Al Batt spider

Argiope aurantia is commonly known as the yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, yellow and black garden spider, golden garden spider, golden orb weaver, corn spider, scribbler spider, writing spider and McKinley spider. In 1896, one reportedly predicted the U.S. presidential election by weaving McKinley’s name in her stabilimentum.   

By Al Batt

For the Birds

Echoes from the Loafers’ Club Meeting 

You’re eating your tomato soup with a fork.

I know.

Why are you doing that?

I don’t like tomato soup.

Driving by Bruce’s drive

I have a wonderful neighbor, named Bruce. Whenever I pass his drive, thoughts occur to me, such as: It rained hard enough for about 10 minutes that I felt as if I were standing on the bottom of a lake. 

Nothing is the way it was yesterday and it will never be. That’s the way it has always been. 

I thought of the flu of 1918. Historians are unable to pinpoint its origin, but the first reported case in the U.S. was in Kansas and spread quickly through the ranks of the Army. 

The U.S. had wartime censors in place that suppressed news about the flu, which might have had a negative effect on the country’s morale. Cover-up and denial aided the spread of the flu. 

When the flu hit Spain, which didn’t have such strict censorship, it became the Spanish Flu. 

The first case reported in Minnesota was a soldier returning home to Wells. About 12,000 Minnesotans died from the flu and an estimated 50 million died worldwide. 

Approximately 675,000 died in the U.S., 10 times more than those who died in combat. Of the 118,500 Minnesotans serving in the war, 1,432 were killed. Another 2,175 died of other causes. 

The official records show that 114,242 Iowans served in the armed forces during WWI. Of those, 3,576 died. The flu killed over 6,000 Iowans plus 702 soldiers at Camp Dodge. 

A conspiracy theory means someone had internet access

My GPS whispered. It wasn’t because we were in a bad neighborhood. It was because my wife had turned off the sound. She finds it easier to look for addresses when it’s quiet. She believes silence turns her into an eagle-eyed individual. That hardly qualifies as a conspiracy theory. 

I have a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theories. I don’t have one, so people feel an obligation to share theirs. Other than those related to the JFK shooting, I didn’t grow up oblivious to the truth. 

Oh, there was the belief a certain teacher was the devil’s spawn, and other urban and rural legends. We had ghost stories; the main one being the Schuch family murders that occurred in Iosco Township, northwest of Waseca in 1929. 

The details were grisly, a stolen safe was never found and no arrests were made (a 1965 deathbed confession was dismissed). People claimed to have seen apparitions. I liked to be frightened for some odd reason. Now I don’t. Ghost stories weren’t as scary as conspiracy theories.

In local news

Man found guilty of overusing commas receives long sentence.

Police expect bad winter based on firewood thefts.

New hand sanitizer contains mother’s spit.

A masked moment

I wish everything in life was as easy as wearing a mask. It’s no risk to me. I can perfect my ventriloquism techniques or pretend I’m a surgeon who wants to strangle the coronavirus with a mask. A mask is an exercise program that surpasses the StairMaster. I get out of my car, walk 20 steps before realizing I’d left my mask in the car. I retrace my steps, grab the mask and relaunch. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Nature notes

The Dog Days are over (July 3 — August 11), but folklore says every fog in August equals a snowfall in winter. An inchworm or looper (small caterpillar), measured me for a new suit. I watched ants move about. The ground was their roof and my floor.

White-breasted nuthatches made odd sounds as they traveled on bark in pursuit of food. The male has a black cap and the female’s cap is grayer. An American goldfinch male flew high in circles or figure eights. It’s the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington.


Much goes on while I’m indoors and many things can be camouflaged as nothing without investigation.

Swallows swept the sky. Dragonflies did some stunt flying. As the ruler does to other school supplies, the monarch butterfly ruled the other butterflies of the yard. A molt made a blue jay look as if it had a self-haircut.

Observe nature long enough and you will expect the unexpected. I watched a Cooper’s hawk fly over carrying a snake. The hawk wasn’t the snake’s Uber driver. 

A friend reported a less than bashful young red-tailed hawk in his yard. Young hawks don’t have any online videos to watch and learn how to hunt, so they sometimes exhibit strange behavior. 

Bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets attack honey bee colonies. Those two provide the worst stings in Minnesota. If you’re stung by one and have any reaction away from the sting site, seek medical attention. 

A bald-faced hornet queen collects wood fiber to make a gray paper nest the size of a football or basketball suspended from a tree branch, eaves or other structure. 

The easiest way to collect a nest is to wait until the hornets have abandoned the nest in the fall (after the first hard freeze or by late October). Hornet nests are annual, lasting one summer and its occupants, except the fertilized queens that leave, die in the fall. 

If you’re the cautious kind, slip a large plastic bag over the nest and tie it shut. It isn’t necessary to treat the nest in any way. The nests make great conversation pieces and persist if suspended in a dry location where it won’t be damaged by handling or vibration. 

I was walking when something hit me in the chest. I grabbed it just as I saw two cicada killer wasps fly by. I hoped I hadn’t grabbed a wasp. I’d never been stung by one and I didn’t want to start. My capture was a cicada.


“Why are moths attracted to lights?” Scientists aren’t certain. You’ve heard “like a moth to a flame” to describe a fatal attraction. That’s a moth to a bug zapper. One idea is that some insects use the moon or bright stars as a compass and lights resemble the moon or stars. 

The lights might trick moths into seeing visual illusions of darker areas near the lights’ edges and moths fly toward these dark hiding places. Another idea supposes that lights at night blind moths by swamping the light receptors in their eyes and disorienting them. 

Another theory says that light sources which emit ultraviolet light attract moths that mistake them for flowers. Infrared radiation from light sources may look like the heat reflection from moth pheromones – chemicals released by insects to attract mates. 

Thanks for stopping by

“Only in the last moment of human history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish apart from the rest of the living world.” – E. O. Wilson

“The grass is greener when you get outside.” – David Suzuki

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