Cicada killer wasps are actually mild-mannered insects. The prodigious wasps are like a favorite Dracula movie — scary, but benign.
Cicada killer wasps are actually mild-mannered insects. The prodigious wasps are like a favorite Dracula movie — scary, but benign.
Penny Jacobsen of Albert Lea told me that was picking raspberries with two youngsters — one 6 years old and the other 7.
Raspberry picking is a great job because of the reward waiting at the end.
The kids were doing a great job. The containers were filling with berries.
Penny thought such diligence should be encouraged, so she told her helpers they could eat a few of the delectable berries if they wanted.
The kids declined, protesting that the raspberries must be washed first.
Penny admitted that the berries needed to be washed, but it wouldn’t hurt to eat a few in their present condition.
The kids once again refused, this time adding their real reason for not eating the raspberries.
"We can’t eat them. They have mosquito poop on them."
At the library
I did a book signing at the New Richland Public Library. Thanks to all who attended the full house.
Barb Wildgrube of New Richland asked me about a bird song she had heard. She gave her rendition of the song. I was stumped. I had no idea what bird it could have been.
I ran into Barb a couple of months later at the same library. She told me that the birdsong turned out to be the birdlike whistling of a man who walked by Barb’s house regularly.
Echoes from Loafers’ Club
Your neighbor is out mowing the lawn.
I saw that.
Doesn’t that make you want to get outside?
No, I don’t enjoy watching him mow the lawn that much.
I’ve learned
The packaging is often more durable than the product.
There are two kinds of people — the humble and those who will be humbled.
Any mosquito repellent will work if you run fast enough while wearing it.
Phone fun
The Batt Cave gets a lot of phone books. I needed phone books more before I started keeping my brain on an iPhone. We were lucky to get one phone book in those days of yore. It was much larger than the flock we get today.
Our phone rang. We still have a landline, but it’s not a rotary-dial phone. We’ve moved on from that. Texting was too difficult on that phone.
Anyway, our phone rang. My wife went to answer it.
I told her, "If that is that Jennifer Aniston woman again, tell her that I’m not home."
Apparently, it wasn’t Jennifer Aniston.
We say things out of habit
"Would you like a little more water?" asked the server.
"No, thank you," I replied, ready to pay my check.
The server flashed a practiced smile and said, "No problem."
I’m always glad to hear that I’m not being a problem by not wanting anything.
Calling 911 in Hartland
There was a phone booth in Hartland for many years. It wasn’t much, but it was a place we could call home.
There is a seedy underbelly of Hartland. That’s where this call originated.
"What’s your emergency?" asked the 911 operator.
"I’m out of gravy," said the caller.
"I don’t think you know how 911 works."
"I don’t think you know how mashed potatoes work."
"I’m sending a police officer to your address."
"Make sure he brings some gravy."
Looking at lightning bugs
I knew I was where I should be as I watched the fireflies. The flying flashlights made me feel like a kid in a candy store.
I recalled a day when my wife and I were on a snazzy beach on the Mediterranean Sea. Youngsters were building sand castles. Maturity called. I let it go to voicemail.
I built a sand snowman.
Somehow, we’ve managed to live happily even after.
I was taking pleasure in the dance of the day.
I watched an ant drag a feather for over 45 feet before it disappeared into thick vegetation. She made it look as light as a feather.
The weather was hot, as might be expected during the Dog Days, lasting from July 3 through Aug. 11, named for the Dog Star, Sirius, which rises and sets with the sun during this period.
Hartland is a place known for its wise people who drive in the shade during the Dog Days. Following the example of my betters, I step into the shade and am scolded by a wren. There is a European fable that tells the tale of an eagle and a wren that were competing to be king of the birds. The one who flew highest would be king. The eagle flew off, not knowing that the wren was resting upon the eagle’s back. The eagle flew as high as it could. When it grew too tired to fly any higher, the wren popped out and flew above the eagle.
I took a picture of a handsome, male common grackle. I did so for no other reason than that bird must be one of our least photographed common birds.
This single page of the Dog Days was delightful. Laura Ingalls Wilder might have been thinking of it when she wrote, "I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."
Nature lessons
Goldfinches molt their body feathers twice a year, in the spring before breeding and after nesting in the fall.
Rock pigeons, house sparrows, European starlings and barn swallows occur in more than 80 percent of cities according to a global study of biodiversity in urban areas published in "Proceedings of the Royal Society B." Cities aren’t a refuge for birds and plant life, as they support 92 percent fewer bird species and 75 percent fewer native plant species than in equivalent undeveloped lands.
Customer comments
Ric McArthur of Morpeth, Ontario, saw this sign in a store in Texas, "We will not interrupt your cellphone conversation. We will be happy to help you when you are finished." And this sign on Amherst Island in Lake Ontario, "Slow down. Free range children at play."
Larry Buhr of Faribault said you know your house needs work when the squirrels are looking out of it.
When I asked LaVonne Kalke of New Richland how she was doing, she told me that she was just trying to stay normal.
Nature notes
LaVoy Ebnet of New Richland asked about cicada killer wasps. These mild-mannered insects are one of my favorites. The prodigious wasps are like your favorite Dracula movie — scary, but benign.
When these giant wasps are buzzing around, someone always asks, "Are we all going to die?" We all will, sooner or later, but not likely from these wasps, which are as long as two inches.
Female cicada killers search trees for cicadas. A cicada is stung, carried to the burrow and placed in the nest.
The wasp uses its front legs for digging burrows, the hind legs for kicking out dirt. Cicada killers prefer tunneling in light clay to sandy soil in full sun with sparse vegetation and well-drained slopes.
Because the female is larger than the male, a female egg is provided with two cicadas while a male egg gets only one. After the eggs hatch the grubs consume the cicadas, molt several times, form overwintering cocoons, and undergo a metamorphosis that allows them to emerge next July just as the cicadas appear.
The males die after mating and females die after laying eggs. By August’s end, all adults are dead, the males having lived about two weeks and the females around four.
The adult cicada killers feed on nectar and the males are unable to sting. The female isn’t aggressive around humans, but if you were to grab one and say unkind things about her mother, she might sting you.
Meeting adjourned
There is always room for one more kindness.
© Al Batt 2014