Mazama could use a Pied Piper for the prolific crop of rodents this year. Imagine the legendary colorfully dressed character playing his magic pipe and all the rodents coming out of their burrows to follow him to a death plunge.
Rodents, varying in size, include mice, voles, pack rats, chipmunks and squirrels, to name a few of the area residents. Rodents are characterized by their ability to gnaw, as their classification comes from Latin rodere, “to gnaw.”
I had been hearing of the mice problems from other Mazamans and was feeling pretty pleased that Tux, our barn cat, was keeping on top of our local population. That is until the day a dead critter showed up in our storage shed where there had never been any before.
Gingerly, I uncovered a rack where winter coats rest for the summer, and there it was: evidence of gnawing. A beautiful shirred beaver coat that I had packed around for three decades had one sleeve chewed to shreds. Ugh! I know — although vintage, since I bought it from the original owner who had it since World War II era — fur coats are not so socially acceptable nowadays. Maybe it met its demise respectably.
Now that we officially had a “mouse problem,” what to do beyond the cat and traps? Our neighbor had devised a bucket trap that was collecting mice by the dozens. A simple concept made from a 5-gallon bucket with a little ramp up to the rim. Then, the bait of peanut butter to lure the critter onto a slippery plastic pipe that rotates around a thin metal rod. The mouse walks the plank and that’s the end for him. Not to belabor this death trap, but the record catch has been 20 in a night.
Going back to the Pied Piper, the end of that legend was a little shocking to me as it’s been a long time since I revisited it. Because the mayor of Hamelin refused to pay the rat-catcher, Pied Piper retaliated by using the magical power of his instrument on the children of the town, leading them away as he had the rats. That’s a terrible story!
There’s another pest group indigenous to the valley: wasps. Most homes, barns and sheds have the ubiquitous yellow wasp-catcher hanging in the popular areas. Although we name Sno-parks and trails after the yellowjacket, it’s not so-named affectionately. The yellowjacket is an aggressive wasp, mostly coming around in August, harassing outdoor activities such as barbeques, picnics and restaurant patios. Of course, it’s the smell of food that attracts them. They will band together and attack en masse if their nest is threatened.
Then there is the most aggressive wasp: the hornet. They, too, fiercely protect their nests. Some types, such as the bald-faced hornet, will employ a couple of “watchmen” who will alert the team inside to attack as a group, if threatened. With fall in the air, wasp season is on the wane. Most wasps die off during the winter due to starvation. But, not the queen; so be prepared for another battle next year.
With all this talk about pests, let’s give some attention to the good bees: the pollinators. Honeybees, bumblebees and mason bees are among our locals of the group of bees that pollinate 80% of the plants in the world. The mason bees are exceptional native pollinators here in the Methow Valley. They are non-aggressive, mellow little guys. Patrick from Nice Nests in TwispWorks makes mason bee boxes and homes for other beneficial pollinators. Knowledgeable about these busy workers, he is happy to answer any questions about how to attract them.
Trail etiquette opdate: An avid hiker from Mazama shared some thoughts from his perspective. Plan ahead and be prepared. Accidents, weather and wildlife can cause unexpected situations. Knowing what to do and having what you need with you are important safety tips. He especially emphasized the trail courtesy of giving the person hiking uphill the right of way. “They are working harder and should be allowed to keep their rhythm,” he says. Finally, dog owners need to be courteous about a dog that may be unfriendly and, another general rule, pick up the little green bags.
Giving readers a little more lead time this week to visit with me at Mazama Store: Friday (Sept. 27), from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Coming up: pivotal moments.