Ski For Free Open on SUNDAY

Trails are open, rolled and single classic diagonal track set on
many of the trails on Saturday.  All ski trails have very limited snow
depth with some segments thin and may have some bare areas. Conditions
will deteriorate over the course of the day and week as it gets more use
and weather warms.  May not last until next weekend….. so ski now.

The Master Gardener Lecture  “The Unseen World of Insect Communications” has been rescheduled for Tuesday, January 28 at 7:00. UW-Ext. Agriculture Agent Annie Deutsch will explain that insects learn about the world around them in ways far different from the way humans see their surroundings. I have personal experience with this. About a decade ago, I found myself overwhelmingly alluring to all of the males in the area…..all of the male gypsy moths, that is.

As Annie will explain, many insects communicate using  pheromones, chemicals that are excreted in order to communicate with others of the same species. All sorts of messages can be conveyed by pheromones. Bees can send warnings to others of their hive using alarm pheromones. Ants leave a trail of pheromones, not unlike the way  Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs, in order  to find their way home. And then, we have the ever popular sex pheromones which are given off by insects (and other creatures, including, perhaps,  humans) to attract members of the opposite gender.

During the very hot summer in question, I was working with middle school students to determine the density of gypsy moths and (the kids liked this part) to keep as many males as possible out of the breeding population (a hopeless goal.) We assembled triangular tent traps to hang in trees. At the bottom of each tent was a very sticky piece of cardboard….it work much like flypaper to immobilize any insect that would fly into the open sides of the trap.

The traps were bated with a commercial lure made of the concentrated pheromones—special time- release formula!—of female gypsy moths.

I mentioned it was a hot summer, so we stored the lure in the refrigerator right next my pitcher of sun tea. Because of the heat, I drank in copious amounts of  the sun tea and also perspired quite a bit.  You see where this is going. In that refrigerator, the tea must have absorbed a significant amount quantity of the concentrated gypsy moth pheromone.  After drinking the tea, I apparently excreted the attractant chemicals. Consequently, I was broadcasting a potent message that I was a female gypsy moth in the height of breeding condition.

Hundreds small brownish male moths from who knows how far away, drawn by my seductive scent, hovered around me in frustration from dawn till I went indoors, and then, they beat themselves against the screens all night, trying to get into to me. You know that Peanuts cartoon character Pig Pen, who was always was surrounded with a cloud of dust. That’s what I looked like for about a week, except my cloud was drab male moths

In her program, Annie will describe pheromones and a number of other fascinating adaptations of insects and explain how to encourage beneficial insects while discouraging those that harm garden, orchard, and agricultural pests. The program will be free and open to the public.







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