Cherly Kimball's Nature Talks: Catch a 'tick talk,' listen for bullfrogs

By CHERYL KIMBALL August 19. 2017 1:59AM
Two loons joined our columnist on her first paddle of the season. (Courtesy/Cheryl Kimball)

IF YOU HAVE not heard UNH Cooperative Extension entomologist Alan Eaton speak, you are missing not only an entertaining speaker but someone who I feel is one of the current most important clarions of reasoned and sound practices when it comes to “pest” control.

I have heard Dr. Eaton speak about ticks twice. Anyone who can attend one of his talks about ticks definitely should; he spends a good deal of time dispelling myths (e.g., ticks do not jump) and explaining the best way to avoid getting ticks on you in the first place but still be able to enjoy going for a walk (e.g., wear knee-high rubber boots which ticks can’t cling to). For anyone interested in nature who still wants to get out in the woods despite the tick dangers, heeding Dr. Eaton’s advice will help you do that with confidence.

Tick season is coming around again so you might catch a “tick talk” in your area (ticks get busy again in September until cold temperatures), but right now you can catch a brilliant interview with Dr. Eaton on NHPR’s The Exchange (“Don’t Swat That Bug! Beneficial Insects in N.H.”) which is still available via podcast on the NHPR website. The website includes a few photos of beneficial insects and a link to Dr. Eaton’s Extension publication “Beneficial Insects in New Hampshire Farms & Gardens” over half of which is comprised of fabulous photos (my favorite is the “spined soldier bug eggs”). He explains in his introduction to the article that “Rather than organize the information taxonomically (by insect orders, then families in each order), I have arranged them by ‘profession,’ starting with parasitic insects, then predators, then pollinators.” This is a great example of how he is always thinking of the end user.

In his practical and straightforward manner, Dr. Eaton talks about the human penchant for chemicals and why we should stop using pesticides and insecticides with abandon but instead with immense amounts of forethought. “One of the most effective steps to protect beneficial insects is to minimize your use of chemical insecticides,” he says, and to “think about the value of plant diversity.” On The Exchange, Dr. Eaton puzzled at why birdwatching is so popular but insect-watching and insect life lists aren’t at least somewhat popular. With that in mind, I might start an insect life list; if I do, I’ll report on it here. In the meantime, I recommend that you listen to The Exchange interview and read the paper by someone I consider to be an important voice about the natural world.

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Two days after mowing the dog yard last week, I was doing clean-up duty when I came across a magnificent bullfrog, killed by the mower. I almost wept. I don’t know if I can ever mow the dog yard again. Around a month ago a reader asked if I would ask the Nature Talks audience if they were hearing bullfrogs this year. She felt her audio world was particularly void of bullfrogs this season. What are other people hearing? I actually felt like I had heard plenty of bullfrog activity this year, and feel badly for silencing the poor old soul in the dog yard.

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On my first (finally!) paddle of the year on a small lake near my house, I was not in the water for three minutes when I came upon two loons who joined me for the paddle. This happens almost every time I paddle on this small lake. I don’t know whether they feel defensive and are watching me, or whether they simply enjoy the company or whether they feel like this quiet little boat is just part of the landscape, but it is fun to have them along. They are simply a stunning bird.

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I very much enjoy reading emails I get in response to my columns. Readers treat me to fantastic photos, like one Roberta from Stratham sent of a bluebird feeding its young right on the railing of her deck! That my columns provoke memories, such as the one from Paul after reading my column on barn swallows, is very rewarding and one of my favorite things about writing. Carolyn, an astute observer, wrote with a great story about watching a mourning dove in a rainstorm lift one wing and then the other over its head and then preen as if taking the opportunity for a little shower. Keep the emails coming, it is great to hear about the natural world right in our back yards.

Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. You can email her at

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