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Friday December 2, 2016
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by Donna Walker

Big-eared Woodrat – aka Packrat

Big-eared Woodrat – aka Packrat

Big-eared Woodrats AKA Packrats and Traderats

You’ve heard the term “packrat” used to describe a neighbor, a family member, maybe even yourself … yep, I see you raising your hand, albeit slowly. …

It’s ok, no one is judging, I’m raising mine too. I admit, I’m a bit of a packrat myself. You just never know when that piece of shiny ribbon will come in handy.

I bet you have special places for such things, a drawer, a box; this way you know exactly where they are when it comes time to use them.

You argue, “I might need it someday, or ‘member the time I threw such-and-such out just to find I needed it two weeks later?”

As a nature guide, when I come upon a mound of sticks, I’ll stop and ask if anyone knows where the term “packrat” came from and most people will say they don’t.

I then tell them about California’s Big-eared Woodrat, formally known as the Dusky-footed Woodrat, aka “packrat” or “trader” and why some of us share her name.
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Monday October 24, 2016
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Rat Lungworm Disease Transmitted via Snails

by Donna M. Walker

Here’s a very good reason not to eat snails … just in case you were thinking of picking one up and popping it into your mouth, yuck, right?!

Who would have thought the little slimes, with long beady eyes, could be such a health hazard?

You think you’re safe because you’d never eat a snail? Not so. …

Why? – Rats! They carry a parasite called “rat lungworm,” Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

The larvae of lungworm pass through a rat’s feces, a.k.a. rat droppings, snails then come in contact with the droppings, leaving trails of infected slime behind (grounds for washing lettuce, not once but thrice!).

The result, if infected, is meningitis. In humans, juvenile worms migrate to the brain; as adults, they live in the arterioles of the ileocecal area (blood vessels around a valve between the small and large intestines). Lovely.

Rat Lungworm uses rats as its host.

Rat Lungworms use rats as their  host.

Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly is the best preventative measure against Rat Lungworm disease.

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If snails are not part of your diet then how do these worms get into your system? Remember, I mentioned washing your lettuce, not once but thrice? If you eat salad or raw vegetables that an infested snail has come in contact with, you could very well ingest the parasite.

Rat Lungworm disease causes Eosinophilic meningitis. Contaminated produce is the main culprit from trails of slime left by snails, slugs, and flatworms. And, it’s not just humans that can become infected; dogs, even horses have been known to become a host for Rat Lungworm.

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Wednesday April 13, 2016
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Native Bees, Honeybees, and Mimics

by Donna M. Walker

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“Auntie, auntie, the biting flies are chasing me! You know – the ones with the little yellow shorts!” exclaimed Calvatina’s niece as she ran inside the house. …

Springtime Pollinators

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It’s spring and all that buzzing you hear isn’t just coming from honeybees! . . .

The Honeybee arrived in North America during the 17th century via European settlers but did you know that we already had an abundance of native bees? – 4,000 different species, to be precise.

These resourceful native insects, unlike honeybees, have managed to escape domestication.

Native bees, including bumblebees and mimics, have been pollinating the continent’s flowers for eons.

The wind was blowing the petals of this poppy making it difficult for a honey bee to gather her pollen. Beeing the bee-lover that I am, I held the petals firm so she could keep pollinating the poppy. I think I saw her wave an antennae in thanks. …

The wind was blowing the petals of this poppy making it difficult for this honeybee to gather her pollen. Beeing the bee-lover that I am, I held the petals firm so she could keep pollinating the poppy. I think I saw her wave an antennae in thanks. …

Most people don’t realize that native bees are still around and play an important role in pollination. It’s not all about the honeybee; we need to protect our native bees as well.

For instance, the European honeybee doesn’t know how to pollinate tomatoes or eggplants (What would salad be without tomatoes, or Eggplant Parmesan without the eggplant?).
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Thursday February 11, 2016
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California’s Crazy Ant Invasion

by Donna M. Walker

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There’s a new invasive species of ants making their way to California from the eastern and southern states.

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Actually, they’ve already arrived but not in large numbers like in Florida and Texas.

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How do they travel across country? By way of human transportation – potted plants, cargo, trash, boxes, etc.

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The Tawny (AKA Rasberry) Crazy Ant has made its way from Argentina and Brazil into the U.S. causing millions of dollars in damage.

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If these Crazy ants are anything like their cousins from Argentina, the invasive Argentine Ants, then we could be in for another supercolony of ants crawling all over the state.

Map of both the Crazy and Argentine ant invasion into the U.S.

