From Our Readers
MEETING THE BEETLES
At first I was fascinated by the beautiful pictures in “Beetle Mania” [March-April]. As I read on, however, I was saddened at the thought of lives being taken with the object of creating pretty designs and the lack of reverence for nature embodied in this article.
Editor’s Note: While it’s true that Christopher Marley incorporates once-living organisms into his designs, he has the utmost respect for the species he uses, and is very much aware of their conservation. As Marley writes in his book Pheromone, “The chief defense of most insect species against depleted numbers lies in their ability to breed prolifically. This is not to say that abusive collecting practices are not possible or that governmental monitoring and permitting processes are not important, but the danger of decimation to virtually any insect population lies elsewhere—in habitat destruction.” Further, Marley’s projects help provide jobs for people living in threatened ecosystems. “By harvesting a renewable, sustainable ‘crop’ such as insects, they have an economic incentive to conserve the habitat where their livelihood is produced,” he writes. Marley speaks to these issues online in our exclusive interview here.
Christopher Marley’s “Beetle Mania” is just wild! Please encourage him to turn it into a high-quality jigsaw puzzle. I don’t mean to trivialize his impressive images (or to trivialize the millions of years of evolution that went into producing these colorations). Nothing makes one look more closely at detail than a jigsaw puzzle, making such puzzles an effective nature-teaching tool.
Editor’s Note: A jigsaw puzzle featuring Christopher Marley’s work actually exists. You can find it here.
I applaud your recent article “Clean Break” [March-April]. Hopefully Audubon will join forces with other large environmental groups like the Sierra Club to lobby our state legislatures for incentive-based payments for green power delivered to the utility grid by private green energy producers. That would allow those producers to justify the cost of installing larger systems, and to receive some return on their investment when personal power demand is low, such as when they’re away on vacation.
However, I still don’t understand why the Audubon Society is including windmills in the green energy production mix. I live by a huge windmill farm, and they’re locally referred to as “Cuisinarts for birds.” Unfortunately, in highly urbanized California, the few open areas with good wind for wind farms are often also pinch points in the flyways of migrating birds. My nearby wind farm has killed almost all local resident birds, and kills up to hundreds of migrating birds every year. Wind farms take an especially high toll on raptors, which spend a lot of time cruising in the air looking down for prey. As a professional engineer, I can say with some authority that a 10-fold increase in windmills may only provide a few percentage points of very unreliable energy into the national energy mix and decimate the bird population of the U.S. There is nothing green about a technology that provides so little at such a large cost to bird life.
Lewis A. Bielanowski
Editor’s Note: See “Lassoing the Wind” to learn about National Audubon’s efforts to mitigate the impact of wind power and other forms of renewable energy.
SLUGGING IT OUT
In the March-April Green Guru, a reader asked for a chemical-free way to get rid of slugs. I can offer a one-word solution: chickens!
We have three hens that have the run of the yard in the early evening, just before the sun sets. Chickens LOVE slugs, and they slurp them up like we eat oysters.
I wish there were a good solution for lightweight, chicken-proof, quick-to-set-up chicken fencing, because then we could let the chickens target one garden or section of the lawn at a time (which some of your readers may have to do because of traffic, predators, space constraints, etc.). That would also allow people to borrow chickens from a farm friend to “treat” their garden once or twice a week.
It’s chemical-free, good for the environment, and good for the chickens!
The Green Guru didn’t mention the method that has left me nearly slug-free for years. A mixture of 40 percent household ammonia and 60 percent water in a spray bottle will kill both snails and slugs. Make your garden rounds first thing in the morning and spray them. They’ll “foam” up and die rapidly. Their “brethren” seem to be attracted to these “marinated” fellows and are easier to find the next morning. The ammonia also simply adds nitrogen to your garden. The only drawback is that this mixture may burn some new growth and very sensitive plants such as baby tears.
Susan Cosier responds: There are indeed other ways to get slugs out of your garden. Pest management professor Whitney Cranshaw from the Colorado State University Extension suggests diluting one part ammonia with nine parts water—a mixture that makes for a good fertilizer but that will only work on slugs if they’re out (you have to spray the solution right on the slugs’ bodies for this method to be effective). I didn’t include that technique because I was focusing on chemical-free ways to eradicate slugs.
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