip of the fore wing and hind wing are yellow-brown instead of tawny-orange and the white spots are larger.

In North America, the monarch ranges from southern Canada to northern South America.

Monarchs are especially noted for their lengthy annual migration. In North America they make massive southward migrations starting in August until the first frost. A northward migration takes place in the spring. The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis. But no single individual makes the entire round trip. Female monarchs deposit eggs for the next generation during these migrations.

By the end of October, the population east of the Rocky Mountains migrates to the sanctuaries of the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests in the Mexican states of Michoacán and México. The western population overwinters in various sites in central coastal and southern California, United States, notably in Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz.

The length of these journeys exceeds the normal lifespan of most monarchs, which is less than two months for butterflies born in early summer. The last generation — also known as the super generation — of the summer enters into a non-reproductive phase and may live seven months or more. These butterflies fly to one of many overwintering sites. The generation that overwinters generally does not reproduce until it leaves the overwintering site sometime in February and March.

It is the second, third and fourth generations that return to their northern locations in the United States and Canada in the spring. How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of research; the flight patterns appear to be inherited, based on a combination of the position of the sun in the sky and a time-compensated sun compass that depends upon a circadian (repeating in a 24-hour cycle) clock that is based in their antennae.

Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects capable of making trans-Atlantic crossings. They are becoming more common in Bermuda due to increased usage of milkweed as an ornamental plant in flower gardens.

Because they feed mainly on milkweed, monarch butterflies are poisonous or distasteful to birds and mammals because of the presence of cardiac glycosides that are contained in milkweed consumed by the larva. It is thought that the bright colors of larva and adults function as warning colors. During hibernation monarch butterflies sometimes suffer losses because hungry birds pick through them looking for the butterflies with the least amount of poison, but in the process killing those that they reject. Some birds, such as orioles and jays have learned to eat only the thoracic muscles and abdominal contents because they contain less poison. In Mexico, about 14 percent of the overwintering monarchs are eaten by birds and mice.

Many people like to attract monarchs by growing a butterfly garden with a specific milkweed species. Many schools also enjoy growing and attending to monarch butterflies, starting with the caterpillar form. When the butterflies reach adulthood they are released into the wild.

A problem in North America is the black swallow-wort plant. Monarchs lay their eggs on these plants since they produce stimuli similar to milkweed. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are poisoned by the toxicity of this invasive plant.

The common name “Monarch” was first published in 1874 by Samuel H. Scudder because “it is one of the largest of our butterflies, and rules a vast domain.”

Monarchs are beautiful to watch during the summer, but the next time you see one, think of what that particular butterfly may have gone through to be with us.

Talk always turns to weather

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

Isn’t it amazing how when you begin a conversation with someone, inevitably, it always leads to the weather. What would we do if we didn’t have the weather to talk about. Maybe some of us would never speak.

Whether you’re at the supermarket, church, or just bumping into a friend on the street, the conversation always goes something like, “What a nice day” or “boy, it sure is hot enough.” Get the idea?

Well, the other day, a colleague and I started talking about whether this recent stretch of weather constituted an “Indian Summer.” Which prompted me to think, “what really is an Indian summer and what determines whether we have one or not?”

An Indian summer is unseasonably warm, dry and calm weather, usually following a period of colder weather or frost in the late autumn, in September, October or early November. The Old Farmers Almanac describes it as taking place between November 11 and 20. It states, “During true Indian summer, the atmosphere looks hazy or smokey, and the weather is calm and dry.”

Modern ideas on what an Indian summer constitutes vary, but the most widely accepted value for determining whether an Indian summer is occurring is that the weather must be above 70 degrees for seven days after the autumnal equinox. The autumn equinox occured last week, and we have had a stretch of seven days where we are experiencing unseasonally warm weather. We also had a period of cold weather earlier in September.

The term Indian summer has been used for more than two centuries. The origin of other “Indian”phrases are well-known as referring to North American Indians, who prefer to be called Native Americans, or, in Canada, First Nations. The term Indian summer reached England in the 19th century, during the heyday of the British Raj in India. This led to the mistaken belief that the term referred to the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the Indians in question were the Native Americans, and the term began use there in the late 18th century.

Indian summer is first recorded in Letters From an American Farmer, a 1778 work by the French-American soldier-turned-farmer J. H. St. John de Crevecoeur: “Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.”

