strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘roundup’

50 Years After Silent Spring, Herbicides Are Everywhere

Posted by Richard Conniff on July 9, 2016

In a stand of phramites (Photo: Michigan Technological University )

In a stand of phramites (Photo: Michigan Technological University )

by Richard Conniff/

As I write this, I’m looking out at a salt marsh that requires regular spraying with the herbicide glyphosate (sold by Monsanto as Roundup) to keep it from being smothered under dense, eight-foot-high stands of an invasive grass called phragmites. At a nearby lake where I’m a member of a rowing club, the aquatic vegetation is now so dense that it’s being treated with another herbicide called flumioxazin. And along the roads back and forth, even more herbicides get applied, to keep down weedy vegetation along the edges.

More than 50 years after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring first raised the alarm about their uncontrolled use, herbicides are everywhere in North American life. Use of glyphosate alone has increased 15-fold since the introduction of genetically modified Roundup Ready crops in the 1990s. In 2014, that worked out to 250 million pounds of the stuff—eight-tenths of a pound for every acre of U.S. cropland. And it’s not just about agriculture.

A new study in the Journal of Applied Ecology attempts for the first time to add up herbicide use on North American wildlands. “The numbers are much less than those for croplands, but they are astonishing,” said lead author Viktoria Wagner, a plant ecologist at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. She and her coauthors found reliable information on just 1.2 million acres of wildlands, a fraction of the U.S. government’s 640 million acres of parks, forests, refuges, and rangelands. But in a single year, that sample was sprayed with

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Posted in Environmental Issues, Freshwater species | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Monarch Butterflies As Canaries in the Cornfield

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 27, 2014

This is a pretty comprehensive account of the monarch butterfly crisis, with lots of links to resource material.  It’s from Lisa Feldkamp of The Nature Conservancy, and it appeared first on TNC’s Cool Green Science blog:

Everyone is talking about the record low count of monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico, but what does the science say is happening to them and why does it matter?

Monarch butterflies have a special place in the North American imagination. They are beautiful, plentiful, and have a legendary predator-repelling capacity.

They are the state insect or butterfly of seven US states and an important ecotourism resource in Mexico, where millions of monarchs overwinter on oyamel fir trees.

With a range that covers the United States, watching monarchs was once a shared cultural experience, but that is changing fast.

No scientists are arguing that monarchs will go extinct, but numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate.

The most recent overwintering population in Mexico covered about 0.67 hectares of forest – a record low. That’s down approximately 44% from the 2012-2013 overwintering population, which was already very low (Rendon-Salinas 2014).

The record high was in 1996-1997, when the monarchs covered about Read the rest of this entry »

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Maybe the Problem Isn’t Just Monsanto & Roundup

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 5, 2014

I wrote an article earlier this week for Yale Environment 360 about the disappearance of pollinators and other beneficial insects.  It quoted University of Kansas entomologist Chip Taylor’s estimate that monarch butterflies have lost 167 million acres of essential milkweed habitat just since 1996.

No coincidence, that’s when Monsanto introduced Roundup-ready crops.  Their tolerance to herbicides made it possible to significantly increase the spraying of weedkillers.  (The increase since 1996 amounts to 527 million pounds of herbicide in the United States.) The resulting loss of milkweed has been a major factor in the near-disappearance of the Monarch migration.

But a new study suggests that it might not be Monsanto alone that is killing off the monarchs.  The study doesn’t absolve Monsanto.  It just adds Read the rest of this entry »

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Texans Say Gassing Rattlesnakes Not Really Fun For Entire Family

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 21, 2014

(Photo: Paul Sutherland/Getty Images)

(Photo: Paul Sutherland/Getty Images)

UPDATE:  The Parks and Wildlife Commission last night pulled the gassing issue off the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting. No reason given.  The commission expects to hear the issue at its next meeting on March 27, a few weeks AFTER the Sweetwater Roundup.  Meanwhile, keep your comments coming (see below).

My latest, for Takepart:

Here’s an entertaining outdoorsy idea for springtime in Texas: Fill a garden sprayer with gasoline, and go around spraying the fumes into the cracks, crevices, sinkholes, and caves where rattlesnakes make their dens. Do it early in March, when the snakes are just drowsily waking up from their winter hibernation and too helpless to defend themselves.

Then as the snakes escape to the surface to flee the noxious fumes, pick them up, toss them in a sack, and bring them to the “world’s largest rattlesnake roundup,” held on March 8 and 9 in Sweetwater, Texas.  It’s billed by the Sweetwater Jaycees as “fun for the entire family” and a major fund-raising event for local civic groups.

If, on the other hand, gassing semiconscious rattlers sounds like a barbaric vestige from our own cave-dwelling days, you may want to drop in on the Jan. 23 meeting of the State Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin. Commissioners are likely to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »