Bugs, Bumblebees, Bats and Butterflies

Remember Lightning Bugs (Fire Flies to some)? Whether we were in the country for a vacation or I was on the street in Brooklyn at night, there were clouds of them, blinking here and there. One night I caught about 100 of them, putting each carefully in a large glass jar whose lid I poked with holes so they could breathe. I took them to my bedroom with me and fell soundlessly asleep with no need for a nightlight. My little roommates were faithfully doing that work in the jar.

Image result for decline of lighning bugs

Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke. Something was wrong. As I pulled myself into wakefulness, I noticed my nightlight had become very diffuse. The holes I put in the top were too big and they escaped. They were everywhere. I spent the rest of the night and wee hours of the morning capturing those I could. Fortunately, it was Sunday, My parent’s sleep-in day.

Then there were the big, fat black and yellow Bumble Bees. How something that shape could fly was a mystery to me. I would watch intently, but warily, fascinated by how they removed the pollen from the flowers, packed it onto their hind legs that turned from black to yellow with all the powder, and amazingly lifted their now even more cumbersome bodies up in to the air and flew away to make more flowers. One summer day we had a sprinkler party. The grass got all muddy as we ran around like crazy Indians. They some Indian hiding in the grass shot the bottom of my foot with an arrow. I had stepped on a bumble bee and come to a sharp realization of how they protected themselves. I ran home screaming. My mother removed the stinger. I became ever more wary of these rotund marvels.Bumble Bee At Work 2

Sadly, many bat species around the world are vulnerable or endangered due to factors ranging from loss and fragmentation of habitat, diminished food supply, destruction of roosts, disease and hunting or killing of bats.

In the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are still under threat from building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads and threats in the home including cat attacks, flypaper and some chemical treatments of building materials. Other potential threats can include wind turbines and lighting if they are sited on key bat habitat on near roosts.

Bumble Bee At Work 2One Autumn day my parents took me to someplace outside the city called Santa Claus Village. It was a petting zoo of sorts with elves of sorts bringing around odd little animals for kids to look at or touch if you had the guts. Came one fellow with a bat, stretched out between his hands. I remembered watching them soar spookily in the night sky and dive like fighter planes in dog-fights as they cleared the mosquitoes from the sky. This bat I was looking at had beady, angry eyes, and teeth like tiny needles. The “elf-man” said, go ahead, you can pet him.” No way I was scratching his ear to make friends, so I was told, “Tickle him on the back of his back, between his ears. Bats can’t rotate their heads 180 degrees.” Oh, yes they can. It bit me.

Great Indian Fruit Bat

And of course there were the butterflies of spring. There were all kinds of them. Oftentimes the gardens of the neighborhood looked like Butterfly World populated with all sizes, shapes and colors showing them off as they fluttered quickly from one flower to another. They had to hurry. Butterflies don’t live long, on average 5-21 days once they come out of the cocoon. Some live about a year; others a day. In that time they have work to do, helping flowers reproduce and helping themselves do the same. Sighting the majestic and aptly named Monarch was exciting enough that we’d stop whatever game we were playing and huddle around it to watch. Sometimes if you were gentle enough, stuck you finger ever so slowly in front of its workplace, it might alight on your offered digit.

Monarch Butterfly On Flower

The Mother Nature organization cites a BioScience magazine on Fire Flies. Which it tells us first of all are beetles and have been around for over 200 million years. The ability to do population decline surveys has been illusive. However one word would cover it: disastrous with a dollop of possible extinction in some parts of the globe.

CNN reporting on figures from the Xerxes Society notes an alarming 97% drop in the Western Monarch from the ’80’s to 2010. In the winter of 2017-18 there was an equal drop. The California numbers have gone from millions, to hundreds of thousands to possibly tens of thousands. They cite habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides.

Bats, you’ll excuse me, are dropping like flies. They are dying in caves around the globe of a fungus infecting their caves. They hibernate for the winter and never wake up. On the east coast it is called White Nose Fungus. Who will rid us of those flies and mosquitoes?

The Bat Conservation Trust of Great Britain reports this:

Sadly, many bat species around the world are vulnerable or endangered due to factors ranging from loss and fragmentation of habitat, diminished food supply, destruction of roosts, disease and hunting or killing of bats.

In the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century. Bats are still under threat from building and development work that affects roosts, loss of habitat, the severing of commuting routes by roads and threats in the home including cat attacks, flypaper and some chemical treatments of building materials. Other potential threats can include wind turbines and lighting if they are sited on key bat habitat on near roosts.”

These four memories, and the cited science on them, are memories it is unlikely your children and certainly their children will ever have. The Nature Conservancy and several other environmental organizations dedicated to saving the magical creatures so necessary to preserving our planet tell us that these four above and thousands of lesser known of their cousins, are endangered, some to the point of extinction, like the charming, enchanting Lightning bug once seen in herds of light and now if seen at all are likely spread out disappearing points of light, a sad representation of what created memories for me and so many other kids, the blinking bugs that made the dark of night so much less scary.

The numbers of Bumble Bees has seen a world-wide crash. A abstract published by the National Academy of Sciences showed that the four most important of the Bumble Bee species has declined 96%! Their range has been reduced from 25-87% In some countries including this one, to see a gaggle of them in a field is a sight worth remembering. You might never see it gain. And what will do the pollination job they do endlessly and tirelessly?

Bats, you’ll excuse me, are dropping like flies. They are dying in caves around the globe of a fungus infecting their caves. They hibernate for the winter and never wake up. On the east coast it is called White Nose Fungus. Who will rid us of those flies and mosquitoes?

And our dear Butterflies. They too, especially the Monarchs which by the millions emerge from caves in Mexico and make their way to us. Whole areas are virtually devoid of them. And who will bring that joy to our eyes and do the work to make sure we have flowers to bring more joy to our senses of sight and smell?

These four memories, and the cited science on them, are memories it is unlikely your children and certainly their children will ever have. The Nature Conservancy and several other environmental organizations dedicated to saving the magical creatures so necessary to preserving our planet tell us that these four above and thousands of lesser known of their cousins, are endangered, some to the point of extinction, like the charming, enchanting Lightning bug once seen in herds of light and now if seen at all are likely spread out disappearing points of light, a sad representation of what created memories for me and so many other kids, the blinking bugs that made the dark of night so much less scary.

Mostly the culprit is the pesticide plague, companies like Bayer and Monsanto ruthlessly killing off what we love so kill weeds and crop pests. It’s like using a howitzer to kill a moth. These treasures are the collateral damage in the war against crop pests. Then too there is habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and look closely CLIMATE CHANGE!

If  any of this touches you, I beg you to do some research and then make some noise. If you don’t, the next generation won’t have the simple pleasures we had and that generation will be teetering on it’s own destruction because the bottom line in the books was more important that the tiny workers in the fields–at least from my perspective.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

A wistful Bill Gralnick brings you this piece in the hope of action on your part. He also hopes for action on your buying his latest book, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales from Brooklyn” (Amazon.com/kindle or paperback, also same for Barnes and Noble. He reminds you, “Read!: It’s good for both of us.”

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s