There are many references to the term in American literature in the following hundred years or so. In the 1830s Indian summer began to be used figuratively, to refer to any late flowering following a period of decline. It was well enough established as a phrase by 1834 for John Greenleaf Whittier to use the term that way, when in his poem Memories,” he wrote of “The Indian Summer of the heart!.”

Or, Thomas DeQuincey, in a republishing of Bentley’s Works of Thomas DeQuincey, 1855, wrote: “An Indian summer crept stealthily over his closing days.”

Also, in his story The Guardian Angel, Oliver Wendell Holmes mentions “an Indian summer of serene widowhood.”

As a climatic event it is known throughout the world and is most frequently associated with the eastern and central states of the U.S., which have a suitable climate to generate the weather pattern. For example, a wide variation of temperature and wind strength from summer to winter.

Why Indian? Well, no one knows but, as is commonplace when no one knows, many people have guessed.

Some say it was from the prairie fires deliberately set by Indian tribes; from raids on European settlements by Indian war parties, which usually ended in autumn; or, in parallel with other Indian terms, it implied a belief in Indian falsity and untrustworthiness and that an Indian summer was a substitute copy of the real thing.

But my grandfather, who could spin a yarn with the best of them, had the best I’ve ever heard.

It seems an Indian chief was concerned about a hunting party that was delayed in returning from a late summer gathering of meat for the winter. The year had been an extremely difficult one and the tribe needed the buffalo, deer and turkey meat for their winter consumption, and the hides for clothing and shelters. Fearing the crops in the fields would go to waste before the braves returned to harvest, the chief sat at his campfire and began to feverishly smoke a pipe, until the air was filled with smokey, hot air. Once the hunting party made its return, the air was still warm enough to gather the crops that had not been damaged by frost, that the chief feared would be destroyed by the impending cold weather.

Makes sense to me.

Big green caterpillar

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

Last week a reader sent a photograph of a caterpillar that she couldn’t identify (see photo).

The photo she sent shows the Hyalophora cecropia in its fifth instar (stage) of development, or the cecropia moth caterpillar. It is the largest native North American moth.

Cecropia caterpillar

The female moth has had its wings measured up to six inches or more. Its range is from Nova Scotia in eastern Canada and Maine south to Florida, and west to the Canadian and U.S. Rocky Mountains. It can also be found in California.

Like all members of the giant silk moth family, the moths only reproduce because they lack functional mouth parts or digestive system, meaning they never eat. Therefore, the life expectancy is only about two weeks.

The female lays up to 100 eggs, which hatch into tiny black caterpillars. The larvae feed upon many common trees and shrubs, including maple, birch and apple. The larvae are more commonly found on maple trees. As they grow larger, it becomes clear that the black color is actually small hairs growing. In the early stages they are yellow-green. As they grow larger, the colors change to green to bluish-green, with the tubercles becoming blue, yellow and orange. Upon reaching matu-rity in autumn, the caterpillar, now about four inches long, spin large cocoons on trees or wooden structures to emerge as adults in the first two weeks of seasonally warm weather in early summer. They only have one generation per year.

Pests of the moth have become a significant problem. Parasites such as wasps and flies lay their eggs in or on the young caterpillars. The eggs then hatch into larvae, which consume the internal organs and muscles of the caterpillars. Once the eggs hatch into larvae, the para-sites release chemicals that override the regulatory mechanisms of the caterpillar, and will eventually kill the cecropia pupa. Squirrels also consume the pupae of the cecropia moths, which decreases the population significantly. Pruning of trees and leaving outdoor lights on at night can also be detrimental to the moths.

Cecropia moth

The wings of the moth are brownish with red near the base of the forewing. Crescent-shaped spots of red with whitish center are obvious on all wings, but are larger on the hindwings. All wings have whitish coloration followed by reddish bands of shading beyond the postmedial lie that runs longitudinally down the center of all four wings. The body is hairy with reddish color-ing. The body has alternating bands of red and white.

The coloration of the moth is so spectacular they are prized by collectors and nature lovers, specifically for their large size and extremely showy appearance.

Now you can impress your friends when someone sees one of these and you can identify it as the Hyalophora cecropia.

