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Look at most range maps for the Spicebush Swallowtail, and you’ll find it covers most of the eastern half of the United States, except for the state of Maine. In fact, on the map I’m looking at, in the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies, the cut-off is the straight-line boundary between New Hampshire and Maine.

Now, I’ve been back and forth between the two many times, and there’s not a whole lot of difference between one side and the other. It takes one of those official signs to tell you just which state you’re in. Turns out, the reason is that while a few of the Papilio troilus (don’t you just love the name?) are occasionally spotted in the Granite State, not so in Maine; not since 1934, in fact.

But no longer.

It seems that some people in the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department were unconvinced, so they staked out a swampy area that seemed likely habitats, and eureka! They found some.

Now I’m sure that there will be some frugal Yankees who will tut-tut and say that’s no way to be spending public money. But as for me, I don’t mind it one bit.

By the way, it gets its common name from one of its primary food sources, the spicebush Lindera benzoin.


A recent item in the Nashua Telegraph caught my eye a few days ago. The Amherst, N.H., Conservation Commission is struggling with an interesting problem – someone is going around smearing orange paint on trees, causing confusion with the official blazes that mark the trails at its Joe English Reservation. The commission recently sent letters to the editor appealing for the public’s help in identifying and stopping the vandal.

Anyone who’s ever been responsible for trail maintenance knows that trail marker vandalism is nothing new, and is quite common. Occasionally, it makes some sense. On trails marked with attractive organization symbols, hikers take them as a form of souvenir, without regard to the time and money it costs to replace them, not to mention the danger of sending someone off-trail in remote or dangerous terrain.

For several years, I spent my summers as the caretaker at a wildlife sanctuary, and trail maintenance was part of my regular routine. To discourage souvenir takers, we used simple blue and yellow disks drilled into trees at a height of about six feet, just far enough apart so that you could spot the next one down the trail. They were attached in a way that required some effort to remove them. It was not a casual act. And, since there was no decoration, their value as souvenirs was limited. Nevertheless, they still disappeared.

Most puzzling, and I never figured this out, every so often someone would very carefully pile up a few of the disks at the entrance gate, screws and all, and on a few occasions, I’d find them on the doorstep to my cabin. This happened a few times every summer. Was there a message here? I asked my supervisor if there was anyone with a beef against the organization that was just being a nuisance, but there wasn’t anybody he could think of. And since I didn’t know anyone much in the area, I hadn’t had much chance to offend anyone, so it wasn’t aimed at me personally.

The story about the “Phantom Trailblazer” in New Hampshire brought this all back to me, and the question still nags at me – now in both cases. Why would someone do this?

A glimmer of hope has been reported in the battle against the infestation of the Asian Longhorn Beetle. Only a handful of the invasive pests have been caught over the past few months where they had previously numbered in the hundreds.

In a report to the Worcester City Council, Robert L. Moylan, the city’s Commissioner of Public Works and Parks, said that only 28 of the tree-killing beetles had been caught in traps spread throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

“The program that’s in place seems to be impacting the beetle population,” Moylan told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

This central Massachusetts city has been at the epicenter in the fight against the Asian Longhorn Beetle ever since a curious resident sent a cellphone picture of an unfamiliar beetle she found in her driveway to the regional office of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture for identification last year The discovery touched off a massive $24 million containment program that included cutting down 25,000 infected trees in a 74 square-mile area. The USDA plans to spend another $10 million to fight the pest next year.

The insects were first found in Brooklyn, NY, in 1996, where it is believed they arrived in the United States wooden crates and pallets from China. They spread from there, causing considerable damage in New Jersey and Illinois. The insects bore into hardwoods to feed on the nutrients, eventually killing the trees. Maples, birch, poplars, sycamores, and willows are particularly vulnerable. With no natural predators in this part of the world, the insects are able to spread rapidly.

The Worcester infestation has caused state and local governments throughout New England to mobilize to stop the spread of the insect. Officials have urged residents and summer visitors not to transport firewood from one area to another, as this has been identified as a primary source for the spread of the pest.
In many communities, citizen volunteers are helping to survey trees for signs of the insect. In addition to cutting down and chipping infected trees, healthy trees are being treated with the pesticide imidacloprid.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about wind power, partly because I teach a course in Technology Education that includes a unit of alternative energy, partly because there’s interest in my town in putting up a wind turbine. I’ve also been reading a lot about plans to put up wind turbines in various places. The governor of Maine just came back from a trip to Europe, drumming up interest in building an offshore wind farm. Meanwhile, the proposed wind farm off Cape Cod continues to make the news. This time the Wampanoag tribe has decided it will interfere with some of their sunrise services, and so they have now announced their opposition to it. The proposal has been on the table for several years. I’m not sure how it happens they just realized this would be a terrible intrusion. A lot of well-heeled and politically connected people have expensive summer places on the Cape. They’re the ones that have been leading the charge against Cape Wind. The Wampanoags have been looking for political support for building a resort casino in Massachusetts. I’m cynical enough to think that there’s a quid pro quo somewhere in there.

In another case, a developer in western Maine announced he was abandoning his plans for a wind farm because the location he was considering was too windy. Then I had a conversation with a woman whose husband is a consultant to the nuclear industry. She tried to make the argument that wind energy was more expensive than nuclear energy, after you factor in the cost of mining and processing the materials, the carbon-use in the manufacturing process, etc. Nuclear power, she argued, was virtually free. She claimed it wasn’t fair to count the cost of construction, operation and maintenance, of the plants, and the cost of disposal of spent fuel into the cost of generating nuclear power.

Another acquaintance in the nuclear industry claimed that wind farms were a blight on the landscape. That may be. But then I don’t find nuclear power plants aesthetically pleasing either.

There’s so much more to say, but as any reader can probably tell, I’m trying to find an underlying theme here. For now, I’m happy that these plans are on the drawing boards, and that people are discussing them. That has to be a good thing.

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RSS The Ecocryptic

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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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