Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The Birds and the Bees (and the bats too)
There is also a big problem with the bats in America. I'm sure most people could care less about bats, but there are entire regions of the country that are loosing one of the largest consumers of mosquitos in the food chain, brown bats. They're dying from a fungal disease that migrated to America on the dirty boots of caving tourists from Europe.
A whole chink in the food chain is about to come loose. The food chain isn't like a bicycle chain, where each link only has one connection to the rest of the chain. Think of it more as a pile of cheap gold necklaces that have been stirred up, until there are all kinds of knots, big with many connections (mosquitos) and places where a link may only have two or three connections (ebola, it's so lethal most links that touch it die out within hours!)
Bats and birds play a huge role in the control of mosquitoes. HUGE. One bat will eat up to 1000 mosquitoes a night in places where there are lots of the little blood suckers.
These tens of thousands of birds that are dying. This is a very bad thing for us, as humans. Let's just take for example these blackbirds that have died in Arkansas. 5000 red winged blackbirds weigh 625 lbs in a bug-rich environment. Red Winged blackbirds eat mostly insects. So let's just say that red winged blackbirds are responsible for the consumption of 1 ounce of insects per day.... times 5,000 birds divided by 16 ounces give us 312 pounds of bugs, per day, that will not be consumed by these fallen 5000 birds.
312 pounds per day y'all. That's a LOT of bugs. Many of these bugs are herbivores, you know, the ones we keep spraying with POISONS because they get in our lawns, and on our shrubberies and gardens. These poisons kill the bugs, but often times, not before the bird eats the bug!
This time of year, birds are eating a LOT of insects. Hibernating ones they find, dead ones they find. Lots of those dead ones died from poisoning, or were dosed with poisons but not high enough to kill them... until spring maybe, when their metabolisms kick back in.
So here's the double whammy. 5000 Dead birds in winter and early spring adds up to a measly 312 pounds of bugs per day... for the next 90 days or so before these hibernating bugs wake up and start their life cycle!
Whatever killed these birds, has ensured the survival of 312lbs of insects, per day for 90 days. That piles up to a whopping 28,000 pounds of hungry bugs. First half of the double whammy hits our lawns, gardens, shrubberies, orchards.... corn farms....... soybean fields..... and starts eating them. How do we solve this problem, more poison!
the other half of the whammy is that up to half of these 28,000 pounds of bugs are egg layers.... some bugs lay hundreds and thousands of eggs each.... 14,000 pounds more egg laying females will be in the ecosystem because of these birds dying off. That could mean millions of pounds of more bugs to contend with. And that's just the 5,000 blackbirds in Arkansas.... they're dying off all over.... From what I've seen we've lost over 20,000 lbs in the 48 continental states in the last week. That's hypothetically BILLIONS of pounds of more bugs by later summer.
Simple math, complex problem really. It's not that cut and dry, other critters will take up lots of slack. Some of the critters that will pick up the slack for the birds will be INSECTS. Wasps are direct competitors to most everything a black bird eats... so expect lots more wasps... and spiders.... and more POISON to take care of them.
All those factors counted in I think it's impossible to account for everything and even put an accurate number, certainly not at my level of education and data set. But let's take a small number. Let's say that these lost 20,000 pounds of birds only accounts for tens of thousands of bugs that won't get eaten this year, not the hypothetical billions. I predict this to be the worst year ever in the history of the Bugs V. Humans war. It's because some how, we talking apes have managed to kill off a bunch of our allies in this ware. Killed by collateral damage of our Luxurious Lives of Excess!
Our low opinion of birds, bugs and bats. Our wholesale disregard for how really MESSY we are as an animal. We think of animals that crap on the ground as "beasts" but instead of finding a realistic way to handle our own crap, we hide it from ourselves by depositing our urine and feces in good drinking water, and flushing it away wholesale in volumes great enough to solve the worlds bad drinking water problems... and thereby poisoning our own groundwater and rivers.... where we get the drinking water and purify it.... because we're "better" than "beasts".
A composting toilet turns crap and pee into good, viable gardening soil. And when you take into account the cost of the water, they're cheaper than the old kind. But then, who wants to actually have to take a bucket full of crap out to the composter, that's gross. Very realistic and responsible, but oh so very "gross", so that's just out of the question... I'm too good to mess with my crap!
Expect more bugs until we learn to accept responsibility for our own silly behavior. Birds killed by God knows what at this point according to the "news". Bats killed by lazy tourists. A tourist being someone who earns enough money to have LONG vacations and apparently little thought for the impact of their recreational exploits. We're going to have to import European bats to fix the bat problem.
Everyone has heard about bee colonies "collapsing". The latest, upstart notion is that maybe these poisons that "aren't poisonous to bees" at the daily off the flower doses, are getting concentrated into the honey! And pesticide and herbicide use having reached all time highs, is beginning to EXCEED the bee's tolerance dose for these poisons that aren't poisonous to bees. That's just the latest wacky theory though, it hasn't gained the spotlight over just keeping it as an unexplained mystery. Yet.
The birds and the bees are dying off because of our addiction to the notion that we can put poison into the environment and there are no repercussions. Without the birds and the bees...
Well, we all know about the story of the Birds and the Bees... without the birds and the bees doing their thing, there are no babies.