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Tuesday December 1, 2015
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by Donna M. Walker

Protecting California’s
Monarch Butterflies

Black and orange wings soar through the air for thousands of miles

… then flutter gracefully towards the ground where they find rest in southern and central California trees.

If there is one insect that has captured the heart of Californians, it is the Monarch Butterfly … unless of course, you happen to be an entomologist.

In that case, you probably find beauty in Jerusalem crickets – as only an entomologist could and would.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

Migrating Monarchs

In southern California, once fall approaches, Monarch butterflies take refuge from their long journey south to the sheltering trees of San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties.

There are two populations of Monarch butterflies in North America that are separated by the Rocky Mountains; each with different migration patterns.

The Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate south to spend their winters in Mexico.

West of the Rockies, here in California, Monarchs migrate from Canada to the coast of central and southern California where they overwinter.
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Thursday May 28, 2015
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There is no Poop Fairy!

Normally, I wouldn’t use “pets and pests” in the same sentence but, our friendly companions do attract certain kinds of pests, especially dogs. OK, so maybe I’m biased since I’ve always had several cats, to the point of bordering on “Crazy Cat Lady” . . . but – cats cover it up, keeps the flies away you know. …
Cat and Dog on Play Date

Animal lovers absolutely love their pets; pets are part of the family but they are incapable of cleaning up after themselves! Dogs poop, cats puke. Lucky us – we get to clean it up!

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Thursday April 2, 2015
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bee drawing

 Bees in the Spring

Honey Bee on leaf

Spring is here

and the bees are gearing up their pollen baskets ready for the spring flower harvest. Springtime is the buzziest time for honeybees; all the flowers, including wildflowers, are in full bloom.

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Are Honeybees Pests?

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Honeybees only become a pest issue if they start making a hive in your attic or within 150 ft. of your home. Then they become a threat to the health of your family, especially if anyone is allergic to bee stings.

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Friday December 19, 2014
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Pests in California

Wintertime Pests in Southern California.

In Southern California, one of the ways you can tell its wintertime is when you see Californians remove their sunglasses! Otherwise, we natives (and those from afar) enjoy sunshine all year round, (wildlife and insects included).Winter in sunny Southern California is so mild that insects and wildlife enjoy not only the weather but the abundance of resources California has to offer, including our pantries. Plus, when the weather does turn cold and rainy (at least for California standards), insects and rodents are not shy about making your home their home during our short winter months. Read more

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Thursday December 4, 2014
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Winter has arrived in sunny California, just in time for the House mouse to find a warm and cozy place to build a nest. …

There’s a Mouse in the House!

Mice and humans have lived together for eons in a “commensal” relationship, meaning they live on the same premises and eat at the same table (sometimes, literally!).

People are often afraid of mice and given their propensity to carry disease, they probably should be but others have a love of mice and keep them as pets.

For decades, mice in literature have captured the imagination of both children and adults. Mice figures in anthropomorphic drawings depict them with human characteristics in stories about these tiny-tailed creatures.

One of the reasons mice are used in literature may be because we find story tales that represent these timorous critters who act so brave and bold (despite their small size) and we think, “If a little mouse can do it, so can I!”

Three mice and cheese

Three mice discussing how to get a very large
hunk of cheese back to their “living quarters.”

The History of Mice

The word “mouse” has been traced to the Sanskrit verb “musha” which means “to steal.”

The House mouse lived in Israel 12,000 years ago and was found in the first agricultural settlements in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

This adaptable creature followed the earliest migrations of people around the world as a stowaway in grain supplies.

Today, the mouse still prefers grains but will eat just about anything. And eat it does, 15 to 20 times per day!

Mice eating agricultural crops.

Mice were present in the first agricultural settlements of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

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Friday November 21, 2014
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Your Majesty the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Bird poop larva of swallowtail

The mature caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail is so disguised as to deter predators into thinking its just a piece of bird poop.

Once Upon a Time . . .

This is a story about an ugly caterpillar that turns into a beautiful majestic butterfly; but before this sad-looking caterpillar grows up, it goes through an unsightly, humiliating stage that resembles bird poop!

Larva from the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is a greenish-brown with white blotches that look like bird poop; therefore, it is often referred to as the Bird Poop Worm or Bird Poop Caterpillar.

In the Beginning

The bird poop caterpillar started out as an orangey-yellow egg carefully placed atop a leaf by its lovely mother, a big beautiful black and yellow butterfly.

Mother butterfly chose the perfect leaf amongst the branches of a lemon tree.

Gradually, the pretty orange egg darkened in color then opened and out squeezed the caterpillar.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly Egg

The egg of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is orange in color.

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