Final fish story of summer

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

We haven’t had one of these in a long time, so it was kind of timely because it happened on one of our last fishing outings of the season. With summer officially ending on September 21, my wife and I are preparing to close camp, so the boat will be coming out of the water soon.

What is it you ask?

A fishing story.

Anyone who has done some significant amount of fishing can attest that sometimes weird things happen while on the water. It can involve birds, mammals, or anything related to nature, including fish.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago while fishing near the large island on Webber Pond, we heard this rather loud splash in the water. In the past we have experienced ospreys go into their kamikaze dive to catch a fish, or a large bass coming to the surface to grab something to eat. On occasion, it could be a loon. On that particular day, that large splash was made by a deer. We don’t know what happened, because we didn’t see, just heard. But the deer was in the water, chest deep, working its way back toward the island. As always, once it reached some vegetation, it disappeared.

But this next one is a fishing story. This is not a fabrication.

We were about to wrap up the fishing for the day, having spent a little over four hours on the pond, when I felt a “hit.” Once I set the hook, I could tell this was going to be a nice fish. I began the process of bringing the fish toward the boat. It was putting up a pretty good fight, finally breaking water and going into its routine of trying to release itself from the hook. It jerked and twisted while doing its “dance” on the water.

The fish wasn’t successful so the struggle continued. As I got the fish closer to the boat, it decided to dive aft. This is when things got really interesting. The bass had managed to get directly under the boat, or so I thought. My fishing rod was completely bent in half, with the tip of the rod nearly touching the reel. At this point, I could no longer pull the fish toward the surface nor take up any more line on the reel.

I told my wife, “Grab the net, we are now in a Mexican standoff.” The fish was pulling as hard from his end as I was from mine. After what seemed like an eternity, the line finally succumbed to the stress, and broke.

Disappointed, I had to investigate as to why I could not land the fish. I figured the bass had to have snagged itself somewhere under the boat. I first checked the side where I have a diving platform. That is the usual culprit. Nothing there. Next, I checked the fin on the lower unit of the motor, nothing. “OK, it’s got to be the prop,” I thought. A quick check of the propeller showed no sign of a fishing line. However, I did notice the anchor line coming across just below the prop, a strange place for it to be.

Closer inspection showed that the hook, with lure still attached was imbedded in the anchor line. I always try to steer the fish away from that area, but this one had decided, with authority, that is where it wanted to go.

Wait a minute! I noticed something else when I saw the hook and lure. I could see eyes staring back at me. I grabbed the anchor and started to pull it up from the bottom of the lake, and there it was. The fish was still attached to the hook and lure, and tangled in the anchor rope. I had actually been trying to reel in the whole boat. The fish was hauled in, and the usual ceremony took place. Free the fish, measure and weigh, photo op, and back into the water. It wasn’t a giant: 18-inches, three pounds, but it fought like a whale.

Another fish story to tell my grandkids, because my friends don’t believe it.

CORRECTION

To clarify my column from last week, please disregard any reference to geese and substitute the word “turkeys.” It was an editing error.

The sounds of nature vs. the sounds of the city

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

Well, we are approaching that sad time of year when my wife and I are readying to shutter camp for the winter. It’s with mixed emotions because we really enjoy camp (we live there from May to October), but it’s football season, and we are both avid New England Patriots fans, and home is where we like to be for Sunday afternoon kickoffs.

The big question that comes to mind is which do we prefer, the sounds of the loons’ eerie calls in the night, the barred owls caterwauling at each other in the early morning hours, peepers in the spring and all the other wonderful sounds of nature, or… the sounds of ridiculously large pickup trucks revving their oversized gas-guzzling engines with the loud exhaust belching fumes and smoke into the air, squealing tires, police sirens blaring at all hours of the night, barking dogs, arguing neighbors, etc? Living in the middle of Waterville, those sounds always make me think, “Welcome home.” I think the answer to my question is a no-brainer.

With that in mind, here are some of the more memorable things that I witnessed this past summer at camp.

First, we’ll talk about the bald eagles consistently seen circling over Webber Pond in search of food. On two occasions this past summer, while fishing, we witnessed bald eagles come swooping down from a high perch in the trees, to scoop up fish from the surface of the water with their sharp, deadly talons. One time the bird came as close as 20 yards from our boat. The second time, it was a little further away, but still as magnificent.

