Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article     August 20th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg Five small Monarch caterpillars have been discovered on my Tropical Milkweeds.  Blow up the balloons and break out the party favors!   This is a first.   I thought only aphids and green lacewing larvae appreciated the colorful flowers.   Perhaps other Monarch caterpillars will come to feast [...]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Article     August 20th 2017

Monarch caterpillar

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Five small Monarch caterpillars have been discovered on my Tropical Milkweeds.  Blow up the balloons and break out the party favors!   This is a first.   I thought only aphids and green lacewing larvae appreciated the colorful flowers.   Perhaps other Monarch caterpillars will come to feast on my six token milkweed plants.   The larvae may be the third generation born this year.   They usually appear July and August.   After pupating, the butterflies survive 2 to 6 weeks.

The last generation of Monarch butterflies is born in September and October.   The eastern (east of the Rockies) Monarchs are the ones that make the long trip to either Florida or the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.  Western populations overwinter in southern California.   Some populations have been found to spend their cold seasons in Arizona with the snowbirds or as far north as Virginia sipping mint juleps.   The fourth generation butterflies enter diapause as they begin the last leg of migration south and store up fats, carbs and proteins.   The wings are larger and the orange color deeper and darker.

What triggers fall migration?   The angle of the sun, the age of the milkweeds and other host plants, shortening days and cooler temperatures are all cues to leave.   A larger number of males than females migrate south.   The overwintering butterflies live 6 to 8 months, barring they have no run-ins with cars, droughts, insecticides, or extreme weather events before reaching their winter destination.   Good luck guys and gals.

Johnson Bridgwater, the State Director of the Sierra Club, gave a talk at the Shawnee Public Library on Sunday.  Nature Conservancy, Student Conservation Corp and the Sierra Club I heartily support.   Champions of plants, trees and wildlife, the groups are watchdogs that not only care for our environment, but work to help stabilize and restore nature.   Each has healthy elements of selfless good backed by strong scientific research.

Science is like Jeopardy (one of my mother's favorite shows, next to anything on PBS.)   The result, the answer, is staring you in the face.   Answer:   The earliest forms of life, cyanobacteria, began building up oxygen in the atmosphere nearly 4 billion years ago that set the stage for the appearance of complex life (us.) What is the question?  Where did earth's oxygen come from?   Why not ask what, why, how or when?   Decades of observations and experiments that created more questions, then results and conclusions by countless people led to the answer bacteria.  If other origins become known, the conclusion may change.   Science is open and flexible. The person who is truly interested and thirsts for knowledge will study and dig deeper to learn more.

Pipeline sign along the highway

Mr. Bridgwater is the only paid staff member of the Oklahoma Sierra Club and the only registered environmental lobbyist in the state of Oklahoma.   Other than him, the Sierra Club is totally a volunteer organization.   In his presentation, he mentioned the Sierra Club is working with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to lessen the impact of earthquakes caused by the gas and oil industry.   The club is involved with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the three major power companies"OG&E, PSO and rural electric coops"to phase out coal-operated plants.   By 2025, fifty percent of coal plants will be gone.   Positive actions.

What is the problem with coal plant energy?   Last year Oklahoma added 14 new lakes to the mercury contaminated list, bringing it to 54 lakes statewide. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) states mercury comes from mining, coal plants, industries, soil pollution, landfills, the weathering of rocks or volcanoes.   The predominating wind (from Texas) carries contaminated dust, smoke and ash from plowed land and coal power plants.   It contributes to the haze that has settled much of the time over Oklahoma.   Have you noticed? The mercury converts to the organic methyl mercury that accumulates in predator fish with every mouthful they take.   Check out this site if you eat the fish from state lakes:


How many pipelines?   Over 17,000 miles of pipelines connect the gas and oil wells across Oklahoma.   Pipeline construction is dangerous.   More people are injured or killed working on pipelines than any other industry on a per capita basis.   Oklahoma is #2 in miles of pipeline in the USA. It is also #2 in number of gas line leaks.   This makes me uncomfortable.   We have 3 pipelines crossing our property or within spitting distance, so I drove around looking for pipeline markers. The safety signs list what the pipes carry, contact name and emergency number.   Nearly two and one half million miles of energy pipelines cross the USA. Most of the marked pipelines in my area transport natural gas under high pressure that flows between 200 to 1500 pounds per square inch. Think of that the next time an earthquake shakes the ground.

Why are turtles in trouble?   Mr. Bridgwater spoke of areas that show direct impact of people on the environment:   pipelines, mercury and even turtles. Six species of Oklahoma turtles are now on the endangered list, including the Alligator Snapping turtle. I helped one cross the road a few years ago.   Jumping out of my van with an umbrella, I prodded the good-sized testy turtle to move. It threw back its long neck and grabbed my umbrella with its 'beak.'   Okay.   I dragged the turtle off the road headfirst.   Ten minutes later it turned my umbrella loose. Sometimes I think turtles are like squirrels. They are safely on one side of the road , then turn around to cross the road again.   No road sense and their shell offer no defense against motor vehicles, which is one reason the turtle population is dropping.   Many have long lives but their reproductive rate is low.   Their habitats are disappearing, but (and this surprised me) many are being harvested for the Asian food market.   Oklahoma is number one in the export of turtles for food.   Eat beef.

My three toed box turtle

My turtle was alive and well, investigating the compost/scrap area on Tuesday morning.   Not really a compost pile, the place is more like a foraging area for whatever wildlife that cares to visit. My three-toed Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) likes tomatoes, orange and grapefruit peels and leftovers.   Box turtles in the wild eat plants, invertebrates, worms, insects and small dead things.   Oklahoma only has 2 species of land dwelling turtles, the Three Toed Box and the Ornate Box. Their numbers are dropping and the state prohibits all commercial trade on these turtles.

When will the environment become as important as a Thunder game?   It's all up to you, but then

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