Staff November 7, 2016

Did You Know? November 2016
Photos: iStock unless otherwise noted.

Did you know: that insects sleep? Well, they do, we think. Sorta. Insect behavior is an area ripe for study, and it turns out several research teams have undertaken the fascinating task of determining whether bugs doze off. Such critters as fruit flies (those darlings of the laboratory), honeybees and bedbugs have been observed, and even a study of fire ants has shown that their queens appear to nod off up to 90 times per day for about six minutes at a time. That’s pretty specific. Honeybees rest at night, which makes sense, considering their floral meals are unavailable then, and — no surprise here — bedbugs cash it in during daylight hours. Some species of bees were observed sleeping outside of their hives by locking their tiny jaws to something, holding on tight while the rest of their bodies relaxed. (How relaxing could that be, really?) And our friends the fruit flies appear to react to caffeine the way humans do. (Tiny Diet Coke, anyone?)

Zzzzzzzz …

Photo: Tomasz Anisko

Did you know: that shrubs are more widespread than trees? Now, growers, let’s not get into a Hatfields and McCoys type of thing here; we’re just quoting science. And although it may seem that we’re leaning heavily on the Scandinavians for research findings, it’s not really intentional (but who’s complaining?). Anyway, we digress. According to scientists in Sweden, the fact that shrubs have multiple stems helps them to grow and survive better than trees of similar sizes. As reported by Science Daily, shrubs “have a larger total cross-sectional stem area at the base than trees with the same above-ground woody volume. This makes it easier for shrubs to grow since it helps them transport water and nutrients more rapidly to leaves and growth processes.” Shrubs also have a larger bark area than trees. Trees, however, can grow larger and shade out shrubs. So there.

Did you know: that Colorado’s Front Range is heating up? According to climate change experts, by the middle of this century the region will experience a climate similar to that of El Paso. We know that this summer has been toasty all around the country, and a 64-year-old friend in the Denver area — a Colorado native — reports “the hottest [bleeping] summer in my life!” But it’s about to get warmer. A report released by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization states that the major metropolitan areas of Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver likely will “see hot days more frequently each year, including an average of seven days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.” The current average for temps above 100 in the Denver metro area is 0.3 days. According to a report in the Denver Post, “If current trends in heat-trapping emissions continue, Denver residents by 2050 will face an average of 35 days a year where temperatures hit 95 degrees or hotter, the study found. Right now, the average is five days a year.” Talk about a Rocky Mountain high.

Did you know: that that the color blue was once believed to be a cureall? (We believe it.) Way back in 1877, Augustus J. Pleasanton, a retired army general-turned-lawyer-turned-grape-grower-and-animal-husbandry-expert, published the findings of his experiments growing plants and pigs under blue glass, which he claimed helped to produce healthier species. (He had previously presented his claims to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture in 1871.) Claiming that plants bloom in the spring because of how blue the sky is, helped to launch the “blue-glass craze,” resulting in a boom in the manufacture of cobalt-colored glass that was used in just about everything. Sadly, the craze didn’t last long — although it’s recognized that blue light does, indeed, have scientific properties that affect us. And c’mon … who can resist that Caryopteris bloom?

Did you know: that there’s such a thing as “plant blindness”? Neither did we. Apparently, however, researchers have determined that people are generally more interested in animals than plants, particularly when it comes to conservation efforts. (Well, yeah, we knew that.) But why? One theory is that kids learn more about animals in their biology classes than they do about plants; another suggests that it’s easier for humans to bond with lifeforms that more closely resemble ourselves, with eyes, noses, mouths — y’know, faces. Adults may be a lost cause, but teaching kids about plants, especially by helping them interact with plants — to garden — could help to reverse this phenomenon and give us all reason to stem the tide of threatened plant species.

Did you know: that a) there are plants in the High Arctic and that b) a little bug related to the common housefly is their pollinator- in-chief? We all believe that the top of the world is nothing but a frozen wasteland, but it’s not true. In arctic summer, the region is abloom with Dryas (mountain avens) as well as the insects that keep these blooming plants alive and kicking. Researchers from the northern world (Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Canada) have determined that the more these tiny housefly relatives (Spilogona sanctipauli) were present, the more the flowers set seed. There are other insects that serve as pollinators, but this little guy apparently is the busiest. The unfortunate news is that climate change, with its accompanying warming of the arctic region, is threatening this population, thus posing a risk to further pollination.

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