The science group this month chose to discuss “garden friends and foes”. Between us, we produced a wide variety of organisms from horsetails to badgers.
Most of our gardens suffer from an infestation of the primitive “mare’s tail” whose roots can reach 7 feet deep into the ground. Joe gave us some tips on eradicating it, but it has survived for 270 million years, since the carboniferous era, so we were not very hopeful of success. Some people apparently make a tea from it, which they claim cures every ill known to man, but our pharmacist member was sceptical.
Robert seems to have more badgers as neighbours than people, and he described how, night after night, they lifted his newly laid turf in search of worms. When worms are scarce, they have the temerity to climb the steps and knock on his back door, begging for peanuts!
Sheila introduced us to earwigs, which apparently have wings, though they seldom use them. They are omnivorous, and are important scavengers, clearing up decaying plant and animal matter. We were most impressed by their devoted mothering skills. They tend their eggs diligently, turning and licking them to remove any fungal infections. When the baby earwigs hatch, the mother remains with them, feeding them until they are through their second moult, after which they become independent.
John reminded us that fungi are neither plants nor animals, but are classified in a kingdom of their own. He gave us an overview of their myriad forms, from penicillin, which saves lives, to the various amanita mushrooms, which can be fatally toxic. He showed us the life cycle of fungi and explained the essential role they play in the decomposition and recycling of dead plant and animal matter.
Jill considered lacewings, which are seldom visible in the daytime because birds find them very tasty. They are a gardener’s friend, as their larvae are voracious predators of aphids and caterpillars. They have a neat trick for avoiding being eaten by bats. When they “hear” the bat’s ultrasonic squeaking, they instantly fold their wings and plummet to the ground, out of reach of the bat.
In October and November, we hope to consider the human digestive system and animal migration and navigation. If you are interested, do join us. New members are always welcome.