Then, there was the morning when, on my way to work on the Seaward Mills Road, in Vassalboro, I saw a rafter of geese crossing the road in front of me. I had to come to a standstill because one of the adult turkeys was stationed smack in the middle of the road while the rest of the brood crossed, in single file, with an adult leading the way. That turkey resembled a school crossing guard as he stopped traffic for the kids to cross.

Not too long after, on the same road, I saw another flock of turkeys crossing the road, but this time they were accompanied by a house cat, who showed all the techniques of a border collie herding sheep. It would move around the flock to keep the young ones in line as they navigated the asphalt. Quite something to see. The cat showed no interest in harming any of the fowl.

There was also the night, which I mentioned before in this column, of the barred owls as they caterwauled to each other late one night. They started quite innocently as you would expect to hear an owl. These, being barred owls, would call out “who cooks for you, who cooks for you, all.” However, the calling began to intensify and before long the calls began to sound like barking dogs, something I had never heard before from barred owls.

Finally, in mid-May, there was the night we heard noises off in the distance that sounded like a small dog wailing from discomfort. It was a yelping sound, followed by a whine. “An injured dog,” was the first thought. However, as the sound persisted, it became clear that the calling was from red foxes calling out to each other during the mating season. The foxes have been around all summer, but the callings have stopped.

Nature has sounds of its own, and even though they can be loud at times, still trump (Oops, there’s that word, again) the sounds of the city.

Every year, the weekend after Labor Day, we make a fishing trip to Nesowadnehunk Lake, in a remote area abutting Baxter Park to the west, where we can lay in our cots in the tent, and listen to the coyotes howl in the distance. Ah, the wonderful sounds to which to fall asleep.

Bees and wasps: stinging insect activities continue into the fall

Roland D. HalleeSCORES & OUTDOORS

by Roland D. Hallee

With the relatively dry summer we have experienced in 2017, you have probably noticed an increase in activity by bees and wasps over recent weeks. That is typical of a rainless period as bees are now out in search of moisture of any kind to continue their work at the respective hives.

Bee

Bees, wasps, and hornets – commonly referred to as “stinging insects” – continue to be active into the late summer and early autumn months in the northeast, despite the majority of nest and hive activity taking place earlier in the year. As a result, prevention techniques are still important for individuals and families looking to avoid painful stings.

“There are thousands of different species of bees, wasps, and hornets worldwide and as many as 200 that may be found in New England,” said Mike Peaslee, technical manager and associate certified entomologist at Modern Pest Services, a QualityPro company, recognized as such by the National Pest Management Association, serving Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. “They all have different functions and jobs within their own colonies so some are more active or prevalent than others as the days start to get cooler. But, as a whole, they are still around and still working hard, which can be problematic for people looking to avoid getting stung.”

Wasp

Among the reasons there may be stinging insect activity without any visible nest is because 70 percent of the 20,000 bee species actually nest underground. Wasps also have some ground-nesting species like Digger Wasps and Yellow Jackets. As the final days of summer draw near and the cooler days of autumn approach, sweet foods like loose, rotting apples on the ground can be a significant attractor of stinging insects to homeowners’ yards.

“People with apple trees or crab apple trees who don’t clean up loose fruit on the ground can see a bigger problem in their yard than others,” said Peaslee. “The insects will find a significant source of food and because the days are getting shorter, honeybees know they have to gather more food and nectar to feed their colony throughout the winter. That makes autumn a very important time of the year for these insects to prepare for the colder months.”

New England is home to several different types of bees and wasps, including Bald Faced Hornets, Carpenter Bees, Paper Wasps, and Cicada Killers.

“Distinguishing between a bee and a wasp is important, especially regarding control measures or nest removal, because they each require a specific treatment method,” said Peaslee. “Bees and wasps have a number of beneficial qualities to them, but they are also disruptive and dangerous for some people, which would require action to be taken on the nest.”

Bees stay in their hives throughout the winter while wasp and hornet nest will die off after the first hard frost with just the queens overwintering in protected sites in trees, structures, etc. before returning to activity in the spring, More information on bees, wasps, and other stinging insects can be found at www.modernpest.com.

These little creatures are not exactly my favorite. They can be nasty, unpredictable and take no prisoners, so to speak. I always refer to them as “underground terrorists.” Although they perform a needed service to the ecosystem, I don’t particularly care for their presence.