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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter from Jen Frye, Invertebrate Ecologist, Natural Heritage Program, Maryland DNR


Letter from Jen Frye, Invertebrate Ecologist, Natural Heritage Program, Maryland DNR

The letter (email) response to the two links below from my blog postings about stink bugs:

I received on 01-23-2012 at 9:23 a.m.

ORIGINAL POSTING:


My letter to Maryland, and Pennsylvania DNR:


RESPONSE  from Maryland DNR:

Hi John,

Thanks for your email.  I enjoyed reading your blog.  Decades ago it seemed like all naturalists kept great records of what they observed in a given day, and even published their observations, even if all they were doing was sitting on a bench and noting the species of butterflies that flew by, the time of day, etc.  It was written in a way that anyone could understand and enjoy, which unfortunately cannot generally be said about today’s scientific publications.  So I enjoyed reading your blog as it reminded me of a time where scientific literature was fun to read (and to write).

I don’t know that I can do an adequate job of addressing all of the points you raised, but some of my thoughts are as follows:

I also am not a fan of pesticides, as I also believe that they have a variety of negative impacts on invertebrates.  I am however, a licensed pesticide applicator, and I have used them in my work to try to control invasive plants for the benefit of native insects.  I guess I feel like sometimes there is a need for them, and I don’t understand farming well enough to evaluate that need.  However, I think it is in everyone’s best interest (vertebrate and invertebrate) to support local farms that are pesticide-free and grow a variety of crops, as the latter seems to alleviate the pest problems to some extent as well as the need for pesticides.  I think people are doing this more and more and starting to pay more attention to what they are eating and to how the food got to their table (as well as what it went through before it got there!).  I attached a couple of papers that I think may interest you on farming and the importance of native pollinators.  These are not what I would describe as easy bedtime reading but they are interesting and address some of the issues that you so passionately address in your blog.  I agree that nature will always try to strike a balance, but people have altered the natural world to such an extent that I think we need to step up and do more to help set things right (or at least, make things better).

I don’t know what the regulations are in your area for keeping bees.  You might try contacting the Maryland Bee Keeper’s Association.  But also, I would encourage you to check out the Xerces Society website, as they focus much of their work on native pollinators and might have information on attracting native bees to your area.  You don’t need a permit for that, as most native bees are solitary and don’t form big hives like honey bees do.  There are a lot of places now where you can buy or get directions on how to make little bee boxes for native bees (I have a couple in my backyard).  If you Google this topic I think you will find it fascinating and have more information to share with people on native pollinators. As for the lilacs, I actually had a talk with our botanist who informed me that we only have two species of lilacs in the US and both are non-native – one is European and the other is Asian.  Both were introduced and I’m certain that people have been planting these for decades.  I don’t think your two plants are causing environmental chaos but remember that in the future you can always chose to buy natives.

And gosh, what can I say about stink bugs?  I have heard people describe them as the modern-day plague.  The fruit idea is interesting but I’d keep an eye on your traps as lots of insects are attracted to rotting fruit, including butterflies.  You don’t want to have too much by-catch and start killing the native insects that you want to have around.  The light trap is a favorite of moth researchers, and used A LOT to trap moths, so keep on eye on those as well.  Moths and butterflies are two important groups of pollinators that you really don’t want to kill.  Killing a few stink bugs in a trap probably won’t do much to alter the population of stink bugs, but many butterflies and moths are rare and removing individuals from the populations of some species could negatively impact entirely populations if they are small to begin with.  There is a book – I will have to look it up for you – on the negative impact that artificial lights can have on insects of all kinds, particularly moths and beetles I would think, some of the most common insects at porch lights.

DNR does have a link that people can go to if they want to report sightings of rare species.  It is:http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/reportinginst.asp.  And if you are unsure about which species of animals or plants are rare, check out the plant and animal lists, also on the DNR website.

Animals:

Plants:

We don’t track common species, but I encourage everyone to get in touch with their inner Aldo Leopold and start writing down their observations.  People always tell me that “they used to see species X in this area all the time, and now it’s just gone.”  That kind of thing always makes me sad, especially when I am out looking for a species myself, in a place where “it had always been.”  Sometimes I think, have I missed my chance?  Is this species gone now from this area?  Will I ever see it? If all people started writing these things down and sharing the information, maybe it would encourage more people to really take notice of what is going on around them and take action to preserve what we still have left. 

Kudos to you for using your voice and sharing your thoughts and experiences.  I wish you improved health as well as happy internet searching.

Be well and thanks for sharing the links to your blog!  I’ll be sure to check in again.

Sincerely,
Jen Frye
Invertebrate Ecologist
Natural Heritage Program

MY REPLY:

Jen,

Thanks so much for your time and dedication to spend answering my email and it's many questions so quickly and poignantly.

I will carouse the links you have suggested of course, and appreciate the pointing out of the traps likely catching some good critters, not that any one is better then the other, but the stink bugs get the bottom of my list...simply because they are a complained about nuisance by so many, as well as what they can quickly do to crops.

