All Around Deerhorn Valley . . . Pictures • Plants • Wildlife • Bugs • Birds • Q & A
GROUND SQUIRRELS #$%!$#!!
As promised, we'll have a link here soon. In the meantime, check out the article inthe Fall 2010 Antler. Download here on the Antler Alerts page.
BEES & SWARM SEASON...
-by Kim Hamilton (part-time beekeeper)
A lot of questions and concerns have been raised about the bee swarms, which are numerous this year. We've all heard of those that have been attacked. According to researchers, most wild swarms in SD county are hybrid and carry at least some of the Africanized genes.
Wild swarms are those that are not managed by beekeepers, who control swarming and make sure the bees are from gentler European strains. The swarms are attracted to our chaparral and find little competition: most of our bee hives were consumed in the 2007 fires.
There are a number of factors happening all at the same time which means we'll be seeing bee swarms throughout the summer. (Full Article with lots of pictures...)
From our local biologist...
RATTLESNAKE SEASON IS HERE!
-by Nira Clark
Nira Clark, our resident Deerhorn biologist, answers questions and provides some facts and advice. Nira teaches biology at Southwestern College and specializes in snakes and reptiles. Thank you so much, Nira, for this information and heads' up. - Kim & Rob
Spring is in the air! The birds are singing and the flowers blooming... everyone in nature is out looking for that special someone...including the snakes. Yes snakes. As temperatures warm up the snakes start looking around for food and a friend to raise a family with. Rattlers are common in our area and best to keep your eyes open for them. Now remember we like snakes. So don't go get your shovels or machetes out yet. Without snakes you would be up to your eyeballs in ground squirrels and gophers. And if you are up to your eyeballs in these varmints, you might want to reconsider your perspective on those wonderful reptiles. First things first.
Nira is a biology instructor at Southwestern College. If you have a question for Nira, email us and we'll send it on.
Nira, What can I do about those &#%! earwigs?
I have an answer for you..... go get a toad! Toads eat earwigs, so be nice to toads! Also keep the leaf litter cleaned up. Earwigs like leaf litter, and the underside of potted plants... and windowsills, and and and....
I know we all have tons of them - but I now have fewer after raking up all the leaves - trimming up all the plants and gathering the toads around my house.
My daughter, Jane, did discover that mother earwigs actually tend to their babies. Look under pieces of wood. You might find a mother guarding her eggs or larvae. It would be a really sweet scene - if it weren't for the fact that they are all earwigs.
Jane now considers earwigs to be her "pets" so I have to be careful of how I "dispose" of any on my property. If a 5 year old girl can come to love them... maybe we all can :) (Hee hee!)
And some other DV"ers add their suggestions...
ANNE EVOSEVICH: What we have found most helpful so far is diatomaceous earth (D.E.), such as used in swimming pool filters. We put a ring or two around our herb barrels etc. and they stop harvesting them. Some times we have to apply a second dose, but it has not failed to work for us these recent years.
ROB: We had a window where the earwigs were getting in – right above my head when I was in bed. We put a barrier of D.E. on the sill outside and it worked. When we're inundated with them, we keep a glass of water with a few drops of liquid detergent to kill the surface tension, and we pick up the wigs and drop them in the glass and they sink immediately to the bottom. I'm embarrassed to say how many we have, but Kim beat me by five last wig season. I once broke a large chunk of bark from a log that was lying on the ground, and out ran at least three hundred of them. Yuuuuuck!
DEERHORN'S LARGEST OAK?
-by Rob Deason
EUREKA! I think I found it . . . DV's largest oak . . . unless you know of one larger. My arm from where the tree meets my shoulder is 24 inches long, and for a live oak, this tree is huge. There's one a half mile north that's just as big, and years ago I paced off its crown at eighty feet in diameter. So, I'll make some measurements.
These old guys are nothing less than majestic. Oh, if they could only talk – we would hear stories of Native Americans, rain, floods, drought, deafening thunder and blinding lightning spears, blazing fire, dear, bear, mountain lion hawk nests, horse-drawn wagons and grazing cattle. This tree would tell of the Brattons building their home just a hundred yards away.
I'll take some pictures and measurements and post them here.
MAJESTIC OAKS OF DEERHORN VALLEY
The Acorns are Here… The oaks of Deerhorn Valley are putting out the largest crop of acorns in many a year. The last great show was in 1998. Long time DV’ers recall that was also a good wet winter, with some 40 inches of rain. Maybe our acorns know a wet winter is in the offing. Our fingers are crossed.
Friendly Engelmanns and Prickly Live Oaks… Deerhorn Valley is home to three main types of oak: Coastal Live Oak (quercus agrifolia), scrub oak, (quercus dumosa), and the Engelmann Oak (quercus englemannii). The Engelmann is the rarest of all American oaks and found only in a small range between 2300 and 4200 feet. 2/3 are on private lands, and some of the finest are here in Deerhorn. From a distance the Engelmann shows off a bluish-gray-green canopy that contrasts with the shiny green of the Coastal Live Oak. Its leaves are smooth and oval without prickles and spines. In some climates it’s deciduous, dropping most of its leaves when the weather turns cold. Here in Deerhorn its canopy gets a bit thin in winter, but new growth blossoms come the rains and longer days of early spring.
Fire Survivors… Our oaks can survive most normal fires that move through the grasses and chaparral, but when wind-driven embers and firebrands lodge against hollowed trees, the trunks act as a chimney and the trees burn from the inside out. Many oaks that overhung or stood aside burning structures were also lost; the heat intensity was just too much for them to withstand. Sadly, these fire survivors are now face a new threat; the Gold-spotted Oak Borer is responsible for most of the standing dead oak we see around the valley. The Engelmann appears to be somewhat resistant to this insect, but some 90% of our coastal live oaks show signs of infestation.
Give the Oaks a Helping Hand… You can help preserve our legacy oak woodland. “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…” and November and December are the best months to collect them. Acorns are ready when they separate easily from their caps. Green or yellowed ones are good-- do a float test in a bucket of water. You want to keep the ones that sink; and discard the “floaters.” (probably insect-damaged.) Store them in the refrigerator in a plastic baggie and plant them after the first rains, but before March 1).
Poke them (pointy end down) into the ground; next to boulders or at the edge of canopy of the older oaks. Protect them from rabbits and gophers with a cylinder of window screen or hardware cloth. You can even give some a head start by germinating them inside, then planting them once the root has sprouted. Not all will take, so it’s better to plant too many than not enough.
Watch for the natural sprouting seedlings too. While they are still tiny, you can transplant them. (We know of a fine young oak growing in a Mission Hills canyon that germinated right here in Deerhorn Valley). Be careful of the delicate roots, though, and water them thoroughly to begin with, to eliminate air pockets and set the roots in contact with the soil. Then let the rains take over, with maybe a bit of water during the driest months for the first couple of years.
Plant them for your kids and grandkids. And for their kids and grandkids. Let them know and love our oaks as we do.
ANATOMY OF A NEW OAK
-by Rob Deason
Phyllis brought this sprouted Englemann acorn to the FireSafe Council meeting. The Englemann oak (as mentioned above) shares Deerhorn, and seems to be less prone than other oaks to host the spotted oak borer. Phyllis and Kim Hamilton are planning on sprouting acorns and replanting some of the areas that were especially hard hit by the fire.
Oaks have an especially thick and long tap root (the plants first root) making it near impossible for a plant to survive if we pull it out of the soil hoping to transplant it. The tap root is visible, but it's the microscopic (invisible) hair-roots that do the work, and are stripped off when the plant is pulled up.