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Features (Creature Feature)

No need to put out the welcome mat

The mouse stood high in ancient Greece, where the god Apollo took the creature as one of his namesakes, Apollo Smintheus. White mice were kept under the altars in temples to that incarnation.
    Most of us can better relate to the Indo-Aryan Sanskrit tradition wherein musuka means thief or robber.
    Sanskrit may not be familiar to you, but the burglary antics of the common house mouse probably are, especially this time of year.
    Freezing temperatures, like our recent dip into the low teens, send these furry rodents scurrying inside to the warmth of our homes and offices.
    If you have mice, you’re not alone. Each winter, mice and other rodents invade an estimated 21 million homes in the U.S. Mice visit between October and February, looking for food, water and shelter from the cold. Mice build their homes in our homes, near food sources, like our pantries and cupboards.
    Prolific and voracious, they eat more than growing teenagers and breed faster than rabbits. They eat up to 20 times per day and breed year-round, starting at about two months old.
    With a gestation of less than three weeks, a litter of eight to 14 pups and an average of five to 10 litters a year, a single female mouse will give birth to about 120 babies each year.
    That’s a lot of mice. Let two in, and many more will follow.
    Like little Houdinis, mice can squeeze through openings as small as a dime. A small crack or gap on the exterior of your home is an open door — and invitation — for mice.
    Prevent mice from gaining access into your home by sealing any openings on the exterior (such as where utility pipes enter) with a silicone caulk. You can also fill gaps and holes inside your home with steel wool.
    Keeping cats as pets helps, too. Since I rescued my two kitties three years ago, I haven’t seen a single mouse inside.
    Mice are cute and cuddly to some folks who may even keep them as pets, but they can transmit a disease called salmonellosis, a bacterial food poisoning that occurs when food is contaminated with infected mice feces.
    That’s just the beginning. Mice can carry as many as 200 human pathogens.
    No wonder Apollo Smintheus was a god of disease.

The California condor’s escape from extinction
     The California condor was on the brink of extinction. How close it really was, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife describes:
Like Penelope in the story of Odysseus, she spins and undoes on a daily cycle
      The large yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) is a very special orb weaver spider. The females are known for nightly creating a beautiful intricate web with a zigzag pattern arranged vertically in the center of the web. The spider also positions herself in the center of the web.
Little but loud
       The blue-gray gnatcatcher is a very common tiny bird. They are a light bluish-gray with a white ring around their eyes and two white vertical tail streaks, seen when they flare their tails.

A story of special devotion to the least of creatures

     Patricia Terrant of Blue Angel Rescue in Lusby — featured in the August 28 Bay Weekly — is in the process of a difficult rehab of a baby squirrel. It appears to Pat that the mother squirrel tossed the little one from the nest when it was about two weeks old, or less. At that age, the baby was about the size of the last joint of her thumb. For several weeks, she has been hand-feeding it a homemade nutrient solution....

But this hummingbird is a moth

     The hummingbird clear-wing moth looks and acts like its namesake bird. This is one of the few moths that actively feed during the day. They hover and fly like a hummingbird, drinking flower nectar with their long tongue. To complete the mimic, they have a greenish back and a pale belly. Their steering tail, however, looks more like a shrimp’s.
Help this native do its pollinating job by avoiding insecticides
     Our local bumblebees number 20 species. Varying from the size of a honeybee to about an inch long, they are classified by the length of their mouthparts, proboscis and tongue.
     Bumblebees, our native bee, are very important for pollination.
Tree frogs celebrate after a good rain 
     After a soft rain in mid summer there is frequently a chorus of tree frogs saying how great the rain was. The loudest and deepest voice is the gray tree frog; the next loudest is the barking tree frog. The green tree frog has a higher, lighter voice and makes a chirping sound.

Must we eat our way out of this problem?

     Stopping at Bob Evans Seafood in Shady Side, Lou Hyde reports he routinely finds blue catfish in his 240 crab pots in Herring Bay. Some of the horned invaders are so fat that he tears up his pots cutting them loose.
      Mick Blackistone, fishmonger, worries that they’re eating juvenile crabs.
Cicadas turn up the volume 
      Cicadas are a group of insects that spend most of their life underground but emerge in the summer to sing and breed. They have been present since the Upper Permian Period, about 250 million years ago, with some giant specimens found with conifer fossils. Now they are present all around the world with more than 3,000 species.