Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.

Category: Biophilia (page 1 of 3)

Sugar ants aren’t pests – they’re harmless and helpful!

This very popular blog post has been refreshed and updated for Spring 2024 (and thereafter).

Photo caption: A legion (not an army, but part thereof!) of sugar ants committed mass suicide in my bottle of honey. In honour of those that might resurrect – I can see some of them will – I pooled it in the sink and gave them a chance to extract themselves (and several did). A few less foolhardy brothers and sisters are supping from the edges.

It’s spring again— and people don’t know what to make of the teeny-tiny ants that march indoors like school children on spring and summer days (when they should be outside!). They can’t be mistaken for carpenter ants. But, unfortunately for them and all the other ant species that aren’t carpenter ants, all searches end up on results about killing them. As if they were as dangerous as carpenter ants. Carpenter ants won’t hurt you, but their infestations are dangerous to your house – they devour wood.  They’re the only ones you need to be vigilant about. (OK, maybe fire ants too, but usually they’re outdoors, minding their own business).

Common talk, mass media, and the extermination industry has effectively enabled people to think that insects are disgusting and undesirable. This is just flat-out wrong. Bugs aren’t your enemy. All it takes to realize that, is to observe them objectively, doing nothing but watch—and if that isn’t enough, it always helps to do a little research.

Of course, when you try to do some research, you have to get past the “get rid of” them websites. The truth takes lot more digging. So that’s what this blog post is about.

So, those teeny-tiny ants you see in spring, visiting your plants, maybe visiting the fruit on your kitchen counter? The name of this kind of ant is Tapinoma sessile. Here’s the path I took to research it some more:

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Just in time for World Rewilding Day, a message for the local neighbourhood

Vous avez peut-être remarqué qu’avec les travaux aux égouts la semaine dernière, les rats ont évacué les égouts et ont trouvé refuge dans nos cours.

Veuillez retirer tout poison que vous avez utilisé pour essayer de les tuer. Il cible d’autres espèces, comme les écureuils, et je ne veux pas que nos (« mes », je les appelle, bien qu’ils soient des animaux sauvages) écureuils subissent la mort horrible que procure le poison. Il est illégal de piéger et de tuer des animaux sauvages, et j’ai eu le cœur brisé de voir quelqu’un dans ce quartier le faire en toute ignorance, car cela ne résout aucun problème qui ne pourrait être résolu autrement. (Il y a un écureuil noir avec une tache blanche sur la queue qui me manque particulièrement, et ses enfants aussi. Elle s’appelait Gladys.)

Les travaux sur les égouts sont presque terminés et les rats peuvent désormais regagner leur habitat habituel. Vous pouvez les aider à y retourner en leur rendant leurs nouveaux emplacements hostiles, en les piégeant dans des pièges vivants Hav-A-Hart et en les ramenant à l’égout. C’est ce que je vais faire.

Gladys, a very sociable but polite mamma of two, with a white tip on her tail, and a penchant for stealing plums and chocolate (OK so it’s not polite to steal, but don’t leave them out on the counter to tempt her!)
Gladys, une maman de deux enfants, très sociable mais polie, avec un bout blanc sur la queue, et un penchant pour voler des prunes et du chocolat (OK donc ce n’est pas poli de voler, mais ne les laissez pas sur le comptoir pour la tenter ! )

You may have noticed that with the work on the sewers last week, the rats have evacuated the sewers and sought refuge in our yards.

Please remove any poison that you have put out to try to kill them. It targets other species, like squirrels, and I do not want our (“my,” I call them, though they are wildlife) squirrels to suffer the horrible death that poison provides. It’s illegal to trap and kill wildlife, and I have been heartbroken by someone in this neighbourhood doing so in all ignorance that it solves no problem that couldn’t be solved another way. (There is one black squirrel with a white spot on her tail, and her progeny, that I will forever miss. Her name was Gladys.)

The work on the sewers is almost done, and the rats can now return to their usual habitat. You can help them return there by making their new locations hostile to them, and by trapping them in live Hav-A-Hart traps and returning them to the sewer. This is what I will be doing.

The Big Backyard BioBlitz is On! August 3–7, 2023

This year I decided to take the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s challenge and do a biological census of my front and back yards. It’s an event where you use the iNaturalist app to record as many species as you can find-and-identify in your own back (front) yard. The site to sign up and get your instructions on is here.

If you happen to be in my area (Little Burgundy, le Sud-Ouest, Montreal), then you are welcome to come by and discover even more, because I’m expecting to have no shortage of plants and insects to identify. Seek, an ID app by iNaturalist, will be useful for this, and I have some ID books on hand as well. Just send me a message or knock on my door, if you know where I am/can find me (I’ll be writing #NCCBioblitz on the sidewalk outside, and using the hashtag and location on my Instagram posts. I may even be outside doing it.

How can you protect birds during nesting season? Don’t cut trees. And: BirdFest.

Migration is pretty much over now, and all birds are where they want to be if they’re sitting on eggs in a nest, or raising a clutch of nestlings, or even (as is the case here) out showing their fledglings how to navigate the big world and find food. It might give us an opportunity to have a peep into their nest boxes and niches and see them raise their babies (mostly by web-cam — something we all love!), but it doesn’t mean the dangers they face are completely over. There are still things to watch out for in the city…

Tree Felling During Nesting Season

Every spring, members of my local birding club notice incidents of tree cutting and felling in and around Montreal during the period when birds are nesting. Even trained ornithologists have difficulty locating nests, so we’re concerned that these activities may harm or even be fatal. People need to proactively protect nesting birds, and not assume “oh it’s fine no one is nesting here.” How many times have we heard of Christmas trees arriving at their destinations with very frightened and hungry owls hidden in their branches?

Perhaps making matters worse is that while tree felling is an activity a homeowner needs a permit for, the permit process might not take into account the season of the felling  – and the businesses that fell trees, like landscaping services, do not need to have a license from the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec. We can’t know whether having a license would necessarily help birds, but it’s at least one reliable avenue for educating contractors.

What can you do if you witness tree felling during nesting season in your neighbourhood? One or all of the following:

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