July 30, 2013

Jellyfish plague the Chesapeake

I always put jellyfish and mosquitos in the same category: hated pests. Why did we need either of them?

The jellyfish most often encountered in the Chesapeake Bay in the summer is the sea nettle Chrysaora quinquecirrha pictured here. We have seen these guys with the long tentacles surrounding our boat on our much anticipated southern Chesapeake sailing cruise during the last ten days. Why did I bother packing bathing suits in my dufflebag?

But now I read that sea nettles do have a valuable purpose. They like to dine on comb jellies (not even real jellyfish) that like to dine on fish and oyster larvae/spat. 

Then there are the smaller moon jellies that inflict ministings on humans if anything at all. 

The sea nettles are having a blast this summer. 

Check the regular jellyfish forecast at 

July 20, 2013

Avoid poisonous plants

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are common and nasty plants in all parts of Virginia. Some folks swear that they are not allergic to these plants, but I am not one of them. I even got a severe case of contact dermatitis from the herb tansy when I pulled out the invasive plants that had taken over a herb garden in New Jersey years ago.

So learn how to identify them BEFORE you work in your yard or take a walk in the woods. Poison ivy has been very prolific in my area of Williamsburg this year. I hate to resort to Roundup, but it is on my weekend schedule again.

Below is a good shot of poison ivy in summer and later in the fall when it turns a brilliant red. Do not confuse it with the Virginia Creeper vine which has five leaves, not three, except at its beginning.

Below is a good photo of poison oak. Note that the leaf edges are lobed and not pointy like poison ivy.

Finally, learn what poison sumac looks like although you only find it in swampy locations. The red stems are a good hint. It also turns red in the fall.

July 18, 2013

West Nile not a threat in Virginia YET

There is a lot of talk about West Nile Fever, transmitted by mosquitos, because of the mild winter most of the U.S. experienced last winter. But the CDC map doesn't show any occurrences in Virginia so far.


But just to be safe, I spray repellent when I am doing yard work. It helps keep the chiggers at bay too.

But many of us don't like chemicals on our body, even if the CDC says: 

Of the products registered with the EPA, those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus sounds more natural than DEET. Parents probably agree. There is still a long mosquito season ahead of us, especially with all the standing water from frequent rain so far this summer.

Wear long sleeves when possible too and non-contrasting clothes that seem to attract the beasties.

July 12, 2013

Erosion an ongoing problem

Nantucket, Malibu and the New Jersey beaches are not the only endangered shorelines.

As we sail around the Chesapeake watershed, we have seen more and more miles of riprap (stones) lining the shorelines. NOT the view that John Smith saw.

Frequent drivers on our nearby Colonial Parkway may have noticed that the York River is getting closer to the road too. 1300 feet of shoreline need revetments of new soil and rip rap.. But the National Park Service has only enough money to deal with the most needy 800 feet at the moment. One bluff that supports one of the parkway bridges has eroded 20 feet in the last 30 years. So the Corps of Engineers has no time to dawdle.

Big bucks for oysters

Gov. Bob McDonnell just announced that Virginia will undergo its largest oyster shell replenishment initiative with $2 million, instead of nothing or $1 million.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is in charge of the replenishment program this year.According to the commission, each $1 spent in planting oyster shells yields an economic benefit of $7 in larger harvests and increased jobs.

About 800,000 bushels of fossilized oyster from a deposit 40 feet below the James River near Jamestown will be floated down river on barges to the lower James River, Mobjack Bay, the York River and off Tangier Island.
Oyster spat will attach to these empty oyster shells and will be untouched for several years as they grow to adulthood and then be harvested before two non-native diseases, Dermo and MSX, can kill them.
These shells join the 200,000 bushels of oyster shells from shucking houses that were dumped in May in known oyster grounds in the Rappahannock, Piankatank and Great Wicomico Rivers.

According to Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, "Virginia’s oyster harvest has increased 10 times over the past 10 years to about 250,000 bushels in 2012. The value of the harvest increased from about $575,000 to $8.26 million. The 2012 harvest was the largest since 1989, causing about $22 million in economic value according to a Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences formula."

Perhaps this will help Virginia achieve and maintain its pollution reduction goal--to meet 60 percent of its pollution reduction by 2017, and the remainder by 2025. The latest optimistic news from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is that we are on track.

Recycling in James City County UPDATE

The three James City County "Convenience Centers" are no longer accepting #3-#7 plastics due to lack of reliable recycling markets. Last October they had begun taking them but could no longer assure that these plastics were indeed being recycled. Many similar community programs discover that these particular plastics are being shipped to China and burned for energy or landfilled. The convenience centers still DO ACCEPT #1 and #2 plastic bottles with necks only.

Gloucester County residents, however, can drop off #1 through #7 plastics at that county's recycling and disposal center locations. Click here for more information.

See the 2013 Recycling Guide link on this blog (at left) for complete information on where and how to recycle almost everything.

July 11, 2013

More about Virginia ticks

Female deer tick
Who knew? . . .

That Virginia now has three kinds of ticks?

That deer ticks are also called long-legged ticks?

That ticks only feed two or three times in their three year life span?

That ticks prefer denim?

Most Virginians know that deer ticks, famous for transmitting Lyme disease, are prolific here. But the American dog tick is also common, as well as the Lone Star tick that transmits ehrlichiosis. Dog ticks are larger and easily spotted on your body. But the deer tick is only as big as a poppy seed and can remain unnoticed for more than 24-36 hours, after which Lyme disease may be transmitted. The sooner you get these buggers off, the better!

The folks at Virginia Military Institute are enthused about a tick-luring robot that has been effective at attracting and killing up to 75 percent of ticks along trails in early trials. The robot drags a piece of denim fabric infused with an insecticide near carbon dioxide emitting tubes and the ticks run a marathon to it. They know that carbon dioxide means a meal!

Don't expect to see these robots in your big box stores anytime soon, but the VMI research is promising to those of us who hate spraying DEET on our bodies in order to enjoy a picnic or walk in the woods. The robot experiment only provides about 24 hour relief because more ticks keep emerging from the ground.

July 2, 2013

Copperhead alert

Copperhead sightings have increased in the Williamsburg area (in Governor's Land) in the last few weeks. Perhaps the incessant rains have driven them to seek higher ground. But they have found it on pool decks, streets and walking trails.

Copperheads are venomous and nothing to laugh about. Their bites are painful and sometimes even fatal, especially to small pets. One local woman who was bitten in late May is still on crutches. Their venom causes local tissue destruction and secondary infection may set in. So get immediate medical attention if you are bitten.

Be wary when outdoors and avoid these snakes. In general, copperheads give no warning such as rattlesnakes and cottonmouths do. They simply strike out when threatened. If given the opportunity, they will try to escape.