Monday, August 13, 2012

Being Responsible with Rabbits and Other Things

Being Responsible with Rabbits and Other Things

(Sigh) I admit it. I am besotted with rabbits despite the problems they cause. I see a baby rabbit and think, “Ooh, what a cute bunny,” even though those cute bunnies eat my flowers, decimate my hostas, and munch on my veggies. But then only a few rabbits habitually visit my backyard. It is a different story in Australia.

European Rabbits were brought to Australia in the 1700s with the first settler fleet. In 1859, Thomas Austin released 24 rabbits on his property in Victoria for the purpose of having hunts. They got loose and did what rabbits are known for – they reproduced like mad. By 1990 the rabbit population was about 600 million. Over the years they have caused devastation in the country. Not only are they destructive to farms, they are problematic for the ecology. Their excessive grazing causes weakened native plants, which often succumb to invasive plants. Too much grazing also depletes the vegetation and causes soil erosion. Here is a real eye-opener about rabbit over-population The effects of rabbit overpopulation are still being felt.

It is a reminder that our actions have a larger effect than we usually think they do. Donald Trump built a golf course in Scotland, dramatically changing the landscape. Will that turn out to be merely a playground for golfers or will it have broader consequences for the local ecology? What will be the outcome in California, both for small independent farmers and large agri-business, as well as the ecosystem of the Sacramento River Delta, if the proposed plan to build tunnels under the delta becomes a reality? What we do has an impact. We need to be responsible in our actions for the good of all, whether it involves leisure or business or rabbits.

If you are interested in a pet rabbit, you need to raise it responsibly.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monarchs - Time to Bulk Up

Monarchs – Time to Bulk Up

I was reading about monarch butterflies. It seems they only like milkweed plants so I was thinking that I might plant some milkweeds for next year. Then I looked out at my butterfly bush, the buddleia, and saw a monarch happily flitting from one flower cluster to another. Hmm.

So I read further. There are four stages to a monarch’s life. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The eggs hatch into larvae or caterpillars, which feed on the plants. They then wrap themselves up in cocoons, where they go into a metamorphosis that turns them into the butterflies. At this point the monarchs can eat from other flowers, including my butterfly bush. Whew. Let them bulk up on my bushes. They will need all the nourishment they can get for their long fall migration.

I found out that each butterfly species has a specific plant that the larvae feed on. And many of those plants, the milkweed included, are being cut down – to build houses, to construct roads, because of wildfires, illegal logging and deforestation of overwintering areas.  On personal properties, they are often viewed as unwanted weeds. This is causing a decrease in the monarch population.

There are reasons to preserve the monarch butterfly (see Conservation points), not the least being that all of nature has a place in this world. I was glad to see the lone monarch on my butterfly bush. I wish it and its companions a successful flight.

About monarchs:
Life cycles and more:
Conservation points: