Honeydew

One of the nice things about living at this altitude (7,200′) is that not many species of insects find it hospitable. We don’t have termites, fleas, or many of the other pests which bug people. We do have mosquitoes a few weeks each year, and ants, some spiders, bees, wasps (We have some excellent paper wasp nests in our attic which look just like the ones in the cartoons.) and we have aphids.

Aphids thrive here. They seem to especially love columbine and cottonwoods. When they get started at the Columbine Campgound, there is hardly a vacant space for a hungry aphid to pull up and attach. The columbine go from looking fine one day to looking drained as the life is sucked out of them the next. A spritz of a solution of water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent saves the day for the columbine.

The cottonwoods are a different story. We live in the part of Laramie which abutts the south and west campus. This area is know as the tree area. The people who built houses here 80 or a 100 years ago also planted cottonwood trees. The trees, which have grown huge, line most of the streets in this part of town. Most of the time this is wonderful. During aphid season, it is not. Aphids attach themselves to the leaves in branches of the cottonwoods which overarch the streets, the sidewalks, the yards, houses and everything on their surfaces. The tiny insects then begin the feast. However, as we all know, what goes in must come out. And boy, does it. The billions of aphids produce gallons and gallons of byproduct known as honeydew. This clear, sticky substance first covers the leaves of the trees then the excess begins dripping and gets on the roofs, the grass, the sidewalks, the cars, the lawn furniture. Well, you get the picture, it gets on everythings under the trees. It is as if this entire part of town was sprayed with syrup. During the peak season, honeydew gets so thick on the cars in the streets under the trees that you can’t see out without diligent, daily window washing. I took my car to the uwashit car wash yesterday to power spray it with hot soapy water. It is already covered with aphid poop.

We are waiting for a downpour. Hoping that it will wash things off and slow the aphids down. We are in the middle of a drought, so our wait may last until the first hard frost which spells doom for the aphids.

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What’s blooming at Happy Jack?

The Pole Mountain area received good snowfall this past winter. Besides providing good skiing most of the late winter and early spring, plenty of snow means lots of wild flowers in the summer. Last time I was up there walking with our puppy, Sadie, I tried to notice and remember how many different flowers I saw. This is a list of what I remember. There were more.

miner’s candle
geraniums
lupine
dandlions
mule’s ears
yarrow
calypso orchids
mountain bluebells
wild strawberries
wild roses
blue-eyed grass
paintbrush
purple pincushions
ladies’tresses
butter and eggs
gay feather
snow drops
larkspur

A friend who has raised cattle said that larkspur is deadly poison to them. Evidently, it works extremely quickly. “Drops them in their tracks,” according to her.