Perhaps you already know this but it was news to me: Cinnamon repels ants.
Cinnamon comes from the dried inner bark of a tropical evergreen, the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomumsp.). Ants would eat these trees alive if they could but the cinnamon genus evolved a very effective defense: two chemicals, Cinnamaldehyde and Cinnamyl alcohol, that are toxic to ants. Ants stay away from cinnamon.
In this 9-minute video, the guy from You Can Science It shows that even swarming, warring ants will drop what they’re doing when confronted with cinnamon. He theorizes that it changes their messaging from “Kill the other colony” to “Oh no! It’s cinnamon!” (video begins where he starts discussing cinnamon. Click here for the full video.)
Yes, cinnamon repels ants but it has to be fresh and you have to use a lot of it.
There are many cool things about Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica). Here are two things that might come as a surprise.
(1) When Atlantic puffins fly back to their nests to feed their hungry chicks they need to carry as many fish as possible. How do they clamp them in their beaks? They press their spiny tongues on the fish to hold them against the roof of the mouth.
(B) We think puffins’ beaks are beautiful but we’re seeing only half of it. Where we see yellowish stripes the puffins see glowing ultraviolet. Read more about their colorful beaks in this article from Audubon.org.
Late last month observers discovered a small green pond at the bottom of Halema’uma’u Crater at Kilauea volcano. Water inside the crater is rather amazing since Kilauea is the active volcano on the Big Island of Hawai’i that erupted violently in 2018, destroying parts of Leilani Estates, Highway 132, Vacationland and Kapoho.
Geologists wondered if the green spot was a rock or algae so they flew over the crater several times looking for a telltale reflection to indicate it was water. Yes, it’s wet.
White-tailed deer are numerous and very tame in Schenley Park. Last week I encountered a doe with twin fawns near the swimming pool.
The family became alert while I was staring at them, but the mother has learned that we humans aren’t dangerous and is teaching it to her kids. How many generations does it take for the herd to become this tame?
In the past ten years I’ve seen the landscape change in Schenley Park while the deer population has grown exponentially. Where there used to be thick slopes of false Solomon’s seal and yellow jewelweed there is nothing green now, just carpets of fallen leaves. Having eaten the good stuff they are working on less tasty food, avoiding the poisonous plants such as white snakeroot at their feet in these photos. Some day their range will fail them.
I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.
But 14,000 years ago most of them were under ice and the lakes that existed weren’t in the same place. The western part of Lake Erie was under Lake Maumee. The toe of Lake Michigan was covered by Lake Chicago. As the ice receded the Great lakes took on their present shape.
A lot has changed in the last 14,000 years. Browse the maps below to find your beach at the ancient Great Lakes.
(photo and maps from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)
We all know it’s unsafe outdoors in a thunderstorm but did you know that lightning can be dangerous indoors, too? It depends on what you’re doing.
When lightning strikes a building it follows the quickest path to the ground. If the building has ample lightning rods it follows their lead. Otherwise it travels through the plumbing, wiring, metal door jambs, even the metal rebar inside concrete. If a building doesn’t have plumbing or electricity it’s not safe during lightning.
The house in the video above was inside a landslide zone on Semicir Street overlooking Riverview Park. Add water and … the house collapsed!
The bedrock at fault is Pittsburgh redbed, a claystone that disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces if exposed to pressure when it’s wet. Redbed is usually under pressure because it’s underneath solid rock and overlying soil. Add water to a steep slope and you have a landslide.
This sandstone boulder on the Bridle Trail in Schenley Park was part of the escarpment above it until the redbed layer beneath it gave way.
Here’s a future landslide on the Lower Panther Hollow Trail. This sandstone boulder, high above my head, will fall some day because the slow drip of water over the boulder has disintegrated the underlying redbed. Notice the reddish crumbled stones.
I had read that Pittsburgh redbed disintegrates when wet but I wanted to see for myself so I gathered some redbed rocks and ran an experiment.
Thousands of years ago these small crumbles were a much bigger solid rock but water had already acted on them. Will the crumbles disintegrate in the presence of water and pressure? I kept some rocks dry and soaked others for a day. Here’s my experiment.
Add water and pressure to Pittsburgh redbed claystone and … Watch out below!
Near infrared is long-wavelength light beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. Though we can’t see this wavelength we can feel its heat. In fact more than half the sunlight that reaches Earth is in the infrared spectrum, as shown in the graph below.
Australia is a good place to study cooling techniques in birds because 70% of the continent is hot, dry and very sunny. The Australian study examined museum specimens of 90 species, classifying them by habitat and testing them for their NIR reflectant properties. Two species stood out.
Here’s a graph from the study that compares them with two other species.
The nankeen kestrel and azure kingfisher are at the top of the NIR reflective scale but low reflectors of visible and UV light. The reverse is true of the blueish bird, a male superb fairywren (Malurus cyaneus). He’s great at reflecting UV and visible light, probably because he lives where it’s moist and shady. The great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) doesn’t reflect much light at all.
Interestingly, near infrared reflectivity is more prevalent in small birds because they benefit more for their size. You can’t tell it from the photo but the azure kingfisher is only as big as a sparrow.
Too hot? Reflect near infrared light to stay cool.
(image credits: nankeen kestrel, sunlight graph and azure kingfisher from Wikimedia Commons. Graph from “Reflection of near-infrared light confers thermal protection in birds” at Nature.com, Creative Commons license. Click on the captions to see the originals)
In the wild and in our yards Thuja trees are a favorite food of white-tailed deer. They browse it from the ground up to the height of their outstretched necks.
When the number of deer is in balance with the landscape, arborvitae have a normal tapered shape. You’d never notice that the deer are eating them.
When there are more deer than the landscape can handle, their browsing is intense. The trees are cropped close to the trunk — even down to the bark — because the plants can’t replace their branches fast enough.
I photographed that row of damaged trees just six blocks from my house. Yes, my city neighborhood has too many deer now. We could protect our trees with netting as described in this video. Or we could give up and never plant arborvitae again.
p.s. There are too many deer everywhere in the eastern U.S., even in the forest. Read more here.