My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Doings on the Range

I'm really digging my jobs with the biologists.  I get to work with Amy and Kelsy.  Yesterday, I thought we were going to a workshop and didn't take my camera.  It turned out we were going on a collection mission to collect some fighters against the evil invader, Dalmation Toadflax, Linaria dalmatica.  The warriors are very tiny weevils whose scientific name is Mecinus janthinus.  We went to  the University of Montana campus in Missoula  and climbed a steep hill up several switchbacks, then took a little side path and went around looking for the Dalmation Toadflax. Then we bent it over a plastic shoebox and tapped it.  This caused the weevils to drop into the shoe box. From there we dumped them into cardboard containers and put a lid on them. While doing this, we had wonderful views of the entire city below us.

The evil invader, Dalmation Toadflas, Linerea dalmatica

The fighting wevils, Mecinus janthinus -  at least a few are in fighting form.  I dumped them out on the lid of their container straight from the refrigerator and quickly took a picture before they warmed up.

This picture from UM's web page shows the hill behind the campus where we did our collecting.
After about an hour and a half of this hard work, it was time to break and go to the Taco Shop for a huge fish burrito. Then we came back to the refuge and put the weevils into the refrigerator to await transporting them to their battle stations this morning.

This morning, it took a while for Amy to get through her e-mails and other work but Amy, Kelsy and I finally went out to find areas with a lot of toadflax - and not much evidence of weevil attacks -  ato introduce the weevils. Before we left, we got sidetracked again because Amy asked if I wanted to certify to drive the ATVs and UTV's by taking a course offered by Darren this afternoon .  Of course my answer was "YES", so we had to go back to the bunkhouse and get my long-sleeved shirt and high topped work boots, then go to the chemical building and pick up a helmet and find some gloves.

My job on the dispersal of the weevils was to take pictures. We climbed a barely-there rocky two-track trail, that was hardly wide enough for our truck, to one of the highest places in the refuge, then turned around, came back down, and stopped at several locations to release the weevils. I also changed to my riding shirt and boots and grabbed a cereal bar I found in my pack for lunch and was ready to be dropped off for my training down at the maintenance building.

Kelsy is checking a Dalmation Toadflax for signs of weevil damage

Deciding that this place needs weevils, she releases about 500 of them

Amy(R) is getting the GPS coordinates while Kelsy is filling out the record

Finally they put a label on a little white board and take a picture of it.
Why, you ask, are we messing around with bugs and plants.  Invasives, including Dalmation toadflax usurp the native plants that bison eat.  So the amount of food on the range is severely diminished. Every manager of government and private lands, the Indians on their reservations, and landowners all are fighting a massive battle against invasives.  It seems to me that fighting invasives takes the bulk of the time here at the refuge, especially in the summer months when they are pulled,  cut,  sprayed, and bio-controls are introduced and spread on new infestations. During the winter, the lands are burned to help control invasives.

At the ATV/UTV training, we got a lot of safety information and then learned to drive on the flat, around cones in various patterns, on the side of a hill and down through a gulley that was supposed to have water in the bottom of it, but was dry today. Then we had to load a UTV on to a trailer and the unload it. Finally we had to take a test of about thirty multiple/true/false questions. We all passed. I had two male classmates, both younger than my children. So passed another hard day of work.
Me certifying to use off -road vehicles

Tomorrow, I need to transfer the  materials I've set up to order for the bee survey to an official order form and then Kelsy and I are supposed to try to collect more weevils and transfer them to other places. These guys do pretty good at working their way up the hills, but not at coming back down.  So we want to collect them near the top and and then release them at the bottom of hills infested with the toadflax. I'm not supposed to work tomorrow but had a terrible sinus attack and didn't work Monday so decided to help out tomorrow.