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Friday, April 27, 2012

Necropsy Pending…

bees seeking the sunAmong the “Must See” videos on my home page the other day, none of which usually interest me in the slightest, was an image that stood out—at least to this beekeeper: a record set by a Chinese man. You’d think he’d have a broad, record breaking smile on his face, but his lips were pursed, his mouth tight-lipped. What you could see of his face presented a stern, stoic expression. A record-setting attempt is serious business—especially if the record involves an insect capable of injecting a potent dose of venom into the record seeker. The fellow’s morose expression derives from the fact he has cloaked himself in three hundred thirty-one thousand honeybees. Amazing, correct? To me, yes—but not because each of the bees covering him (seventy-eight pounds!) could prick him with a barbed stinger and deliver what could be to some a fatal anaphylactic reaction. Amazing, not because of the daunting task of counting out that many bees (not “bean counters;” “bee counters,”:  “three hundred thousand and one, three hundred thousand and two…”). Amazing that some human being should wish to set such a record in the first place and be cavalier enough to attempt it? No, none of those for this keeper of bees. Rather the fact that given the scarcity of honey bees these days, how in the world did the subject and his helpers gather that many bees to attempt the record! I mentioned in an earlier post (“Bee”wildered in the Valley,” 3/19) that each spring my over-wintered colonies—if they survived at all—had dwindled to the point I would be hard pressed to come up with enough to string together a bee necklace.Bees Neez

This week was package bee week at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply in Snohomish and as in years past I volunteered two days of my time to help proprietor Jim Tunnell and staff parcel out 520 three and four pound packages of bees to eager beekeepers.Four pounders Bees weigh in at approximately 3,500-4,000 a pound: 520 packages…you do the math and again you have a prodigious amount of bugs present—further reason for me to lament the paucity of bees now in my care.

Two weeks ago I said,“Enough, is enough,” and in desperation decided to share my problem with the scientists at Washington State University’s Bee Diagnostic Lab. I visited their website and made copies of the instructions for collecting and sending a sample. According to the lab’s instructions, a half to full cup of dead bees was needed for a viable sample. The little corpses were then to be placed in a leak-proof container and completely submerged (“one half inch above bee level”) in isopropyl alcohol.

Over the next six days I gathered dead bees from a plywood catcher board I placed in front of the stricken hive. I collected any bees adjacent to the board as well. (House cleaning workers drag out the deceased, tidily ferry them off a few inches from the hive entrance, and drop them in the grass.) After six days of gathering, my sample totaled slightly more than a half cup. spring mortality(Most beekeepers send dead bees from dead out hives,  a sample of which would easily yield a cup or more from the dead bees on the hive’s bottom board. The instruction sheet further suggested the sample could be gathered from returning field workers by temporarily closing the entrance and then netting the hovering bees until a sufficient number were captured. I simply couldn’t bring myself to capture and kill a cup’s worth of bees from an already suffering hive.)

I filled out the requested paperwork, answering such questions as: “Estimated colony losses in the last 12 months [6 of 10 colonies]; predominant ‘strain’ of bees in the beeyard [Italian]; origin of stock if known, i.e. queen producer, etc. [Steve Parks Apiaries, Palicedro, California]; all chemicals used for disease/pest management in last 12 months and frequency of use [fumagilin for nosema disease, fall/spring, formic acid pads to treat for varroa and tracheal mites, fall]; and ‘have you seen symptoms of CCD in your yard?’ [Colony Collapse Disorder…yes].” I typed up a complete history of my beekeeping experience here in the Tualco Valley, pre and post mite arrival at my bee yard, gave detailed information on how and when the sample was gathered, as well as the health of the colony from which the sample was taken. WSU sampleI dumped the pile of dead bees into a half pint wide-mouth mason jar, submerged them in rubbing alcohol as per the directions, boiled a canning lid for fifteen minutes and sealed the jar with it. To check for leakage, I inverted the jar on a paper towel for two days. Also as directed, I attached a label with identifying data on the glass, swaddled the jar in bubble wrap, nestled it in a small box and packed newspaper tightly on all sides. I placed the informational letter on top of the packaging and sealed the box with strapping tape. The next day and five dollars and seventy-six cents later, the sample was en route to Pullman, Washington.Off to the lab

Now I’m anxiously awaiting the results, and as I patiently wait, another day passes, and this “beekeeper” continues to be a “bee loser…” dwindling…dwindling…dwindling….

