The Cicadas Are Coming Thursday, Apr 15 2021 

Brace yourself for the inundation of cicadas. As many as 1.5 million of the creatures per acre are due to emerge from the earth very soon. No need to worry about missing their appearance. We’ll hear them a mile away, see them covering foliage, and feel the crunch of their exoskeletons beneath our feet.

There are two main types of the 3,000 cicada species—annual and periodical. Annual cicadas emerge every year in late June or August, while periodical cicadas emerge in cycles of 13 or 17 years, depending on the species. A group of periodicals that emerge at the same time is called a brood. There are 15 different brood cycles. More than one type of brood may emerge simultaneously in the same area depending on their development. The group that we will see this year is known as Periodical Cicada Brood X (10) and rise from the earth when the soil temperature reaches 65 degrees for a depth of 8 inches.

The states gifted with this year’s presence of the insects include Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (extinct or nearly so), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Brood X cicadas are one to two inches long with a wingspan of three to four inches. They have black bodies, clear wings, and bold red eyes. They breathe through two spiracles on the thorax and eight on the abdomen. Their antennae are short and bristly.

Cicadas are harmless to humans. They may prick our skin if held but do not bite. In fact, people around the world, including Native Americans, once dined on them. They are said to taste like corn and can be grilled, steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Rodents, moles, squirrels, birds, lizards, spiders, killer wasps, snakes, and fish eagerly feast on the delicacies.

Our dogs may nibble on them, as well. However, we should deter them from doing so. Too many cicadas can make dogs sick. The bugs also may be contaminated with pesticides or cause choking in small dogs.

Unlike locus that can result in extensive agricultural damage, cicadas do not harm trees or shrubs. We may notice some leaf loss but not enough to cause lasting damage. According to the Department of Agriculture, molting cicadas eat twigs while adults do not even feed. In addition, their nutrient-rich exoskeleton will enrich the soil and plant growth.

The cicada has the longest life cycle of any insect. They live underground for 17 years while feeding on sap from tree roots. Once mature, they emerge from the ground, lose their exoskeleton, and sprout wings. They then mate, lay eggs in twigs of trees and branches, and die. Eggs hatch in about four weeks and then burrow underground for the next 17 years before repeating the cycle.

The creature’s vast emergence is believed to be a method of survival. So many cicadas arrive at once that predators cannot destroy the entire population. It’s also thought that predator birds tend to have lower density when it’s time for the cicadas to emerge.

Cicadas are among the loudest insects with male mating calls typically ranging from 90 to 100 decibels. That’s louder than a hair dryer or lawn mower but may be as loud as 120 decibels and heard up to one mile away. If you are one who enjoys the music of cicadas, you have three to four weeks to tune in.

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Cicada photo credits: Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., Mount St. Joseph University

See my last post on my other blog, “Forgive Yourself” and my website.

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

Natural Humidifiers and Air Filters Friday, Feb 12 2021 

With the frigid winds fiercely blasting across the Midwest, inside air quality tends to be shockingly dry. Houseplants offer a natural way to not only humidify but clean the air, as well. They increase humidity through transpiration acting as organic antibacterial humidifiers.

Researchers found that plants can remove dust, mold, and allergens in our homes. In fact, rooms with plants have 50-60% less mold spores and bacteria than rooms that do not.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, the principle investigator of the NASA Clean Air Study, proved the ability of houseplants to filter waste products produced by humans. In an attempt to protect themselves, plants release phytochemicals which likely repel irritants. When we are near these plants, we also are protected from the mold spores and bacteria they fend off.

In addition, they make us happier. The greenery produces a calming effect, improving mental and physical well-being. Plants also are found to improve sleep when placed in bedrooms.

When choosing a plant for the home, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • Where will this plant be placed?
  • Is there enough room for the plant to grow?
  • How much light does this plant require?
  • How often do we want to water the plant?
  • Is this plant harmful to children or pets if ingested?

Most plants require little care. We tend to overwater which breeds gnats in the soil and promotes root rot. Many plants can go weeks or even months without water. A little dead-heading and dead leaf cleanup, proper watering, and sunlight goes a long way.  

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See the post, “Price of Protection from COVID in Memory Care Homes.”

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Wish Big on This Bright Star Friday, Dec 18 2020 

One of the gifts of 2020 is a star so bright it lights up the night sky. Known as the “Christmas Star,” a planetary conjunction will culminate on December 21 and be especially vibrant and easily visible after dusk, particularly from Southern locations.

Approximately every 20 years, Jupiter and Saturn become aligned and appear to pass each other in the solar system in what is called a great conjunction. A conjunction is an apparent passing of two or more celestial bodies while a great conjunction refers only to Jupiter and Saturn. What makes this astronomical event so important is that it is the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623 but that one took place during the daytime making it nearly impossible to witness at that time. This one is also the first conjunction (not great conjunction) to be easily observable since March 4, 1226.

Henry Throop, an astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explains the phenomena. “You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium. From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month, and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

We can spot this “star” by looking toward the southwest just after sunset. Jupiter will appear to be the brighter planet. We can find Saturn slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21. The planets will appear very close together, but they really are hundreds of millions of miles apart.

With binoculars or a small telescope, we may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting around it. However, visibility will be minimized the farther north we are located. For example, those in our southern states will have a better viewpoint than those in the northern ones. Cloud coverage, city lights, and geographical obstructions will also impact visibility.

Astronomers such as Johannes Kepler, believe the Christmas Star that announced the birth of the Messiah, also was a conjunction. In 1603 Kepler stated that the Christmas Star actually was a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun that appeared to go backwards for several weeks. Other astronomers believe that the conjunction was between Venus and Jupiter, not Saturn and Jupiter.

The Christmas Star is a sign of hope and promise. Let’s pray this great conjunction brings us a hefty dose of both.

PS

If the star wasn’t visible in your location, check out some of these photos. I believe you can make your wish on these virtual images because we are in a virtual kind of year.

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Check NASA’s website and follow them on Facebook from more astrological information.

Have you read, “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” or “Pet a Pet to Ease the COVID Blues” on my other blog?

My newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters, is the perfect gift for overworked parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

(Stock Image)

Nature Escape Monday, Oct 12 2020 

The Midwest is popping with color. One of my favorite escapes is a walk through nature. With the change of seasons in this area of the U.S., the scenery is never stagnant. A surprise awaits at every time of year, and this autumn is not letting us down.

This past weekend, my boyfriend, Paul, and I walked along the Batavia Riverwalk along the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois. The path is gorgeous at any time of year but autumn offers a feast for the senses. The meandering river, active wildlife, vibrant plant growth, and rustling, falling leaves participate in a well-orchestrated dance that can be seen, heard, and smelled.

An American Goldfinch, in its winter coat, calmly posed for us in a bed of wildflowers.

Geese lazily glided down the river.

A gull feasted on fresh fish.

And ducks basked in the October sun.

The river leapt over the little dam.

But the greatest surprise of the day was what I believe to be jasmine. It’s delightful fragrance announced its presence before we spotted the lush growth attracting hungry bees.

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District in cooperation with the City of Batavia and the Riverain Apartment complex. Volunteers initiated the project in 1991 and continue to maintain it.

A short retreat to this sanctuary, or your closest park, forest, or prairie can offer well-needed respite. Join the volunteers or simply escape into nature for a boost of peace and happiness.

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Do you know that October is the month of the rosary?

Bird or Bug? Monday, Jun 15 2020 

They may be young but they are often smarter than the adults.

I have two seven-year-old grandsons, a five-year-old granddaughter and five-year-old grandson. Technology doesn’t intimidate any of them. The two oldest grandsons became ZOOM experts before I did. Their parents expose the children to nature, athletic classes, and travels that I didn’t experience until much later in life.

And their energy can be deceiving. As they literally run circles around us, the wee ones are taking in everything around them and remember what they saw and heard, especially if it is something we’d rather they hadn’t noticed.

This past weekend, my grandsons Daniel and Nathan helped me water my garden. We saw an unusual creature hovering over the petunias and sucking up nectar. I thought it was a bee or other type of insect because it had three body parts—a head, thorax, and abdomen, but it was larger in size than a normal bee or moth. Nathan insisted that it was a hummingbird.

Thanks to the “Bug Queen,” my friend, Carol Hendrix, we learned we both were somewhat correct. This beauty is a Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe, an insect that mimics a hummingbird. It belongs to the Family Sphingidea (a family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms). These moths are moderate to large in size and are distinguished by their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their subfamily, is the Macroglossinae, moths in the order Lepidoptera.

Most of my plants are on a set of three shelving units against the back of my house. It allows me full use of my limited space and plenty of sunshine with southern exposure to promote hearty growth of flowers, herbs, and vegetables and less consumption by chipmunks and rabbits. The Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe isn’t often seen in my area of the Midwest, so I appreciate that it visited my little boxes of plantings. The opportunity to have witnessed one in action up close and personal was a special gift of nature.

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Check out my posts, “Waling in Someone’s Painful Shoes” and “Why We Suffer.”

If You’re Going to Fly, Fly Like an Eagle Tuesday, May 5 2020 

When I was a kid, I wanted to fly. I had to restrain myself from jumping off ledges and thinking I could soar into the sky. Strange, but true.

If you want to fly like a bird, the eagle would be a powerful choice. The eagle represents freedom as it lives high, soars majestically, and sits at the top of the food chain.

The royal creature was chosen as the symbol of the United States of America on June 20, 1782 because of its strength, longevity, and that it is native to North America. The scientific name comes from Haliaeetus leucocephalus signifying a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At that time, the word “bald” meant “white” not hairless.

Eagles are members of the Accipitridae family which also includes hawks, kites, and vultures. Scientists loosely divide eagles into four groups based on their physical characteristics and behavior. The bald eagle is considered a sea or fish eagle.

Bald eagles are found throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico, but half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Sexual maturity is attained at four to five years. These great birds range from 28-40 inches in length. Females are about 25% larger than males averaging as much as 13 pounds to the males 9 pounds. Their eyes are similar in size to humans but their eyesight is four times greater than our perfect vision.

It’s no wonder they are so amazing to watch in flight. Eagles are powerful fliers soaring on thermal convection currents at speeds of 35-43 mph when gliding and flapping and about 30 mph while carrying fish. They can dive at speeds between 75-99 mph. And their impressive wingspan is between 6 to 7 and a half feet across.

Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; yellow feet, legs and beak; and pale-yellow eyes. Their call consists of the weak staccato, chirping whistle kleek kik ik ik ik. The calls of young birds tend to be more shrill than those of adults.

We are blessed to have nesting eagles in the little town in which I live along the Fox River in Illinois. Bald eagles usually are sensitive to human activity while nesting. However, the ones in my area don’t seem to mind a fascinated yet respectful audience below snapping photos.

Eagles have the largest nests of any North American bird. Nests can be up to 13 feet deep and more than 8 feet wide. These mammoth nests can weigh as much as a ton so they require a sturdy perch. Coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting are typically more than 66 feet tall and offer proximity to prey.

Eagles mate for life, at least the life of one of the pair. Nest building occurs by mid-February. One to three eggs hatch from mid-April to early May and the young leave nests late June to early July. Around 50% of the newly hatched eagles survive the first year.

Eagles are opportunistic feeders devouring dead or decaying fish. Their preferred prey includes grebes, duck, gulls, coots, herons, egrets, and geese up to 4 pounds in weight. Along some areas of the North Pacific coastline, bald eagles are now preying on seabird colonies rather than their traditional kelp. This may be due to overfishing and otters interfering with their food source. Ironically, being at the top of the food chain makes them more vulnerable to consuming toxic chemicals in the environment.

Eagles maintain a respected role in the Native American culture. Pow wow dancers use the eagle claws and feathers as part of their ceremonial dress. In the Navajo tradition, eagle feathers represent the protector. Navajo medicine men use the leg and wing bones for ceremonial whistles. The Lakota people present eagle feathers as honorary symbols to those who achieve a notable task. The Pawnee consider eagles as symbols of fertility because their nests are built high, and they fiercely protect their young. The Choctaw relate the bald eagle with the sun and a symbol of peace.

The average lifespan of bald eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest confirmed one having lived 38 years. Premature death often results from impact with wires and vehicles, gunshot, poisoning, electrocution, trapping, emaciation, and disease.

The Department of Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened, but eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

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Choosing a Memory Care Home Site-Unseen” and “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder” are two of my most recent posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books. And watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.
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All photos on my site were taken by me, Mary K. Doyle, unless otherwise noted.

Butterfly Royalty Friday, Jan 17 2020 

Our spirts dance with the flutter of the monarch butterfly. But don’t be fooled by the delicate, free-flying beauty. They are considered to exhibit the most highly evolved migration patterns of any known species of insects and follow a fascinating tag-team of life cycles.  

Repeatedly, four generations of butterflies complete four unique phases. Beginning around February or March, the first generation returns from a warmer climate, locates a mate, and lays eggs on milkweed plants.  The eggs develop into larvae, a form of caterpillars.

Caterpillars are voracious eaters, capable of consuming an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes. They gain about 2700 times their original weight, and in the process, excrete an abundant quantity of “frass” (or waste).

