Ant Invasion Solved
Thank you for writing us about winged ants. Your description of why ants grow wings and where the ants hide really aided me in my search. We eventually found them in a wet area under the tub and treated the area...no ants since late September. Thanks for the advice.
Lawrence R. Dewulf
Several questions about ants prompted us to book a much more extensive piece on household ants found in Wisconsin. Look for our piece in the June issue.
Right Idea, Wrong Word
Your October description of the front cover describes a deer in vellum. My dictionary says "vellum" means like parchment. I think you meant velvet.
What we meant was "velum," the thin, vascular membrane that surrounds deer antlers in summer feeding a rich supply of blood to the spongy antler tissue. The antlers that grow within toughen up in early fall. The velum stops feeding blood, and the parchment-like sheath is scraped away as the antlers harden. The term is also used to describe a thin covering on plants and marine snails. "Vellum" describes a very fine leather of calves and kid goats used in the bindings of fine books and scrolls.
Bluebird Tough Guys
We enjoy your pieces about bird observations and offer this one.
The last few years a pair of bluebirds have been mating in a birdhouse in our back yard. This year, I decided to put up another bluebird house in hope of enticing a second pair to our yard.
The first pair came back on schedule and started nesting in their old house. Then I thought "what would stop sparrows and other birds from moving in?"
The resident bluebirds answered that in a hurry. Whenever the sparrows hung around the new house the bluebirds would fly over and chase them away. Eventually the bluebirds raised four young birds, then the adult pair moved over to the new house and produced four more young birds. I would certainly give this pair of bluebirds an "A" for effort.
On Bird Symbolism
Thank you for Bird prejudice, the piece on eagles and pigeons by Justin Isherwood in the October issue. We sure like how he thinks.
Remembering Aldo Leopold
In July 1940, I was a student on the University of Wisconsin campus and got a call from the Student Employment Office offering work at the new woman's dormitory, Elizabeth Waters Hall for the then going rate of 35 cents an hour. The work was hauling luggage to rooms and waiting tables for attendees at an important convocation of natural resources conservationists, wildlife protectionists and allied professionals.
I recall the opening meeting took place in a large room overlooking Lake Mendota. The introduction emphasized the critical nature of our relationship with our environment. The speaker used the term "ecology" to identify the purpose of the seminar. I recall asking one of the other waiters, "What is this "ecology?" He answered, "From what I can tell, it has something to do with diseases of lakes."
The speaker, I am almost positive, was the mentor of ecology, Aldo Leopold. He stated that the greatest threat to our well-being in the foreseeable future was the abuse of our water resources. I could tell that this statement was a surprise to many of those sitting and facing the nearby lake.
I wonder how many in that room that day went forth to spread the word so learned from the great man?
Santa Barbara, CA
More On Mercury
In February 1998, you published an article concerning concerns with mercury in our lakes (The metal that slipped away). One night I began to think about this and wonder about the larger view of this problem. I drew up a diagram of what I thought was going on. I'm clueless about mercury concentrations and rates of change. Does anyone have a better picture of just what might be going on?
Charles S. Kottle
Could you send me a copy of "The Mercury Source Book" described in your story and a listing of inland lakes that have been tested and you found a mercury level?
Hector T. Mayheu
Mercury comes from a number of diverse sources. Our story listed common sources including power generation. Mercury is a natural contaminant trapped in small quantities in coal.
The Mercury Source Book is almost 700 pages long. Consequently it isn't widely distributed but is provided to community planners who are compiling regional strategies to reduce small mercury discharges from wastewater treatment plants, power generation, and other public services provided by communities.
Listings of waters where mercury contamination has been documented in fish is available on the web and as a booklet. Contact DNR Bureau of Fisheries and Habitat, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 to ask for "Health Information for Eating Wisconsin Fish," or visit Fish Consumption Advisories