By John Latimer, KAXE Radio, Grand Rapids
The last of the meadowhawk dragonflies will put in an appearance in early November. These small, bright red, insects are among the last to fly about in the fall. A warm day or two in the early part of the month will send them out in a last and probably fruitless search for other flying insects.
Flickr photo “Ruby Meadowhawk” by Jim Frazier. Original.
If you have been observing them throughout the fall you may have noticed them flying in tandem with the female periodically touching her abdomen to the grass. She is depositing eggs. Her strategy is to place her eggs on stalks of grass that will be inundated in the spring. Once awash the eggs will begin to develop and the larval stages will terrorize the shallow ponds and lake edges until late summer when they will emerge and terrorize the flying insects.
Those eggs mistakenly laid in the grass that may be your lawn will likely never develop. No one is perfect and least of all the meadowhawk dragonflies, but what they lack in foresight about those areas likely to flood they make up for in sheer numbers of eggs laid. Some of them will end up underwater and the species will survive.
Flickr photo “Dragonfly” by Chris Coomber. Original.
In the case of the meadowhawk dragonflies they survive the winter as eggs or larvae, but what about the Compton’s tortoiseshell or Mourning cloak butterflies? How do they survive the cold? They over-winter as adults and without an approach to overcome the cold they would freeze and die. For many insects the strategy is freeze avoidance.
There are three elements to freeze avoidance. First, the insect produces an anti-freeze which circulates in the blood. These special proteins bind with any ice crystals that may form keeping them small and preventing them from doing damage.
Second, they produce sugars and sugar based alcohols which act to lower the freezing point of any water in the body. These typically take the form of glycerols that by mid-winter may constitute 20 to 25% of the insect’s total body weight.
Flickr photo “Chionea species” by C Wood. Original.
The final part of a freeze avoidance strategy involves finding a dry location. Staying away from water and the resulting ice is imperative. Ice can act as a nucleator for the development of further ice crystals. The butterflies must find secure dry locations, other insects might construct waterproof cocoons or some other personal protection, but the butterflies lack this ability. This perhaps explains why I find so many of them in my garage.
John Latimer is well known throughout northern Minnesota for his phenology work. He appears weekly on KAXE radio in Grand Rapids, and audio and twitter archives are available here. His work is a frequent feature on MyMinnesotaWoods. This article also appeared in the Duluth Senior Reporter. It is printed with the author’s permission.
Some MyMinnesotaWoods readers may be interested in this early December, 2009 event:
Growing the Bioeconomy: Solutions for Sustainability
Dec. 1-2, University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul campus
Hosted by University of Minnesota Extension and the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. Cost is $50 per day, $85 for both days.
Program schedule and registration.
This two-day conference will bring together national and local players from Minnesota’s bioeconomy to explore renewable energy opportunities. Agricultural producers, landowners, community and business leaders, and citizens interested in economic development and biorenewables are encouraged to attend and identify ways they can participate in solutions to the global climate change and energy supply issues facing Minnesota.
On December 1, you’ll be part of a virtual conference hosted by 12 Midwest universities. You’ll get a big picture overview of the issues through broadcast viewing and a live panel discussion. Speakers include: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, Renowned biochar and climate change expert Dr. James E. Lovelock.
December 2 is all about Minnesota. We’ll focus on local success stories, getting your questions answered, and giving you information you can put to use right away.
Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, ‘I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther – and we shall see.’
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather –
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled – and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,
Or even last year’s or the year’s before.
The wood was gray and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labor of his ax,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.
The October 2009 update from MyMinnesotaWoods.org is now available at
This month’s features include the following:
Video: EAB and your Woodland
John Latimer’s Northern Minnesota phenology report
Meet a Minnesota Logger AND an MFA member
North Central Forest Management Guides: Aspen
Minnesota moose population status: How you can help
Poem of the month
Quiz of the month
To see this month’s update, visit
Update October 19: This event has been rescheduled from October 21 to October 28, 2009. The text below reflects the change.
The University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center (SROC) will be hosting a New Holland FR9000 Forage Harvester with an 130FB Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) Woody Crop Header on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, from 12:00pm to 3:00pm. When utilizing the 130FB SRC Woody Crop Header, the New Holland FR9000 is capable of cutting and chipping woody biomass as if it was corn silage.
Questions and conversation regarding woody biomass for renewable energy and the New Holland FR9000 / 130FB Header will be conducted at 12:00pm and 2:00pm. The Woody Biomass Forage Harvester Demonstration Field Day will be held in the willow trials at SROC’s Argicultural Ecology Research Farm.
Woody biomass is being proposed as a feedstock for a number of bio-industrial and renewable energy applications. The State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry has been working with Cornell University and Case New Holland to develop a harvest system for short rotation coppice woody biomass crops.
The New Holland FR9000 with a 130FB Header attachment is a harvest system using a conventional forage harvester equipped with a specialty cutting attachment for woody crop harvest. This self-propelled harvester can cut and chip standing short rotation woody biomass in the field in a single pass operation while providing wood chips of a uniform length and size.
Partners for this event include:
Case New Holland; University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center; Rural Advantage; University of Minnesota Extension; Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management; University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences; and University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources.
Directions to SROC’s Agricultural Ecology Research Farm:
From State Hwy 14, follow signage for State Hwy 14 West. Immediately look for Co. Rd. 27. It will take you past the Waseca Airport. Follow to Co. Rd. 57 and the road construction. Travel east about 1.0 mile to Agricultural Ecology Research Farm.
I wish to grow dumber,
to slip deep into woods that grow blinder
with each step I take,
until the fingers let go of their numbers
and the hands are finally ignorant as paws.
Unable to count the petals,
I will not know who loves me,
who loves me not.
Nothing to remember,
nothing to forgive,
I will stumble into the juice of the berry, the shag of bark,
I will be dense and happy as fur.
— Noelle Oxenhandler
A few months ago, we heard from a frustrated reader. Noting the abundant info about emerald ash borer (EAB) in urban environments, he could find almost nothing on managing ash in woodland stands. Philip Potyondy created this video to begin to answer that question.
The video has four sections:
- First Extension’s Jeff Hahn reviews basic EAB biology, dispersal, and impacts on host trees.
- Second, Keith Jacobson of the MN DNR’s Utilization & Marketing unit briefly reviews markets for ash wood in Minnesota.
- Third, we head to the woods for brief comments from Paul Dickson, president of the Minnesota Association of Consulting Foresters.
- We close with a summary of research and management recommendations for woodland ash stands from Extension’s Angela Gupta.
Special thanks to Jeff Hahn, Keith Jacobson, Paul Dickson, and Angela Gupta for their contributions to this video. You can learn much more about EAB in Minnesota at the UMN Extension EAB page.
What are you doing to prepare your woods for EAB? Leave a comment to let us know.