I am a moth and butterfly lover in particular as well as a bird lover, so I of course do not want to jeopardize any others.

The stink bug breeding cycle and output in a short span is rather interesting.

It seems to me, after studying the life cycle and reproduction, and then doing a little math, that taking out a few stink bugs may make the difference between control of the population vs. a proliferation.

Looking forward to this years observations coming in the Spring in particular and I will report back what I am able to observe.

I also liked what you said about the butterflies and the older style notes.

Perhaps soon these data sets can more quickly be shared for the individual wanting to examine that data, as well as be posted to the DNR site so that they can be viewed as you spoke of, easily.

The amount of data being archived on the net now, especially physical data transferred to the net, is staggering.

Hopefully with further standardization, and/or, perhaps browsers where we can change the view of the data sets to our individual liking, more people will find easy access that brings them into the fold of Ecology.

Science is fun, and as you well know, is liked by many more folks when it is made easier to understand.

I posted your wonderful replay again to my blog but left off your email thus far, unless you prefer I include it.

I prefer correspondence to the blog come to me of course, and that responses to DNR can be sent to their main email address, as that is what I had to do and I want to respect that is the way the protocol appears.

I was pleased to see this email I sent get directly to you.

The DNR especially in my experience always gives a direct answer and always addresses the questions they can and are honest as can be about their answers. Sometimes that includes stating there is no answer.

The honesty and response time and specifity to stay on topic are very appreciated, and I think by sharing in this way, we are all able to find answers more quickly.

I would appreciate if you keep this in mind, and also if you are able to send any updates or suggestions, links, others experiences even if being both failures and successes.

This will help the reader base more so and hopefully we can find a simple solution that solves the issue, does no harm to the environment or other species, and is inexpensive and easily maintained.

I think if I had not written, well, how many moths and butterflies and praying mantises I could have wiped out, like you said, really affecting the overall results I found thus far last year.

I think communicating and planning in steps and patience are always critical, and it is easy to miss a seemingly simple mistake as I admittedly did, and I am glad your expertise and education caught me on that one !

As I do not want to take anymore of your valuable time, I appreciate again, very much, that you took time for writing a candid and honest answer that was simple and direct.

I can write in lay terms or technical terms.

The funny thing is on that topic, if one chooses to write in lay terms, the professional often look the other way without a second thought, and if you write in scientific terms, the lay person moves on as well.

A larger audience is more likely to exist in the "lay" area and therefore be well read by that audience, to whom I typically write, not to mention, it is easier to write this way, at least on line.

As this evolves, that is if it needs to evolve because there is no change in the proliferation and control of their population of course, then I may compile charts of data and the likes, if so needed to make a clear observation during my tests.

Really, it is all in good fun and I hope "fruitful", to use a bit of a pun to close out this thank you letter.

Does the DNR have folks that come out to the schools and address different grades.

This area is so pristine that I feel it would be a wonderful program if one does not exist, and may just be the spark to the thought of some youth to pursue a rewarding career similar to yours, where you are making a difference and they realize they can too.

My father is instrumental in MathCounts in Virginia, and I have seen some incredible stuff from the youth simply by assisting my dad and observing and sharing some of my Father's fantastic friendships with some super dynamic professional and some incredibly smart children.

Literacy and education and communication are keys I am always trying my best to weave into my collective writings such as these, but certainly not in my poetry or musical expression, per se, or not so directly anyway

I have included your wonderful words of expertise and advice in your reply in it's entirety to my blog postings.

Thanks so much,

Steve


NEWEST REPLY 01-25-2012



Hi Steve,

Thanks for your very nice response.I will check in on your site from time to time as I will be curious to see how your experiments are going.

I don’t necessarily need to know where the bees are located, although I agree that it can be really neat to see them in action.  I have had a couple of people in the past send me pictures of honey bee swarms and they are a fascinating thing to see.  I am glad you are getting a chance to enjoy them.

I’ll be honest that classroom visits are very rare.  There are only 20 or so people in the Natural Heritage Program and SOOO many schools.  It is hard to say yes to one teacher and no to others, and it would just be impossible to accommodate every teacher who expressed interest.  DNR as a whole, and particularly the Wildlife Division, offers many other educational opportunities that people can participate in, though.  Check out the following link for details:http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Education/index.asp.  Also, many of our State Parks have great nature centers and offer programs for kids and adults.   You will probably find more to do in the spring, summer and fall than you will in the middle of January, but take a look at the website http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/outdooreduc.asp for some information on outdoor educational opportunities through the Maryland State Parks system.  There is a lot to participate in if you know where to look!  Be sure to check in the spring when things start flying and blooming and emerging from a long winter’s rest.  

Yesterday I saw grasshopper nymphs and other small creatures as I was working down on the lower shore.  Some of us apparently have had quite enough rest and are ready to get moving.

Cheers,
Jen



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