Friday, November 5, 2010

Notes From Mother Nature

Mother Nature sends November greetings to everyone.
What a peaceful time I sent to all of you in Iowa in the last five weeks. Mother Nature is not always mean or spiteful as some of the media people like to play it. I can be very nice and I proved it once again this October. Very little rain, nice warm days, cool nights, and just a nice hard freeze here in November to get most of the leaves off the plants. OK, there were a few windy days with sustained winds above 35 mph and gusts up to 65 mph. Imagine if I had thrown some rain or snow with that wind. If you are complaining, you have the problem, not me.
This month I was thinking about wooly bear caterpillars. They are kind of contrarian, and Mother Nature likes contrarian characteristics once in a while to spice up the gene pool. Traditionally, we all think that caterpillars are formed in the spring and summer, do their growth activities, and then blossom into spectacular butterflies. That is all pretty and good and simple. Wooly bear caterpillars actually survive through the winter and finish their life cycle in the next year.
Wooly bear caterpillars are crawling around now on sunny days and you know it is too late in the year for them to turn into a butterfly now, just would not have enough time to even procreate for the next generation before the hard freeze. What I have done with the wooly caterpillar is kind of neat.
In the late spring of summer, the female woolly bear caterpillar, like other caterpillars, hatch during warm weather from eggs laid by a female moth. They spend the remainer of summer and fall growing into a relatively large sized caterpillar. As winter approaches, the mature woolly bears search for overwintering sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs. When spring arrives, woolly bears spin fuzzy cocoons and transform inside them into full-grown moths.
Not many humans care about moths, but I have many species of moths and to me they are just as important, if not as attractive as, butterflies. They do all kinds of good things in my overall plan. Humans are busy planting butterfly gardens, but have you ever heard of a moth garden? To Mother Nature, they are all important creations and I love them all. I make my own moth gardens.
Now Mother Nature does not like to predict what I am going to do; I prefer to just do what I need to do to try to get everything in balance. I cannot really predict winter because it depends somewhat on how much crap you humans keep throwing into the air. Last winter the air was warmer and that holds more moisture, so you got a lot more snow. If I was a gambler, I would say that Mother Nature has not really changed anything this year and the air will still hold lots of moisture, so you put it together to figure out what is going to happen.
Anyway, you humans do have people who do good research to try to understand how I work. In addition to good old fashioned, rigorous research, sometimes you have some fun. I believe you call it folklore.

So, for my wooly bears, you have come up with some observations on the brown and black portions of the caterpiller. Typically, the bands at the ends of the caterpillar are black, and the one in the middle is brown or orange, giving the woolly bear its distinctive striped appearance. When the middle band is very narrow, winter is predicted to be very difficult. A wide band indicates a mild winter.
Dr. C.H. Curran did a lot of the initial research in 1948 and using a very small sample of 13 creatures, he sort of accurately predicted winter weather. He duplicated this research over the next eight years and the folklore got widespread attention.
Now Mother Nature endorses all research, good research as well as not very rigorous research. Using the non rigorous standard and the observation of one wolly bear at the train farm shown in the picture above, you can easily see that there is very little brown on this caterpillar. She rolled into a ball (like she is supposed to do) when one of the train guys picked her up and put near a pile of wood to help her find a nice spot to overwinter. Therefore, based on one data point and continued bad behavior by humans, Mother Nature will help you deduct that this is going to be a rough winter in central Iowa.
Maybe you could use your snow shovel a little more than your snowblower this winter to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. I will provide adequate snow for you to practice on.
Talk to you next month.
Mother Nature