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Cow Killers

Bayou-Diversity (29 July 2018) Boys are impressionable creatures. They hone in on pronouncements that combine adventure and danger. Such was my experience many years ago when I was warned by elders to avoid at all costs an insect with the moniker “cow killer.” How could such a beast in our midst not be a call to action? Colloquial synonyms for this organism are cow ant or red velvet ant. It was claimed that the sting was so terrible that it could dispatch a healthy cow. I set out to catch one in a Mason jar. It was many years after that encounter when I figured out that my early mentors were not first class entomologists. So-called red velvet ants are large, colorful insects about ¾

Louisiana Heat

Bayou-Diversity (22 July 2018) LOUISIANA HEAT Always during the play of August days in Louisiana when the temperature taps the century mark, the sun breaks first on the horizon like a glowing, fertile egg yolk. If there has been no recent respite in the earth’s natural fever, all life awakens with a bunker style strategy of survival. Many species of deciduous plants begin the morning in a wilt instead of waiting for the afternoon. With roots unable to replenish the scarce moisture as fast as evaporation sucks it from leaves, even the dogwoods are hang-dogged. Creatures of the diurnal world stir early and late or not at all. Mammals, haired for temperate climes, lay low. Birds forag

A Civil War Tale & Natural History to Boot . . .

Bayou-Diversity (15 July 2018) Abita Carter was a half-Choctaw woman born about 1846 in an Indian community near present day Calhoun, Louisiana. She grew up in the household and was educated by settlers in the Marion area. In her late teens she became romantically involved with a local boy who soon married another girl, joined the 31st La. Infantry, and found himself besieged at Vicksburg during the Civil War. His name was Minor Barrett. When Abita heard that Minor was injured and in a Vicksburg hospital, she decided to go fetch him. Her story about her trek across the wilderness of northeast Louisiana and into chaotic Vicksburg, written soon after the adventure, involves a cast of cha

Bayou Steamboats

Bayou-Diversity (8 July 2018) Had you been sitting on the bank of Bayou Bartholomew several miles below Bastrop on the afternoon of December 13, 1857, you would have heard her piercing scream long before she came into view. Heavily laden with cotton bales, the steamboat W.W. Farmer eased cautiously along with the current. Water levels were rising but still low. The first boat of the season had been able to enter the mouth of the bayou from the Ouachita River only nine days before. The Silver Moon, Lucy Robinson, and Young America were also trading up and down the sinuous stream so narrow that two boats could barely pass. Navigation was treacherous. In two months the Red Chief would lose a sm

Wildlife Diseases

Bayou-Diversity (1 July 2018) Medicare, Medicaid, cancer, and heart disease are a few examples of human health issues that seem to constantly make head-lines. But even for many of us who are outdoor enthusiasts, the health of Louisiana’s native wildlife populations is rarely contemplated. Diseases of wildlife are not new. They have been recognized for centuries. More than 2,000 years ago references to diseases in wildlife were recorded in the Bible, as well as in the writings of Homer and Aristotle. As a science, though, this subject has only developed in the past 50 years. Diseases in wildlife are often similar to those in humans, the causative agents usually bacteria, viruses, or par


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