Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Webs of Life

         As much as I like to be in the woods, this is a rough time because of all the spider webs across trails.  One of the old Front Bench Regulars in the pool hall back home said that God didn’t create spiders, ticks and flies.   He said they were here when God got here, before He went to creating the good stuff.  Darn, they make me itch and get miserable.  I don’t remember them being here when I was a kid because I hunted squirrels in the hickories in late August. 

         We didn’t seem to have any problems with spider webs back then, but back then the country didn’t have any problems with what we are seeing in California, New York and Chicago either.  I have a feeling that all these spider webs portend great problems to come.  I think that fires and earthquakes and floods and diversity will get so bad in years to come it will be hard to keep living in the Ozarks, because of the folks fleeing those awful places, elbowing their way in here and bringing undesireable traits with them.

         Another problem this time of year in the trees, is what they refer to as fall webworms, which are the larvae of an unspectacular small white moth.  I eliminate that problem around my home with a long pole and a wad of newspaper wrapped and taped at one end.  Light the paper and stick the flaming torch up under the web which encases the worms… problem solved.
         I wrote about how to do this a couple of years ago and a reader sent me something from the Springfield newspaper written by a media specialist for the Conservation Department in which he said a ‘torch on a pole’ procedure which I had written about shouldn’t be done because it might damage trees.  That, simply put, is a bunch of baloney!  I have killed webworms like that for 30 years and there is never ever any damage to trees, not even temporary damage.  The media specialist there in the city, far from the natural world, lacks quite a bit when writing about the natural world he has never lived in.  His recommendation was pesticides of course, malathion and sevin, which will leave the web and all it’s ugliness intact, while it kills the worms and perhaps some birds which come along and eat the poisoned worms.  Ignore all that, and use the long pole and torch.  You will never harm a tree that way.

         Tent caterpillars, as most of us country folks call them are worse on hickories and persimmon trees.  I have seen persimmon trees just enshrouded with the awful things, but first frost will solve the problem, and I have heard that the worms won’t kill a healthy tree.  They might do harm if they are thick for two or three years on the same trees, but I have never seen a tree which was damaged much on a long term basis.  This time of year, stripping leaves from the tree by eating them, they pass them through their bodies to drop a large number of little brown balls of digested leaves. The problem here is, I have some walkways and decks and a concrete pad outside my basement that I don’t want those brown droppings on. To eliminate that, take my advice; ignore the media specialist and use the burning paper at the end of a long pole, held just under the web for a second or two. Wear earplugs so you can’t hear the little fellers scream!!! Do this for the trees around your home and don’t worry about the ones out in the woods or fields.  A little ugliness in the woods and fields in August and September is tolerable.
         There are so many hickories around my little cabin on Lightnin’ Ridge that I have a problem with squirrels.  I can’t take a nap on my hammock for the sound of squirrels chewing on hickory nuts.  As a boy I loved to hear that… squirrels gnawing on the hulls of green hickory nuts quite often made them easier to find in the late summer woods, and therefore easier to skin and cut up for a pot of dumplings.
         I brought home so many squirrel tails you could have used them to insulate the chicken house.  We have so many squirrels around this area that we just might see a squirrel migration next spring.  That use to happen in the Ozarks every few years, and it was something to see, hundreds of squirrels, both the grays and reds (fox squirrels), moving en masse through the woods in one direction.  In the 1980’ I saw a tremendous number of squirrels swimming across Bull Shoals Lake in the Tucker Hollow area, and dozens of them drowned trying to get to the southern back.  A migration of that sort usually is not a long one; perhaps the squirrels will move ten or fifteen miles or so, but not much farther.

         As for me, if I was young, I would be migrating too, north into the western part of Canada, up there to sparsely populated northern Manitoba where the geese and ducks move through by the millions in  early fall and moose and timber wolves still roam the bush with all kinds of animals we’ve never seen here. The heralded diversity that will become the decline of our country (and I am talking about armadillos, zebra mussels and ash borers here) will never be found in northern Canada.  Harsh winters and hard work will never attract an armadillo!

         Those farmers up there are from Northern Europe, so much like the Ozark folks I knew as a boy…great common sense people.  They talk a lot different, but I have been practicing ending my sentences with ‘aye’, like they do.  I should have it down pat when I head up there in late September to hunt geese and ducks.  I can’t wait.  There ain’t a spider web in the whole province!

         Want to get a copy of my magazines, the Ozark Journal or the Outdoor Journal. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613, or email me at Or call my office at 417 775227.

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