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From the Editor: The Ripple Ruffles a Few Feathers…

A spring day in the ValleyThe old saying goes, “You can please some of the people some of the time, and all the people some of the time, but not all the people all of the time.” From its very first issue The Ripple has aspired to please “all the people all the time,”a noble mission, but apparently, as I recently learned, The Ripple has come up short. Granted, while loosely applying the 5 W’s of good journalism, The Ripple has endeavored to inform and entertain its audience. Perhaps “pleasing” them all was pushing journalism a bit too far.

A while back I was doing some banking, had finished my business and was hovering over the Friday cookie platter, stalking the choicest chocolate chip offering on the plate. I looked up and saw an old Valley acquaintance standing in the teller’s line. This fellow was featured in three Ripple posts, two in July 2010, and another July of last summer. He was a Valley walker and cyclist like me and occasionally we met along the way. Our meetings were frequent enough for us to develop a casual chit chat relationship.Whenever Gladys and I would roll up on him, the thread of conversation would invariably turn to the protocol of bicycle safety. “You better get yourself a helmet,” or “You need to raise the seat on your bike.” On subsequent meetings, just to appease him, I would share that I was raising the seat in increments and in fact had raised it about half an inch just that week. A couple months passed without my seeing him striding about in the Valley, and I wondered about his absence. During one of our meetings he told me he was considering walking or cycling to Texas to visit a friend. Perhaps he’s on his trip, I thought.

But in mid-July I did bump into him again—or rather he bumped into us, Gladys and me. It was a beautiful July morning, so I stretched Gladys a bit in the direction of a brilliant Mt. Ranier, stopped at my scenic vista of the mountain and parked my ride off the shoulder by the gravel driveway below Werkhovens’ digester just off the Lower Loop Road. The visibility was perfect for a picture or two of that spectacular mountain. I was just about to frame a photo when a car nosed into the gravel drive: my environmentally-sensitive friend Nancy L on her way to Sunday services. I hardly had time for a greeting when I looked up and saw a cyclist speeding toward us. “Certainly he sees the car,” I thought. Apparently he didn’t. On he came, head down, following the fog line as if it were a wire, on a collision course with the hatchback of Nancy’s car. I fully expected him to dart left and wheel around the obstacle. But he didn’t. In the nick of time, he looked up, and shot to the right between Nancy’s car, me and Gladys. My unsuspecting vintage Columbia was unceremoniously hurled aside into the weeds; I sprung backward out of harm’s way, (pulling a leg muscle in the effort, I later discovered); rider and bike went down amid a cloud of dust and a barrage of gravel. I rushed to the downed biker’s side, and as he turned his head, his face a grimace of pain, I recognized my Valley friend. It was a reunion neither of us could have imagined—nor wanted. It’s not often one is part of a news story himself and The Ripple, always hungry for news, was on hand to give a full accounting of our unfortunate reunion. I spent the better part of the day dealing with the aftermath. (For a full accounting read “No Crying on…,” 7/26/2010; I posted a follow-up story 7/29/2010).

Again, here I am at the bank hovering over the cookie plate when I see my companion for nearly a day that July two years ago. Only once since then had I seen him out in the Valley. Last summer one day in July he breezed by me, eyes as usual cast down at the road. I had recognized him earlier as he passed me by. When I saw him returning, I remembered his fascination with the fog line, and just to play it safe, crossed to the opposite side of the road. Then, as now, I received no recognition, no nod, no wave, no smile… nothing…(“Strange…Very Strange Indeed…”7/13/2011). Here in the lobby he glances around while waiting his turn, gazes in my direction. I smile, we make eye contact. Immediately he averts his glance. Perhaps he doesn’t recognize me? The strangeness continues….

I leave the cookies behind, approach him, and ask how he’s been. To my surprise instead of a friendly “glad to see you” posture, a “by the way, ‘thanks again,’” I receive a frosty greeting. “I don’t appreciate what you wrote about me in your blog.” Not the greeting I expected, by any means. In surprise, I retrenched, apologized, and asked him just what I said he disliked. Apparently he thought the posts portrayed him in a less than favorable light. “You have no right,” I’m told with forced restraint, “to write about people without their permission if they’re not public figures.” I stood there, the cookies in my hand forgotten, totally taken aback. My only defense was: “Wel-l-l-l…it’s just a blog, you know.” In a tone that sent a chill through me, I’m further chastised by: “You know, you’re not a journalist; you’re just a gossip writer!” Oh, harsh…The Ripple ripped! With that, he turned on his heels. End of conversation. All I could blurt (or blubber) was, “Nice talking to you,”as I exited the bank.

“Wonder if The Good Samaritan Act extends to blogs?” I pondered all the way home. The chilly reunion certainly explained the cold shoulder I received from my cyclist friend last summer. As I said at the outset of this post, The Ripple’s mission has been to inform, and while I realize “entertain” might be stretching things a bit, it is  far from the blog’s intent to demean or belittle anyone--certainly not to make others look or sound “like an idiot.” With my ears still stinging from the sarcasm, I thought I’d revisit the posts I wrote about my—at this juncture—“former” friend, see if they contained anything libelous enough to warrant such strong censure. The first post I thought to be an accurate reporting of the incident in which I had been “up close and personal”; the third, about last summer’s encounter, pretty much the same. The second post about our post-op visit, however, did give me pause. My subject is a fiercely independent, extremely private person. Perhaps I intruded a bit too much into his life, put his lifestyle on display where I shouldn’t have. If The Ripple was insensitive, The Ripple apologizes: it did not mean to be. And if it’s true The Ripple is little more than a gossip mill, perhaps I should have been sensitive to the fact that while everyone loves gossip, no one wants to be at the center of it.

Recently I mentioned that when I send a post off to the publisher’s, I never know if anyone ever reads it.  “A friend found your blog and showed it to me,” was my disgruntled friend’s icy launch into our brief bank conversation. (From our numerous Valley chats, I gathered he didn’t own a computer, wasn’t interested in blogs in the slightest.) So whether The Ripple is journalism, entertainment,…or gossip, pure and simple…the editor needs to remember: “What happens in the Valley, doesn’t necessarily stay in the Valley!” the author and Gladys

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Seeds to Change…For a Change…

Seductive seedsThis time of year they draw a gardener like a magnet. I can’t pass one by without stopping to browse. There’s something seductive about those gleaming packets, each filled with so much promise (or disappointment) for the summer season. I’m not the only one who stands in front of the racks and dreams, and I’m curious about those who browse with me, gardeners like myself, with garden dreams of their own. I want to share our dreams, compare notes, draw from others’ experiences, but I don’t want to intrude on their garden reveries. Besides, they don’t know me, nor I them, even though our proximities to the seed racks show we do have something in common…but still we’re strangers.

I’m talking about the racks of seed packets, of course—on display everywhere this time of year—a harbinger of spring for most--a mandate for the gardener. Row after row of vegetable and flower seeds: Ed Hume (Ed Humus, I like to call him), Lily Miller, Territorial Seed, Burpee, your  old standbys. Vegetable and flower packets, arranged in alphabetical order; luminous globes of radishes just begging to join the salad; carrots orange enough to make a gourmet—or rabbit swoon; tomatoes so red and plump, you’re almost afraid to lift a packet without a napkin in hand; snap beans green enough to make the Jolly Green Giant pale in comparison; zucchini and eggplant Simonized and spit shined to such a sheen they send you scurrying for your sunglasses; and the sweet pea blossoms seem to exude a heady ambience from each packet you lift. Nothing in your garden ever looks quite as good as the produce on seed packets, all of which I’m sure are carefully selected for the photo op and after a liberal application of vegetable or floral makeup certain to put their best root forward…and that’s before the airbrushing, of course. It’s just that each packet holds so much promise, each drab little seed a potential miracle for the table or the vase. Enough zucchini locked in that four inch envelope to fill the Valley with zucchini bread.The miracle of the loaves and fishes? Certainly those loaves were loaves of zucchini bread! Ah, the rapture of a seed rack….

In our household, seed packets accumulate over the years. Before you know it, you have partially used seed dating back five to ten years. (The same thing happens in your spice cabinet, where in the back recesses lurk metal tins of mace and nutmeg from the last millennium-- predating the mandatory “expiration date.” ) And, it seems, every spring I buy a new packet of some vegetable or other only to find an unopened packet of the same from the year before or two or more years before that! Mess of seedsFor one thing, it makes no sense to double your seed inventory; for that reason I know I should sort through my seed collection each spring before I’m drawn to those addictive seed displays. But there’s another thing to consider: the viability of the seed. It takes time and energy to prepare the seed beds for planting, and why do all that stooping only to sow “expired” seed into the furrows? Seed packets have their own expiration dates printed on the seal: “Packaged for” the season at hand. The Grande Dame of the Kitchen and Garden, Martha Stewart, suggested a two year window of time for seed viability, so when I do take the time to run a chronological inventory of my old packets, I discard those older than two years and replace them with new.

As are most things these days, seeds are expensive. My packet of Lilly Miller “Early Girl” tomatoes contained seventeen seeds; the packet $2.00, slightly more than ten cents apiece for a fuzzy little blip the size of the head of a straight pin. Burpee’s 2012 catalog boasts a  new “pop art”zinnia variety: six dollars for a packet of fifty seeds. The thrifty gardener can cut expenses considerably by saving his own seed from year to year. My old pioneer friend in Eastern Washington hasn’t bought a seed in years and yet raises a wonderful garden each season. Not only do you save money on seed, but your wintered over seeds are“packaged by you” for next summer. Lakota squash

Pick through the seed mass of your winter squash, select a few fat ones, convex and plump, from the goo and spread them to dry in a warm spot in the house (behind the woodstove, perhaps?). On a sheet of wax paper, spread a pom smear from a favorite tomato and when it’s dry, pop loose the pips and store them in a labeled envelope (coin envelopes are ideal). Do the same with peppers. Other seeds I save: sweet corn (throw a couple of mature ears in a basket behind the stove and by planting time, twist the kernels from the cob and head for the furrow), scarlet runner beans, shell beans, sweet pea seed. Years ago when Wolfkill’s had the little farm supply store, I used to buy small sacks of sweet pea seed there. Even back then, sweet peas were selling for $65 a pound (what a field of floral extravaganza a pound of sweet peas would yield!) No more relaxing way to soak up the last of summer’s evening sun than going out to the expired row of sweet peas and shelling a handful of seed from the crisp pods. Some plants save you the trouble of gathering seed and spread their own. Let a couple heads of dill seed escape and all that remains to do in subsequent seasons is decide which seedlings of the many volunteers that sprout here and there you’d like to save. Tomatillos are the same: come May hundreds of seedlings fur the ground in the shadow of last year’s plant. Nasturtiums are a good self-seeder, as are morning glories ( but watch out: a little “glory” goes a long way!) So save your seed: save your seed money….

But we gardeners are not the only ones saving seed these days. Near the village of Longyearbyen on one of the Svalbard Islands off the northwest coast of Norway is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV). Bunkered deep in a mountainside, and looking like an atavistic fallout shelter from the 1950’s, the Svalbard vault is the world’s largest repository of seeds. SGSV’s mission is to preserve the biodiversity of food crops (agricultural biodiversity)worldwide by storing thousands of seed samples from the world’s vast inventory of crops. Should ever catastrophic natural events occur or geo-political crises arise and devastate a region’s agriculture, SGSV’s preserve of seed would serve as backup to restore like crops to those areas.

