Al Batt: Spiders seldom bite humans; stink bug gaining foothold in region

Published 9:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

Email newsletter signup

“Everything is nearly copacetic. I’m growing like a weed. That’s not a good thing. It means that I’m growing in all the wrong places. That realization shook me up like an Etch-A-Sketch. I do exercise. I do something called diddlysquat. I try not to get too friendly with work. Things happen when I do. I was slaving away the other day. It was hotter than a pair of jumper cables at one of your family reunions. I dropped a big rock on my toe that left me numb from my toes down. It must have been an omen because this has been a very uncomfortable day.”

“What do you mean by that?” I wonder aloud.

“I was getting dressed this morning and a button fell off my shirt. I had to put on my spectacles to find the button and one of the lenses fell out. I decided I should go to the eyeglasses place and get my cheaters fixed. When I got into my truck, the door handle fell off.”

“That’s nothing more than a few tough hops. What makes your day uncomfortable?” I ask.

“So many things have fallen off that I’m afraid to go to the bathroom.”



I watched a Cooper’s hawk attack a red-shouldered hawk that had ventured too close to the Coop’s nest. It was an impressive performance of managed anger. I watched a groundhog perched on a fence post and a robin chowing down at a grape jelly feeder. A catbird, a gifted polyglot, sang in many languages. Red-eyed vireos sang continually and a common yellowthroat called, “Follow me, follow me,” as I stared at cedar waxwings. The beauty of the birds transfixed me. A single waxwing is a compelling sight. A flock demands a long look.

Killdeer and an eastern phoebe called. They are name sayers, proclaiming their monikers to all who are willing to listen. Common grackles were busy doing grackle things. A friend calls them the Hell’s Angels of birds.

I spoke in Arizona. It was hot there. I noticed many cars sporting bird droppings. More than average, I thought. I suspect it was because the cars were parked in the shade whenever possible, often under trees that birds used for perching.

My granddaughter Everly and I were talking about Baltimore orioles. I told her that they ate grape jelly. Everly asked why the orioles didn’t eat Oreo cookies. She thought it only natural that they should devour Oreos.


Monarch miseries

I’ve seen a monarch butterfly here and there. It doesn’t seem as if monarchs can get a break. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. I told a friend, Steve Maanum of Park Rapids, that the trees used by the butterflies as winter roosts in Mexico were being logged severely. Steve replied, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could shift their wintering grounds by having them follow an ultralight aircraft as they did with the whooping cranes?”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service no longer supports using ultralight aircraft to lead young whooping cranes on a fall migration to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Begun in 2001, this was the most visible strategy to bring the endangered birds back to the eastern United States. The population had been reduced to 15 birds in the 1940s.


RIP, Harriet

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha announced that its senior eagle ambassador, Harriet, has died. Harriet, named after Harriet Tubman, had been at the National Eagle Center since 2000. She’d been rescued after a collision with a vehicle. Harriet had appeared on “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Harriet had been banded as an eaglet after hatching in a nest 86 feet high in a white pine on Palmer Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin, in the spring of 1981. Harriet is pictured on the Minnesota Support Our Troops license plate. Harriet was a regular visitor to VA hospitals, visiting wounded veterans. Since Harriet had visible injuries, she provided a ray of hope for many. She lived a long life as wild eagles might be expected to reach 20 to 25 years of age.



“I have many bites on my legs. Are they spider bites?” Not likely. Spiders seldom bite humans. If a spider had been inside your garden glove and you put your hand into the glove, the spider might bite in self-defense. Spiders don’t go out of their way to bite us. Other creatures, such as fleas, chiggers and bedbugs do.

“Do chipmunks hibernate?” Scientists say a chipmunk is a true hibernator because its normal 60+ breaths a minute decline to less than 20 and its body temperature falls from 96-106 degrees Fahrenheit to between 42 degrees to 45 degrees. Unlike groundhogs, which live on body fat they’ve accumulated before hibernation, chipmunks depend on food stores to keep them fed over the winter. Chipmunks wake every few days to feed on their larder. Studies have shown that chipmunks adjust the length and depth of their torpor based on the size and composition of their food reserves.

“Are brown marmorated stink bugs in Minnesota?” The brown marmorated stink bug appears to be gaining a foothold. The adults are 1/2-inch-long shield-shaped insects with long piercing and sucking mouthparts. They release an odor when disturbed. They are brown with a marmorated (marble-patterned) exterior. There are many stink bug species in Minnesota that could be confused with brown marmorated stink bug. Possible target crops for this stink bug include apple, grape, soybean and vegetables.


Thanks for stopping by

“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.” — Alice Hoffman

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” — Winston Churchill.


Do good.