Friday, September 28, 2012

Butterfly of the Week

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio glaucus (Linnaeus 1758)
Status: Breeding resident.
Flight: Generally double brooded, with flights from April through June and early July through August. A partial third brood may be present in some years from mid September to first frost. 
Distinguishing features: This familiar butterfly is yellow with black margins and black tigerlike stripes on the front edge of the fore wing. Females are dimorphic. One form resembles the male, with yellow wings and black markings. The other form is melanic: the yellow may be completely obscured by black scaling, but under close examination the tiger stripes may be seen. Some individuals appear intermediate, with the yellow scaling only partially blacked out. Wingspan: 9 - 16 cm.
Distribution and habitat: Map 297. Common throughout the state in a wide variety of habitats. It is particularly frequent along forest edges, where adequate nectaring sites occur. 
Natural history: The larvae feed on a number of common trees, such as ash and wild cherry. They derive protection from predators in at least two ways. First, the dorsal part of the thorax has two large eyespots. When larvae are disturbed, they shake the front part of their body, calling attention to these spots, intimidating predators, and discouraging further attack. Second, the brightly colored two-pronged osmeterium (normally kept tucked under the mid dorsal region of the thorax) can be made to release a bright, unpleasant-smelling liquid. Adult males frequently congregate at mud puddles or along streambanks.
Questions: Does the percentage of melanic to yellow female vary from population to population, and what environmental factors influence any such changes? Is the dark form mimetic and related to the protection derived from other swallowtails (e.g., Pipevine or Spicebush Swallowtails)? How protective are the eyespots against predation by native birds? What is the chemical nature of the odor-producing osmeterium?

The Butterflies of Iowa, by Dennis W. Schlicht, John C. Downey, and Jeffrey C. Nekola

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interview with John Price: Part 1

­­The title of your book is rather unique. Care to explain it?

Well, it’s based on a unique experience—nearly being killed by a pheasant. While I was still in graduate school, when my wife and I were living in Belle Plaine, Iowa, I was driving down a rural highway when a pheasant flew in my open driver’s side window, flapped around in my face, and nearly caused me to dump the car in a ditch. Luckily I knocked it back outside and was able to safely pull over, where I remained for a long time, trying to recover myself. The surrounding landscape was also experiencing some dramatic surprises that summer. It was the summer of 1993, during some of the worst state-wide flooding on record. The rural countryside along my commute had become nearly unrecognizable, a mixture of massive destruction and surprising natural beauty. Flooded cornfields were full of wild birds, and the unmown ditches erupted with native grasses and wildflowers. For most of my life I had thought of my home landscape and its wildlife as ordinary, overly familiar and predictable—that wayward pheasant and the floods changed my thinking. I got a brief glimpse of what Iowa used to be, a rich ecology of wetlands and prairies, a place of surprises and danger, which is one way to define wilderness. The ordinary suddenly became extraordinary, and it transformed me and my relationship to the place in which I had been born and raised. Having spent most of my life wanting to leave home, I was now longing for a deeper relationship with what remains of wildness here, a new sense of kinship with place. I see that process as a kind of death and then rebirth, which I believe is what happens during the most profound experiences of our lives—this memoir is about those kinds of transformative experiences. But we don’t usually recognize their significance until much later. At the time of the pheasant incident itself, I was just frightened out of my mind and embarrassed—who expects their obituary to read “Man Killed by Pheasant?”  

John Price is the author of Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn is here! Celebrate with Baked Apples.

Cut off a 24-inch strip of aluminum foil for each apple. 
Fold the foil in half and place a cored apple in the center. 
Fill the hole with 1 tablespoon red-hot candies, 1 tablespoon raisins, and 1 teaspoon butter or margarine. 
Wrap foil around each apple and twist the ends to seal. 
Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tender. 
Fold down foil and serve in the little foil container. This can also be done in the microwave. Use plastic wrap in place of foil and place each apple in a small saucer or Pyrex bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, rotating saucer once. 
Test for doneness. 
Make as many as you want.

Excerpt from Up a Country Lane Cookbook by Evelyn Birkby