A monarch butterfly caterpillar then pupates into a chrysalis. Metamorphous continues into an adult butterfly. Females are distinguished from males by the lack a black spot on an inside surface of its hind wing. This generation as well as the next, lives about six weeks and repeats the process of finding a mate and laying eggs.

As a grand finale, the fourth generation of the monarch butterfly lives considerably longer—six to eight months—and is the only one to migrate to warmer climates. Monarchs fly at speeds ranging between 12 to 25 miles an hour. Similar to migrating birds, they use the advantage of updrafts of warm air to glide as they migrate. This helps preserve energy required for flapping their wings for the 2500-mile flight from the Great Lakes to Central Mexican fir forests.

While in Central Mexico, the incredible monarch butterflies, once again, begin a four generation cycle through their life spans. The last generation makes the return 2500-mile voyage to the Great Lakes the following spring.

Butterflies are an integral element of our landscape. However, the king of all butterflies may not be around for much longer. The population has decreased to levels of near extinction due to colder, wetter winters and hotter drier summers, development, and widespread use of herbicides, all of which has severely reduced their food source. We can help by planting milkweeds and other nectar plants. For more information, go to the Monarch Waystation Program

To learn more about monarch butterflies, see the website, Learn About Nature, and watch here for the monarch butterfly life cycle in action.

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Have you read my latest post, Sacred Water, on my other blog?

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I’m out and about speaking to family caregivers with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Please join me:

1/21/20, 6-7p, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of West Orange, NJ

1/22/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Whippany, NJ

1/23/20, 6-7p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Arden Courts of Wayne, NJ

2/12/20, 11-12:30, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Arden Courts of Largo, FL

3/17/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts of Avon, CT

3/18/20, 5:30-7, Home-Managed Care, Arden Courts, Farmington, CT

4/2/20, 1-2:30p, Navigating Alzheimer’s, Inter-Faith Chapel, Leisure World, MD

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(Photo Credit: Free Stock Photo of Monarch Butterfly)

(Political) Climate Change Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

(Venice, Italy)

As I noted in my last post on my Mary K Doyle Books blog, the recent pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa, was the perfect trip at the perfect time for us. The saying is that “Timing is Everything,” and that’s certainly evident with recent events in both countries we visited.

I’m grateful to the many loving friends and family who covered us in prayers. No doubt, their prayers helped keep us safe and make a holy pilgrimage. Our trip was peaceful and in perfect weather.

(Bethlehem, Israel)

Cross-border violence began this week between Israel and militants in Gaza and continue after an Israeli air strike that killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that their campaign is directed at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza. Israel holds the group responsible for 100s of rocket attacks from Gaza since fighting began.

(St. Mark’s)

In addition to the troubles in Israel, Venice is under water. Water levels are at their highest in more than 50 years peaking at about 6 ft. St Mark’s Square was one of the worst hit. The square has flooded six times in 1200 years, according to church records. The crypt is now completely flooded. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the enormous damages on climate change.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the bond that develops between differing peoples. Once we’ve met and connected with someone from another society, we become more aware of their daily situations and concerns and understand them better.

The trauma to the people and their land in both countries saddens me. Lisa and I were privileged to see Israel and Italy in their glory. May all of Israel and Venice return to peace and tranquility very soon.

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(See all posts from both of my blogs on my author Facebook page.)

Bring in the Dogs Wednesday, Jul 24 2019 

IMG_3511

Flight delayed? Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut has a remedy to keep everyone calm—pets to the rescue.

While waiting in BDL for a flight home that ended up delayed more than six hours, handlers and their therapy dogs remained available for petting. I definitely can attest to the positive affect the Australian Shepherds had on the initially irritated crowd. Grunts and groans quickly transformed into oohs and ahs once the dogs appeared. The animals’ mere presence was helpful, and after a few strokes of their luxurious coats, travelers magically became significantly calmer. Smiles blossomed across the gates between travelers and the staff working diligently to accommodate everyone.

Pet Therapy, also known as Animal Assisted Therapy, involves a handler and an animal trained to assist people with physical and emotional issues. The therapy is found to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, alleviate pain, reduce stress, improve motor skills and joint movement, and improve verbal and social skills. Dogs and cats are the most common animals used as “therapists,” but fish, guinea pigs, horses, and even dolphins are trained.

The only drawbacks to pet therapy may occur when people are allergic to animal dander or sanitary issues arise. Pets also may be at risk from unintentional harm from people.

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Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Speak to Me?” 

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