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The Asian Longhorned Beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle is a textbook case for the damage that an alien invasive can cause. First detected in the U.S. in 1996, it’s thought they hitched a ride on wooden pallets from China. They have no native natural enemies, so they were free to multiply and spread, including north to New England.

For those not from around here, the city of Worcester, Mass., was known for its residential neighborhoods with their shady tree-lined streets. Not anymore.

In August of 2008, a grandmother in Worcester noticed a strange-looking bug in her driveway. She was concerned that it might be harmful to her visiting grandchildren. So, she took a picture of it and sent it to an expert to find out what it was.

The good news was that it’s not harmful to humans. The bad news was that it’s deadly to trees, especially hardwoods like maple, oak, beech, etc. The beetle bores into the tree, and lays its eggs. The larvae then feed off the nutrients in the sap, eventually killing the tree.

The discovery that it was an Asian Longhorned Beetle touched off a massive multi-million dollar effort, first to prevent it from spreading, and secondly to eradicate it. This meant cutting down thousands of infested trees in a 70-square mile area.

The effort seems to be working. The spread may not have been stopped entirely, but it certainly has slowed down. Vigilance now plays an important part, so local officials can respond quickly and contain any new infestation.

This is where everyone can do their part, by familiarizing themselves with this beetle and its habits, and checking trees from time to time for signs of infestation. A useful website is the link to the eradication program is

There are still beautiful places

It’s Earth Day, the 41st since 1970, though you might not know it. It didn’t make the front pages of most of today’s papers.

Earth Day was the idea of the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who spent much of the 1960s trying to raise awareness about the deteriorating condition of our environment. At that time there were few, if any, air or water pollution controls, fuel efficiency was unheard-of, toxic and hazardous waste dumping was a free-for-all. Smokestacks belching out thick black smoke, wetlands being filled in for developments were all considered signs of progress and prosperity. There was no Environmental Protection Agency.

There are those who would like to turn back the clock. Conservatives in the Congress are trying to do away with the EPA .

Despite the worsening situation in Japan, the nuclear industry here is insisting it can’t happen here. It should be noted that the Japanese nuclear industry thought it couldn’t happen there, either.

A year after the Gulf oil spill, BP will resume drilling there this summer. They’re insisting that what happened before can’t happen again. But enough of this …

I like the idea of a day of observance about nature and the environment, to take some time to stop and think about where we’ve been and where we’re headed. And it doesn’t have to be all bleak. The Nature Conservancy has the right idea – it should be a day of celebration. So today , or this weekend –

Get out and picnic!

On one of my recent walks, this log and its array of fungus caught my eye. I think it’s Panellus stricticus or else something very much like it. They grow on fallen logs, especially hardwoods, helping to speed the rotting process. They break down the complex organic compounds, such as proteins and carbohydrates, into their basic elements and return them to the soil.

Years ago on a walk with a mycologist acquaintance, he pointed out something similar to the ones in the picture and said they were bioluminescent – that is, they glow in the dark. The glow was faint, and it had to be in nearly absolute darkness.

I decided to try it for myself. So I broke off a piece and brought it home. I have a sauna in the cellar, so I brought it in there, shut off the lights and closed the door. Total darkness. No glow.

I waited a little longer, still nothing.

Oh well.

Later on I read that the glow is more apparent when it’s moist. This specimen was pretty dry. Next time I get a chance, I’ll give it another try.

A boulder blocks the entrance to a conservation area

Like so many places, the Lunenburg Conservation Commission has been waging a running battle to keep ATVs and other motorized vehicles off conservation lands, especially those considered ecologically sensitive. The areas are clearly posted, but it doesn’t do any good.

Either these people can’t read, or they choose to ignore the postings.

The argument that they need some place to ride their vehicles doesn’t hold water, either. There are town lands with plenty of trails where they are permitted.

A good case in point is the conservation area off Pleasant St., pictured above. When the signs didn’t work, a big iron gate was put up, only to have it wrecked. No sooner would it be repaired or replaced, it’d get wrecked again.

In desperation, the town dropped this large boulder in front of the entrance.

It hasn’t done any good. They simply cut a trail around it. And judging from the number of treadmarks and litter left behind, it still sees plenty of ATV use.

What to do?

One of the old cellar holes at the Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass. Audubon’s Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary in Fitchburg is made up of several hundred acres laced with stonewalls and trails. It can feel remote and distant, but it’s less than a mile from downtown.

It’s hard to imagine that these boulder-strewn woods were one of the earliest parts of the city to be settled. Go wandering around off-trail and you’re bound to come across the stonework of an old cellar hole. The one pictured above is just a hundred yards or so from Overlook Reservoir. There is a network of walls forming smaller enclosures that may have been livestock pens. Another square may have been the foundation of a barn.

The ruts of old wagon roads cross here. It must have been a busy place once. Quiet now, except for distant traffic sounds.

After taking a few pictures, I put my camera back in its case and continued on my way back to the trail. And wouldn’t you know it, a fisher crossed my path just a few yards ahead of me. Black fur, very much like a large cat. It moved quickly, furtively, but not panicked. It paused, looked at me over its shoulder, and moved on.

I tried to get my camera out again, but the fisher was gone as quickly as it had appeared. Isn’t that always the way?

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RSS The Ecocryptic

  • Maine DEP update July 31, 2013
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection has reversed itself and will schedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the state's clean air standards. No date has been set.Environmental groups, legislators, and the general public were outraged when the Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that the state agency had tried to sneak through the cha […]
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  • Victory for the Blackstone: Court backs EPA, Worcester must stop dumping sewage into river August 7, 2012
    Score one for the Blackstone River, and all the people who care about it. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted a stay of enforcement of an EPA order that will force upgrades at the Upper Blackstone Water Pollution Abatement district sewage treatment plant, according to an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.The problem is a simple o […]
  • NH Senate Denies Eminent Domain for Northern Pass – Or Does It? January 30, 2012
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  • Northern Pass Developers Pushing State To Take Land By Force January 24, 2012
    Ever since the controversy began over the construction of a new transmission line to bring power from Canada into New Hampshire slicing through some of that state’s most scenic landscape, the backers of the project have been quietly lobbying for eminent domain powers to force reluctant landowners along the proposed route to sell.The issue gets its first real […]
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  • Worcester officials cite city parks to defend continued pollution of Blackstone River December 29, 2011
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RSS Martin Laine – Digital Journal

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    Pity James Tully who has the misfortune of resembling Eric Frein, the object of a massive manhunt following the ambush shooting of two police officers six weeks ago, and who lives in Canadensis, Pa., the epicenter of the search.
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