Entirely funded and constructed by Norway at a cost of 9 million dollars, the multi-chambered bunker is kept within a narrow temperature range of –14 to –18 C. by a special compressor system, a preservation process termed “cryopreservation.” While Norway also funds the annual maintenance of the facility, other expenses such as international transport of seeds is borne by the United Nations Foundation, a partnership funded in turn by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Geographically, the island is perfect for the mission: north of the Arctic Circle, permafrost soil, long hours of darkness. SGSV first “closed” its doors in 2008 on some 30,000 different seed samples from all over the world. That number has since grown to over 500,000 samples.

Global participation in and cooperation with SGSV would not have been possible without the ratification and adoption of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources June 29, 2004. The Treaty is supported by 127 countries. Sole rights to the stored seed belong to the donating country or contributing gene bank but may be readily accessed by interested parties with permission from the donors. The seed samples are stored in special four-ply plastic bags which in turn are stored in plastic totes and shelved on metal racks. Once shelved, only the donating agent can access the seeds; Norway owns the “bank”; depositors own their deposits. SGSV is sometimes referred to as the foreboding “Doomsday Vault,” a rather severe appellation for a facility intended to preserve global agricultural biodiversity for generations to come. I much prefer the more benign “A Frozen Garden of Eden,” as one participant termed SGSV. Half a million seed samples! That’s a staggering amount to collate and curate; I’ll bet every sample is inventoried and recorded, too. And I can’t even keep track of the two plastic bags of seed I have hanging in my shed.

      *                     *                     *                     *

Cryopreservation here in the Valley? Not an option, at least for me, due to the scarcity of permafrost, so again I address the issue of seed age and viability. Though I haven’t done a thorough scientific study, I’m throwing it out there that “good seed” and “bad seed” has more to do with the specific vegetable variety rather than the age of the seed. I do think Martha Stewart (or her crew of consultants, rather) may have missed the mark on the “two year” rule, especially where corn seed is concerned. Again, I have no personal research to back this up, but I venture to say I could plant seed from the “Indian corn”door hanging we’ve displayed year after year as fall decoration and it would sprout and grow. A half dozen years ago we took a road trip to Colorado and among the sites we visited was Mesa Verde and the cliff dwellings there. On display in the visitor’s museum at Cliff Palace, one of the many dwellings on the Mesa, was an earthenware pot, tightly sealed, that contained corn seed, stored and preserved nearly a thousand years ago.Cliff Palace Sample kernels were tested for edibility and viability, and it seems to me some of that seed, when planted, actually sprouted! Apparently the extreme aridity of the Mesa preserved the kernels…; Svalbard Seed Vault biologists hope cryopreservation will do the same for its seed samples.

So here in the Valley year after year in a random, haphazard fashion, I’m building my own seed repository, and before this post itself goes to seed, that’s it from the Valley for now.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Little Things That Make You Smile…

Thanks, whoever you are….

Spring on a pole

You made me smile.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Story That Never Was…

A spring day in the ValleyThe Valley was a bit breezy today, and as Gladys and I turned into the headwind on the Lower Loop Road, she began to mutter: “You think you can; I know you can’t; you think you can…  no, you can’t.” I wished I had left her behind in the garage and gone for a walk instead. Gladys is not an encouraging sort of companion; she has a mind of her own and doesn’t hesitate to speak it. As I began my ride, I failed to heed the message in the restless branches on the trees and shrubs, so I guess I had it coming.

When I put my back to the breeze on the Upper Loop, I hoped for some cardio relief. The tailwind helped and almost took the wobble out of Gladys’s forward progress…on over the bridge past Kevin Olson’s house where I wheel up on Eric Benshoof puttering around some machinery.

