Tuesday, September 21, 2010

95 Degrees Of Autumn

“It’s not the heat it’s the humidity” is a mantra South Georgian hear, and repeat, each and every year, as if there might be some invisible new people who haven’t heard this before. There is some truth to that because right now, as I write this, on September 20th, 2010, it’s 96 degrees, and I’ve fairly comfortable. The windows are open, the fans are going, and it is hot, but not hellish like when it’s 95 in August. It’s the humidity, really, it is.
The changes right now are so subtle most people aren’t seeing them, but they are still there. Leaves are falling off of the trees, just a few of them, mind you, but they are letting go. More and more golden can been seen in the green, like a young woman ignoring her first set of grey hairs, we see only the heat. The lows back in August set records of high lows, if that made any sense, and there were weeks on end where the temperature never dipped below 75 degrees. It was a very good year for plant life, and that means it was good for insect life, also. I had a bumper crop of wasps this year, and the Wasp Wars lasted nearly to the end of August. I was stung more times this year than I have been in the last ten.
Yet the temperatures at night have fallen down into the uppers sixties, and while that doesn’t seem very cool at all it has made the difference. I can sleep with the windows open again, and let the cool dry air into the house. The big wasp nest right outside my bathroom window has kept at least sixty wasps on it, and you can thank the miracle of digital photography for this information. I’ve been able to zoom in on the nest from a distance, and with a computer program put dots on each individual wasp, so to count them more easily. I started counting a few weeks ago, and the nest was bristling with venomous warriors who angrily raised their wings when I got too near. Each night, and picture taking of this failed, there would be a covey of wasps surrounding the nest, as well as many still on it.
Recently there have been fewer and fewer wasps, and at night there is a small band of them who crowd onto the outside of my bathroom window. I think it’s a combination of reasons; the lower temperatures are interfering with their egg laying and reproductive systems, the end of the growing season, with less light means fewer plant eating insects that serve as prey, and the fact that it’s getting incredibly dry right now.
You might want to consider how little it takes to wipe out a nest of wasps. Conceivably, a nest might go on forever, with each new generation replacing the next. Yet even with all the climatic parameters being nearly the same this nest is clearly dying. The heat is still here, but the humidity has changed, and the high morning temperatures have dropped, and the days are getting shorter. They cannot adapt to just these slight changes in their environment.
I haven’t mowed the grass in three weeks, and while it’s a little on the weedy side, it’s nowhere near what it had been after a week in August.  The backyard suffers the most with three dogs running wild in it, but where it recovered all Summer long now there are bare patches, because it hasn’t rained in three weeks. Not just a little rain, but no rain at all in three weeks. The cotton and peanut farmers might be happy with this because it will make harvest easier but the rest of us are tired of the dust.

Those farmers who planted late crop, and who have irrigation, are happy now, too.  With no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, they’ll likely do well because there is also no cold weather coming up either. Mid 90’s in the days, mid to upper 60’s at night, and only the shortening of the days might end growth. The Equinox is nearly here, and with it comes a gradually slide towards darkness. But damn, it is still really hot.

The high temperatures are also haunting the Midwest, as well as The South.  You have to be in Maine of Michigan to find some comfort these days. You have to look in these same areas these days to find truly cold weather, and it is already late September. The very far range forecasts show highs in the upper eighties and lows in the mid 60’s. Slight relief, but that will be in ten days or so. The national map is full of colors that scream warmth and heat; yellows, reds, and that deadly shade of pink that means it’s so hot the people who design maps have lost their sense of cartography design. Pink as the kill color of heat is not the hue most of us are thinking about when triple digit heat breaks out. Hell will not be the color of a flamingo, but it might be the color of pepto dismal. Hmmm, they may be onto something, nevermind.

With just a few days left of Summer, it seems Summer shows no signs of going quietly. I have no idea what the high temperature for September as a month might be, but if we’re not breaking it, we’re bending the hell out of it. The mosquitoes have not stopped. The fireants are not going away, and oh yes, Love Bugs, those twice a year event where billions of black, slow, and messy creatures rise to meet the highway, has begun again, too.  Windshields collect as many as possible, but there are always more swarming around the roads, and on my porch for some reason. Don’t bring your work home with you, Mike.
So the Summer of 2010 will known as The Summer Who Would Not Die, or at least that one that kept the heat on long after it should have left.

Take Care,
Mike

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