Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Short Subjects: Gleanings from Master Gardening

Those of you who know me personally are likely aware that since January I have been on the road to becoming a Certified Master Gardener. In Connecticut, Master Gardeners do educational outreach as part of the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System. But you have to earn the title before you can dispense advice. There are many steps to certification. First up is 16 days of intense coursework. In New Haven county we meet each Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm. At each session a different expert comes to speak on a particular subject. There are handouts, quizzes, assignments. As I knew before I signed up for this program, how well a plant does depends a great deal on its environment. Soil, light, water, temperature, and the other inhabitants of its space all have a great influence upon the plant's ultimate success or failure. There are lots of topics to cover. Whatever our area of interest, we are expected to be familiar with all of them.

Two sessions ago the topic was Entomology. Insects are major players in the plant and animal kingdoms. How huge a role do they have? Here are just a few of the many things I learned on Entomology day:
  • Over one million species of insects have been described, but estimates range from 1-30 million more are undescribed.
  • Insects inhabit every niche in terrestrial and freshwater habitats.
  • There are 4500 species of cockroaches. Only 4 are pests.
  • Termites and cockroaches are closely related. A termite queen loses her wings and becomes an egg factory. Her king lives with her. She can lay 2,000 eggs a day for 45 years. [I guess the Orkin guy doesn’t have to worry.]
  • Mayflies are used in water quality assessment. If you have a lot of mayflies you are doing well. The mayfly emergence at the Great Lakes can show up on doppler radar.
  • Forensic entomologists use insects that inhabit decomposing remains to aid them in their legal investigations. [There is an order for when different species show up at a corpse.]
  • What tool does a stumped entomologist use to identify an unfamiliar specimen? The same as the rest of us — Google search.
  • Western cultures are the only ones which do not include insects in their diet [knowingly, anyway]. Perhaps we should. There are certainly plenty to go around. They are a good source of protein and fiber. The speaker said roasted insects are pleasantly crunchy and have a nutty taste.

That’s it for today. I’m off to the CT Flower Show.

Please come back Monday for the Blogger Day of Action post I am planning. Have a great weekend.

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

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