Eric is the owner of “Hell’s Demise,” the vintage Harley Davidson I posted about when I met them in the Valley last August ( “Beauty and the Beast,” 8/27/2011). From time to time I’d see him there at Kevin’s shop doing some metal work on a trailer and would stop and chat for a while. During one of our conversations I brought up the topic of the notorious motorcycle fraternity, the Hell’s Angels. In the course of our chat I called his attention to Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test and the chapter where cult figure Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his band of Merry Pranksters meet up with the Hell’s Angels and encourage them to switch out their sacramental beer for “Electric Kool-aid” (Kool-aid laced with LSD). Eric was unfamiliar with both the book and its author. Because of his interest in motorcycles, I thought he might be interested in the subject, so I ordered him a copy. When the book arrived, I dropped it by Kevin’s place, requesting he give the book to Eric the next time he saw him. Kevin delivered the book and when I next talked to Eric earlier in the year, he hadn’t had the chance to start reading.

Today I see he’s at work on something, so I give him a friendly greeting and a Gladys ting-a-ling as I cruise by, but an “I’m up to page sixty-five,” turns me around. Eric has started reading Kool-aid Test. A discussion of my favorite topic—books—ensues. We discuss Dickens and The Tale of Two Cities, Eric’s recent experience with the Victorian master. As I’m telling him about another “on the road”motorcycle book, the next door neighbor strides toward us, a panicked look on his face. “My bull has a stick stuck in his nose ring!”he exclaims. If I remember my cattle breeds from my high school Vo-Ag classes I believe the neighbor’s bull is a Hereford, a thousand pound beefsteak that looks like he’s just the man for the job, no matter how large the herd. The neighbor rushes into the mechanic’s shed and emerges with a red plastic bucket containing some sort of tool. Now I’m not much on bull behavior, but returning to the bullpen carrying a red bucket seemed a bit dangerous to me, especially if an animal has a compromised nose piercing. "Do you need a hand?” Eric asks. (I hope he’s referring to “his” hands and not mine.)  Neighbor mulls this over for a brief moment and decides against assistance, waves us off; apparently he and his bull prefer to handle their problems “in house.” He hustles off to bring nasal relief to his stocky Hereford. I shout after him, “What do we do if he starts chasing you up the road?” The over the shoulder answer: “Do you have a gun?” “Just my pepper spray,” I reply. That’s all the encouragement I can offer as he paces off down the road, the plastic bucket swinging at his side. Eric stares at me, and I know he’s thinking the same thing as I: “Just up the road a great story’s about to be born.”

Relieved to be on the sidelines, Eric and I continue our book banter, and given the bull situation, I refer to a book title that seems timely: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, a book about much, much more than the mechanical upkeep of a motorcycle. The core issue in Zen…is whether quantitative criteria can be applied to literature to determine just what makes good literature “good,” and bad literature “bad.” Pirsig likens the problem to a dilemma, a situation in logic likened to an angry or charging bull as in “on the horns of a dilemma.” The word, Pirsig explains, is Greek for “two premises” and if one chooses one premise he’s likely to be gored by the second. But Pirsig throws a third possibility into the mix: the head of the charging bull. As I consider the neighbor’s dilemma, I realize it’s not a dilemma at all--not an exercise in logic with which he’s about to deal--but a real, so to speak, problem “in the flesh”: he could be gored by either horn or both, head butted, tossed in the air, run down by a thousand pound stampede and trampled. (One or all these possibilities, by the way, would be a great story for The Ripple.) Pirsig advances yet another way one might deal with a “dilemma”—choose not to enter the arena at all. “Personal problem,” the bull’s owner could say to the Hereford, as once I did to a skunk I encountered years ago. The skunk had been rummaging in the camp dump and somehow gotten its head trapped in an empty jelly jar. Personal problem, I decided. No, having a panicky bull on one’s hands is not the time for logic, but for good old commonsense and a little foresight before unsticking the bull: “Can I outrun the bull and clear the nearest fence?” Or “Can I make it to that tree…?” (Pirsig also suggests throwing sand in the bull’s eyes, even lulling it to sleep with a song, options which explain why his book is about Zen and motorcycles, not bullfights.)

