Common But Commonly Overlooked: Horsehair Worms

The FB post a few days ago about the Siberian worms (nematodes) that revived after 30k years in permafrost made me remember, back in my teaching days, of seeing similar-looking horsehair worms (or having students bring them in for extra credit).

They were rather common around farms and wet margins of yards. Often they’d be found in a tight ball resembling the mythical Gordion Knot, giving them one of their common names.

You can see how they move in this video:

 They are not nematodes, but superficially resemble them and are in their own Phylum, Nematomorpha. There are some 300 species; some grow to more than six feet long–far in excess of the length of their host grasshopper et cetera.

They are very simple creatures but can have complex life cycles—including the zombie effect of making a host beetle or grasshopper commit suicide by jumping into water, since this is necessary to complete the worm’s life cycle.

And no, they do no harm to humans—except weird them out. It is freaking to hold one of these in your hands—like a stiff animated strand of the world’s strangest pasta noodle.

If you have seen these before, please tell me if it was recently and in what kind of habitat. Did you identify the host that filled the role that you see in this video of three large worms emerging from an unfortunate praying mantis?

Aging in Place

And so this is where the actuarial rubber meets the road.

Baby boomers appeared of a sudden, historically. We swelled the ranks of the middle class. We demanded and got affordable housing just out of town, and cheap gas to get us back and forth to the places we spent our money.

Now we’ve grown up, grown old and grown to need a lot of new things that society is just now wondering how to offer to both the well-off and the not-so-well-off elders of our times.

Chief among these missing older-boomer things is a way for aging folks who have enjoyed those city edges and settled neighborhoods to stay in or near them when their physical, emotional and health needs become more demanding of the help of others in the context of a familiar and supportive setting for their final years.

Hence, “Aging in Place.” I attend a three hour meeting this morning at Hotel Floyd to discuss this complex issue, both at the personal and the community level. I rather dread being forced to look at the inevitable demands that come with inevitable decline and increasing dependency on community, neighbors and family.

But face it we must.

Some gathered resources from a quick overview this morning:

Age In Place | The National Aging In Place Council   http://www.ageinplace.org/

Aging in Place | SeniorLiving.com   https://www.seniorliving.com/aging-place

Aging in Place and Senior Resources   http://www.seniorresource.com/ageinpl.htm

Plate is Full, Blog is Empty

Earth in Ice: Image from Goose Creek January 2008

I made the mistake a few weeks back of saying I hoped to be doubling down on efforts to apply the brake to the creening path of humanity towards the brink–as if one person can make a difference; and yet…

One person can be a bystander or can give aid at the scene of a horrific accident.

Where we are as a species today is a horrific consequence of ignorance early on, followed by full intention in the past decades–since the Great Accelleration of 1950–to push the pedal to the medal, calamitous consequences (for all but the present stockholders and CEOs) be damned.

And so since I made that declaration here (I am too lazy to make a link) I have had new obligations and opportunities to man the oars and paddle against the currents.

I am now serving on the Volunteer Core Group for the nomination then election of Anthony Flaccavento to Congress from the 9th district of Virginia; and have a multitude of new hats to wear with SustainFloyd, perhaps more about that at some point.

Also i have elaborated on the Personal Climate Pledge project of SustainFloyd and that essay will be up on Fragments in excerpt tomorrow, with a link to the full piece at medium.com

So I intend–because it is something I want to attempt to do for the first time in years–to post to the blog every day this week. The posts will come mostly from material already generated elsewhere (like the two Forestry-related presentations for the Living in Our Forests series at the Floyd library, yesterday and on January 11th.

Also now will be planning for an hour-long presentation (vs the 20 minute versions at the library) for an organization in Roanoke probably in July.

Idle hands…not so much. But I like it that way–up to a point that might have been passed a couple of weeks ago. Balance. Serenity Now! World peace!

Seeing the Forests

Found in my collections of snippets, a quote from Wendell Berry, one of the few wise men of our era, in my opinion:

To destroy a forest or an ecology or a species is an act of greater seriousness than we have yet grasped, and it is perhaps of graver consequence. But these destructions will mend. The forest will grow back, the natural balances will be restored, the ecological gap left by the destroyed species will be filled by another species. But to destroy the earth itself is to destroy all the possibilities of the earth, among them the possibility of recovery.

And adjacent to that quote and I think from this article, comes this statement about land use changes (forest conversion) in the modern era:

Nearly two-thirds of the net conversion to other uses occurred in the second half of the 19th century, when an average of 13 square miles (mi2 ) of forest was cleared every day for 50 years. By 1910, the area of forest land had declined to an estimated 754 million acres, or 34 percent of the total land area. In 2012, forest land comprised 766 million acres, or 33 percent of the total land area of the United States. Forest area has been relatively stable since 1910, although the population has more than tripled since then.

This data supports ONLY the notion that from the air, more acres are in non-pasture non-asphalt than in 1910. This is deceptive.

Many of the trees that exist in today’s “forest” (in fact almost all) will live only about 15-20% of their life expectancy if undisturbed. They will not produce “old growth” or even middle-aged growth for that matter.

Consequently, what we see from the air is a stand of trees (vast numbers in this count are even-aged pulpwood pine trees in laser-straight rows.) It is only vaguely a forest compared to that landform as it existed four hundred years ago.

The biodiversity of Earth has drastically fallen largely because the global forests, north and south of the equator, in which species evolved no longer exist. The water holding capacity, the oxygen producing abilities, the soil building process and especially for our times, the CO2 holding capabilities of today’s small-tree-populated Eastern lands are all homeopathic dilutions of the services that true forests once achieved for the planet and its living communities.

Going forward and in my dreams, we rededicate our species to live in peaceful coexistance with those living systems that allowed  our species to prosper and learn, create culture and art and science and technology.

If we don’t, all those marvelous humanities our kind has created and enjoyed for a few brief eyeblinks on the timeline of Earth will become a faint and fading trace record of yet another vanished civilization that thought, somehow, it alone was exempt from its debt to cosmic biology (insert divine providence or sheer random good luck here as your understandings would have it.) We are beholding, no matter, and our arrogance to the contrary is not to our favor.