Eric and I had just embarked on another topic when the neighbor strolls leisurely up the road toward us, relief in his step and a smile on his face. He answers the quizzical look on our faces. “He got it out by himself,” he laughs. Personal problem…solved.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

O, Foolish, Foolish Day…

A spring day in the ValleyThou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.

The Fool in W. Shakespeare’s, King Lear, I,v, ll. 48-49

Today is that one day of the year I sneak up on the kitchen sink. The problem with the First Day of April is that what befalls you on April First is long forgotten a year later. Thus year after year you become the fool, the victim of “Fool me twice, shame on me.” And so this day I approach the kitchen faucet warily. On at least three 4/1’s I can think of, my midsection received a good drenching when I turned on the tap to fill the coffee pot for the morning’s coffee. “Someone” in the household had the foresight the night before the Day of Fools to tape the hose nozzle lever in the “on”position and direct it purposely toward whoever used the sink faucet. Nothing quite like a spray of cold water below the belt to make one feel the fool. Believe you me, fools do suffer indeed.

A year ago I tried to prank Ripple readers (in modern vernacular, it’s now called “punking”) with a story about a bagful of cash I found roadside on my Valley walk ( “How Green is My Valley?”…, 4/1/2011). Some were fooled (my mother, for one, who called her friend to tell him I had won the Valley lottery); others were not (see the “comments” on the post). This year I was either at a loss on how to “put one over” on my readers or just lacked the inspiration, but I do hope if you were pranked today, it was in good, harmless fun and you played the fool with a sense of humor. I do hope also you did not fake your death in a traffic accident, as did my nephew, then post it on Facebook and make it appear as if his mother had written the post… a Foolish, Foolish thing that caused many of the close family to lose considerable sleep last night; there’s quite a divide between fun and thoughtless cruelty.

I have two friends, June and Floyd Preston of Lawrence, Kansas, who have spent most of their adult lives collecting, studying, and curating an extensive and thorough collection of North and South American butterflies. They are both in their eighties and their days of field work and collecting are now behind them. June and Floyd decided early on at the outset of their efforts, their collection and field notes should be devoted to scientific study and to this purpose donated their entire lifetime work of thousands of specimens to The McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainesville, Florida. Inspired by an anecdote about the great naturalist Charles Darwin, two years ago I decided I’d April Fool June and Floyd by presenting them an email attachment of a strange butterfly I had discovered. As the story goes, Darwin liked children and two boys decided they’d pull a prank on their distinguished friend. They collected a beetle, butterfly, centipede, and a grasshopper, and removed certain body parts: the head from the beetle, body from the centipede, the butterfly wings, and the legs from the grasshopper. Carefully, they joined these body parts together to form a composite bug, which they presented to Darwin. Then the question: “What kind of bug is this?” Darwin asked them where they found the critter: “In a field,” they informed the naturalist. “Did it hum?” Darwin asked. “Well…”the boys replied, “yes, it did.” “Then it’s a humbug,” the old man informed them.

Thus inspired, I took the body of a honey bee and wings from four different species of butterflies, carefully glued them to the bug (and mindful to apply the rules of scientific nomenclature, named it after its discoverer), and labeled it as such. I photographed this rare, new insect, and sent it as an email attachment to my friends in Lawrence, Kansas. My efforts were done in pure jest; I knew two dedicated lepidopterists who’d spent a lifetime collecting and studying butterflies wouldn’t be fooled by such a crude attempt at such subterfuge and quickly expose the composite fraud. And the Prestons weren’t fooled in the least, but in the spirit of the day and my efforts to “humbug” them, April 1st was more than just another day of the year. They were entertained and enjoyed the diversion. After all--good, clean fun: isn’t that what April Fool’s Day is all about?Foolish bug...